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The Most Productive Things to Do Every Day In January to Start the Year Off Right

These 31 simple moves will help you save money, lose weight, improve your relationships, and find more free time for the people and things you love.

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Lock your credit down like Alcatraz

2017 was the year of the credit hack—Equifax’s mega-breach that leaked 150 million social security numbers was just the tip of the iceberg. Start with freezing your credit and then make sure you’re doing these 23 things to prevent identity theft now.

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Come up with a “not-to-do” list

To-do lists are a fabulous productivity tool (not to mention that to-do lists help you live longer) but they only work if you’re not distracted by a million other little things. Counteract this effect by writing down a short list of common distractions you want to stop doing—like checking Facebook on your phone, snacking between meals, or watching TV in bed—and post it where you can see it.

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Wind up your holiday lights neatly

The holidays are over, so it’s time to pack up the decorations. Take a few extra minutes now to wind up lights, place balls in crush-proof boxes, and organize all your pretty baubles, figurines, and ornaments. You’ll thank yourself in 11 months. (P.S. Having tangled lights is just one of 18 holiday decorating mistakes you might be making.)

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Design your own menu

Sure you could hire a meal-planning service, but who knows your tastes better than you? Save money, stress, and calories by sitting down and planning out your meals for the month, suggests Tonya Dalton, productivity expert, owner of inkWELL Press and host of Productivity Paradox podcast. “Now when you go home at the end of the day, you can look forward to family time rather than dreading the question, ‘What’s for dinner?‘ each night,” she says.

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Create an iron-clad shopping list

Walking into a store with no plan and no budget is how you end up with an $8 jar of artisanal pickles and nothing for dinner. So now that you’ve created your monthly menu (you have, right??), use it to make a grocery list and simplify your shopping, Dalton says. Check out these pro secrets for healthier grocery shopping.

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Go high tech for bills

Thanks to auto-bill pay, online bank accounts, and text reminders, there is absolutely no excuse to pay a bill late. The only trick is to make sure you’ve signed up for these time-saving tech tools.

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Practice the “one a day” principle

Feeling like nothing you do is right? Trying to make everyone happy all the time is a recipe for frustration, but you certainly can make one person happy today, explains Mark Sanborn, leadership development speaker and author of The Encore Effect. Make a goal today to make just one person—a family member, a client at work, a stranger—happy, and you’ll likely succeed twice over, thanks to how good you’ll feel afterward. This is the best thing you can do to make someone’s day.

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Save your dentist’s number in your phone

Good health starts with good hygiene and that is especially true when it comes to your mouth. (Take, for instance, these shocking diseases that dentists often find first.) Unfortunately, many dentists are scheduling check-ups and cleanings months in advance. Take time today to call and set up all your appointments for the year.

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Let a savings app make you the responsible adult you pretend to be

Saving money doesn’t have to be a painful slog of deprivation—in fact, with the latest “set it and forget it” financial apps, it’s practically a no-brainer. Install an app like digit (and start practicing these habits of good money savers) and you’ll be saving in no time. 

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Take the nagging out of housework with this trick

Divvying up chores can be more work than doing them, so create a chore chart system that informs everyone of exactly what they need to do. “Sit down in a family meeting and brainstorm a list of chores that need to be done around the house,” Dalton says. “Then create a master chore list.” (Start with these 30 little chores you’ll be glad you did a year from now.)

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Don’t wait for Facebook to remind you it’s your mom’s birthday

Stay on top of loved one’s birthdays by taking 15 minutes now and scheduling them into your calendar for the year. (Bonus: If you’re using a digital calendar, set it to repeat every year.) For a little extra fun, add these national food holidays.

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Put a donation box in your closet

Does cleaning out your closet feel too daunting? Declutter one piece at a time with this tip from Beth Becher, professional organizer and owner of B Organized. “Keep an empty bin at the bottom of your closet and when you try something on that doesn’t fit right or that you don’t like for any reason, toss it in there for donation,” she says. “You pare down as you go, and once the bin is full, it’s time to donate!” Keep the momentum going with these 13 tips professional organizers won’t tell you for free.

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Slash your cell phone bill

Phones have become one of the biggest household expenses, yet companies are always running new deals and promotions—if you know to ask for them. Even if you’re happy with your service, take a few minutes to call customer service and see if they can cut you a better deal. And make sure you’re also using these seven other tricks to lower your phone bill.

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Actually write down your bucket list

Lots of people talk about having a bucket list, but how many have actually written one down? The sky’s the limit for what you can dream but you’ll never get any of the items accomplished if you don’t know what you’re aiming for. To get you started, check out the 32 secrets of people who’ve crossed major items off their bucket lists.

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Sign up for ballroom dancing lessons with your spouse

The average couple argues six times per month, or 72 times per year, according to Grant Langston, CEO of eHarmony. Short-circuit these fights (or at least make up for them) by signing up for an activity you can do together, like dancing or cooking. Start with these 10 date night ideas that are way better than a Netflix binge.

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Play the unsubscribe game

Inbox so cluttered you dread checking your e-mail? Take 20 minutes right now and unsubscribe from every e-mail list you don’t actively enjoy. For those from which you can’t unsubscribe, mark them as spam. It’s just one of the 11 ways the most productive people handle their e-mails.

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Ditch your resolutions for this one word

If you’re like most people, by February you’ll have already fallen off the wagon when it comes to those grand new year’s resolutions you just made. But the problem isn’t your resolutions, it’s how you think about them, says Ty Belknap, life coach, and CEO of MyCoach.Life. Swap the word “resolution” for “vision” and build a complete picture of what you hope to accomplish this year. Write down a vision statement and then you can work on creating small steps to achieve it, he explains. These are the resolutions you should never make.

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Pick a credit card to pay off

Whether it’s paying off a credit card, resolving your student loans, or refinancing your home for a better rate, set a financial goal you can achieve this year. Having a goal will keep you focused when impulse purchases are calling your name. Need ideas? Start with these eight financial goals from the pros.

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Purge your “friends”

Social media is the ultimate time suck (not to mention Facebook and the like can wreck your self-esteem) but quitting it completely isn’t the answer for everyone. So make your feeds about keeping up with only those people you care about by purging your friend list of anyone you don’t know or who brings you down. While you’re in there, delete any photos you don’t like, erase old posts, and untag yourself from embarrassing pics. Here’s how to have a healthy relationship with social media.

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Toss expired medications

Whether you’ve got 10-year-old OTC cough syrup or an old bottle of prescription painkillers in the back of your cabinet, it’s time to toss any expired medications—both for your health and for the safety of the others in your home. Don’t flush meds down the toilet though; take them to a pharmacy for proper disposal.

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Deep-six the moldy yogurt from the back of your fridge

You’ll be much more likely to eat all those healthy fruits and veggies if they’re not jammed into a cluttered, dirty fridge, says Beth Derrick, Life Coach at Live Good, Live Well. Food for thought: It will never get easier (and may get harder) to clean the fridge than it is today.

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Feng Shui your bedroom

Even if you don’t believe in the art of arranging furniture to maximize energy, rearranging your bedroom with a spiritual goal in mind can give you a fresh perspective. Plus it’s a great excuse to clean out all the junk under your bed and maybe buy a cute new lamp or rug—here are some feng shui tips to keep in mind.

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Give old electronics a new life… somewhere else

Got old phones, computers, tablets, or other outdated tech lying around? Start by clearing any personal data to protect your identity before donating personal electronics (do a factory reset, if possible), and donate or recycle your unwanted gadgets.

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Make a tax file

April may seem a long way off but tax season will be upon us before you know it. Save yourself a headache in four months by creating a special folder (in real life and on your computer) for any and all tax-related documents so you’ll have everything together when you need it. In the meantime, brush up on these 23 tips tax accountants won’t tell you for free.

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Put a gratitude journal on your nightstand

Being grateful is one of the simplest and best ways to improve your mental and physical health and improve your overall quality of life (here are some other health benefits of gratitude). Make gratitude easy by placing a blank notebook and a pen on your bedside table, where you can see it (and use it!). Make it a goal to write down three things daily. Let these gratitude quotes inspire you.

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Be a big brother or sister, even if you have no siblings

Volunteering is a great way to meet people, lift your spirits and make a positive impact in your community. Not sure what to do? Visit VolunteerMatch or check out our list of nine creative ways to volunteer and make a difference.

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Find and friend a local farmer

Your farmer’s market is a goldmine of local, seasonal, fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and specialty items. Locate the closest farmers market, sign up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) program, or use a site like LocalHarvest to buy direct. And you don’t have to spend a fortune—use our 13 secrets to getting a good deal at the farmers market.

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Invite your family to a business meeting

In a way, your home is your business and your spouse and kids are your partners, so everyone should take an active role in making things run smoothly. Start by scheduling a family meeting. “Think of it like a business team meeting that’s designed to make sure everyone’s productive and in the loop,” says Darylevuanie Johnson, a licensed counselor and owner of In Session Counseling & Consulting, LLC. “Check in with one another regarding interpersonal issues and various shared responsibilities.” Even better: Schedule a weekly family meeting.

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Take it out, put it back

It may seem like your kitchen exploded in chaos overnight, but rooms get dirty one item at a time—and they can get clean one item at a time, Derrick says. It’s simple: Every time you take something out, take the extra 10 seconds to put it back when you’re finished. Bonus: Use these nine quick tips to really clean your kitchen.

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Make a daily date with your budget

“Balance your checkbook, use an app such as Mint or LearnVest, or use your bank’s online system to establish a regular routine of checking daily spending habits and budget,” Derrick says. “Letting this get out of control can cost thousands in interest payments, late charges, unused and unnecessarily purchased items as well as a lowered credit score which in worst cases, can prevent you from getting jobs, homes, and transportation.” Start with these 17 habits of people who are good at saving money.

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Make a fitness plan

There are as many ways to get fit as there are bodies looking to be fit. Decide what fits best with your personality—at-home workouts, a personal trainer, online tutorials, gym classes—and make a plan to get some daily movement. You’ll be surprised at how much exercise can improve so much more than your waistline. Use this trick to actually enjoy exercise.

These are the resolutions that will make you happiest this year.

Charlotte Hilton Andersen
Charlotte Hilton Andersen, BS, MS, has been covering health, fitness, parenting, and culture for many major outlets, both in print and online, for 15 years. She's the author of two books, co-host of the Self Help Obsession podcast, and also does freelance editing and ghostwriting. She has appeared in television news segments for CBS, FOX, and NBC.