New Year's resolutions? 11 ways to improve your relationship with technology in 2020
From turning off notifications to downloading useful apps, here are ways we can use technology going into the new year
We’re heading into a new year and a new decade. With this change in the calendar comes an impulse to shrug off your bad habits, adopt wholesome new ones and create a new you. Technology, however, plays an unusual role in the process of making new year’s resolutions. It’s presented as a solution to our problems, a way of optimising our existence and supercharging our potential. But as tech becomes more entwined in our lives it places obstacles in our way, cluttering our days and regularly infuriating us. Making technological new year’s resolutions can be as much about rejecting it as embracing it. Striking that balance isn’t always easy.
1. Turn off all unnecessary notifications
Spurning some of the infuriating side effects of technology is a good place to start. Alerts and notifications have become an irritant to anyone who uses a computer, tablet or smartphone. We’re endlessly pestered to turn notifications on for various services, and when they become too intrusive we’re forced to delve deep into menus to turn them off. Altering a mass of notification settings across several devices can represent a massive administrative headache, but to gain a bit more head space in the new year it’s worth spending an hour or two turning off as many as you can. (If you feel you’re missing out, you can always turn them back on. But you probably won’t.)
2. Unsubscribe from email lists instead of just deleting them
We tend to feel a duty to leave email notifications on, but they will certainly be triggered by persistent marketing emails from a regular set of culprits. It’s worth resolving to unsubscribe from those emails in the new year rather than merely deleting them; yes, it takes a couple more clicks, but it’s worth it in the long run. There are tools such as Unroll.me and SaneBox, which can assist with this process, but they either cost you money or involve handing over data.
3. Work on your relationship with social media
Then there’s the tricky problem of social media. Growing evidence suggests that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have a far-from-neutral effect on our mental health, whether it’s combative strangers giving us a hard time or experiencing a “Fear Of Missing Out” when everyone else’s posts are more exciting and interesting than ours. There’s always the option of going on a lengthy social media holiday, but muting and blocking undesirables can help to bring about a greater sense of calm. It might also be worth asking whether we ourselves are part of the problem. Could your online exchanges in 2020 be improved by turning the other cheek, or just being a little nicer?
4. Monitor your screen time
If all the above results in an overwhelming sense of relief, you might be persuaded to further unshackle yourself from your smartphone. Both Android and iOS have introduced features in recent months to let us know if we’re using our phone a little too much, but there are excellent third-party options, such as Moment, Forest and QualityTime, which help to relegate our mobile device to an “occasional assistant” from its position as “indispensable friend”.
5. Use a password manager
Yes, it’s a tedious business to change all your passwords to something new and secure but resolving to use a password manager in 2020 is the single most effective thing you can do to improve your online security.
That’s a good example of technology helping us out of a hole it’s dragged us into, and another one is the trusty password manager.
Yes, it’s a tedious business to change all your passwords to something new and secure (one that isn’t the name of a relative with a number added to the end, for example), but resolving to use a password manager in 2020 is the single most effective thing you can do to improve your online security. 1Password, KeePass, LastPass – they all do the job well, and they make compromised accounts, stolen data and stolen money far less likely. While you’re at it, turn on two-step authentication for any services that offer it – Google, Twitter, PayPal and so on. It’s a minor inconvenience for greater peace of mind.
6. Join the wearables revolution
All the major tech companies are currently betting big on health and fitness, and particularly so in the new year. Wearables such as Fitbit and Apple Watch provide in-depth tracking of your various activities, showing your progress towards your goals – and guilt-tripping you when you fail to attain them. Echelon FitPass and the heavily advertised Peloton are now at the forefront of the trend for live-streaming fitness classes, paid for by subscription. Meanwhile, Noom and MyFitnessPal are two apps with a good track record in helping users change their attitudes towards food. Yes, it’s a January cliche, but us humans seem doomed to repeat it.
7. Learn something new
With the internet being such an extraordinary repository of knowledge, it seems appropriate to use technology to learn new things and skill up. Learning a language has become provably easier by using apps such as Rosetta Stone, Duolingo and Babbel. The online teaching platform Udemy has an extraordinary range of courses available, from pet training and interior design to comic illustration and cryptocurrency trading.
8. Get a decent night's sleep
And if all that seems tiring, tech is on hand to help you get a better night’s sleep, either by using sleep trackers (Aura is currently battling it out with Beddit for the top spot) or gentle wake-up lights by companies such as Lumie or Philips.
9. Sort out your finances
If you’ve resolved to adopt a little more financial responsibility in 2020, apps such as Mint, Prism and PocketGuard can help keep track of your spending habits and make budget suggestions accordingly.
10. Change your habits for good
But the problem with any of these recommendations is actually seeing your resolutions through. Unsurprisingly, there are apps to help with that, too; Habitica makes a game out of it, HabitShare compares your successes to those of your friends, while stickK uses nudge theory to help you power through the new year. If you’ve formed a bond with your voice assistant, motivational skills such as Alexa’s My Morning and Talk Me Down can help you stay on track.
11. Or... just admit defeat
If all else fails, and you decide that laziness is the only way forward, maybe just pick up a pair of Prism Glasses, which allow you to stare at a screen while lying flat on your back. Yes, it’s the equivalent of admitting to yourself that all is lost and technology has finally got the upper hand. But at least you’ll be comfortable.
Updated: December 24, 2019 10:50 AM