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Tech that can help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions

Regardless of how 2023 went for you, 2024 is another chance for all of us to make the new year better than the one that came before it. New Year’s resolutions are usually set with the best intentions, but it’s no secret many people fail after just a few weeks — old habits die hard. It’s important to have a support group, people who can cheer you on during those particular hard days. But, it’s also important to have the right tools to make achieving your goals easier. Whether you’re trying to get healthy, be more organized or read more, there are tech tools that can make your journey smoother (and maybe even more enjoyable).

Fitness tracker

If you’re attempting to turn over a new, healthier leaf, you’re not alone. Fitness trackers (and their companion apps) are highly sought after this time of year because they can help you stick to those new movement, hydration and sleep habits you’re trying to build. Fitbit’s Inspire 3 is a good option, not only because it’s relatively affordable at $100, but because it does pretty much everything a beginner needs. It tracks daily steps, calories, heart rate, sleep and more, and it comes with 20 goal-based exercises that you can manually track or let the device’s automatic SmartTrack feature monitor for you. It also has a 10-day battery life, so you rarely have to take it off to charge it.

If you’re already a runner or a cyclist (or want to be one), we recommend upgrading to the Fitbit Charge 6 instead. You’ll get all of the features that the Inspire 3 has along with onboard GPS for mapping outdoor workouts and Fitbit Pay for contactless payments. That way you’ll be able to go for a run in the morning and stop to grab a coffee without bringing your phone or your wallet with you.

Smartwatch

If you’d rather invest in an all-purpose wearable that also has serious fitness chops, the Apple Watch SE is a good choice. While it doesn’t include all the bells and whistles that the pricier Series 9 does, it still offers the same core experience. It tracks all-day activity and heart rate, and watchOS finally offers basic sleep tracking, too. In addition to built-in GPS for outdoor workouts, it tracks dozens of exercises and supports fall detection, as well as high and low heart rate alerts. It’s also quite good at automatically recognizing when you’re working out and prompting you to start tracking your efforts. On top of all that, the Apple Watch excels when it comes to table-stakes smartwatch features: You’ll be able to send and receive text messages from the device, as well as control music playback, smart home devices and more.

Android users should consider the Fitbit Versa series of smartwatches. The latest model, the Versa 4, has many of the same features as Apple’s most affordable wearable including all-day activity tracking and heart rate monitoring, built-in GPS and even more advanced sleep tracking capabilities. It also has a lot of features you won’t find on an Apple Watch like Alexa voice control, Google Maps and Wallet integration and a days-long battery life (up to six days to be precise). There are smart alerts as well, so you’ll get notified when your phone receives calls and texts. At $200, the Versa 4 is decently priced on a regular day, but you can often find it on sale for close to $150 — that could make it a good options for anyone on a budget, not just those with Android phones.

Workout classes

Finding exercise classes that you actually enjoy can make working out feel like less of a chore. You may prefer going through your local gym — that push to get out of the house and into a dedicated exercise space can be really effective for some — but there are plenty of on-demand fitness classes as well that you can participate in from the comfort of your living room.

I’ve tried my fair share of these services and my favorite has been Peloton. No, you don’t need one of the company’s expensive bikes or other machinery to take advantage of their classes. Access to the app-only version costs $13 per month and it lets you take HIIT, strength, yoga and even outdoor running classes, many of which require little to no equipment. If Peloton isn’t your speed, Apple Fitness+ is a good alternative, especially now that anyone with an iPhone can subscribe and take classes, regardless of whether they own an Apple Watch. Alo Moves is another good option for those who prefer yoga and pilates workouts.

If you can’t afford another monthly subscription fee, the internet has tons of free exercise resources — you just have to work a little harder to find the ones you jibe with most. I highly recommend Fitness Blender, a free website where you can watch hundreds of workout videos and even set a schedule for yourself, assigning routines to specific days of the week. I like the quality and consistency of their videos, but you may connect more to YouTube workouts if they’re taught by instructors you like; Heather Robertson and Move with Nicole are two personal favorites.

Habit tracker

Accountability is key when you’re trying to build new habits, so keeping track of your progress is crucial. While you could go deep down the bullet-journal rabbit hole, a habit-tracking app is probably the easier option. Done and Strides are two iOS options that let you log when you’ve completed a new habit you’re trying to build or when you avoided a bad habit that you’re trying to break. You can get pretty granular, customizing how often you want to do a task, set reminders to log, review stats and more. Both apps have paid tiers you’ll be asked to subscribe to after you create a few trackable habits. If you’d rather avoid yet another subscription, consider an app like Streaks, which can be all yours for a one-time fee of $5. As for Android, there’s Habitica, which turns habit tracking to an 8-bit RPG game where you level-up your custom avatar by checking things off your list.

To-do list apps

The new year provides an opportunity to get back on track, and one way to do that is by finding organizational tools that work for you — and making sure they’re as uncomplicated as possible. The worst thing that could happen is that your to-do list or note-taking system ends up being so cumbersome that you avoid using it. Keeping all of your necessary tasks in your head may work on easy days, but it can quickly get overwhelming when you have a million things to handle in both your personal and professional life. I’m a fan of Todoist and Things (the latter of which is for iOS and macOS only) because both are detailed enough for big work projects, but simple enough for personal tasks. Both also have a Today view, which will show everything across all of your projects that need attention immediately.

While Todoist has a free tier, you’ll pay $80 to get Things for iOS, iPadOS and macOS. Microsoft’s To Do is an alternative that, while less involved than Things, is free and works on almost every platform including Windows, iOS and Android, among others. You can keep it simple and just have a task list and a grocery list, or you can go deeper and add due dates, sub-tasks and even share lists with family members.

If you don’t want to bother with another service, you can always opt for the reminders app that (most likely) came preinstalled on your phone. That would be Reminders for iOS users and Google Keep for Android users. Google Keep also doubles as a note-taking app, which will be a better solution if you’ve been jotting down ideas for new projects on Post-It notes you inevitably lose. Apple Notes is the default option for this on iOS devices, and it’s come a long way in recent years with new features like interlinked notes, inline and annotatable PDFs and native support for scanning documents using the iPhone’s camera.

Password manager

If you’re looking to up your digital security game in the new year, a password manager is a great place to start. I’m partial to 1Password (as are we as a whole at Engadget), but there are plenty of other options including Bitwarden, NordPass and Dashlane. After saving all of your passwords for various accounts, you only need to remember one (hence the name) to log in to your 1Password account and access all of the others. The service has browser extensions Chrome, Edge and others that will let you seamlessly log in with just a few clicks, and 1Password has apps for most platforms including iOS and Android, so you can use it on all of your devices.

The Password Generator feature helps you create a new, secure password whenever one of yours has expired. LastPass has this too, and Dashlane even has a free tool that anyone can use to make more secure passwords. Not only does this take the onus of coming up with a strong key off your shoulders, but it also makes it easy to override old credentials with new ones.

Cable and accessory organizer

One of the consequences of the past couple of years is the dual-office life. Many of us now work both from home and from an office, and the last thing you want to do when you arrive in either place is rummage around your backpack only to realize that you’ve left your mouse, charging cable or dongle at your other desk.

An organizer bag can prevent this before it happens — we recommend BagSmart tech organizers thanks to their utilitarian, water-repellent designs and their multiple pockets and dividers. They also come in different sizes, so you can pick the best one for your commuter bag. If you want something a bit more elevated, Bellroy’s Desk Caddy is a good option. It’s pricier but for the money you get a more elegant silhouette, higher-quality materials and a design that sits upright when full and has a front panel that fully folds down to give you a good view of what’s inside.

Computer docking station

It’s all too easy for your work-from-home setup to get really messy really quickly. When you’re going through your busiest times at work, the last thing you’re thinking about is cable management, but dedicating a bit more effort to tidying up your workspace can make your day to day more efficient and more enjoyable.

We recommend some sort of docking station to keep your laptop, monitors, accessories and the like in check. There are plenty of options out there, regardless of if you use a macOS or Windows machine, or even a Chromebook. We like Satechi’s Dual Dock for MacBooks thanks to its unique design that allows it to sit under your laptop, and the fact that it plugs into two USB-C ports at once. This means you can connect to two external displays (provided you have an M2-powered MacBook or later), which will be handy if you have an elaborate workstation on your desk. Kensington’s Thunderbolt 4 dock is a good all-purpose option for other non-macOS laptops.

There are also adapters out there that can give you similar organization while on the go, albeit in a less elegant package. Anker’s USB-C hub is an affordable solution that includes an HDMI port, microSD and SD card readers, an Ethernet slot, two USB-C connections and two USB-A sockets. It also supports 100W power pass-through, so you can charge your laptop through the hub while using it.

Instant Pot

Eating healthier, or even just avoiding takeout multiple times a week, can be challenging in part because it usually means cooking more at home. This can be hard to even start if you’re not used to cooking for yourself and don’t have the basic tools to do so. On top of that, cooking takes time — much more time than ordering a meal from an app on your phone. But tools like an Instant Pot can cut your active cooking time down drastically. You can find a plethora of recipes where you simply throw a bunch of ingredients into the pot, set it and forget it until it’s time to eat.

We recommend the Instant Pot Duo for beginners because it’s relatively affordable and combines seven different cooking methods into one appliance, including rice cooking, steaming, pressure cooking, slow cooking and more. If you’re primarily cooking for yourself and a partner, the three-quart model will serve you just fine, but we recommend the six-quart model if you’re routinely cooking for four or more. If the thought of cooking at home actually excites you rather than fills you with anxiety, consider the Instant Pot Ultra, which includes a few extra modes like cake maker and egg cooker, or the Instant Pot Duo Crisp, which includes an air-fry lid.

Recipe organization

One of the best things about cooking at home is finding recipes that you love so much that you want to make over and over again. You’ll want to keep those recipes safe and readily available so you can refer to them when you need a quick weeknight meal or a dish to bring to your next family reunion. Recipe cards are a great way to do this, and you’ll build up your rolodex of delicious meals over time. If you’d rather have a cookbook of sorts that you fill in yourself over time, opt for a recipe book instead.

If you’d rather keep your arsenal of recipes accessible at any time, anywhere from your phone, Paprika’s recipe management app is the best solution I’ve tried. The $5 app basically acts as your digital recipe box, allowing you to enter your own as well as save them from the internet. You know those hundreds of words that precede online recipes, in which the author divulges their entire life story before telling you their secret to making deliciously moist cornbread? Paprika strips all of those unnecessary bits out and only saves the ingredient list and the instructions. You can also make grocery lists and keep track of pantry staples in the app, so don’t be surprised if it quickly becomes one of your most-used kitchen tools.

Reading app

Don’t take your habit of doom-scrolling into the new year. You could instead use the internet to find other things to read and the free Libby app is a good place to start. Powered by Overdrive, it connects you with your local library’s digital collection, allowing you to borrow and download all kinds of e-books, audiobooks, magazines, graphic novels and more. Libby also has a tag system that you can use to “save” titles for later without actually putting a hold on them (although you can do that in the app, too). If you find a bunch of audiobooks you eventually want to get to, you can give them all a “TBR” tag so you can quickly find them and borrow one when you need new reading/listening material.

As someone who uses Libby on a regular basis, I love how easy it is to borrow from my local library without leaving my home. However, there have been numerous times in which my library doesn’t have a title I’m looking for. If that happens to you often, you may want to consider a subscription service like Kindle Unlimited or Scribd, both of which give you unlimited access to a wide library of e-books for $10 per month. And for audiobook lovers, your options are Amazon’s Audible or Libro.fm, the latter of which lets you choose the local bookstore you want to support with your purchases.

Ereader

Ereaders are still around because so many people recognize how much better it can be to read e-books on a dedicated device — especially one with an high-contrast, e-paper display. Sure, you could read on your smartphone or a tablet, but staring at those screens all day long can be tiring for your eyes. An ereader like Kobo’s Clara 2E or Amazon’s Kindle is a better choice not only for its more comfortable display, but also because it focuses your attention on reading. (If you’ve ever picked up your smartphone intending to finish a chapter only to be distracted by email or Facebook, you know how crucial this is.)

The Clara 2E is our current favorite ereader thanks to its 6-inch E-Ink display, adjustable brightness and color temperature, weeks-long battery life and handy Overdrive integration for checking out digital library books. But if you already get most of your e-books through Amazon, the Kindle is the best option. You can listen to Audible audiobooks, too, if you connect a pair of wireless earbuds to the ereader. Kobo’s device primarily gets books via the Kobo Store, but it also supports various file types like EPUB, PDF and MOBI.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/tech-to-help-you-stick-to-new-years-resolutions-150034002.html?src=rss

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The best digital gifts to send your friends and family

There are way too many online services and subscriptions to keep track of these days, but the flip side is there’s a tool for just about everything. We’ve pulled together some of our favorite digital gifts and subscriptions, including time-tested music, video and gaming services as well as tools to clear your mental space and learn new skills. There are also a few subscriptions here that provide ongoing, IRL deliveries, if you think your giftee will appreciate the nostalgic charm of a physical object.

Disney Bundle

Super Duolingo

Headspace

Masterclass

Codecademy

PlayStation Plus / Nintendo Switch Online / Xbox Game Pass

Apple One

Adobe Photography plan

Max

Audible

Crunchyroll Premium

Twitch Turbo

YouTube Premium

The Sill

Gaia fitness

Field Notes subscription

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/holiday-gifts-digital-and-subscription-gifts-160041638.html?src=rss

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