January 01, 2015

10 New Year's Resolutions (for you) for the Year 2015

A new year is a somewhat arbitrary point in time to mark change. But tradition has it that we do two things when the calendar turns from December to January. We look back on the previous year, either with pride over accomplishments, or dismissal of bad experiences, and we optimistically expect the best for the coming twelve months.

In years past I've put forth fun predictions for the world in tech. And trust me, I have some predictions, but I'll hold those close to the vest. Working at Google makes predicting the future like cheating. And I won't bore you with a list of my own resolutions for 2015. Instead, I'll suggest (with bias) ten resolutions each of you (and often us too) should take this year to make our online and offline lives even better.

1. Protect yourself and your data from the bad guys.

Seemingly every week, we are seeing news about security breaches at major retail stores, or finding online databases have been impacted. And outside the headlines, bad actors are out there trying to harvest your online information. I recommend protecting yourself by using two-factor authentication wherever possible, trying to avoid the reuse of passwords, and setting up automatic alerts that tell you if your credit cards are being used anywhere, or over a certain dollar amount.

In 2014, I managed nearly 6 million steps on Fitbit.

2. Use intelligent data to make yourself a better person.

Seemingly everyone's New Year's resolution is to go to the gym more or lose weight. But those resolutions tend to fade out after a strong month or so. Instead, find a fitness tracker or application that makes sense to track what you already do, and find a way to increase those numbers. My adoption of Fitbit two and a half years ago helped me lose more than 20 pounds, encouraged me to buy a treadmill, and find the way to walk just about everywhere.

3. Use intelligent data to make your home a smarter one.

Once you know to count your data with services like Fitbit, running your home without data is kind of dumb. By adopting Nest and Sunrun to handle our energy costs, and Rachio to manage our smart sprinkler system, we've not only set ourselves up to save money each month, but we can better predict our use, and make changes when necessary.

Our Solar powered home saves money and saves the air too.

4. If you have money, put it in places with long term benefits.

In 2010, we bought our home, putting out more money than I've ever done. But with rising Silicon Valley real estate prices, that looks like a good investment. In 2011, we refinanced. In 2012, we paid off our cars and, with the exception of our home, were debt free. In 2013, we bought a treadmill, to keep us active, even if not leaving the house. And in 2014, we made two big expenditures: The first being our Sunrun solar system, which will save us more than $65,000 in the lifetime of the 20 year contract, and the second, paying off a home equity line of credit, which was taking $300 a month, every month. We paid it off 28 years early. This year, we're hoping to get rid of our external storage unit, and continuing to take costs off the top.

5. Reduce clutter, be it of physical things or your time.

One of our 'first world problems' is the accumulation of stuff that takes up space. But many of things that occupy space where we live are for temporary enjoyment. I made a choice to ditch physical items for digital ones years ago, and I don't have books or DVDs following me around. Similarly, it makes sense to cut out activities, networks, people or habits that are a time suck for you and may have stopped adding value long ago. Whether it's closing accounts, unfriending, unsubscribing, or just walking away... if you truly miss it, you can always add those things back.

6. See things from another person's perspective.

It's easy, especially online, to divide into two directly opposing camps. What you like is amazing, and what the other person likes stinks. But it's often very interesting to see why someone has made a choice, be it where they choose to spend their time, what hobbies they enjoy, what apps they use or what mobile or computer operating system they've selected. It can't hurt to ask and understand before overwhelming them with your bias.

7. Recognize a lack of diversity hurts everyone, and work to solve it.

There is bias everywhere, obvious or unconscious. The results of generations of bias have led to dramatically skewed workplaces, city makeups, perceptions and manufactured realities. 2014 saw many tech companies open up about their own diverse makeups. Recognizing the issue is just the first step, and being comfortable with the status quo isn't acceptable.

8. Don't read the comments. And if you do, don't respond.

There's a bell curve when it comes to quality commentary, and the fringes of that curve are in charge of most active conversations, be it on mainstream media sites, popular discussion boards, or video networks. Practically every time, you lose brain cells by reading them, and engaging just makes you part of the mess.

9. Do something good for people who need the help more than you do.

Not everyone feels like they can give money to charity, but practically everyone has time. 2014 saw many of my friends get cancer. Another friend lost his 11 year old son to heart disease. Close friends suffered job losses, divorces and messy breakups. The world got Ebola. Adult problems can be a real pain. Find a cause or lend an ear to a friend that needs the help and always be there. The time you give is better than money.

10. Evaluate what you've always been taught and consider whether its true.

Much like bias can be taught from one generation to the next, so can half-truths and pure make believe, from pseudoscience to religion, political leanings and the latest version of history, depending on the author. Put two people in a room and ask them a direct question on a challenging topic, and you'll get wildly different answers. Find out why you'd state yours, and see if a little research could make you update your story.

Starting here, even if you can't get to them all, will have a big impact on you - online and offline, with health, with finance, and well being. You could give yourself a crazy goal that sets you up for disappointment, or you could just start with these. I'm working on each one and have a lot more to do. Good luck to you in 2015.