Tech tips for supercharging your 2016
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Start tracking your fitness
Now that you’ve embraced (and likely already broken) your New Year’s resolutions, it’s time to get your tech house in order. Here’s what you should be doing to make the most of your tech in 2016, improving your own life in the process.
Even if you don’t have your own dedicated fitness tracker band, most smartphones now collect basic activity data (steps, flights of stairs climbed) by default while they sit in your pocket. If you’re shopping for a dedicated fitness tracker, find one that measures your heart rate — it’s a great way to keep yourself accountable for how much effort you put into each workout. Trackers can even help you attain a regular, natural sleep cycle.
Embrace the collection of personal fitness data, and focus on improving your health and fitness with time. You’ll be surprised what you can accomplish with the aid of fitness tech.
Also see: CES 2016: Fitbit launches $200 Apple Watch competitor and Five Android exercise apps to get you moving in 2016
Register your drones
If you scored a new drone over the holidays or use one as a part of your job, remember that there are new federal registration requirements that are now in effect. There are a number of state-specific drone laws, too, that you need to know and obey.
To help you keep everything straight, TechRepublic has updated our drone registration FAQ guide. Remember, you can’t legally fly your drone before you pay $5 to register it, so make doing so a priority.
Forget Flash; learn HTML5
Will 2016 be the year that Adobe Flash finally gives up the ghost? One can hope, anyway — even though the company shifted its focus to HTML five years ago under the watch of CTO and Flash evangelist Kevin Lynch (shown), the legacy multimedia platform has become a security nightmare.
If you’re not familiar with it yet, boost your career by taking a fresh look at HTML5. TechRepublic contributing writer Matt Asay believes HTML5 can be the perfect complement to Android and iOS in the post-browser world.
Learn something new about your phone
Learn something new about your phone
Your phone is an amazing, constantly updating device. Every year, phone manfacturers, app devs, and carriers push new features and functionality that can make your life better. So make it a goal this year to learn more of your phone’s hidden secrets.
Need a place to start? Android owners should check out these useful hacks; our sister site CNET has great coverage of the iPhone’s best-yet-little-known features.
Achieve inbox zero
How many unread emails do you currently have in your inbox? A few thousand? Tens of thousands?
Start off 2016 on the right foot — with an empty inbox. Most major providers now let you filter promotional messages, so it’s easy to delete years’ worth of spam in seconds. Use your email’s search feature to find regularly occurring team emails, mark them all as read, and archive them. Consider using a filtering tool like Microsoft’s Clutter to help in the effort.
And if after all that you’re still struggling with your inbox, check out this article from our sister site ZDNet about the right way to declare email bankruptcy.
Back it all up
You’re no tech n00b — you already know how important it is to keep key files backed up.
Still, it’s good practice to regularly review your backup procedure and make sure any new gadgets you’ve acquired throughout the new year are properly protected. You can use the (oft free) cloud to store non-critical data; highly sensitive information is best stored locally.
Want to review or revise your backup settings on a new device? CNET has a great how-to on mobile backups that can save you time wading through menu hell.
Keep a to-do list
To-do lists are incredibly powerful tools, researchers have proven. They free up your mind to focus on other, more important tasks, and they make it easy to review and take pride in the tasks that you’ve actually accomplished.
Google Keep is a flexible and simple option for setting up a digital to-do list; it’s now available on iOS, too. Any.do is an attractive option for iPhone users, though you’ll need to shell out $26.99 per year to unlock premium features like location-based reminders.
And if you haven’t had success with to-do lists in the past, try this pro tip: Create your to-do list inside a calendar app. If you block off time to get tasks done, you’re much more likely to complete them.
Move beyond the password
Let’s face facts: The password is no longer a reliable means of security on its own.
Most major tech companies such as Amazon and Facebook now offer two-factor authentication, which you should have enabled wherever possible. Biometric security is a great security option too — it’s way harder to hack a fingerprint than it is a four-digit lock screen code.
Embrace continuous improvement
Often times, efforts to follow through with a major change result in failure because we take on too much at once. Instead, try to personally embrace Kaizen, or the Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement. Small changes add up in a big way.
Tech can play a huge part in your success. Kaizen can be easily be applied to your fitness goals if you’re using a tracker to collect data, for example. Make it a priority to be more active today than you were the day before, and then repeat the process tomorrow. Have a cluttered, inefficient computer? Devote a few minutes every day to better organizing and archiving your files.
Just remember — self-improvement isn’t a one-time activity. The key to success with Kaizen is to hold on to your successes and build on them.
Make sure your software is updated
Most operating systems and apps have embraced the concept of continuous software updates, and you should too. Keeping your operating systems up to date, for example, will help keep you protected against known exploits and improve battery life.
If you’re a Win 7/Win 8 PC owner, make the effort to update your computer to Windows 10. It’s a free upgrade for you, but only if you perform it by July 29, 2016 — Windows 10‘s first anniversary.
Give the cloud your love
We’ve reached a tipping point for the cloud: On-demand IT services are a reality. Why would a company run its own data center when Amazon and others do it so well on the cheap? The personal benefits are great, too — the cloud is an easy way to access important files on any device you choose.
Still, it’s important to choose the right cloud services provider, because not all are created equal. You definitely want a provider that runs its own data center, rather than one that uses a third-party contractor. Ask questions about how your cloud provider encrypts and protects your data. And come up with a plan in case the cloud fails — 99.99% uptime is fantastic, but your organization still needs to know what to do in those 0.01% cases.
Hacker-proof yourself, then do it again
First, the bad news: Underground hacker groups are thriving. We’re not talking about dudes like Zero Cool here — these are hardened criminal organizations that steal personally identifiable data in bulk and resell them on the black market for millions.
Be sure to constantly monitor your credit card and banking statements for suspicious activity, and use free credit monitoring services where available. Most importantly, be sure to update your software and hardware with security patches whenever possible.
Plan for your own obsolescence
Layoffs are a merciless and regular part of being a working adult. No one, no matter how leet your tech skills, is immune to the occasional bad bounce.
It’s never fun planning for the worst, but it definitely pays to be prepared. Keeping your LinkedIn profile updated is a solid (and easy) first step — it’s one of the best ways to build your own personal, professional brand. Also, regularly update your LinkedIn profile — don’t be that person who only reaches out to their network when times are bad.
Learn new skills related to your area of expertise, even if you have to do so on your own.
And, of course, it never hurts to sock a couple bucks away for a rainy day.
Change all your passwords
We see a lot of bad news about passwords here at TechRepublic. Over the last year, the worst possible passwords actually gained in popularity. And 37 million passwords were leaked in the Ashley Madison hack alone, not even counting the numerous other breaches that happened in the last year.
If you haven’t changed your passwords in the last 12 months, do so now. Make sure every important account has its own unique password — this means your email accounts, social media accounts, and anything tied to your financial accounts. Follow good password practices: No pet names, mix in numbers and capital letters, and make it long.
We here at TechRepublic recommend you use a password manager (such as Keeper for Android) if possible.
Review your privacy settings
Social networks such as Facebook offer plenty of tools to give you control over who sees your social media activity. Unfortunately, these crucial tools are often buried in complex menus, each with opt-in requirements that require you to actively seek them out.
Your privacy is definitely worth the effort.