Small (and I mean small) ways to extend the life of your devices

Most smart phones, tablets and laptops are designed and marketed to last for about two years.

(Pause now and imagine billions of mobile phone, iPod and tablet users across the globe dumping their devices on a two-year cycle.)

There are, however, small things we can do to extend the life of the lithium-ion batteries inside our devices, which could extend the life of the devices themselves. (Check your device manufacturer’s specific recommendations. Here’s Apple’s info.)

  • Avoid extreme ambient temperatures, especially those above 95F/35C — don’t leave your device in a hot car, for example, and don’t use a case that allows heat to build up when the device is charging
  • Aim for moderate charging — regularly allow your battery to run down to 25%, but avoid allowing the battery to go to 0%; you don’t need to worry about over-charging
  • Lower your battery demand —keep WiFi on at all times (accessing WiFi uses less power than accessing cellular data), reduce display brightness, select low power mode or manually disable background applications, and disconnect peripherals and quit applications not in use
  • Avoid ultra-fast chargers
  • Update to the latest software

The “why” part of this post is at least two-fold.

One, most of us avoid thinking about what happens to our e-waste because we feel powerless. However, we can’t even begin to organize our power as consumers unless we become aware of the problems created by our e-waste. Scientific American magazine outlines the issues well in this blog post.

Two, the money we spend on devices goes somewhere. It goes to employees and middle class shareholders of companies like Samsung and Apple. It goes to tremendously wealthy shareholders. And it goes to support and grow the tech industry. Currently, two of those groups are well-organized and politically influential around their particular interests. We consumers can organize, too, to demand less exploitative and less environmentally damaging products and packaging. Greenpeace International and the International Campaign for Responsible Technology are two of many groups advocating for greener electronics.

Lastly, look for the least bad way to dispose of your e-waste. In the Twin Cities, TechDump is one option.


Email clutter

When people—and I mean friends and family—don’t respond to my email messages, I feel frustrated and rejected. Then I remember times when messages became buried in my inbox or replies composed in my head were never actually sent, and I set down my self-pity stones lest I break my own glass house.

My problem is too much email coming to my personal account. It accumulates and becomes overwhelming just as easily as non-digital stuff, and I’m finally ready to do something about it.

  1. Unsubscribe.
    What a revelation: once I started taking 5-15 seconds to unsubscribe from lists and change my email preferences for apps—rather than simply deleting unwanted emails—I realized how much garbazhe I was receiving every day. I felt a panicky twinge when I turned off LinkedIn notifications and unsubscribed from business news and professional development groups, but I’ve been deleting 97% of those emails anyway so I’m only really losing clutter.
  2. Skip the filters and separate email accounts.
    When I researched how to reduce email clutter, I saw recommendations for establishing separate email accounts (like using one exclusively for online purchases) and for using filters that send messages directly into a folder to be viewed later. This sounds to me like the equivalent of putting stuff in plastic totes in the basement—it moves the problem more or less out of sight but does nothing to eliminate it.
  3. OHIO.
    = only handle it once
    I made a half-hearted attempt to only check email at home when I was in a position to OHIO, and I now accept that I may only achieve OHIO when there are just two required actions: “read” and “delete.” I am, however, making an effort to put messages that may require future action into a relevant folder rather than leaving them in my inbox where I inevitably open them over and over again to see why they’re still in my inbox.
  4. Use the same critical eye you do with non-digital stuff.
    I’ve made deliberate choices about the kind and amount of information I want—taking into account all the other things I want from life—and right now there isn’t any room for Twitter or Instagram or RSS feeds. When I feel like a dinosaur for not using Twitter, I think about why I made that choice.
  5. Be the kind of sender you want others to be.
  • use the subject line to help the recipient sort and prioritize
  • be brief unless it’s your intention to send a letter
  • accommodate others’ preferences for texts, private messages, or phone calls (I won’t tell you how many unanswered emails it took for me to accept that my husband—who says he can’t keep up with all his email—prefers text messages)

Have other suggestions for handling email clutter? Please share them here!