This is a list of 20 new things to try—and make your life better—this year.
Whether you’re walking, biking, or driving, take the scenic road over the straight path, stop at a different coffee shop, and listen to a podcast instead of your usual playlist (or vice-versa). It’ll energize you and remind you that there’s always something new to discover.
2. Get addicted to a new book series
Now is the perfect time to pick up The Passage, the first in Justin Cronin’s riveting end-of-days trilogy about a vampire plague—and a little girl bent on saving the world. The third and final book comes out in 2014.
3. Turn off the TV
Lately I’ve been trying to keep “No-TV Mondays” in order to stay productive and active in my freetime. Find a night that works for you and focus on TV-free activities like reading, exercising, crafting, and cooking.
4. Write one thank-you note every morning
I read an interview with Likeable Local CEO Dave Kerpen where he attributed his business success to sending handwritten thank yous (between three and four!) every morning. I love the idea of starting my day off on a positive note—though I’m aiming for a more manageable single card each day.
5. Revisit an old hobby
Looking back, high school was a time for hobbies: soccer practice, piano lessons, art classes, student journalism—the list goes on and on. Sadly, few (if any) of those pastimes survive the transition to adulthood. Pick a hobby you haven’t visited in ages, and give it a second try. You’d be surprised at how quickly you can fall back into the rhythm.
6. Sign up for a class
Whether you’re interested in painting, dance, or Photoshop, research continuing ed and art classes in your town. You may just find your new calling. I did a beginner Photoshop last year and I’m going back for level 2 in 2014!
7. Diversify your grocery list
Add a new ingredient to your basket on every grocery trip—perhaps it’s a vegetable you’ve never cooked or an unfamiliar grain. It’ll force you to mix up your repertoire and you may find a new favorite. I’ve got my eye on amaranth and celtuce.
8. Start a 5-year journal
You’ll be able to see your thoughts on each day of the year, lined up side-by-side for five years in a row. It’s a really cool way to see how far you’ve come (and celebrate unexpected anniversaries). It that feels too ambitious, start with the One Line a Day book.
Take a social media hiatus. Do it for one week, one month, or even more, cutting out all the updates, humblebrags, filters, and hashtags. It’s fun to embrace digital connectedness, but even better to feel private and removed from the noise, knowing that your day is unaffected, and perhaps even more special because you needn’t broadcast it to everyone.
10. Learn to speed read (in one hour)
While speed reading may seem like the stuff of mavens, you can actually learn this incredible skill in just a matter of hours—no decade-long hermitage required. As it turns out, our natural reading pace is hindered by a few bad habits, which can be broken with a series of targeted exercises. We’re talking increases of 300 percent or more, in the time it takes to watch an episode ofBreaking Bad.
11. Get closer to inbox zero
Over the years I’ve played fast and loose with my email address, and as a result get hundreds of emails a week—offers from hotels I’m never going to visit, daily deal alerts I’ll never use, and way too many social media notifications. Recently I signed up for Mailstrom, a new service that doesn’t just help you declog your inbox—it makes it easy to unsubscribe from all those useless updates with a few taps. It’s well worth the small monthly fee to keep me sane in 2014.
12. Build something
You may not think of yourself as a master craftsman, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put your hands to use. With a few tools, a trip to Home Depot, and some good old fashioned gumption, you’d be amazed at the things you can make without any formal training. The projects section ofMAKE Magazine is a great place to start, featuring DIY hacks ranging from custom cookie cutters to arobotic butler.
13. Play a game
Video games aren’t rotting your brain after all. InReality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, Jane McGonigal explains how games can actually make us healthier and happier. (She’s not talking about “Grand Theft Auto,” though.) I’ll be looking to Kill Screen’s Playlist newsletter for game inspiration.
14. Use your phone to sleep better
I bolt when I hear my alarm no matter what sound I program it for (currently: bell crescendo). But I’m determined to improve my sleep without just snoozing till I wake up naturally. That’s whereSleep Cycle comes in—the app gently rouses you when you’re in your lightest sleep phase.
15. Plan a trip
Studies have shown that planning a trip gives you a happiness boost—even before you actually take off. Why? It gives you something to look forward to and inspires you to think beyond your daily to-do list. Personally, I’m dreaming of a trip to Spain.
16. Pick up a new habit
Pick one small habit and tackle it. Research shows that making one change in your life—such as writing down everything you spend money on—will help you not only save money (without you consciously choosing to budget) and will help you in other ways of your life. You can carry this over into any part of your life or work. I picked up tons of good ideas for 2014 in The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg.
17. Get Your Workout Done in 10 Minutes Flat
Stop making fitness goals you can’t keep. Instead, add a short, high impact, full-body workout to your daily or weekly routine. To make it as easy as possible we asked Under Armour Fitness Expert and creator of the NUFit fitness method, Natalie Uhling, to create a custom routine for our members. No equipment or gym membership required!
18. Subscribe to a new publication
Bust yourself out of the three to five media outlets that make up your typical rotation, and reach for a publication that brings a new perspective or handles an unfamiliar topic. You’ll learn a lot, and be exposed to new ideas and opinions (and possibly a new hobby).
19. Make a standing friend date
With everyone’s schedules so insane, it can be a nightmare to try and get a group outing together. Instead, try instituting a recurring event. A couple of years ago, two friends of mine started a bimonthly happy hour with a list of about 20 people. Every other Friday, we gather at a different bar—whoever’s in town and available joins, and there’s no pressure if you can’t make it. Today, the list has grown to over 200, and it’s become a great way to both keep up with old friends and make new ones.