8 game-changing but realistic New Year’s resolutions

Personally, I’m not that into introspection, but about five years ago I decided to try my hand at crafting New Year’s Resolutions. To my surprise, I actually stuck to (most of) them, and have been zealously creating and adhering to more every year since then. After talking to a few close friends about the ones that were the most interesting and impactful, I decided to publish this list. I hope you find a few here that get you excited for 2016.

1: Order a dish you’ve never had every time you go out to eat

Like many Americans, I’ve tried to cook more at home and eat out less. While I’ve made strides, I’m not particularly close to a healthy balance. Given that I’m going to continue going up a couple sizes in the waist and down a couple zeros in the bank, I’ve settled for a consolation resolution that at least makes me more cultured: I make sure to order something I’ve never had every time I go out to eat.

This past year I chewed through alligator, quail, blood sausage, and turtle soup. All interesting but I can definitely live without the last one.

2: Track all the calories

Since I’m not going to eat out less or diet much, the least I can do is be aware of what’s in what I’m eating. Did you know bacon was not fat free? Breakfast will never be the same.For this, I use MyFitnessPal. It has the nutritional information for virtually anything edible (including inedibles such as Kale), an easy-to-use interface, and has its own library of apps with which it integrates.

3: Track all the pennies

Like dieting, budgeting is maybe too lofty a goal. My compromise resolution (are you noticing a theme yet?) is to track what’s coming out of my wallet. I’ve integrated my credit cards and bank account with Learnvest (although Mint is a fine alternative), and am now more aware of where my money is going. Even if you’re not explicitly budgeting, you’ll likely save money when you notice you’re still paying for subscriptions you hardly use and that you need to cut down on the unsustainable sum you’ve been spending at bars.

4: Create habits

Your brain uses a ton of energy so any repetitive task you can automate throughout your day gives you more energy to do creative work. Every wonder why Steve Jobs always wore the same turtleneck and jeans? To save brain power for more important decisions.

Make it a goal to turn three to five trivial but oft-forgotten tasks (think: flossing, vitamins, vacuuming, stretching, etc.) into habits. I’ve enjoyed using the app, Productive, to help keep track and maintain habit streaks. It’s oddly disappointing to miss a day and break a streak.

5: Move to the cloud

I moved all my files to the cloud a few years back and I’m fairly certain it’s not only saved me from headaches, it’s saved me money as well. Instead of buying a laptop with more storage or terabytes of external hard drives, my files are synced across DropboxOneDriveiCloud, and Drive. I spend less than $15/month altogether and can scale up as needed.

If you really want to make a power play, move all your multimedia to the cloud as well. If you’ve got an old laptop lying around, you can turn it into a  server from which any of your devices can stream music, movies, and tv shows. Or you can get rid of all your multimedia and just stream from NetflixHuluSpotify, and others.

6: Make more introductions

Making introduction is one of the easiest and yet most useful things you can do for a buddy or colleague. Keep a ledger of organizations you know looking to fill positions and colleagues looking for work. You never know when you might need an introduction yourself, so build up the social capital this year.

7: Figure out how to grow an herb (other than marijuana)

We live in a world where you can’t recognize the ingredients in most of the foods we eat. I’ve found that growing my own herbs gives me a greater appreciation and motivation for eating and cooking natural foods. This year I’ll be looking to make the upgrade from potted plants to a smart garden.

8: Give back

I was surprised one year when I did a full audit of all the ‘free’ or subsidized services I used that I couldn’t live without. There’s quite a few and it’s worthwhile to give back to them. Every month, I choose a worthy cause to ‘tip’ $10. Seriously, what would we do without Wikipedia?