It's a new year and perhaps you're thinking it's time for a new you. We feel you. This is a great time to start afresh and address the issues you'd like to improve on or just eliminate.
Here are some realistic ways to jump start your way into the New Year. We're covering the big topics -- money, health, career -- so you can use this as your guide to making this a prosperous year indeed.
YOU WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT
Start small and be realistic about your goals. Setting whacky deadlines like 'I have to lose 30 pounds by June' does nothing but put you on the fast track to failure. You'd be amazed to know that eating just 500 calories less a day and then walking for at least 30 minutes can help you burn enough calories to lose up to a pound a week.
Also, getting at least seven hours of sleep every night helps you keep your mind at optimal level. Numerous studies show that people who don't get enough sleep have higher levels of cortisol -- a stress hormone that controls appetite -- which is known to increase hunger. Get off the clock: A study conducted by the University of Helsinki found that the people who gained the most weight were most likely to work overtime. Clocking in 12-hour days also restricts the time you have to work out or eat healthy. Drink water: Of course by now you've heard that the body mistakes thirst for hunger, but did you know it can also speed up your metabolism? Drinking a glass before a meal can also help you stay satiated.
YOU WANT TO MANAGE YOUR DEBT AND SAVE MONEY
Getting control of your debt is never an overnight process, unless you win the lottery. Start small by keeping all your receipts for a few weeks so you will see what other monies you are spending besides essentials like your mortgage and utilities. Avoid silly charges like overdraft protection, bounced checks and late payments. Not only will you shell out more money each month, it may even affect your credit score.
If managing your bill payment schedule is getting the better of you, set up a system through mint.com, a site that helps you keep track of your bill payment due dates. Lower your credit card debt: Start off by devoting any bit of extra money to paying off your high-interest credit cards. Creditcardnation.com helps you estimate how long it will take you to pay off your credit card. If you know you truly cannot pay off your credit card, at least get it to 30% of your credit limit. Anything higher and you're raising your debt-to-credit-limit ratio, which can damage your credit score.
To save money consider simple acts like separating your weekly income into envelopes like "groceries" and "entertainment." When the money runs out of the envelopes, you'll have to wait for next week's allowance. Sometimes cash is best if you're trying to save money, so consider leaving the credit and debit cards at home next time you go out. The 'brown bagging' your own lunch to work trick is still around because it works. Those $7-$9 lunches daily really add up.
YOU WANT TO BE MORE ORGANIZED
Those 1,200 emails you haven't deleted; those family photos sitting on your computer: it's all e-clutter that can eventually overwhelm you. For starters, nothing clutters the mind like a crowded Inbox. Start by archiving emails in folders like "Bills" "Family" and "Work" to make it easier for you to find them in the future. Set up a daily maintenance procedure and delete emails immediately, when necessary. An extra email address for online shopping or subscriptions will help stop spam and solicitations crowding up your primary account.
This year make a point to print out all your usernames and passwords and file them away in a safe place so you don't forget; but remember, as advised by identity theft experts, do not use the same password for everything. Because it's also a time to get honest about clutter around your home, schedule a day and ask a friend to help you set up "toss" or "keep" boxes and don't you even think of having a "maybe" box. Having someone around who is not attached to the clutter will help you get things clear in no time.
Remember how you would lay out the next day's outfit every night when you were in middle school? It's time to get back to that old habit. Having everything set up so you can grab and go in the morning will save you an incredible amount of time.
YOU WANT TO GET AHEAD IN YOUR CAREER
If there was ever a time to re-brand yourself, this is it. A tough economy means you really have to show your worth and prove that you're a team player. Speak up: Women tend to be perceived as caretakers, not decision-makers in the workplace. Don't carry a bullhorn just yet but do make yourself known by speaking up and taking the lead on projects and always showing you're willing to go above and beyond what's expected of you. Get in the habit of putting pressure on yourself to continually perform at your best level.
If it's a salary increase you're after, start by outlining your job description and then offering your boss a more detailed description of what you actually do. Tell your boss how much you enjoy your responsibilities and don't be too afraid to say outright that you need a raise. Be sure to have an exact percentage on hand and be prepared to explain why you deserve it. If the answer is no, ask for a performance review so you will know what areas your boss thinks you can improve. If it's because of a lack of budget, ask to check back with your boss in a few months.
YOU WANT TO MANAGE STRESS AND HAVE MORE ENERGY
Exercise, of course is one of nature's best stress-busters. That's because the more active you are the more your blood circulates, which in turn gives you more energy. If you're at your desk all day, make sure to get outside and get some fresh air and sunlight, which produces serotonin, also known as the "feel-good" hormone.
Just breathe: Inhaling and exhaling properly (deeper and slower breaths) gets more oxygen to your brain, slows down your heart and lowers your blood pressure. Do what you love: Music, a good book, a good conversation with a friend are all great ways for the body to release endorphins, which in turn boosts your energy.
Don't let work become your life: Avoid sitting at your desk during lunch unless it's an absolute must. Even a quick walk around the office building will do you good; anything to take your mind off the job. Don't start answering emails if you know you're on your way out the door because five minutes can turn into 35.
What are some ways that you plan to make this a prosperous New Year?