TIME How-To

How to Save Stories To Read Later On Your Phone

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Oli Kellett—Getty Images Woman using phone and drinking coffee

Pocket and Instapaper help you avoid missing the articles you want to read

Sometimes, it feels like our phones buzz with notifications from our favorite news apps at the most inconvenient moments — it’s hard to open a notification about Iranian nuclear developments when we’re headed into a meeting or chasing down the bus.

Luckily, there are a few great apps that will help you save important stories for reading later in the day when you’ve got some downtime, even if you don’t have a data signal (say, on the subway).

One of the most well-known of these story-saving apps is the easy-to-use Instapaper. After creating an account and downloading the mobile app (iPhone and iPad here, Android here) and optional browser extensions, you can save stories to your Instapaper queue from your desktop browser or mobile device. Later, you can recall those saved stories in Instapaper’s app for easy reading. Some websites and apps also offer a button that lets you instantly save stories to Instapaper directly.

Another popular option is Pocket, which works mostly the same way as Instapaper — people tend to prefer whichever app they were introduced to first. However, Pocket gives you some different options for saving stories, like the ability to add articles to your queue by emailing them to a designated Pocket address. Like Instapaper, you can also save from a number of third party apps through the share function. Get the iPhone version here, Android here.

TIME How-To

9 Tips for Faster Wi-Fi Streaming

wi-fi-logo-smartphone
Getty Images

Start by restarting the router

The cable plan you signed up for promised up to 300Mbps of blistering Internet speed, but reality has proven to be somewhat different. You’re barely topping 25Mbps, Netflix doesn’t work upstairs and by 7 p.m., no one seems to be able to stream anything at all.

It’s quite possible to boost your Wi-Fi speed yourself, although the solution could be as simple as moving your router or as persnickety as switching Wi-Fi frequencies.

“The distance between the router and connecting devices, as well as the number of walls and floors in between, make a big difference,” says Spencer Behroozi, vice president of product management at modem manufacturer Actiontec. While a Wi-Fi signal can travel hundreds of feet in an unobstructed space, walls and floors can cut that distance by half or more.

Your connection speed can also be influenced by your router—how old it is, how good its processor and antenna are, how good it is at picking up wireless signals and how many devices are using it.

In some cases, your connection speed may even come down to your service provider’s preference for certain kinds of traffic. Behroozi says service providers prioritize voice traffic first, then their own video services. For example, Comcast and AT&T prioritize the streaming of their video-on-demand services over Netflix; in fact, Comcast is under fire from its customers for blocking HBO Go streaming on the PS4 console, something it has put down to “business decisions.”

What actions can you take to increase your Wi-Fi performance and get your streaming speed back up to par?

1. Restart the router

The Old Faithful of personal technology issues is often your best bet. According to Behroozi, the IP connection between your device and the router or between the router and Internet can get hung up. “A restart of the router reboots all its systems, including the network processor and wireless radios,” he says.

If your router has a reset button, hold it down for a few seconds. If not, restart it by removing the cable from the power socket, waiting half a minute and then plugging it in again.

2. Move the router

“Most good routers have antennas that try to provide a symmetrical ‘donut‘ of Wi-Fi coverage, so when possible, place the router in an open space centrally located in your house, equidistant from its farthest locations,” Behroozi says.

The materials surrounding the router matter as well. Metal interferes with Wi-Fi signals, while wood does not. According to HowToGeek , positioning the router’s antenna vertically rather than horizontally also increases signal strength.

3. Check to see if other family members are streaming or torrenting

Intensive activities like streaming HD video or filesharing can take its toll on Internet speed. “Routers can support hundreds of devices connecting, but it’s more about what each device is doing online,” Behroozi says. “For example, if someone is using BitTorrent or if everyone is watching Netflix at the same time, this can cause an overall lag in speed.”

Distance from the router is important as well. If four people are streaming video but they’re all close to the router, you may not experience any slowdowns, Behroozi says. So if everyone simply must watch Netflix or play Halo separately and simultaneously, try to move the devices closer to the router with as little wall or floor obstructing the path as possible.

4. Check if your ISP is having a hard time keeping up

One bottleneck is how good the service from your service provider is. “A lot of ISPs oversubscribe, so you can feel the lag in the afternoon when everyone gets home,” Behroozi says.

Test your connection by running a speed test from a site such as SpeedTest.net at different times during the day. “You don’t want it fluctuate too much over the course of a day. The speed should always be at least 80 to 90 percent of what your service provider promises,” Behroozi says. If that’s the case but you’re still not satisfied …

5. Run a ping test

While a speed test gauges the speed possible based on available bandwidth from the service provider, a ping test gauges latency, which is the delay in communication between your computer and a particular website on the Internet. It can tell you how good the quality of your Internet connection is.

Head to PingTest.net, where you’ll receive a ping figure measured in milliseconds. In general, lower numbers are better, but the site also gives you a grade from A to F to show how suitable your connection is for streaming and online gaming.

6. Check to see if you’re on an overcrowded channel

Slow Wi-Fi speeds may be the result of interference from your neighbors’ Wi-Fi networks as all the devices compete to use the same channel.

All routers support the 2.4Ghz frequency, which distributes traffic among a handful of channels. Dual-band routers also support the newer 5GHz frequency, which contains even more channels. That frequency tends to be less congested and therefore usually allows faster connections.

You may be able to increase your speed by switching to a less busy channel, not matter which frequency you’re on. Download a wireless channel analyzer app such as Wifi Analyzer for Android (no equivalent for non-jailbroken iPhones) or a desktop program such as NirSoft’s Wi-FiInfoView for Windows. Macs have the tool built in; hit Option and tap the wireless icon in your top toolbar, then click Open Network Diagnostics.These programs show each channel on each Wi-Fi frequency and which ones nearby networks are using.

7. Switch to a different channel

If you discover you’re on an especially crowded channel, you can manually change it. Type your router’s IP address into your web browser. (The IP address is usually on the back of the router, or you can google your router’s model.) You’ll be prompted to enter your username and password, after which you can click through to Wi-Fi settings and select the channel recommended by your Wi-Fi analyzer program.

8. Check for interference from a nearby cordless device

Baby monitors, older cordless phones, microwave ovens and wireless speakers are just some of the common household gadgets that also use the 2.4Ghz frequency. These can interfere with the wireless signal from your router.

Deal with the conflict by moving the router away from these devices and ensuring that no devices that could potentially interfere lie in a straight line between your router and the gadget you’re trying to get online with.

9. Get a wireless signal extender

“When you start looking at homes larger than 3,000 square feet, getting good Wi-Fi signal from one corner to another can be a challenge,” Behroozi says. Multistory houses pose an obstacle as well, if the router isn’t plugged into the broadband line somewhere in the middle.

In these cases, you could benefit from using a wireless extender. A signal extender plugs into any mains socket to rebroadcast and boost your Wi-Fi signal to those hard-to-reach places.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

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Read next: Livestreaming Apps Will Totally Crush Your Data Plan

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TIME How-To

How to Delete iPhone Apps for Good

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Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Sometimes it's not as easy as it should be

What Apple’s iPhone platform provides in ease of use, it takes away in control. As easy as it is to learn how to use an iPhone, it can be tricky to get it to behave exactly like you want it to — that’s why almost nobody was particularly thrilled when Apple decided to upload U2’s newest album onto iPhones across the world without asking first.

One of the more difficult tasks for new iPhone owners is removing apps you’ve decided you no longer want. Here’s how to delete an iPhone app for good.

First, the simple method is to tap and hold the offending app’s icon on your home screen until all your iPhone’s app icons begin to jiggle. Then, you can tap the small “x” on the upper corner of the app. You’ll then be prompted with an option to delete the app and its data.

However, this doesn’t always rid your iPhone of the unwanted app for good. Sometimes you’ll find that upon connecting your iPhone to your computer to sync with iTunes, you’ll find the app has mysteriously reappeared on your iPhone. The solution for this is to go into iTunes on your desktop or laptop, select “Apps,” find the app you want to delete and click the small “x” on the app icon. That will ensure the app doesn’t find its way back to your iPhone through a sync again.

TIME Parenting

How to Talk to Your Kids About Scary News Events

Cheyenne Glasgow—Getty Images/Flickr Select

"It can be scarier not to talk about them.”

We all want to protect our kids from the hard truths of life. Nobody wants to explain why the plane went down in the Alps, why that kid did what he did on that ISIS video, or the symptoms of Ebola.

But if our kids don’t learn to face bad news eventually, they can’t thrive. So how does a parent walk that line?

Richard Weissbourd, a child and family psychologist on the faculty of Harvard’s School of Education, and the author of The Parents We Mean To Be, says what a lot of parents already know: there’s no easy answer.

But that makes it even more important to talk with kids about tough realities, Weissbourd says. “Kids are thinking about these things anyway. They’re seeing things on the news, and overhearing the things adults are saying. So it can be scarier not to talk about them.”

And every kid is different, Weissbourd says: they “vary in levels of anxiety, and vulnerability.” With his own kids, Weissbourd shared tough truths based on “who they are, and what I felt they could emotionally manage.”

Still, there are some rules of thumb parents can follow.

At elementary age, fairy tales that may seem grim to parents actually work for kids because, Weissbourd says, “they’re trying to get some mastery over those really deep fears.” But kids that age are also concrete thinkers. So it’s good to start with concrete answers. And it’s all right not to have all the answers. According to Weissbourd, the real goal is just to have the conversation.

By the time kids reach middle school, they’ll have seen a lot of troubling things for themselves. But “sometimes they understand much more and sometimes much less than we think,” Weissbourd says. So it’s important at this stage for parents to listen. Hearing what kids are wrestling with, and how they’re trying to make sense of it, is key.

By high school, parents can begin to explore the deeper questions with kids, looking not just at immediate problems, but at the underlying reasons for them–and what they might be able to do to make a difference. According to Weissbourd, research shows that people deal best with problems when they “convert passivity into activity.”

So that’s actually the most powerful response to tough realities at any age, Weissbourd says: finding something we can do to make a difference.

For the best parenting stories and advice every week, sign up for TIME’s weekly parenting newsletter by clicking here.

TIME How-To

How to Tell Which iPhone Apps Are Killing Your Battery

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Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Your favorite apps are most often to blame

The most stressful part of a quickly-draining iPhone battery isn’t the fact that you may soon be without your trusty device, but that you’re ultimately helpless. You’ve stopped checking your phone every five minutes, turned down your screen brightness, and maybe even activated Airplane Mode. But still, something is killing your battery.

What could it be? Maybe your favorite app is the culprit.

Apple’s newest iPhone software, iOS 8, has made it easy to tell which apps are literally sucking the life out of your battery.

The first step is to go to your Settings app, then into the General tab, then into Usage, and then continue into Battery Usage. A quick scroll down will show you which apps are using the most battery life.

If your battery is knocking on death’s door, you should close these apps by double-clicking your iPhone’s Home button and sliding the guilty apps upwards into oblivion. That might not help too much, but at least you’ll know which apps are the biggest power-suckers in the future — and yes, sadly, you’ll often find your most-used apps like Facebook and Twitter on the top of the list.

If you’re on an older iPhone running iOS 7, you’re a little bit out of luck, as it doesn’t have the Battery Usage feature. Third-party battery usage apps can be helpful, but your best bet is to just know that apps like Google Maps, Facebook, Tinder, video games and camera apps will be the biggest drain on your iPhone’s battery. iOS 7 also runs a few background apps that drain your battery, like Background App Refresh, which can be disabled by going to Settings, then to General, then clicking the Background App Refresh tab. Similarly, Location Servings are a huge power suck — go to Settings, then Privacy, then Location Services to disable them.

TIME Parenting

How to Parent Like an FBI Agent

Jose Luis Pelaez; Getty Images/Blend Images

No, you won't need any bugging devices

Ever feel like parenting would be a lot easier if you just had a full-time security team at your beck and call? And maybe an interrogation room?

You might not be able to swing that on this month’s budget, but Jack Schafer, a psychologist who and former FBI Special Agent, says parents can benefit from the tips of his trade. Here’s what he learned during 15 years conducting counterintelligence investigations – and how it applies to parenting.

Create the Illusion of Control
FBI agents are trained to de-escalate conflicts by giving subjects a choice, which helps them to feel like they’re in control. And “the feeling they have some control over a situation can work wonders, even for children,” Schafer writes in his recent book, The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over. Parents can do this, he says, without giving up any true authority. The trick: offer kids a choice between two options that both work for you. They can’t have anything they want for dinner. But do you know in advance you’re going to pick up food on the way home? Give them the option to choose between two good options.

Follow the Scarcity Principle
FBI profiling shows what many parents already know; that people tend to like things they can’t get much of. If you tell your kids not to do something, they want to do it even more. So how can a parent set clear boundaries without making kids eager to cross them? Let your kids know you trust them, Schafer says. When his daughter brought home a boyfriend she knew Shafer wouldn’t like, instead of forbidding her to see him, Shafer told her he trusted her to make the right decision. The boyfriend never made a reappearance.

Ask Indirect Questions
Especially as they get older, kids get suspicious they’re being interrogated, even when their parents don’t really work for the FBI. So asking direct questions isn’t always the best way to get the answers you’re looking for. Instead, use a classic FBI interrogation technique. “The best way to find out how your children really feel… is to ask them from a third-party perspective,” Shafer says. So if you want to know what your kids think about a sensitive topic, try bringing it up indirectly. Instead of asking, “Have you been drinking?” try starting a conversation with a hypothetical: “My friend’s son got caught drinking. What do you think his parents should do?” You might not get the answer you were looking for. But you’ll get to know your child.

Show Empathy
Another way FBI agents get people to open up is by letting someone know they understand what he or she is experiencing. “Demanding, threatening, or cajoling a response typically ends in a shields-up reaction” from kids, Shafer says. But empathetic statements, he’s found, can be much more effective, like: “You look like you are thinking about something pretty serious. You look as though something is really bothering you.” Greeted with this kind of empathy, kids will often share their thoughts freely. “Most teens want to tell their parents what’s bothering them,” Shafer says. “They just need a little encouragement and the belief that talking to you is their choice.”

Work the Case
The biggest thing parents can to connect with their kids? Just hang in there. In Shafer’s work, he’s observed that “The more time you spend with a person, the more influence they have over your thoughts and actions.” If parents aren’t around, kids start to take their cues from other kids. But “the more time parents spend with their children, the more likely the parents will be to influence them.”

Read next: How to Parent Like a German

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TIME How-To

How to Email Like Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton
Adam Berry—Getty Images Hillary Rodham Clinton, former United States Secretary of State, U.S. Senator, and First Lady of the United States, speaks during the presentation of the German translation of her book 'Hard Choices' ('Entscheidungen' in German) at the Staatsoper in the Schiller Theater on July 6, 2014 in Berlin, Germany.

Many people have at least two email addresses: There’s the one you get for work, then there’s the one you use for personal business. And you might even have one to give all the companies who will send you junk mail until the world ends.

But these accounts don’t physically exist in your office, home, or city dump, respectively. They’re typically off someplace in the cloud — unless, like former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, you decide to host your own email service in your home. While heading up Foggy Bottom, the potential presidential hopeful exclusively used an email server registered to her home in Chappaqua, New York, according to the Associated Press and New York Times.

The situation has quickly became problematic for Clinton. Public officials are supposed to be archiving their correspondence under open records rules, so the revelations have raised questions over why Clinton opted to use a private email setup rather than the State Department’s service.

While Clinton’s move to use a private email solution might seem like an unusual choice, it’s technologically easy enough for most people to set one up — check out this explainer from Ars Technica for the wonky details. But few people bother with a private email server. Why not?

“The big caveat is that you must know what you’re doing in terms of setting it up securely, and that’s a fairly difficult, non-trivial problem for most people,” says Katie Moussouris, chief policy officer for San Francisco-based HackerOne, a company that works with friendly hackers to help organizations like Yahoo, Twitter, and even government agencies detect vulnerabilities in their own technology.

 

An outgoing email generally follows this route: It’s stored in a server, sent by a client (software ranging from Microsoft Outlook on your computer to the Mail app on your smartphone), and traverses various networks en route to its destination, where it’s received by the recipient’s client and stored by their email server. (And vice versa for incoming email.) Setting up your own email service lets you control the two closest parts of this path — your local server and client. That can help make your data safer, especially if you encrypt the data stored on your server and the messages you send.

But doing all this still means three-fifths of your email’s path runs through areas over which you have no control. In fact, the only way that emails sent to or from Clinton’s account would remain truly secure would be if they went to or came from accounts that were similarly locked down. Then “you would have all of the infrastructure under your direct control,” says Moussouris, who has more than 15 years experience in Internet security and has also worked as a hacker-for-hire.

Despite these security holes, there are still reasons that a person would want to set up their own email service. As that Ars explainer points out, if your email is hosted in the cloud —say, by Gmail — “it’s not yours.” If you control the servers, you own the content — though governmental policies surrounding transparency and police search and seizure rules certainly weigh in here.

But most people aren’t trying to protect sensitive State Department data. Instead, one reason people run their own email services is so they can use their own domain name in their email address. If this was a reason for Clinton, it was a foolhardy one, argues Moussouris. If being a high-value target for hackers is a reason for using an (allegedly) more secure private email service, choosing an domain name like clintonemail.com, as Clinton did, only gave her a higher profile.

“Such an obvious name would make it an interesting target for a hacker,” says Moussouris. “People with that high of a profile, whether it’s a politician, celebrity, or high-level executive, they should already be operating with that in mind.”

Besides, consumer-based services not only allow users to use their own domain name while hosting their emails in the cloud, they also provide end-to-end encryption, ensuring that their messages stay safe while traveling through the web.

But if you still want to email like Hillary Clinton, Moussouris recommends relying on an expert — if you can find one. “Qualified security people are very rare,” she says. And that’s one of the problems with this setup for Clinton.

“I couldn’t imagine a top-notch security person going to work for anyone in Washington, let alone an individual in, essentially, a non-technical function,” Moussouris says. “We have a scarcity of talent in the security industry, and we see this when we try to hire good people all the time.”

As a result, Moussouris assumes whoever set up Clinton’s private email server was a staffer, unless they were very well paid. And if that’s the case, the best way to email like Hillary Clinton is to spend a lot of money.

TIME You Asked

You Asked: Can I Use My iPad or Other Tablet As a Second Monitor?

Duet Display for iOS and OS X
Duet Display Duet Display for iOS and OS X

Don't let your iPad sit unused

So you want a second computer monitor to help you be more efficient at work or at home, but you don’t want to shell out the money for another display. Is there a more potentially cost-effective solution to double up on displays?

You bet.

If you’ve got a tablet like an iPad or comparable Android tablet, it’s probably going unused when you’re on typing away on your desktop or laptop computer. But several apps on the market can turn your tablet into a bona-fide second monitor.

The best app for transforming your iPad or phone into a second screen is Duet Display, currently 50% off its normal price of $14.99. You’ll first need to download a free version of the app for your desktop or laptop Mac. Then download the paid version on your iPad (or nice, big iPhone 6 Plus). Once the two apps are installed on both machines, connect them with your Lightning or 30-pin cable. Next, open the app on the tablet or phone, and presto, Duet Display turns it into a second screen with minimal, if any, lag. (Another popular option for Apple users is Air Display, which recently introduced a USB connectivity option similar to Duet Display.)

For the PC and Android users out there, you can try the $9.99 Android version of Air Display — though it works over Wi-Fi, which means it comes with some lag. If that doesn’t cut it, give the $5 iDisplay a shot — but it, too, works over your wireless network. Instructions for setting up Air Display can be found here; follow these for iDisplay.

One quick note: If you’re using a tablet as a second display, your life will get much easier if you invest in a solid stand for the device to keep it upright.

MONEY lifehacks

10 Life Hacks That Will Make You Richer

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Sarina Finkelstein (photo illustration)—Mark Anderson/Corbis (woman); Getty Images (buckle)

These clever shortcuts will help you earn more on the job and cut down on needless costs.

Picking up new skills as an adult can be tricky, especially when your energy and free time is precious. But prowess in different areas is not all created equal. Investing in certain abilities can get you big rewards for relatively little effort.

MONEY interviewed dozens of experts in different fields to find out which skills, tricks, and workarounds are most financially worthwhile. Here are 10 moves you can make without much preparation.

1. Master the meeting

The average pay bump from a promotion is about 7%, though it can be even more once you’re a manager, according to Mercer. But how do you get one?

“The meeting room is where we exert leadership and develop credibility,” says corporate trainer Dana Brownlee of Professionalism Matters. Don’t dominate—nudge the group toward concrete goals. If someone can’t let go of a point, try saying, “Good idea! I’m writing it down.” You’ve now freed a room of grateful co-workers to move on.

2. Lend a hand at work

Research by Adam Grant at the Wharton School has shown that successful people do more favors at work, but don’t be afraid to ask for tiny favors too. We may actually feel more warmly toward people after lending them a hand—our brains figure we must have done so because we like that person. It’s been called the Benjamin Franklin effect: The Founding Father recalled winning over a legislative rival after borrowing a book from him.

“Our attitudes often follow our behavior instead of vice versa,” says David McRaney, who writes about such psychological quirks in his book You Are Now Less Dumb.

3. Learn a language

It’s easier than ever to dip a toe into languages with free tools like Duolingo, a site and app that make learning like a game. If you then want to ramp things up, real-world classes run about $300 for 20 hours of instruction.

Invest your time and money wisely: The payoff is in less commonly studied languages. A Wharton/LECG Europe study found that speaking German translated into a higher wage premium than for second languages overall. Ambitious? There’s a big market for Mandarin.

4. Get techy

Computer-science grads earn $700,000 over the average B.A. holder in a career, but those with English and psych degrees aren’t out of luck: There are ways to use technology smarter—and get recognized for it—at all levels.

For example, if there’s any need to quantify your business’s activity, being the office Excel guru makes you valuable. Two skills to focus on: building charts (great for presentations) and pivot tables (to summarize lots of data). The ExcelIsFun YouTube channel is loaded with lessons.

Want to compete with true techies? Codecademy.com can get you started for free learning code for building websites. Expertise in Ruby on Rails—certification testing is $150—snags an average salary of $110,000, says data crunched by qz.com.

If all this sounds like too much work, at least Google better. Seriously. Say, for example, you need stats about a product’s market share: Use “OR” (in caps) to Google for different words that might capture the same thing (like “percent” and “proportion”). And check the image search results: The data you need may be in a chart someone has posted. Go to Google’s help center for more power tips.

5. Write better

A clear, unfussy writing style will get your ideas heard at work. (HR pros ranked writing second, behind only computer aptitude, among skills applicants most often lacked.) Harvard professor Steven Pinker, author of the new book The Sense of Style, gave us these tips for better writing:

Avoid fancy words you don’t need or understand. “Fulsome” (as in “fulsome praise”) does not mean full; it means insincere. If you use hoity-toity words to sound posh, you will look pompous and may say the opposite of what you mean.

Cut unnecessary words. John Kerry once said, “The President is desirous of trying to see how we can make our efforts in order to find a way to facilitate.” What he meant was, “The President wants to help.” Much better.

Revise. And better still, show it to someone. What’s clear to you may not be clear to someone else.

6. Learn social savvy

If you run a business or work in marketing, social media like Twitter seem like a great way to get your message out. But remember that users have zero interest in following companies that clutter their feed with ads. Use social to establish your expertise or spark ideas; then when people are in the market for what you sell, they’ll remember you.

Hannah Morgan, co-author of Social Networking for Business Success, explains that a good tweet is self-contained and has a discrete piece of information worth sharing. What works well is language like, “Baking cookies? Add eggs one at a time so you can mix in evenly. For more tips check out our Baking 101 guide.” Then add a link.

A less effective tweet is something like, “We’re having a sale on tins of our delicious chocolate chip cookies. $19.99 all day Friday” because it reads like an advertisement and is therefore is unlikely to be shared.

7. Take back your workday

If you get paid a flat salary, turning a 10-hour day into nine more-productive hours is like giving yourself an 11% hourly raise.

Try three key moves from former Fidelity president Bob Pozen, author of Extreme Productivity: First, handle each email just once. Reply, file, or trash—don’t come back to it later.

Second, hide that extra chair; you’ll discourage chatty co-workers from lingering. Finally, you might want to consider timing your breaks, since research shows your brain loses focus on a task after about 90 minutes.

8. Sell yourself

“Ten years ago job seekers would write a full-page cover letter,” says executive résumé writer Wendy Enelow. A better approach now is an email designed to cut through the electronic clutter.

Use the subject line to note your key selling points. Instead of “Director of sales position,” write “Director of Sales—10 Years of Exceeding Sales Quotas—MBA.” In the body of the email, spotlight a major accomplishment. Follow up with three big career wins in bullet points.

9. Learn to DIY

Some jobs always require a professional but, with a little prep, tasks like painting a room or replacing your car’s air filters can be a piece of cake—and save you a solid amount of money. A painting pro, for example, could easily charge $1,600 for a big job, vs. up to $400 in materials on your own.

Rich O’Neil of Masterwork Painting & Restoration in Woburn, Mass., explains that to get professional results you must dust surfaces and tape up edges and moldings you don’t want painted. Painting should go in two types of strokes: First apply a thin layer for coverage. Then paint over it to even and smooth.

You can replace your car’s air filters yourself every 12,000 miles on newer cars. You’ll save about $50 in labor costs, says Mike Forsythe of Haynes, an auto-repair guidebook publisher, and pay 25% less for the filter by getting it at a parts store. To change an engine filter, check the housing in the engine compartment; in most cars there’s a cover you can unlatch with your fingers. You’ll typically find the cabin filter inside the car, behind the glove box.

10. Get organized

Everyone hates paying a late fee just because of a forgotten reminder to pay a bill on time. And few tasks are as irritating as foraging for receipts from months and months ago.

The key to never losing track of important papers is to keep just one bin and make sure to empty your pockets and purse into it every night. Then set a regular date on your calendar to empty the bin and organize the receipts. “If you wait too long, you may not even remember your purchase,” says professional organizer Andrew Mellen.

If you find it hard to even check your calendar on a routine basis, pair a daily check with your morning coffee—or any other routine you already have.

TIME computer

How to Clean Out and Organize Your Computer

computer-screen-folders
Getty Images

Follow these tips for a lean, mean processing machine

If you haven’t been organizing and discarding files as you go, it’s likely your hard drive is stuffed with downloads, unwanted photos, file copies and other digital dust bunnies. This can reveal itself in slower performance, that unsettling humming noise, and the Mac’s dreaded spinning wheel or Windows’ inverting hourglass.

You may even have, like me, taken advantage of the Mac’s awesome Migration Assistant to shift all your documents, files and settings from one Mac to another — only you now have duplicate Downloads and Documents folders in different destinations, causing bafflement every time a file is saved.

Deep cleaning your computer of unwanted files and streamlining your folder system can not only free up storage space, but improve your computer’s performance. From decluttering tips to apps that do your organizing for you, here’s how to spruce up your computer and make sure it stays that way.

1. Cleaning

Find duplicate files

You’d be surprised how much storage is used up by duplicate files, whether they’re files you saved twice to different locations or multiple downloads of the same file. If you buy music on iTunes, you may have a few gigabytes of duplicate songs from, say, buying a greatest-hits album that contains tracks you already own.

The easiest way to find those superfluous files is to download a third-party app that will scan your folders for duplicate content, then let you review the dupes to decide if the extras should be deleted.

Mac: Head to the App Store on your computer and search for “duplicate cleaner.” We like Duplicate Detective ($2.99), a simple app with a straightforward interface for hunting down duplicates. Duplicate Cleaner For iPhoto (free for a limited time) is an easy to use app for zapping double images, even if they’ve been edited.

If you fancy doing it manually, you can also click All My Files, order the files by sealecting Name from the drop down sorting icon, then scan for files that have the same name. However, this method is less effective if you’ve saved the same file under different names.

Windows: There are quite a few good options for free duplicate zappers for Windows, so we’ll skate over the manual method, and recommend Duplicate Cleaner (free) and DupeGuru (free), which comes in three versions: regular, a Music edition and a Pictures edition that can find duplicate songs and images even if the files are coded differently. For example, if you have the same music track at different bitrates, or if a picture has been resized or slightly edited, DupeGuru will flag it and let you decide which to keep.

Clear your system’s cache

The processes your computer runs through when you use files or programs creates tons of tiny, temporary files that help it retrieve the information you’re need faster. Clearing your computer of all these can often help speed up its performance.

Mac: Start with Disk Utility (Applications > Utilities), and hit First Aid > Repair to scan and patch up your hard drive. Next, search for “Mac cleaner” apps on the App Store, such as Dr. Cleaner, to clear your computer’s cache of temporary files from browsers and other programs. Dr. Cleaner found 12.89GB out of my meager 140GB storage that could be reclaimed, with 12.82GB coming from application-cached files. This app also gives you to option to clear your Downloads folder, but unless you have a clever structure in place to automatically save important downloads (see the final section for relevant tips), don’t check that box just yet.

Windows: For Windows 8, head to the Control Panel and find Disk Clean-up. If you’re on older versions of Windows, find it in System Tools. You can then start cleanup for temporary and system files that are no longer needed.

Clear the downloads folder of unnecessary files

The Downloads folder can be expunged of detritus such as PDFs of old plane tickets, GIFs and humorous cat pics from emails, torrent links to files you now have, .dmg (Mac) or .exe (Windows) installers of apps you now have, and so on.

Mac and Windows: Open the Downloads folder, and view its contents by file type, then go through each category and drag the unneeded files to the Trash (Mac) or Recycle Bin (Windows).

Leave the documents, photos, music and videos for now. They can be dealt with when you’re ready to start sorting the files you want to keep (see the next section).

Delete applications

Mac: You can delete unused programs by dragging them from the Applications folder into the Trash. This deletes most files associated with the app, such as data generated, but not preference files and support files. Preference files contain info about your settings in the app and are usually only a few kilobytes, while application support files can range from kilobytes to gigabytes when it comes to large media apps such as DVD Studio Pro or GarageBand.

To delete these, head to Finder, click on Macintosh HD (or Home) > Library > Application Support, where the files will be listed by app. You may even find some old files from apps you’d thought you were totally rid of. Dump them in the trash by dragging and dropping. Be careful in here: only delete files from apps you know you deleted, otherwise you may end up deleting crucial files from, say, Microsoft, which makes the Silverlight video plugin you probably use regardless of whether you have any Microsoft programs. Alternately, try out AppZapper, which lets you delete five apps and all their associated files for free; after that it costs $12.95.

Windows: Windows PCs have a pretty spiffy uninstall feature that removes everything associated with an app, so on all versions of Windows, head to Control Panel > Programs and Features, select a program and select uninstall.

Although some programs may leave behind settings info in the registry, a database of configuration settings, the data is minimal and Microsoft recommends not modifying the registry unless you really know what you’re doing.

Defrag? Still?

In the long-ago times of early 2000s computing, most of us incorporated disk defragmentation into our cleaning rituals. Disk fragmentation occurs as a file system loses its ability to keep related data together, causing the hard drive to work harder to bring up data related to current tasks, thus slowing down performance.

In general, Mac computers don’t need to be defragged, especially newer Mac laptops that have solid state drives (SSD), use a different method of maintaining data. Windows 8 automatically runs a disk defrag (now called disk optimization) on a weekly schedule.

If you want to hasten a defrag (or optimization), Windows support has the lowdown for Windows 8 computers as well as PCs running Windows 7 or older.

Zap spyware and trackers

It’s possible that in the course of your internet browsing, you acquired some trackers, spyware or even minor viruses (unless, of course, you have been using up-to-date security software). Even so, malware is an ever-evolving beast, so it’s a good idea to run a scan of your system with an anti-malware program such as Avira Free (Mac/PC), which scans for viruses, trojans, trackers and other malware.

Finishing touches

Mac: In Finder, if your Favorites column contains links to unused folders, delete them by right-clicking and selecting “Remove from Sidebar.” And don’t be afraid to remove applications from your Dock unless you really need daily access to them. Just close the app first, then hold on its icon in the Dock, and drag it to the Trash.

Windows: Minimize the number of programs that get to be in the Start Screen (Windows 8) or Start Menu (Windows 7) by right-clicking the unwanted app, and selecting “Unpin from Start Menu.”

2. Sorting

Now that we’ve cleaned things up a bit, we can get down to gathering all files of a type.

Merge duplicate folders

If you have two folders with the same name and they should really be the same folder — say, two “Invoices” folders squirreled away in different parent folders (or in my case, two of every important folder) — you can manually merge them.

Mac and Windows: Choose which folder will be the one you use henceforth, then select all the files from the other folder and drag or Copy/Cut+Paste into the desired folder. If files have the same name – either because you saved twice to different locations, or simply because you accidentally named different things the same – select to “Keep Both” and sort out the naming later.

Find a home for photos

First, identify where all your pictures might be – for example, the Downloads folder if you often download from email or Facebook; folders for imports from phones and digital cameras; or a cloud storage service such as Google+ or iCloud where they may have auto-synced from your smartphone.

If you use an iPhone and a Mac, assuming you’re on iOS 7 or newer, your photos will be synced to Photo Stream and viewable on iPhoto on the Mac.

If you use an iPhone and a Windows PC, Apple’s My Photo Stream automatically downloads the most recent photos to your PC, viewable in C:\\Users\[user name]\Pictures\iCloud Photos\My Photo Stream. Make sure you have iCloud installed and that Photo Stream is turned on in Settings > iCloud > Photos.

If you use an Android phone, your photos may be auto-synced to your Google+ account (on the phone, open the Photos app > Settings > Auto-backup toggle), or you can import them via USB connection to a folder on your computer.

Mac and Windows: Next, create the master collection of photos. You may want to simply download all photos from, say, Photo Stream or Google+ to your computer, but with digital cameras allowing infinite shots of the same scenes, this can quickly fill up your hard drive.

Instead, consider purchasing an external hard drive specially for photos, then transferring photos from your phone and digital camera into the hard drive, followed by moving any other photos on hard drive folders into the external photos-only drive.

Alternately, a cloud storage service for your photos can be a handy means of ensuring a backup even if your devices are lost or damaged. Our list of the best photo-sharing (and storing) sites includes ThisLife, which pulls together pictures from your social media accounts, including Facebook and Instagram, and allows uploads from your hard drive too.

Move all your documents to the Documents folder

Sounds obvious, but I have docs floating on my Mac desktop, in my Users folder and in Downloads. Comb each folder for documents then move them to their rightful home via copy/cut and paste.

Move all songs to the Music folder and all video to the Movies/Videos folder

There are a finite number of file types you use on your computer, and both Macs and Windows PCs come with predefined folders for them: Documents, Movies (Videos in Windows), Music, Pictures. Sort each file type into its appropriate “master” folder, and further sort the files into sub-folders later.

Alternatively…

Sorting your files manually is simple, albeit potentially time-consuming, but if you feel like taking a crack at creating some software rules to automatically organize photos, music, documents and videos across all your folders – and keep them organized — check out the next section for Mac and Windows apps that do just that.

3. Getting Organized

Now that you’re free of all digital flotsam, the next step is to build a folder system that will allow you to save files where they should go and incorporate an intuitive naming system so that when you forget where you put things, it’s not so hard to find them again.

Make a nest

…of folders and sub-folders. Take Documents: within this master folder, create sub-folders for major categories. For example, Work and Personal, or more specific folders such as Invoices, House Budget, or Ideas. Browse your Documents folder to get an idea of the types of files you’ve built up, then create the folders-within-folders you need.

Make sure to download new files to the Downloads folder

Then implement a regular Downloads cleaning schedule where you manually sort files into Documents, Movies, Music, or Pictures. If you have a bit of time to invest in building simple software rules, you can also check out a couple of apps that automate the process.

Organize new files as they arrive

Mac: Hazel is an intuitive, easy to use app for monitoring and auto-sorting any folder on your Mac. Setting up rules is extremely simple in an interface with drop-down options for each aspect of a rule (see screenshot). For example, when setting up a rule for moving music files out of downloads, instead of needing to specify file extensions (of which there may be several), you can simply select “Image” as a file type. You specify which folders that your rules apply to at the start of setting up each rule and then Hazel works in the background, popping up notifications when it moves files. It’s $29, with a 14-day free trial and works on Mac OS X 10.7 or newer.

Windows: DropIt is a free, open-source app that allows you to set up rules for what to do with particular file types so that you can, for example, dictate that all .jpg files are to be moved to Pictures. To zing that rule to the Downloads folder, you can add a monitoring option so that DropIt scans Downloads for new files to apply the rule to. Other actions include copying, compressing, as well as extracting – handy to apply to downloaded .zip image or music packs that you want unzipped straight into the correct folder. Setting up a rule is a straightforward process: name the rule, select the file type, pick the action from a drop-down menu, then type in the destination folder the file should be sent to afterwards — for example: C:\Users\[Your Name]\Pictures.

A similar app with a more novice-friendly interface is File Juggler, which costs $25 and features a 30-day free trial.

Back up efficiently

Setting up a backup system is crucial. Better yet, it’s a system you’ve taken the time to automate so that in the event of a computer crash or data loss, your most valuable documents will still be safe. For example, a cloud storage service such as Google Drive or Dropbox is handy for automatically backing up smaller files.

When you sign up for a cloud storage service, it will create a folder on your computer that constantly syncs to the cloud so that anything in the folder is saved online as well as on your computer. You might want to save all insurance applications or a long-term project to the cloud-synced folder. Depending how much storage you have, you may want to save special photos. Amazon Prime subscribers, for example, get unlimited storage for full-resolution photos. Check out our feature on cloud storage services to see what works best for you.

If you’re backing up larger media files, such as songs or videos, you can purchase external hard drives with 1TB or more of storage (A terabyte is 1000GB, which can hold up to 250,000 photos or 1,000 HD movies). LaCie and Western Digital both offer 1TB Wi-Fi drives for $179.99, and non-Wi-Fi versions for $99.99 and $64.99, respectively.

Wi-Fi-connected models allow you to send and back up files from your smartphone as well. Some, like the Western Digital My Cloud external drive, offer 2TB to 6TB (starting at $149) of storage in a personal cloud, accessible from other connected devices and handy for creating two backups – one in the cloud, one on the drive itself.

The ultimate folder nest? Save long-term projects and other crucial files to a cloud-synced folder on your Wi-Fi hard drive for one-click multiple backups of your work that won’t crash even if your computer does.

This article originally appeared on Techlicious.

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