Upgrading Your Digital Life

By Tracey Dowdy

Time to turn over a new leaf. There’s no time like the present. New year, new start. Had enough of clichés yet?

In truth, it is time to turn over a new leaf and there really is no time like the present. In fact, if you’ve been hitting “Remind me later” every time a software update appears on your screen or you have to scroll through dozens of spam emails before you get to what you actually need, you’re long overdue for an update. By following a few simple steps and with a little effort, it’s easy to streamline and get yourself back on track to an upgraded digital life.

Take the time to update your software. Not only will updated software make your computer run more smoothly, it will save you the aggravation of having to stop and install updates when you’re tasked with a project that requires the latest version. Remember – running outdated software is a security risk. Newer versions will have security patches to fill in the gaps and keep you protected.

While you’re updating and protecting your security, get a grip on your passwords. If you’re not doing so already, start using a password manager. Apps like LastPass will create strong passwords and then store them in an encrypted database.

Get rid of files, folders, pictures, videos, email, programs… anything that’s taking up space and cluttering up your computer. One option is to invest in an external hard drive to store your photos and videos or anything else you want to hang on to but don’t need access to on a regular basis. A second, more accessible option is to take advantage of cloud storage. Both Chrome (Download to Dropbox) and Firefox (Save Link to Folder) offer extensions that allow you to upload directly to Dropbox instead of downloading the program to your computer.

Did you know a cluttered desktop actually slows down your computer? Get rid of shortcuts you don’t use and organize files or images into folders. Similarly, when browsing online use an app like OneTab to condense all your open tabs into one list. When you need access, click on individual links or restore them all at once.

Clear out your inbox. My friend Brenda has 27,000 unread emails. Not going to lie – I died a little, cried a little, just typing that. The easiest way get your email organized is to archive messages you want to hang on to or delete messages you won’t need again. I recommend clearing out email in groups. I search my Gmail for sites like Pinterest and once the list is loaded, Select All and then Delete. Another great tip is to use Unroll.me to unsubscribe from multiple sites at once. Once you sign up you’ll see a list of all your subscription emails and you simply choose the ones you want to unsubscribe from. I had 137 lists I was subscribed to and got rid of an even 100 of them in about 2 minutes.

Cut the cord. Cord cutting is the trend of disconnecting from traditional cable and satellite packages and taking advantages of services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, Apple TV and Amazon Prime. The average cable bill is approximately $123 a month or $ 1,476 per year – that’s a lot of money. Depending on your viewing habits, dropping cable and taking advantage of online and streaming services may be a better – and cheaper – alternative. Check out this guide to see if cord cutting is an option for you.

Once you’ve got yourself organized and upgraded, keep it up. Once a week, once a month – whatever works for you – do a little housekeeping. It takes time and effort, but like anything worthwhile, you’ll be glad you did it. Remember: New year, new start.

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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