In this episode we talk about 14 simple things–small tasks that will take half an hour or less–that you can do this week (or next!) to simplify your life and set yourself up for a great year.
Small Tasks, Big Results
We often talk about setting and achieving big goals as part of making a life that matters. Goal-setting is important (and we'll be talking about it in an upcoming episode), but there are also small tasks we can accomplish in 15-30 minutes that can reap big dividends in the coming year.
Strengthen Your Infrastructure
1. Change some of your passwords.
Just imagine the time you'd lose if you were to be hacked. Changing some of your most important passwords occasionally as experts recommend, and making sure that they are strong, will give you peace of mind. Passwords for accounts where sensitive information is stored (online banking, Amazon, email, etc.) are most important.
Since it's nearly impossible to remember many different complex passwords, use a password manager to generate and securely store your passwords. I personally use LastPass. Other great options include 1Password and Dashlane. PC Mag has published a chart comparing the best password managers of 2017. Find a password manager that you like and use it!
2. Make sure you have a good backup system for your computers.
We store so many important documents on our computers: family records, important receipts, family photos. What if the unthinkable happens, and your hard drive crashes and cannot be repaired? What if a tornado hits your house, or you just spill your Diet Coke? Either way, all your important data could be gone if your computer isn’t properly backed up.
There are several options for computer backup. Perhaps the easiest is just purchasing an external hard drive that you can hook to a computer’s USB port. You can buy these on Amazon for less than $100. Consider a cloud backup service as well. I use Backblaze and CrashPlan. These services cost about $50 per year, which is totally worth it to have a backup of your important documents stored offsite and safe from local disasters.
While you're at it, consider a way to back up the photos on your phone. Dropbox can be set up to upload any photos you take into a Dropbox folder. Amazon offers unlimited photo storage to Prime members.
3. Clear some digital clutter.
Take 15 minutes and unsubscribe from some e-newsletters and mailing lists. You can also use a service that will filter out spam or automatically unsubscribe you from e-mail lists. I use Unroll.Me to clean up my inbox efficiently. On my Mac I use SpamSieve. Many people use SaneBox.
4. Get ready for tax season.
Gather the receipts and records you'll need to get your taxes done. Don’t wait until the last minute. Prepare for next year by setting up a system to collect these things throughout the year. For example, I save my digital receipts to Evernote and each year I create a tag (e.g., “2017 taxes”) for any receipts or invoices for tax-deductible items. If you prefer hard copies, create a file or bin where all these documents will go.
Create Some Space
5. Go through the medicine cabinet.
Throw out any expired pills, potions, and ointments. While you're in there, toss any makeup you haven’t used in the past six months.
6. Speed-clean your refrigerator.
Empty your refrigerator. Make sure all of the food in it is edible. Quickly wipe down the shelves, bins, and trays (use a little baking soda dissolved in warm water). Consider replacing your plastic storage containers with clear glass ones so that you can easily know what leftovers are in what container.
7. Do a quick mini-declutter.
Choose a few items to donate to charity. Just walk through your house with a medium-sized box and add to it a few things you haven’t been using. Then drop them off at your favorite charity next time you're running errands. You create a little more space in your home and do good for someone else, all at the same time.
8. Schedule some face time.
Reach out to a local friend or family member you haven’t spent time with lately. Schedule some time together.
9. Turn down the social noise.
Prune your social media “friends” list. Take a look at your social media newsfeeds and ask yourself whether the voices you’re hearing through that feed are the voices of people you care about and who encourage you to be your best self. If not, maybe it's time to remove some noise from your life.
10. Prepare for a kind word.
Buy a box of blank greeting cards. Start a habit of sending a handwritten note to people who cross your mind — this could be a thank you or a word of encouragement or congratulations. In a time when things have gotten pretty hostile in the public sphere, little things like this really matter.
11. Show appreciation–old school.
Take a few minutes to write a letter to someone who has impacted your life positively. Mail it.
12. Schedule your yearly checkups.
Make time for a little preventive maintenance. Schedule your annual medical checkup and a dental exam/cleaning and put those appointments on your calendar.
13. Create a new morning or evening routine that nurtures you.
A few minutes wisely spent at the beginning and end of your day can pay big dividends in your peace of mind. For instance, this year I am committed to getting ready for bed 30 minutes earlier so that I have more time to read for pleasure and inspiration. When I can, I sip herbal tea while I read. Maybe you'll set aside time to meditate or pray in the morning, or to take a relaxing bath in the evening? Find some small thing you can do to make your day a little better, and make it part of your regular routine.
14. Be happy on purpose.
Start a list of things that make you happy–activities you enjoy, people who lift your spirits. Schedule time each week to do or enjoy those things.
What do you think?
Spending a few minutes on these small tasks can help set us up for a productive year. Can you suggest a small task or two that we can do now to be more productive later? Share your questions, comments, or suggestions in the comments section below or on The Productive Woman Facebook page, or email me!
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