In December I found myself in an advantageous position. I’d ended the year with enough holiday at work left over that I could down tools from the 7th of December until the 2nd of January.
Aside from the need to travel between Leeds to Cornwall and London I was basically free for almost a month and decided to use my time to organise my life; but especially my digital life.
I’ve got so many online accounts, 10+ years of photos & videos, a resume I always forget to keep up to date and as I’m looking to start buying a place with the girlfriend I need to get my finances in order.
It’s not how most people would like to spend their holiday, but for me (and I’m hoping this rings true to my fellow ENTJs) a good spring clean will set me up for a far more productive 2019 than if I didn’t do it.
Online accounts and passwords
As I spend time online I end up signing up for all kinds of things. I had a LastPass subscription just sitting there without much love so I decided to do something about it and start putting everything in the one place.
My first step was to identify where the account details were being saved. I use Chrome for my desktop and mobile browsing so the first step was to go into Chrome’s settings and see all the auto-complete details it had saved — there were about 200 entries in there!
After adding the details for the accounts Chrome had been saving I then turned to my iPhone. Under Settings there’s a Passwords & Accounts option which is where all the passwords used in Safari and apps are found — not so many entries here but a few app passwords not found in Chrome.
The next step was to delete any accounts I no longer needed. I’ve used a number of apps in the past that I’ve not touched in years so it’s better to delete them and sign back up than to leave the account there, where it could be compromised — especially true of old email accounts.
I used to have my own web hosting on which I had an email account. I used this email account for everything in the last 10 years but stopped two years ago as the amount of spam I got on it made using it unbearable.
I decided to check up this email on https://haveibeenpwned.com/ — this is a great service to see if your email has been included in the data breaches and hacks. My old email was in 9 of these and I was receiving emails from ‘hackers’ telling me they’d got in and were holding my account ransom (total bollocks but they’re chancers looking for some gullible person to cough up).
After shutting down the web hosting (I no longer used it) I decided to utilise the password audit feature of LastPass, the results of which were shocking. It turns out I had three default passwords I used across the 70 accounts that survived the culling I had done previously (I dread to think how bad the full set would’ve been).
I then went into every account and created a new unique password which for certain services LastPass even offers to do for you (really useful feature even if it failed on some due to me having 2FA set up). Obviously the fallout of this was that I had to log in on all my devices with the new credentials, but it’s a small inconvenience for better security.
As for 2FA, I set this up for every account that supported it which unfortunately was a shockingly low number.
A trick I learned after doing this audit is that Gmail allows you to use
+ in emails and resolves them to account defined before the
email@example.com will resolve to
firstname.lastname@example.org). This becomes useful if you want to have a separate email for each account as well as helping you track which companies are flogging your email address to marketing firms (as the email they send to be shown in Gmail).
Managing my Photos and Videos
In my digital life I’ve used a number of smartphones (both iOS and Android), had a number of computers, had loads of social media accounts and a few different DSLR cameras.
All these different places contained photos and videos that at some point I’d forgotten to bring to my newer devices so I decided to remedy this.
Even though I’m an Apple user for both mobile and desktop I decided to upload everything to Google Photos instead of Apple Photos, here’s why:
- I’ve had Android phones in the past that have uploaded to Google Photos previously
- My iPhone adds shots to Google Photos as well as Apple Photos so all my new photos end up there
- I have a Google Home Hub which I use Google Photos to display images
- It’s highly likely I’ll go back to Android at some point
The first step I took was to go through all the images I had (going back to 2011) on Google Photos and make sure the location and the descriptions for these were added, this would allow for better searching later on.
After I’d been through all the images already uploaded, I then went through all my old hard drives and backups to add images from before 2011 and shots from my DSLR cameras, tagging the location and adding descriptions.
Finally I went on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and saved any images I was missing and tagged them with the location and descriptions.
This was probably the most labour intensive process in my digital spring cleaning. To make things easier I split the work into years, tackling each year per session, 2018 was the biggest one having more pictures than the previous years combined. I think the entire time spent doing this was about a week (thank god for long train journeys is all I can say!)
To keep things up to date I’ve scheduled a session at the end of every month to add locations and descriptions to all the images I’ve taken that month.
The upside of doing all the work organising my photos and videos was that I got to have many trips down memory lane. I found images of holidays I’d been on with my girlfriend I thought I’d lost as well as shenanigans I’d got up to with friends that I was able to send them links to and relive those times.
Hopefully in the next year or so I’ll be in a position to buy a place to live instead of renting, I’ve been told that when applying for a mortgage there’s a lot of analysis on your outgoings so I decided as part of my spring clean to ensure I was using the best tools to help manage this.
I’ve been using Monzo since October 2016 but primarily for personal spending, keeping my bills paid out of my other accounts. I decided to move everything over to Monzo as well as set up a joint account for household outgoings, my reasoning was:
- Monzo has come a long way in the last two years, it’s a fully fledged bank now and will only improve
- Monzo are adding more and more features that help visualise spending which is useful for forecasting outgoings as well as showing a historical spending
- Monzo’s joint account creation process is easy to use and the scheduled payment screen helps show spending commitments
- Monzo has an API which means that I can find or build tools that help analyse my spending habits
- Monzo has the best UX I’ve seen in any banking app so managing my money will become easier
I’ll also probably move my savings over to Monzo, my current savings account offers me a measly 0.20% interest rate while I can get 1% from Monzo and the interest is paid monthly instead of yearly which my current savings account offers.
One of the great things Monzo released recently was a yearly summary of the user’s account. This was really great to see where my money was going, turns out if I took lunch to work and stopped going to my favourite coffee shop I’d be able to save well over £750 a year.
While I’m not actively looking for a job, one of the biggest slumps I’ve had in life was when I found myself out of work after the startup I was working at went under.
When you’re happily employed you tend to neglect updating your CV only to find when you need to that you’ve forgotten all the great stuff you’ve been doing for the last X years.
Similar to my photo collection I had a number of places where I had recordings of my career progression; LinkedIn, StackOverflow and various CVs kicking around on hard drives — I needed a means to have one place for everything.
A colleague of mine was using https://jsonresume.org/ for their resume, JSONResume is basically a JSON document you add your work history and achievements to and then use themes to generate a resume from. While this is a great start I found another format, called FRESH which is a lot more detailed.
In order to populate my CV quickly I found a tool that allows you to create a JSONResume from your LinkedIn profile , after using this I then used HackMyResume to convert my CV from JSONResume to FRESH.
Once I had the skeleton of my Resume set up I then went through every other place I collected various bits of data about my work history and populated every available object the FRESH schema allowed, I think the only part missing was ‘service’ as I’ve never served in the military. My CV at the end was about 1500 lines of JSON.
In order to keep both my printed CV and my online Resume up to date I decided to automate the creation of both with Github and Travis CI. I’ll do a more detailed write up later but the short of it is that every commit is checked to ensure my JSON is valid and on tags the files are generated and uploaded.
As a British CV is different to a Resume (CVs are single page summaries, Resumes are detailed over many pages) I created a separate stripped down JSON document and created a theme that allowed me to keep my existing CV look and feel.
I’m currently looking at and planning to build additional tooling into my setup to make updating my Resume easier. One idea I have is a chat bot that will every month get in touch and ask questions related to each of the properties in the FRESH schema. Similarly now I have a single place to store my Resume I need to add ways of syncing the other platforms with this document.
Much like organising an untidy room in order to be more productive it’s important to organise our digital lives too, while digital tends to imply convenient that convenience can also just be a mask over digital clutter.
Even if you don’t get motivated to have a big sort out yourself at least review your online accounts and passwords, you don’t want to find out too late that your email account was in a data breach and now all your accounts have been taken over due to the same password being used for everything.