Computer repair pro Dave Greenbaum has witnessed many digital heartbreaks in his day.
He’s seen laptops destroyed by spilled drinks, hard drives scrambled by hackers and thousands of precious photos deleted by accident.
“The thing I see people have the most problems with is backing up the photos on their smartphone,” says Greenbaum, who lives in Lawrence. “They take pictures, then something happens to the phone and they lose everything. It’s the most devastating part of my job.”
That’s why Greenbaum recommends that his clients make a New Year’s resolution to back up their photos and documents using an external hard drive and an online cloud-based service such as Backblaze, Carbonite or CrashPlan. Greenbaum says the services cost about $50 per year — which is a lot less expensive than professional data recovery, which can run $3,000 to $5,000.
Digital health is a lot like physical health: You have to work at it. Not sure where to start? Here are nine more tech-centric resolutions that will help you clear digital clutter and organize your online life in 2016.
Safeguard your passwords
“The concept is that these are digital vaults,” he says, “so you only have to remember one password.”
That one password “should be really complex so only you remember it,” Greenbaum says. He keeps his password on a slip of paper with his will — that way his family is able to access all of his accounts in an emergency.
Freshen up your profiles
If it’s been more than six months since you swapped out your profile photo and bio info on Facebook and Twitter, it’s time to switch it up. And too many people let their LinkedIn profile go dormant, says Marc Vasquez, communications co-chairman of the Social Media Club of Kansas City.
“They say, ‘I’m not on LinkedIn because I’m not trying to find a job,’ ” Vasquez says, adding that the website can be a valuable networking tool even for people who aren’t on the job market.
Vasquez says that those who want to update their LinkedIn profile without alerting connections to every change can turn off notifications. Under the “privacy and settings” tab, click “choose whether or not to share your profile edits” and then uncheck the box that says “let people know when you change your profile.”
This allows LinkedIn users to update their photo, name, title, contact info and summary without alerting everyone in their circle of contacts.
“The summary is most important,” Vasquez says. “It’s not just ‘Hey, here’s who I am.’ You also want to say, ‘Here’s what I’m passionate about.’ ”
Clear the digital cobwebs
Have a Myspace profile or a Google+ account that’s gathering e-dust? Take a cue from “Frozen” and let it go.
It’s hard to manage multiple social media accounts well, Vasquez says.
“You can be an ‘A’ student on a couple, but the more you add, the less time you have to devote to them,” he says. “If you’re a ‘C’ student across the board, are you really being social?”
Take better notes
Paper notes can be lost, forgotten, eaten by the dog — you get the idea.
But there are plenty of apps that help you increase productivity while cutting back on paper. Carolyn Anderson, social media manager for Visit KC, uses Google Keep to wrangle notes, links, photos, audio clips and lists in one place.
Anderson says the app syncs to all her devices and allows her to quickly jot down ideas for work when she’s out and about, “so I’m out living my life instead of being constantly plugged in.”
Upgrade your to-do list
Google Keep isn’t the only productivity app that helps you create digital to-do lists.
Dorland and his wife use Wunderlist to share lists for groceries, household chores and their kids’ birthday parties.
“We just check things off as we go,” Dorland says.
Go on an app diet
We all have them — unused apps that eat up valuable space on our app or tablet. Now’s the time to clear out that digital clutter.
Vasquez says it’s easy to reach “hoarder mode” with apps because many are free and quick to download.
“People have tons but they probably only use 10 on a regular basis,” he says.
Want to cut back? Vasquez recommends browsing through the most-used apps on your smartphone (iPhone users can find this list by going into “settings” and then clicking on “battery”) and then deleting those you rarely use. Don’t be scared: You can always download them again.
Organize your inbox
Imagine an inbox with zero unread messages. Yes, it’s possible.
“It’s this idea that, at the end of the day, your inbox is completely clear,” Best says. “Everything has been responded to, assigned somewhere else, filed away — it’s out of your court.”
Best is a self-described “folder junkie” who uses email folders and subfolders to file her messages. She says getting to zero emails is pretty tough, but that it still feels good to end the day with five to 10 messages in the inbox instead of, say, 510.
Mike Gelphman, founder of a KC computer coding school called The Disruption Institute, swears by an email tool called Spark, which automatically organizes messages. Spark also allows users to “snooze” nonurgent messages and “pin” those that require quick replies.
“Basically it allows me to quickly take control of my inbox,” Gelphman says.
Sync your social networks
Toggling between Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be a huge time suck.
Social media pros such as Vasquez and Dorland use HootSuite to manage multiple platforms at once. The free version allows users to connect up to three profiles; the pro version costs about $10 per month with an annual plan and allows users to connect up to 50 profiles.
HootSuite and other social media managers such as TweetDeck, which is specifically designed for Twitter, help direct the “lava flow of information” into neat streams, Vasquez says. That makes it easier to limit the posts you see to specific topics of interest, such as “Star Wars” or “Super Bowl.”
Challenge yourself to disconnect
If your phone buzzes every time you get junk mail, an Instagram like, or a request to play Candy Crush, it’s time to trim down your notifications.
Most smartphones allow users to edit notifications by app. If you have an iPhone, you can go to “do not disturb” under settings to turn off all notifications (even texts) at night or during specific parts of the day.
Gelphman turns off alerts in the early to mid-morning, when he tends to be the most productive. He says protecting that time from those distractions helps him stay focused on long-term goals.
Anderson turns off notifications at night. In 2016, she’s taking that one step further by keeping her phone in another room while she’s sleeping.
“It’s a break from digital that I’m trying to force,” she says. “I’d rather reach for a book than my phone.”