Let’s face it: January 1 — the dead of winter — is probably the worst time of the year to turn over a new leaf. Everyone’s exhausted from the holidays, weather’s usually terrible, and the big seasonal foods are hardy greens and root vegetables (which might be exactly nobody’s favorite treats). It’s no wonder that 46% of people who make a new year’s resolution have abandoned it by the time February rolls around.
So this year, why not make a spring resolution. The timing couldn’t be better: As the trees start to get new leaves and you can find once again find crisp peas and tender asparagus at the farmer’s market, spring is a natural time to take a cue from Mother Nature and make a fresh start of your own.
Here are some tips for reaching your spring goals around Finding Balance:
1) I want to create a savings plan
Experts suggest you have a nest egg equal to three to six months’ worth of expenses. Sound like a steep goal? Keep in mind it’s just that: a goal. And small, steady savings are the way to get there.
If you don’t already have a budget, start by simply keeping a list of all your expenses for a month or two. Money management sites can help you keep track of what you’re spending, and many are free. After you’ve established your “baseline” spending, it’s easier to decide where you can cut some expenses and put the remainder into savings.
Once you decide on an amount, have it put into a savings account automatically. Many online banks and local credit unions offer better rates than the Wall Street banks, so it pays to shop around for a place to stash your savings. And if your employer matches your 401(k) contributions, make sure you’re contributing as much as you can to get the full match — as they say, it’s free money!
2) I want to create better work-life balance
When you’re stressed and overloaded both at work and at home, balance can seem like an elusive goal. But you don’t need to make huge changes to beat burnout and get a little more Zen in your life.
For starters, put some thought into which activities waste time or sap your energy. Drop those that aren’t necessary or that don’t add anything to your life. And — just like you would with a savings account — “pay yourself first” with your time, too. At the beginning of the week (or month), schedule the things you care most about — as opposed to trying to fit them in when you’re already overloaded.
And if you feel guilty taking time to recharge, remember that the more stressed you are, the less effective you become, so protecting your downtime is actually win-win for your family and your employer as well.
3) I want to organize my most-used space
Tired of digging through stacks of paperwork to find the electric bill? Is the clutter in the garage driving you nuts? When you’re busy it’s easy to put off organizing your space and getting rid of clutter until you have more time.
But you can get started by committing to ten minutes a day. You can attack and organize a small area in that amount of time, and it’s short enough to seem like no big deal. At the end of a week, you’ll be impressed with your progress.
Look for inspiration on sites like Real Simple, which provides organizing tips and ideas for every room in the house. And check out The Container Store for attractive ways to organize and store toys, tools, towels, and more.
4) I want to focus on slowing down
It’s hard to have a sense of balance when our busy days are rushing by. Modern life is filled with ways to be doing something every second, or even several things at once. How do you create the habit of stopping to smell the roses?
Start by choosing some simple practices to help you be more present in the moment, like committing to eating without watching TV or other distractions. Or set an alarm on your phone a few times a day to remind you to breathe deeply, check in (with yourself, not social media!) and take a short break.
Another way to slow down is to make time for mindfulness meditation. This practice is getting the attention of scientists, and with good reason — studies show that mindfulness can lower stress and calm the mind, and may even have brainpower and mental health benefits.
5) I want to set aside specific times for online tasks
The Internet has changed the world in incredible ways. But it can also be a huge temptation to goof off when we have more important things to accomplish. (Why are there so many hilarious cat videos?) But technology might just be the solution to the problem it created: A growing number of apps will help you limit your Internet access so you can focus without digital distractions.
Freedom blocks all Internet access for the amount of time you specify. Anti-Social will block time wasters like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and any other social networks that you add to the list. StayFocused, a plugin for Google Chrome, allows access for a specific amount of time, and once your allotted time is over, the sites you’ve blocked will be inaccessible for the rest of the day.
6) I want to organize a personal or shared calendar
If you’re still keeping track of your life with a mix of calendars — a different one for family, work, and fun — you know the chaos that can result. Luckily, a plethora of handy apps and online calendars can help you keep track of everything in one place.
The best options make it easy to access and update your calendar from anywhere and share your schedule with family and friends; most will send you event reminders so you never miss an important meeting or milestone birthday. Google Calendar works on many platforms — Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and more —so it’s probably compatible with all your devices. Even better, it’s free.
Looking specifically for a calendar to organize the family? Check out Cozi, a free app and website that lets you share schedules, shopping and to-do lists, even a family journal.
7) I want to devote more time to my family
Quality time with family can restore our sense of what life’s all about and what we’re working for. But between school, chores, obligations, and errands, it can be easy to lose sight of the real prize. Here are a few ways to prioritize family time.
Try transforming those must-do items on your list into quality time. Enlist the kids in simple dinner preparation, or make a game of tidying the living room together. Yes, it’s probably faster if you do it solo, but involving the whole family gives you time to catch up and reconnect while you’re also getting things done.
Or create your own family traditions by setting aside one evening a week for a fun treat like seeing a movie, going bowling, or playing board games. You’ll enjoy it more if everyone commits to really being present: make a rule that kids and parents alike refrain from texting, surfing, and phone calls during family time.