Tech-Related Resolutions for 2009
A year ago in this space, I wrote about a tech-related New Year's resolution I'd made for myself -- to spend less time online chasing down every stray morsel of information:
I'm going to try to clean out some of the clutter -- prune my RSS feeds, delete some Web bookmarks and make more use of one of the underrated commands of an e-mail or RSS program, the "Mark as Read" command that removes new material from your reading list.
So how'd I do? I certainly feel like I've become more efficient with my time online. My RSS subscriptions offer a higher signal-to-noise ratio than a year ago, thanks to my pruning efforts. I've brought a little more order to my work inbox by (more or less) sticking to a two-month rule: either I answer the message within two months, or I file it away in the appropriate folder. In all of my e-mail accounts, I've been a lot more diligent about unsubscribing from mailing lists that no longer deliver significant value.
But (you can probably guess where I'm going) I don't think I'm spending any fewer hours online. Instead of filling last year's quota of Internet use in less time than before, I seem to have upped that quota. I'm filling the same bucket of time with more bits of Web data than before, a bit like how an expanded highway soon fills up with more traffic.
So I may have to renew that resolution for 2009.
I also have a second, more concrete goal for this year: Find a better way to track my spending, my debts and assets, and my (crumbling) investments.
I've been using Intuit's Quicken for years, and I have to admit -- it's just not working for me. Part of the problem is that I've gotten stuck with Quicken for Mac OS X, an appallingly obsolete program that either can't download account statements or does so grotesquely slowly; as a result, I often have to type in new transactions myself. But the other part is that the whole ritual of reconciling accounts makes less and less sense to me. The only errors that ever come up at reconcile time are my fault, when I type in the wrong number -- not the bank's.
I also find that I don't need the same level of oversight on my day-to-day spending and my long-term financial projects. For the former, I want to see my patterns of consumption, but I'm not sure that I need to keep records of every purchase I make from now until the end of time. For the latter -- things like those crumbling investments, my mortgage, my retirement plan -- long-term record-keeping matters more than the discrete details of every transaction. I.e., I can't imagine maintaining a spreadsheet to track the first category of financial activity, while I can see myself doing so for the second.
There's got to be a better way, but I'm not sure what. Maybe Intuit's long-delayed Quicken Financial Life will restore that program's reputation on the Mac. Maybe I'll switch to a competing Mac personal-finance application. Maybe I'll use one of the free, Web-based financial trackers, such as Mint, Quicken Online and Wesabe, to manage everyday transactions, then set up a separate spreadsheet to track those longer-term financial projects.
You're welcome to vote for one of those options or suggest a better way in the comments. But I'd also like to read about your own resolutions for this year: In what ways do you want to change how you use technology?
January 2, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
Categories: The business we have chosen
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