☑️ The Ultimate Digital Clean-Up Checklist: Are You Prepared For The New Year?

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Quick summary ↬ With a couple of days left until New Year’s Eve, it’s just about time to set aside 60 minutes to clean up, sort out and back up your digital footprint, to ensure a good smooth start to the new year.

With a couple of days left until New Year’s Eve, it’s just about time to set aside 60 minutes to clean up, sort out and back up your digital footprint, to ensure a good smooth start to 2022. So many little details tend to get forgotten or overlooked every single time, only to get fixed hastily later — but doesn’t it just feel right when everything is in the right place, neatly organized, even if you aren’t a compulsory cleaner or an obsessed perfectionist?

This is not a generic article about unspectacular things like getting to inbox zero or changing the copyright year in your footer (although that’s a good idea!) — we to keep track of your expenses (even using the ). Your accountant will appreciate it, and you can set up a budget allowance of how much you’d like to spend next year. Knowing where you stand will help you decide how much money to set aside next year, and how you’d like to approach it strategically.

You can grab and customize a .

While you’re at it, double-check that all outstanding invoices have been sent and paid, and set up invoice reminders to be sent out automatically either in late December or in early January — for example, with , , and export your Medium posts, if that’s your kind of thing.

Revisit Your Ultimate Restore Reboot Kit

What happens if your phone drowns or your laptop decides to cease cooperating with you? Be ready in case something happens to your machine and you need it right away. Obviously, you have backed up your phone and your desktop, but what if something fails or you don’t have online access? (Yep, it’s happened to me — start watching the first video at 5:55:25).

Prepare a Restore Kit, a folder collecting all your important applications, settings and license codes. Take a close look at all of the applications you use regularly and write them down. You might end up with something like what follows.

Desktop

Gmail, Sublime, GitHub Desktop, SizeUp, TextExpander, Alfred, Fantastical, Tweetdeck, Screenflow, IA Writer, Slack, Skype, Pages, Keynote, Disk Order, Dropbox, 1Password, OpenPASS, Chrome, Canary, Firefox, Opera, browser extensions (Adblock, Boomerang for Gmail, BrowserStack, link checker, DotVPN, Emmet Re:view, Eye Dropper, Facebook Disconnect, Full Page Screen Capture, Lighthouse, OneTab, Privacy Badger, Session Manager, The Great Suspender, WebPagetest, Window Resizer), Transmission (FTP client), The Unarchiver, GoToMeeting, DaisyDisk, Open Broadcaster Software, Lookback, VLC, uTorrent, Spotify, Adobe Creative Cloud.

Mobile

Google Maps, WhatsApp, Skype, Foursquare, Instagram, Messenger, Twitter, Facebook, Google Translate, Shopify, Shazam, Spotify, Uber, Lyft, iA Writer, SpeedSmart, Google Authenticator, Opera Mini, Trello, Slack, Airbnb, Adblock, Revolut, banking application

Download the latest versions of these applications, extract the settings or config files from your existing apps, and store them all both locally and on a USB stick. Some services live online, so make sure to reference them (for example, in a plain-text file). Also, don’t forget to extract, encrypt and store the license codes for all of your locally installed applications:

  • Save encrypted passwords for your Google Chrome and Firefox accounts, so that you don’t need to sync bookmarks, popular search hits, your browsing history or extensions.
  • Save encrypted credentials to access your primary email account.
  • Save encrypted PIN and PUK codes for your mobile phone.
  • Take a screenshot of the arrangement of icons on your desktop, tablet and phone — including the deck and app icons on your phone. They will serve as a point of reference. Sync them via Dropbox — just in case mobile/desktop backup fails at some point in the future (yep, happened to me already as well).

If you put all of these files together in a separate Restore Kit folder, encrypted and stored both locally and on an external USB drive, you’ll be able to set up your working environment and get up and running completely from scratch within half an hour. Bonus points if you use Ninite (Windows), Get Mac Apps, createOSXinstallPkg or Homebrew Cask (Mac) with a little shell script to bundle a handful of installable packages and run them at once one after another automatically. Better to feel safe than sorry!

Caskroom
Caskroom installs your apps to your /Applications folder in the same way as you would manually, but with just one click.

Random Stuff

Just to make sure you don’t leave out something important in your to-do-list or in the “considered-to-be-spam” trench of your inbox, below is a quick checklist of a few things that could be helpful to revisit before diving into the new year:

  • Install updates you’ve been delaying for weeks.
  • Check Facebook’s hidden tab, “Message requests,” for people who aren’t your Facebook friends.
  • Check whether you’re overpaying for mobile, Internet or web services — prices tend to change all the time.
  • Learn one new keyboard shortcut a week, and define at least one custom text abbreviation a week.
  • Remove sharing buttons, links and any irrelevant content from the footer.
  • Review if you need all reserved and parked domains and check when they expire, to set up notifications and extend the license in time.
  • Clean up your desktop before the new year starts — when in doubt, just quickly hide all of the icons on your desktop.
  • Write down important phone numbers of relatives, close friends and colleagues — on paper — and store them carefully.
  • Whenever a loved one mentions something they’d love to have, write it down and order it right away — you’ll find an occasion to give it to them later in the year.
No icons on desktop
A simple shell command helps you hide the icons on your desktop.

Clean up your desktop before the new year starts — when in doubt, just quickly hide all of the icons on your desktop.

Set Up Cleanup Reminders For Future Years

Of course, in a perfect world, we would properly name all files and keep them in properly grouped and marked folders, and we would keep our inbox lean and clean. But more often than not, our data isn’t as neatly organized as we’d love it to be. Set up a cleaning reminder for late December 2021 (and December 2022), maybe even with a link to this article.

Quick Wins

Phew! Here we go. Now, this list is quite comprehensive, and taking on the task of cleaning up your digital footprint might be the most tedious task you accomplish this entire year! So, if you had just one hour to get significant improvements, what would you do? Let’s boil it all down to 7 low-hanging fruits.

  • Think of and collect the receipts for the highest business expenses to send to your accountant early next year.
  • Double-check that all outstanding invoices have been sent and paid.
  • Revisit the frequency of notifications for services you use. Delete email notifications. The usual suspects are email, Twitter, Facebook, Trello and Slack.
  • Review your privacy settings, ads settings, data collection settings and security settings and review authorized apps in Twitter, Facebook, Gmail and others.
  • Create separate email accounts (and/or filters) for notifications and receipts.
  • Delete apps that you don’t need on your phone, tablet and desktop.
  • Revisit your ultimate restore or reboot kit: List essential apps, and collect and sync config and settings files, encrypted license files and the arrangement of icons on your screens. Whenever a loved one mentions something they’d love to have, write it down and order it right away.

Fantastic — you made it! Reward yourself for the last days of the year: uncork and share a bottle of champagne with your family or your friends who managed to get through the checklist just like you, and have a good clean start in 2021 2022! ;-)

Not good enough? Well, let us know what’s missing in the comments below!

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