Every great journey starts with one small step. The tools to a great year ahead can be as simple as starting out with these 12 small steps we’ve brought together .
It may seem flippant to say it, but finances are often the one area that is easiest to make real changes to at the start of a new year. Money gurus, Scott Pape and Ross Greenwood suggest a number of ways to improve your financial prospects by including these three great tips:
- Pay your bills in advance. $50 dollars a week hurts far less than $600 every three months.
- Replace one espresso coffee per day with a deposit into your bank account – $5 a day is $25 per work week. That adds up to $1200 saved over a 48-week work year.
- Make your savings inconvenient. Give your savings account access card to a friend who doesn’t live nearby. If it takes longer than 24 hours to be able to get hold of that card, the urge to spend will fade well before you get the card in your hands.
2. Fitness and wellbeing
Keep it simple when it comes to fitness!
Start small. Just one 30-minute walk a few times a week. No one is expecting you to do a triathlon in your first month.
Slowly increase intensity. Avoid over-committing to a routine that you’re bound to break. Start simply and add more exercise as you start to feel fitter.
Measure yourself. It’s hard to see the incremental difference to your body on a day-to-day basis. Record how far you’ve walked, what you’ve eaten as well as your weight and body measurements each week. By recording your progress, you’ll easily see how far you’ve come in a short time.
Not sure if you are spending enough time with your family? Try this exercise.
- At 8 hours a day for 48 5-day weeks, you work roughly 1,920 hours per year.
- You sleep around the same amount of time as you work.
- The remaining 8 hours is filled with everything else you do. So that’s 1,920 hours to do whatever you want.
- Now count up how many times you saw family members outside your home in that year and break that down into hours.
If that number falls below 154 hours then you have prioritised 80% or more of your available time on things other than family.
Putting your family time into pure statistics like this can help you see where your time is going and may encourage you to rearrange your weekly priorities to give your family the time both you and they need.
Friendship is key when it comes to our mental wellbeing. Sharing a problem or seeking advice often brings perspective and the sense of belonging that comes from being part of a strong friendship group can boost our confidence and increase our happiness.
Sex & The City characters Samantha, Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda exemplify the saying that “partners come and go, but friends will always remain.” Whilst few of us will live the life of glamour that they did, art was imitating life.
The show was a success because of how the relationships between the characters reflected the ups and downs of real-world friendships. Indeed, the boyfriends and husbands of Sex & The City did come and go. But the four core characters always remained the best of friends.
Contact a friend you’ve lost touch with or arrange a regular night-out with a group of friends. You won’t regret it.
5. Professional goals
Most CEOs, executives and managers once had a plan that they executed to get to where they are. Professional plans don’t have to be complex. They just have to be specific and achievable.
- Be specific about what role, benefits and work conditions you want to have and write them down.
- Share your plan with a manager or someone you trust who can check in with you on your progress.
- Once you know what you want to be, give yourself 12 milestones along the way that you can measure and celebrate when you reach them. Even if you don’t reach the end-point, you will have achieved a whole lot of small wins on the way regardless.
- Explore study options, vocational training and even formal courses that not only give you certification, but offer valuable exposure to the world you are stepping in to.
It is well documented that hobbies and activities outside of your work responsibilities are good for both your physical and mental health. In a study of Leisure Participation by Southern Illinois University, it was confirmed that those with hobbies and leisure activities reported greater satisfaction with their lives.
Those who like to work out at the gym talk about “being in the zone.” Knitters speak of a “Zen-space” they enter whilst knitting. Fishing fans love the peace and solitude of dropping a line. Few people speak of stress, worry or pressure when they speak of their hobby. Take up a new hobby and add balance to your busy life.
7. Get organised
An organised home and workspace contributes to increased efficiency and a pride in the space you inhabit. Whilst de-cluttering your space can be a traumatic experience for those attached to their possessions, a far easier process can be a simple bout of cleaning and organising.
The start of the year is the ideal time to do this and is the perfect way to get yourself back into work-mode after the indulgence of the holidays. If you are starting to think of how to organise your home and workspaces, you are easing yourself back in to performance-thinking that’s required for a focused and successful work or study year.
8. Pay it forward
Few of us will be Mother Teresa or Florence Nightingale. Yet we all yearn to be better people, and most of us associate altruistic endeavor with being a better human being.
Giving back to your community can be in the form of volunteering a few hours a month at your local op-shop, community group, junior sports club or your local Meals on Wheels. As well as giving you the opportunity to help others, it looks great on your resume, you’ll meet new people and you’ll be contributing to something bigger than yourself.
9. Make a new contact
We all get stuck in a rut sometimes. And while it’s easy to hit the pub on Friday evening with the people we already know and trust, sometimes it’s nice to meet someone new and connect with them differently than you do with your existing circle.
If you’re looking to make new friends in year ahead, try sites like MeetUp.com. It matches people with mostly-free events and groups of others who are interested in the same things as you. There are groups related to almost every interest, including technology, comics, crafts, and sport – to name just a few, so you’re bound to run in to people who share your passion for whatever you love.
10. Do something that scares you
We all carry a bag of fears and phobias. The year ahead is a chance to address at least some of them. We’re not suggesting you jump out of a plane or go bungee jumping, but why not take small steps to expand your horizons.
Never tried black coffee? Do it tomorrow! Always been curious about eating at that local restaurant you have never tried? Do it tonight! Doing things that are out of our routine opens us up to new possibilities, grows your perspective on life and can lead to a whole new list of favourite places, things and people.
11. Take your leave
In 2013, it was estimated by Roy Morgan Research that Australians had stockpiled 128 million days of annual leave. A quarter of us are leave-hoarders, and research says this is contributing to workplace health and safety issues, mental health problems and costing nearly 10 billion dollars in lost productivity. Even if you can’t take a full four weeks in one lot, commit to taking two lots of two weeks each six months. Your mind and body will thank you, and perhaps you can use the time to achieve some of the other items on this list.
This isn’t as crazy as it sounds. It doesn’t even matter if you can sing in tune or not. When you sing your body releases oxytocin, a chemical that naturally offsets depression and feelings of loneliness. This leads to better sleep and that significantly reduces the risk of heart disease.
Singing also forces your posture to be straight which makes you look more confident and provides a very real workout for your lungs, circulation and your core muscles. In fact, singing when you’re sick opens up your sinuses and respiratory tubes. Research in the last few years even indicates that singing a little every day can even lead to a longer life.
It’s the little things
It’s natural to feel a little overwhelmed by the prospect of a new year ahead, particularly if you plan to take on a new job, start a new relationship or commence a new course of study.
Yet it’s not the big events that define a year; it’s the 30-minute walk you took yesterday, the song you sang in the shower this morning, the smile as you realise that you chose to walk up the stairs at work after lunch today instead of taking the lift. Dozens of small moments each month add up hundreds of small achievements throughout the year. And those hundreds of tiny triumphs will add up to a positive and productive year.
What else do you want to achieve?
If you’re looking to push yourself to achieve a little more in the coming year, Open Colleges offers a range of courses from to help you reach your potential.
Check out the full range of Open Colleges courses here.