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A Few Things To Do For The New Year

A Few Things To Do For The New Year
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Cleaning out your closet. Defragging your hard drive. Updating your resume.

What do all of these have in common? They’re nagging little jobs on most of our “to-do” lists that we keep putting off because they’re tedious and boring. They keep getting pushed to the back of the queue, gathering dust and being neglected until we’re forced to take care of them for one reason or another, at which point we end up stressed, panicky, and resentful.

Fortunately, there’s no time like the present to finally get around to doing these tasks, and having them all over and done with for the New Year and allow yourself to start the next year with a clean slate, with no daunting obligations left to hang over your head. Below are a few suggestions about some of the tasks you might like to tackle, if you have time to do so:

1. Clean out your email

Most of us have a plethora of unread emails lounging around in our in-boxes, as well as old drafts, spam, and various other sundries tucked into different folders. Instead of just vegging out in front of the TV after supper, consider putting on some music and sifting through your folders to clear them out. Doing this for 20 minutes/night for just a few evenings will tidy things up nicely. You may need to know how to use Gmail search to clean up your Email archive.

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Oh, and while you’re at it…

2. Review and update your address book

Do you really need to hold onto the email addresses belonging to people you worked with in 2003? Take a few minutes to sort through your address book and cull those that you haven’t communicated with, along with old addresses that your friends/family don’t use anymore. (See how to use Google Contacts as a Unified Address Book)

3. Clean your computer (inside and out) and tidy up your workstation

While you’re tidying up all those files, consider using this opportunity as a chance to clean up your desk (and your computer itself). If you have a CPU tower, take it apart so you can vacuum out all the dust and pet hair that might have accumulated in there. Toss away any take-out containers or empty energy drink cans around your desk, give everything a solid once-over with some spray cleaner (just not your monitor: clean that thing properly), and be sure to clean your keyboard too—those things get nasty.

4. File and organize papers, bills, statements, and receipts

Keeping these in order can come in handy, especially since tax season is just around the corner. Try to organize them so your receipts and statements are together, with outstanding bills and invoices in another section.

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While you’re at it, consider making a couple of last-minute charitable donations to adjust your tax deductions, if you’re into that sort of thing.

5. Update your personal budget, resume and bio

As you go through your papers, take note of your spending habits over the last year. Have you gone overboard with spending? Been too frugal? Compare your habits to your bank account, and then consider re-adjusting your personal budget to even things out a bit.

On that same note, if you find that you’ve struggled to make ends meet or that you’re not being paid what you’re worth, it might be time to update your resume and look for a new job. If instead you’re perfectly happy with where you are, but you’ve had some major life changes (moved to a new city/country, earned a degree, got married, etc.) then you might want to update your bio on various networking sites.

6. Reduce clutter, and give things away

You would not believe how much stuff can accumulate in cupboards and closets, particularly in the bathroom. Set aside an hour or so to sort through everything under the sink to see just how many unused soaps, creams, razors, and other sundries you’ve collected, and then decide whether you’re actually going to use them or not. If you will, think about displaying them in a basket or keeping them at hand so you’ll use them up. If you’ll never touch the things, give them away to friends who’ll use them, or donate them.

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Speaking of donations…

7. Clean out your closet, and donate your old clothes

A good rule to stick to as far as clothing is concerned is to give away anything you haven’t worn in over 2 years (with the exception of really well-tailored suits or dresses that still fit, and are in great shape. You never know when those will come in handy). For each piece you give away, you can buy yourself something new that fits both your figure and your current fashion sense, but don’t hold on to something that will never fit or come back into style again.

(We have created a list for you so that you can keep track of your new year tasks, Things to do for the new year)

Once you’ve taken care of all of these tasks, all you really need to do is finalize your New Year’s Eve schedule, and make some goals for 2013. If you find that you tend to self-sabotage official resolutions, consider just making some short-term goals that are easy to attain: reaching them will boost your confidence, and might encourage you to pursue some more intense, longer-term goals in turn.

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Featured photo credit:  Attractive young adult couple via Shutterstock

 

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Catherine Winter

Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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