24 simple ways to be prepared in 2014

This year, I turned 33. Apparently it’s a year that has been deemed “the Jesus Year”. Urban Dictionary defines this year as a “Time to get moving and get things done (maybe).”

To mark the end of my ‘Jesus Year’, here are 24 tips to get up and moving in 2014:

1) Drink a glass of warm lemon water every morning.

Drop a few slices of lemon in a cup of warm water before starting your day.  This provides vitamin C to fight colds, cleanses your digestive system by flushing out toxins, and works wonders for your skin and metabolism.

2) Make a To Do list. Check it twice.

Make a To Do list before you start your day and before you go to bed at night.   This takes the burden off you when your mind is racing.  Sometimes it even helps to do a brain dump and write down whatever thoughts are flooding your mind as soon as you wake up in the morning. Evernote is a fantastic app that can help you manage your day electronically and it even syncs with all of your devices–from your smartphone, to your tablet, to your desktop–so you can stay connected wherever, whenever.

3) Write down goals for the year.

This sounds obvious, but when it comes to yearly goals, the key is to set timing for when you are planning to achieve these goals and define what success looks like.  Call it “The Secret”, but the more precise you can get with your goals, the better.  Keep this list close to you. When I did this, I realized by the end of the year, I had been able to check off a number of goals, sometimes unknowingly.  I once wrote down the salary figure I wanted by a certain time, and 8 months later, the exact amount was written in my offer letter. #AimHigherNextTime

4) Take a class that follows your interests and/or makes you feel uncomfortable.

There’s a course out there for everyone.  Not sure where to start? Identify a list of your weaknesses and strengths – list classes you can take to improve upon or strengthen your skills. Shy? Climb out of your shell and take an improv class or learn a new language. Admire artwork at your local museum? Find a painting class or digital Photoshop course. Do you long to play the guitar?  YouTube has self-taught lessons. Afraid of heights? Take a leap of faith and go rock-climbing or skydiving.  Until you register, you’re not going to be fully committed. So do it.  Now.  There are always economical ways to satisfy your interests too, such as Groupon deals or talented friends with benefits. Need an extra kick? Find an activity buddy with shared interests.  Meetup groups are also an option.

5) Hide money from yourself.

Plant money in random jacket or jean pockets and watch your smile grow when you stumble upon it one day. There’s nothing like finding money in your pocket you never knew you had–even if it’s a $5 bill, you will thank your sneaky self that day when you need a coffee fix, but forgot your wallet. Don’t forget to check all pockets before you do your laundry though!

6) Make music playlists based on mood.

Power songs to rev up for that important job interview or presentation.  Songs that make you want to invent new dance moves or do household chores.  Songs that make you want to fall in love all over again.  You never know when you’ll need to call upon this music to get you in the mood, take your mind off stress, or lift your spirits.  If such mood-setting songs don’t work and you simply want to wallow in misery (i.e. after a break up), then perhaps you need a depressing song to accompany your mood.  A well-rounded playlist can complement your emotional highs and lows.

7) Make your bathroom a private oasis.

If you don’t have a fancy showerhead or jacuzzi, all you need are scented candles and music for a tranquil escape. I have an iPod docking station in my bathroom, so I blare my Happy playlist during my retreat. The music will help you keep track of time as well. I know that by the time 3-4 songs have passed, it’s about time to drag myself out of the shower.

8) Join Pinterest.

If you haven’t checked out Pinterest already, you’ll see that it allows you to ‘pin’ images/videos/infographics into various buckets which are called ‘boards’ that you customize. For instance, I have a ‘Travel bucket list’ and a ‘Things I find funny’ board. You can get ideas off others by re-pinning their items or you can add your own. Over time, you’ll realize that it’s a fantasmic tool designed to help you stay focused and dream a little. Although, just a warning that it is quite addictive, so you’ll need some degree of self control or else you could end up pinning time away. If you’re concerned about privacy, there’s an option to post private boards that only you can see–perfect for people who like to pull together ‘vision boards’ for inspiration.

9) Make travel plans.

Picking a new city you’ve never been to is ideal, but it’s great to have pretty much any trip to look forward to while you trudge through your workweek.  You’ll need to lock down on timing or else it may get pushed off your radar.   Studies show that going on vacation improves creativity, reduces stress, and improves overall productivity.  TIP: I’ve always wanted to go to Kenya to check out a safari, and in 2011 I took ‘Groupon’ to the next level and traveled there using a Living Social voucher. (Livingsocial.com/escapes) Aside from saving a heckuva lot of money on the trip, the preset dates, helped me pull the trigger.  Another option is Groupon.com/getaways.  Interested in traveling solo?  Check out the best countries for solo travellers.   Whether you’re traveling solo, with a significant other, or with friends, G Adventures or Intrepid are reliable options if you want your itinerary laid out for you while you explore a foreign land.

10) Master a dish. 

Do you have a signature dish that you’re known for?  Get peace of mind and ace some go-to dishes or meals in advance, so you’re ready to impress a date or friends and family. There are some fool-proof recipes you can sort by ratings available online @ Allrecipes.com and you can’t go wrong with Martha Stewart creations.  Need to whip something up but have no time to go to the grocery store?   Scan your fridge for existing ingredients and let Supercook fix you up with a recipe on the fly.

11) Buy flowers.

Not only is this good energy according to feng shui, it is an instant mood booster for yourself or someone special.  Accent your home on an otherwise drab day with some friendly sunflowers or sweeten the air with a brilliant mix of lilies or champagne roses when expecting guests.  If you want flowers that have a bit of longevity, an orchid plant is sure to keep you company (Phalaenopsis and Cymbidium blooms will stick around for 2 to 3 months or longer).  In fact, some species are virtually immortal, when given love.  How’s that for commitment?

12) Organize your closet.

Do you waste valuable time contemplating what you should wear before dashing out of your front door in a frenzy to make up for lost time?  Aside from planning out what to wear the night before, did you know there are apps designed to keep track of which articles of clothing in your closet are actually being used and what to wear next?  Sift through your wardrobe with Stylebook, an app designed to sort items based on categorizes such as occasion, weather, color and fabric, to name a few.  Catalogue which items are to be put in the wash. Add images from online stores into your wardrobe, so you can see if the pieces match the clothes you already own.  Closet helps you coordinate your outfits with a built-in calendar. Flag favourites, so you have a go-to look in seconds.  Feeling lazy? Shake your phone and the app will match pieces together for you.  Now to get an app to do your laundry for you!

13) Get smart, online.  

Aside from taking classes or going back to school to tack on more letters after your name, there are ways to learn at your fingertips, and at no cost.  Stay in the know and subscribe to topical blogs for instant updates or eNewsletters related to your career and/or personal development.  Follow key thought leaders or experts on Twitter to get the latest and greatest on the hottest topics whether it be in technology, science, or politics, etc. There’s nothing like TED Talks videos to recharge your mind or feign expertise.  If you prefer self-learning on detailed subjects, check out Khan Academy.  If you’d like to sharpen your mind, you can tinker around with brain-training games on sites such as Lumosity.

14) Meditate.

There are several ways to meditate, but two common ways to practice are to focus on one specific thing or what’s called “open-monitoring meditation”.  For instance, you can hone in on your breathing or on a particular object, or pay attention to what’s going on around you and notice everything without reacting (i.e. city sounds, other people’s children crying, etc.). There are several studies revealing that regular meditation leads to improved memory, better focus, reduced stress, more creativity, emotional stability, and more compassion. According to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a renowned spiritual leader, 20 minutes of meditation is equivalent to 8 hours of sleep! This year I started practicing Reiki, another form of meditation.  It’s a Japanese technique based off channeling universal life energy that promotes healing, but helps overall stress reduction and relaxation.

15) Choose who you spend time with.

Some co-workers may drive you up a cubical wall. You may have those one or two customers who sap your energy and inevitably, your will to live. You can’t stand that one friend who is self absorbed, splits bills down to the last penny, or backs out of plans just as you’re putting the finishing touches on your near-perfect hair and make up. If the people around you make you want to slit your wrist, it’s not their fault. It’s your fault. Change what you do so you can start attracting the right people.  Minimize the amount of time you spend with folks who frustrate you.  Hardworking people want to work with hardworking people. Kind people like to associate with kind people. A-holes tend to flock together… (1) Determine if you’re an a-hole.  (2) Get a grip or cut ‘em loose. This leaves more room for people you love.

16) Learn how to sing at least 3 songs (well), so you’re ready when someone suddenly declares it’s Karaoke Night.

You don’t want to be nervously flipping through pages and pages of song titles and artists, only to discover that the one song you’ve mastered is not even on the song selection list. What if everyone’s expected to sing more than one song? What then? No need to panic. Much like back-pocket dishes when it comes to cooking, you need to build up a repertoire of “back-pocket songs”. VoiceMap app lets you to see your vocal range, hear your voice play back at the same time, and even suggests songs that match your vocal range. Think you can sing? No need to think twice, try VoiceMap so you can rock out with pride.

17) Get back-up gifts.

Trust me, your forgetful or selfish self will thank you for it. Ever get caught empty-handed during Christmas when someone gives you a gift, but they haven’t even crossed your mind? No need for a web of lies, just one.  If you have a car, stash generic gifts like a pack of instant scratch lotto cards, movie tickets, a bottle of wine, or popular books for children in your trunk.  Keep some spare blank cards and gift bags around as well for ‘sudden’ birthdays.

18) Read.

Pick up a book or your trusty eReader and immerse yourself in a world of literary magic.
Make a reading list ranging from classics to books suited for your personality or aligned with your interests. What is your view on love, truth, freedom, life?  Are your ideas your own? Or are your thoughts dominated by societal norms or your father’s gripping lectures at the kitchen table once upon a time?  By reading great books, you can see how ideas developed over time and be aware of how they affect you now.  Learn from others mistakes.  Find answers to life’s questions.  Find something in common with someone.  Expand your vocabulary.  Words can empower you.  Need recommendations based on your interests? Check out whichbook for a unique and quick way to determine what makes the cut.

19) Be a hero to somebody.

Volunteering is one way to achieve this.  A number of years ago I volunteered in Beijing for a couple of months at an orphanage.  It was the most eye-opening experience I’ve ever had (next to LASIK eye surgery).  You don’t have to do something as drastic as quitting your job and volunteering overseas, but you can simply make a difference in your own community.  Pack sandwiches for the homeless in the city during the holiday season. Become a mentor or a big brother/sister.  This experience will help you gain perspective on life, reminding you about what truly matters and how fortunate we are to be here.

20) Write a letter to yourself.

The trick is to write a letter addressed to yourself half a lifetime ago about life today and your aspirations. I wrote a letter to my 15-year old self in the fall and it was honestly one of the most therapeutic things I could have ever done for myself. I actually wrote it after breaking up with my ex, so it was a great outlet and it felt as though I was giving solid advice to my little sister. Keep a Kleenex box by your side, as the former self in you may just shed a tear or two.

21) Find words to live by.

Find quotes that represent who you are and the stage of life you’re at.  Pin such words of wisdom on your wall, keep them on your phone for easy access, or paint them.  Quotes will serve as inspiration, especially when times are tough and days seem to drag without purpose.  You can get a new quote sent to your email on a daily basis or via one of the many apps available for smartphones as well if you prefer.

22) Get physical.

Yoga, crossfit, martial arts, running, swimming, squats, jazz hands, fist pumps, do whatever it takes to get your circulation and juices flowing.  Regular exercise boosts mood and fitness, provides energy on the job and helps create deeper sleep cycles.  Start exercising at an earlier time in the day if possible so you don’t end up staying alert at night instead of winding down for sleep.

23) Wake up early.

Studies have proven that waking up early is tied to success.  Early risers tend to exhibit character traits like optimism, being agreeable, satisfaction and laser focus.  Night owls, while linked with creativity and intelligence (woo hoo!), are more likely to exhibit traits like depression, pessimism and neurotic behaviour (ah ha!).  Plus, if you get a head start on your day, chances are you’ll have more quality time in the evenings to spend with loved ones, not your work (ta da!).

24) Get a good night’s sleep.

If you go to bed earlier and wake up earlier, your body can shift gears and repair any damage caused by stress.  While the body is resting, your brain is busy processing your day’s activities, including making connections between events, feelings, experiences and memories.  So the next time you find yourself staring blankly at someone trying to figure out their name or if you misplace your keys, ask yourself if you’re sleep-deprived.  Sleep experts suggest powering down your electronics 1 hour before you plan on getting shuteye.  As an exception, you can set your phone to sleepmode and download an app such as Sleepbot. It can track motion and sounds to paint a visual picture of your sleep and even wake you at the least disturbing time. Recognize patterns in your sleep over time, find out what to eat (or avoid eating) before bedtime and get sleep-promoting exercises.  It’s free and available for iOS and Android.

Wishing you all the best in 2014! Hope it’s the best year yet!

Make it count.

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