New Years Resolutions For 2013

Well, they’re not really resolutions, but more like spring cleaning.  Not promises to yourself that you’ll break by February 3, but actionable steps that will help you hit the ground running organized in 2013.  Here’s the list of things I do to kick off the new year.

Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.  Safety first.  You really should do this quarterly, but here’s your friendly reminder for 2013 if you haven’t done it yet.

Change your passwords.  It’s something you should do three or four times a year, but if you make it a point to change your passwords just once a year, you’re doing better than many that fall victim to having their accounts hacked.  I use a free, secure program called KeePass to keep my usernames and passwords safe.

Update your emergency “run book.”  Now that you’ve changed your passwords, print them out and put them in a secure, fire-proof paper file.  In that file, also freshen emergency contact information such as telephone numbers, insurance policy numbers and social security numbers.  When the shit hits the fan, you’ll have ready access to critical information you need.

Prune your social network.  There’s just no way you can even stay acquainted with 500+ Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections.  Unless you’re treating these accounts as you would a Rolodex (kids: ask your parents), you’re doing yourself a favor by culling your outer circle.  My rule of thumb is eliminate 10% of these lists each year.

Revisit your household budget.  You made at 2012 budget, right?  In the likely event your plans went astray, now’s your time to reset expectations with yourself and your family about how money will be spent and saved in 2013.

Revisit your time budget.  This is the one I’m most passionate about.  It’s probably more important than your money budget, and you don’t even realize it.  The smartest people in the world still haven’t figured out how to make more of it.  This one is also simple to do, but hard to stick to.  Map out your time in two ways:

  • In a two column table (this is easy to do in a spreadsheet), start out with the 8,760 hours that 2013 holds for you, and list out the major activities – particularly time consuming or something you do daily – with the number of hours you expect to use for each.  You’ll be surprised at how much time you actually have, and how quickly you can drop activities that just aren’t important.
  • Sketch out a typical calendar week.  You can also do this in a 7×48 cell spreadsheet – days of the week across the top and half-hours down the side.  You can think of this calendar as a template or rubber stamp for most of the 52 weeks in the year.

Organize your TODO list.  Focus first on killing off those (Covey) quadrant 3 and 4 tasks that aren’t important.  By “killing off,” I mean just scratch them off your list and don’t waste time doing them.

Cash in your spare change.  It’s probably been accumulating in a wooden bowl all year, and it’s time to cash in.  Your local megamart probably has a Coinstar that will happily eat those coins for free, provided you turn them into a gift card for stores like Amazon or the iTunes store.

Back up your computer’s files.  If you’re a Mac, this is braindead simple with Time Machine.  Use that Coinstar gift card and get yourself a 2 TB drive and let Time Machine do its thing.  If you’re a PC, well, good luck with that.  Kidding aside, Windows Backup seems to be a reasonable solution if you’re running Windows 7+, but I’ve never had to restore from a Windows Backup to know how painful it is.

Clean out your email inbox.  Same goes for your voice mail box.  Getting your inbox to zero is difficult, and sometimes it requires just letting go of e-mails that really won’t matter down the road.  At the very least, move lingering messages to a “reading list” folder, so you can keep your inbox clean and ready for the next onslaught of mail.

Review your investment portfolio.  Talk to your financial advisor about this one.

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