Go through these 20 steps to have your most productive, secure, and convenient digital life starting next year.
Much of our lives today are lived in the digital space. Instead of using atoms in the physical world, we use 0s and 1s to create our best lives.
In doing so, it is very easy to clutter up our digital life. Unlike in the physical world where you can see the mess you create, clutter in the physical world is very difficult to recognize.
It’s an impossible task, without actively thinking about it.
The start of a brand new year is a perfect time to do a digital cleansing. It takes time and effort, but I promise, it’s very much worth it.
That being said, let’s look at 20 ways you can transform your digital life in preparation for 2023.
(1) Analyze Screen Time
Most of us undervalue the digital health tools provided by companies like Apple, Google, and Samsung.
Granted, these companies don’t want your eyes off their phones. Yet, they give you tools you can use to monitor your digital health.
Apple gives you Screen Time and Google gives you Digital Wellbeing.
Through these tools you can do the following (more or less):
- Find your most used apps
- Your total screen time — how many hours a day you are on your phone (you would be surprised!)
- How many times you pick up your phone
- How many notifications do you get
If you don’t know the problem, you can never find a solution.
Find your digital problems. Then, use the remaining of this blog post to find solutions to them.
(2) Uninstall Unused Apps
If you are even remotely like the general population, odds are you have several apps on your phone that you used once, and never again in your life.
There are a gazillion reasons to download an app for one-time use — discount when you buy something for the first time, credit card points, restaurant check-ins, loyalty programs, FREE STUFF, and so many more.
You use it once and then forget all about it.
But the app is still there on your phone, taking up space and adding to the digital clutter.
Find these apps, and delete them.
(3) Get A Cloud Storage
Cloud storage makes your life easy.
You can choose from whatever vendor you want — Google, Amazon, Apple, Dropbox, etc.
Any of these tools back up all your files, folders, photos — any other 0s and 1s — in some remote server somewhere in the world.
Whenever you need it, you can access it from any device.
It lets you free up storage on your own device, and makes accessing them from any corner of the world at any time a piece of cake.
(4) Reach Inbox Zero
If you don’t stay on top of your emails, before you know it, you are going to be that person with a notification badge on top of your email client icon that says — 1000!
It can get very overwhelming. Even worse, you miss important emails.
Go and take a look at your inbox. If it’s anywhere between 0 and 200 “unread”, it’s worth sorting through them until you reach the magical “zero inbox state”.
If it’s above 200, especially in the upper three figures, it’s not worth it. Just delete all and start from scratch.
Once you reset, keep an eye on your emails every week and process them weekly.
(5) Create A Productivity System
If you haven’t already, try out a simple productivity system.
It’s a total game-changer! You don’t need too much to get started. Just start with the following:
- Task Manager
- Habit Tracker
- Note Taker
I have literally hundreds of writings here on Medium about productivity apps and setups. Check them out!
If there is one thing that totally transformed my life in the last couple of years, it’s implementing and iterating on a productivity system that works for me.
(6) Use At Least 2 Emails
In today’s advertisement-based internet model, you must have at least 2 emails.
The first email — your primary email — is only for the most important and private things in your life. Examples of that would be bank accounts, investment accounts, health apps, calendar apps, etc.
Anything that is important to you goes into the primary email.
The second email is an equivalent of a burner phone. Strip away all your personal details from that email. Use some fake alias.
The purpose of the second email is to subscribe to newsletters, join mailing lists, buy things online, and get your free stuff!
The second email in no way should be linked to your personal identity.
There are lots of tools out there nowadays that let you create burner emails on the fly. If you can, use that! If not, at least keep your burner email separate from your primary email.
(7) Get A New Phone Setup
If you are like any average person, your most used device is your phone.
That’s why the way you set up your phone literally determines if you are set up for success (or failure) in life.
Look at your phone. Does it give you peace? Or is it a mess?
If it’s the latter, then it’s time for a change. Whether you use an Android phone or an iPhone, you can design your phone for maximum productivity, health, and peace.
Just quickly do a YouTube search, or just check out some of my earlier Medium posts, if you want to learn more about minimalist phone setups.
(8) Audit Your Notifications
When you turn on notifications for an app, you are essentially giving that app permission to take over your life whenever the app wants.
In an ad-driven business model, the more developers (and companies) can get your attention, the more money they make. So of course they will send you more notifications.
That’s why it’s so important to be careful when agreeing to receive notifications from an app.
Be smart about it. Go to your system preferences and revoke notification permission from any app that you don’t find useful.
The less you give your phone permission to distract you, the better it is for both your physical and mental health.
(9) Review Online Subscriptions
Most apps nowadays are based on subscription models.
That means, X dollars a month, or X hundred dollars a year.
They give you an upfront discount, and then pray and hope that you forget about the subscription in the long run.
Behind the scenes, your credit card will get charged every month. The amount will be small of course. Small enough for you to turn a blind eye to it, yet large enough for it to add up over time.
Subscription models are not inherently bad. It only hurts your wallet when you are not getting any value out of it.
Go ahead and look at your bank statements. Cancel any unused or unhelpful subscription. Keep the ones that are adding value to your life.
(10) First Step Towards an Ecosystem
This will be controversial.
I am personally a big fan of ecosystems that companies — Apple, Google, and Samsung — create. They simplify your digital life.
It’s way easier to have everything under one roof.
At the end of the day, yes, you are giving so much of your life to one company. However, I get so much value out of it, that it makes the risk worth it for me.
So go ahead and pick your poison. Whichever it is, in the long run, it really adds a ton of value to your life and simplifies your life.
No matter which ecosystem you use, you will get some (or all) of these benefits:
- Similar UX across apps
- Less redundancy
- Fewer forms to fill
- Less time spent onboarding to apps
- Less security risk
- Better integration makes you more productive
(11) Fix Your Calendar
If something is not on your calendar, odds are you will never do it.
Every Sunday, I go ahead and schedule everything of importance on my calendar.
Then I use the calendar (alongside my task manager) to go about my day.
If you have any “no compromise” in your life, go ahead and put that on your calendar. By giving your task a time and location, you are letting it exist in the physical world. It’s more likely you will get to it, that way.
Similarly, if you have events on your calendar that you never seem to go to, chances are they are not worth your time anymore. Go ahead and delete those events.
(12) Organize Your Notes
If you spend so much time online, of course, you pick up lots of important information throughout your day. Where do they go?
Sure, you can jot it down using a physical notebook and pen. However, it adds friction.
Instead, try out a digital note-taking app. The app doesn’t matter. Even the most simple one will serve the purpose.
Pick one without overthinking. Then create an organizational system that makes sense for you.
Keep it simple, stupid!
(13) Set Screen Limits Per Device
It’s important to minimize screen time in the long run.
My hope is that with a productive and mindful digital setup, you will already have minimized your screen time. However, sometimes even that doesn’t help.
That’s why it’s important to set up a screen time limit per device. Decide how long you want to spend in front of a screen. Then add that limit.
What the limit does is makes you consciously think whether you want to exceed it or not, more often than not just be showing you a popup.
Even though it’s easy to dismiss, I find the mere act of making a conscious decision worth keeping the limits.
(14) Pick One Web Browser
Safari? Google Chrome? Firefox? Brave? Microsoft Edge? Some other?
It doesn’t matter.
What matters is you pick one browser, and use it across all your devices.
That means consistent history, bookmarks, and browser extensions.
Onboarding on a new device becomes a breeze. You move from tab to tab much more quicker. You spend less time juggling passwords and login credentials.
It saves your hours! I promise.
(15) File Organization System
Whether you use some kind of cloud storage or not (please do!), you need an organizational system.
I use tags and folders. You can use whatever.
The idea is to have an organizational system and stick to it. That way, whenever you are looking for a file, and you can’t find it just by searching, you know exactly where it should be.
For starters, create an “Important Documents” section and keep all your critical documents there.
(16) Pick Your Poison…But Use With Restraint
We all are addicted to one social media app or another — TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, <insert_name>.
Of course in an ideal world, we don’t use any. However, that’s not very realistic for most people.
So, instead, pick one poison. And then put some screen limit on that.
For starters, you can do something like this:
- Instagram → 10 minutes
- YouTube → 20 minutes
In the long run, cut one of them and only keep one for, let’s say, 30 minutes.
(17) Use Digital Assisstants
You would be surprised how much smarter digital assistants — Apple’s Siri, and Google Assistant — have gotten.
You can easily use them for the following:
- Quick web searches
- Add reminders
- Add Calendar events
- Tell you about the weather and your day
- Check game scores
You can get the same information in less time. Also, it’s one less reason to unlock and go into your phone, which means, less likely to go down rabbit holes or infinite scrolls.
(18) Get A VPN
If you spend time outside the comfort and security of your home, a VPN is a must!
It protects your digital identity and data in public spaces — airports, cafes, restaurants, etc.
Usually, VPNs are very cheap. Do some research though when you get one. VPNs are notorious for data mining and keeping browsing logs.
If you want my opinion, check out Mullvad VPN.
(19) Adblocks & Privacy Trackers
You can never have enough Adblockers and privacy trackers.
The internet is notorious for tracking you to the ends of Earth. Apps and services won’t stop tracking every move you make in the digital world. All in the hope of selling you something that you never need.
I would recommend checking out the following:
- AdBlock Plus
- DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials
All these are free!
If you can, I would also tell you to move away from Google Chrome to a more private and secure browser.
(20) Secure Password Manager
I am keeping the most important one for the end.
Use a password manager! For real, use it!
It doesn’t matter too much which one you use. Ideally, you want to use a dedicated one, such as 1Password or Dashlane. However, even if you use Apple’s Keychain or the Chrome password manager, that’s still better than not using one.
Whenever you are using it, remember this one MUST DO:
Never re-use the same password.
Of course, other tips apply too:
- Use a randomly generated password
- Don’t use predictable words
- Don’t re-use facts or figures from your life
If you want to have a secure digital life in 2023, using a secure password manager and making smart password choices are absolute essentials!
I hope you found this a valuable read and have some takeaways that you can go ahead and implement in your wonderful lives.
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