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Time for a Fresh Start

A New Year is always a great time to start fresh or start again - especially after the one we just had.

We wanted to share a few best practices to make your life easier and more focused on your success in coming year. While maybe not life changing, these can be a quick way to reboot & refocus. To lower the background “noise” in your life a little, and start the year off on the right foot.

Do a Digital Purge. Over time, your email box can become a digital version of the show “Hoarders.” Between daily newsletters, social notifications, and marketing emails, thousands of unread emails can stack up until it is a stress-inducing monolith.

Even a cursory glance at every unread email can be a huge time suck. Time to fix it. The first step is to mass-delete or “mark as read” + archive the emails. Use the search-bar of your email to isolate the marketing emails for the purge and keep the ones you might want to archive like receipts, tickets or shipping tracking numbers. Step two is to unsubscribe from anything you do not regularly read that provides value. Try to be as brutally honest about this as you can. If that great daily newsletter only gets read a few times a year, consider unsubscribing. Anything you still stay subscribed to can be managed by setting up rules for to bypass your in-box and go to a specific folder that you can glance at from time to time or delete without stressing. Here’s how to do that for Outlook and for Gmail. In most circumstances, unsubscribing will get rid of the marketing emails, but not receipts and other important emails.

Take control over your apps. Your apps should work for you, not the other way around. Start by deleting any apps on your phone, tablet, computer, or smartwatch you do not use often or need. For the surviving apps, open the settings and restrict what those apps can do and have access to. Many apps’ default is to full access of things they have no business having access to, like contacts, camera, microphone, and geolocation data. The next step is to tailor each apps’ notification settings, which are the gateway to lost productivity. How many times have you gotten an unimportant notification that caused you to look at your phone, unlock it, then cause you to lose twenty minutes down a Twitter or Facebook rabbit hole? FYI, be prepared for a backlash – I took a month off of Facebook, deleted it from my iPad and phone, and immediately started getting dozens of emails daily from Facebook about stuff I was missing, trying to tempt me to log in. The longer my hiatus from Facebook, the worse it got. Hold firm.

Raise the digital drawbridge. Data breeches are all too common- which can lead to identity theft, fraud, and a huge headache. If you have not changed the passwords to your mission-critical systems like your email, social or bank account in the past year, DO IT NOW. Most browsers can create strong & unique passwords for each website and auto-save them – or you can use a third-party website like You can physically write them down on a small notepad you keep in a secure location. It’s also a good idea to turn on two-step authentication (where they text you a code). Don’t make it too easy on the hackers. DO NOT save your passwords in a document on your computer or phone called “Passwords.” It might be a pain - but taking an hour to change all your passwords to unique, strong, ones is infinitely easier than getting your identity stolen.

Back that thang up. While you are at it, it’s a good time to back up your phone & computer or set up uploading pictures or anything else important to the cloud. That way if you lose your phone or your laptop, you have only lost your device, not years of precious memories. Here’s how to do that for Apple phones and Android.

Purge the reading pile. You have my permission to toss that guilt-inducing stack of magazines or newspapers you have been meaning to get to. Go ahead, your recycle bin is waiting. If you are like me and keep buying or downloading interesting and recommended books that never seem to get read, consider switching to audio book format and listening to them while in the car, walking, at the gym, or doing chores or housework. Another option is to put a recurring time on your calendar to read for a few minutes each day.

Archive important documents & shred the rest. Spend some time sorting paperwork into three piles: important stuff you’ll need in the near future (like 2020 taxes), important stuff to archive/file away, and everything else. Shred the third pile, file or scan the second, and put the rest in a quick-access folder.

Optimistically put things on your calendar for the rest of the year. Look at the big white space that is currently 2021. Coordinate with family or friends and block out vacations, long weekends, camping trips, etc. This will serve two purposes – by putting it on the calendar, it will be more likely to happen vs. taking a “wait and see” approach, and it will give you something to look forward to. You do not necessarily need to decide now what the trip will be or where. Just get that time blocked out. Hopefully at some point in 2021 we can return to some level of normalcy where we can go on vacation or travel. Worst-case, it will be easier to cancel plans than to decide last-minute to go someplace.

There is a lot in our world right now that is out of our control – so hopefully these tips will help you feel a little more in control of what you can influence and start the year strong.

Thanks for reading – we blog about leadership, personal performance, human resources, job hunting and career management. If you find any of those topics helpful, please consider subscribing.

The Rivet Group is a recruiting, coaching, and consulting firm that connects high-performers to organizations that need them in the United States. If you are looking to add to your team or are ready to join a new one, we’d love to hear from you.

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