30 Days to a Better You
One small adjustment a day keeps life's little snafus away - and can get you on the right track in no time
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle said, "It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important." And while the creator of Sherlock Holmes, who spent most of his life in the 19th century, never had to deal with spam, carpooling schedules or the knowledge of bovine growth hormones, like his famous detective he may have been on to something. A life makeover is a pretty overwhelming idea, but by making small changes to your daily routine, you can exert minimal effort and see makeover-worthy results.
1. Get What You Want
If you feel you're being overlooked for something at the office, Sandy Scheppmann, a certified life coach with Life Makeover Specialists, Tustin, Calif., says it's best to voice your concern. "People aren't going to just notice you," she says. "You want them to, and the way to do that is to open your mouth and diplomatically ask."
2. Go Nuts
"Eat a handful of nuts every day, but from natural sources, not roasted in oil or honey roasted," says Gay Riley, a certified clinical nutritionist who maintains the Web site NetNutritionist.com. Riley says natural nuts provide a good source of unsaturated fats and vitamin E, in addition to being naturally anti-inflammatory.
"If you feel comfortable letting bills go directly to your credit card or checking account, it's one less step that you have to take, one less check to write, one less envelope to address," says Denise Caron-Quinn, founder and president of In Order to Succeed, New York City, a professional organizing firm. She adds that many credit card companies will give you airline miles or bonus points for paying bills on your card.
4. Say Yes to Yogurt
"Unless you're lactose-intolerant, yogurt every day keeps the culture of the intestinal tract healthy, and that's really important," Riley says. She suggests opting for plain natural yogurt and adding fresh fruit and honey rather than purchasing processed varieties.
5. Settle the Score
Even if you know your credit report is golden, Scheppmann advises checking it every three to four months. "Anything can happen - someone could be using your card, a technical glitch could come up - it's best to be sure," she says.
6. Milk Your Diet for All It's Worth
"Instead of getting your fat from fast food, get your fat from dairy," Riley says, encouraging 1 percent or 2 percent milk instead of skim. "One gram more of fat in your food is not a big deal." She also prefers organic or raw milk, which are produced from cows that are not injected with the growth hormone BST.
7. Grab-and-Go Must-Reads
"I always suggest clients keep a reading basket of things they want to take with them when they go to the doctor's office or when they know they're going to be on a train or airplane," Caron-Quinn says. "You can catch up on reading or work if it's somewhere where you can quickly grab it and don't have to go shuffling around looking for it."
8. Turn of Phrase
Scheppmann tells her clients to think and speak in terms of "getting to do something" rather than "having to do something." "It usually lightens any task you want to do because you automatically find the positive thing in what the task is all about," she says. "Changing your language on a day-to-day basis from negative to positive is healthier and more inspiring."
9. Enjoy Exercise
If your workout feels more repetitive than refreshing, tailor it to your interests. "It's almost like you really have to psych yourself out," says Michelle Theall, founder and publisher of Women's Adventure magazine. "That way you'll stick with it because it taps into who you are."
10. Make the Connection
"Trust your gut," Scheppmann says. "If your inner voice is thinking about someone, call them up or shoot them an e-mail. It brightens their day and it also clears emotional clutter in your life."
11. No Time Like the Present
Both Scheppmann and Caron-Quinn advise tackling little to-dos, such as bills and appointment scheduling, as soon as they pop up. "Take care of things when they show up, not when they blow up," Caron-Quinn says. "Even though there are a lot of mundane things that you'd like to put off, they don't go away by you just not doing them."
12. Can the Cola
"The major thing is to watch out for the sugar," Riley says. "If you drink two sodas a day, drink one. Instead of doing a fruit drink, do water and add your own fruit juice."
13. Clear the Clutter
"A lot of people are so worried about saving paper, but about 80 percent of the papers people file are never referred to again," Caron-Quinn says. "Think to yourself, 'What would happen if I didn't have this anymore? If I threw this out and really needed it, how difficult would it be to get this information again?'" She also notes that most user manuals, which can take up valuable home office space, can now be found online.
14. Skinny the Frap
Riley suggests skipping those caloric frozen coffee drinks altogether, but if you absolutely must have that frap, order the light version to cut out 140 calories. Hold off on the whipped cream to save even more.
15. Rough Draft Your Requests - Get Ahead
When Scheppmann's clients want to request something, she often has them put it in writing, whether the draft is actually sent or not. "You have to really define what you want and be able to articulate that," she says. "Ask specifically what you're looking for, complete with a time frame and legitimate reasons."
16. Multitask Your Workout
Caron-Quinn, who is also a registered nurse, sometimes fits in workouts while returning calls and reading reports. "I'd really like an hour to go to the gym or an hour to go for a run, but sometimes there are calls that can be made while I'm strolling," she says.
"Share whatever entrée you order," Theall says. "Or if you don't have someone to share with, ask for a doggy bag right away and put half of it away. As long as the food remains in front of you, you'll continue to eat."
18. Get a (Tech) Guru
"A huge time-waster is to try to get on the phone with tech support or someone who is just going to keep you on hold for just a really simple question," says Caron-Quinn. She suggests developing an ongoing relationship with a local specialist, someone who knows your system and can give quick advice over the phone or make house calls if necessary.
19. Steppin' Out
It may seem a little obvious, but walk wherever you can. "Every little errand that you can do on foot or by bike is going to make a huge difference, especially with gas prices being the way they are," Theall says. Your wallet and your waistline will thank you.
Caron-Quinn has recently started using a free system called Jot, which uses voice-activation software to send memos from her cell phone to family and friends. She says although it can be finicky at times, "It's a good way of getting something off your mind and having it remind you when you are able to sit down at your computer."
21. Fortify with Fiber
According to Riley, fiber increases motility in the intestinal tract and causes you to absorb sugar and fats more slowly in the bloodstream. "The average American gets maybe 10 grams a day, but you need 35 or more," she says. Sweet potatoes, apples, berries and beans are all great sources to increase your daily fiber intake.
22. Choose the Best Tools
If you're not a tech-savvy person, don't attempt the iPhone or Palm Pilot to organize. "There are paper systems out there that are wonderful and attractive," Caron-Quinn says. "Whatever tools you're using, they should be tools that you like to use."
23. Become an E-mail Aficionado
"Set up automatic folders so that your e-mails are automatically sent to folders when they come in," Caron-Quinn says. Scheppmann suggests creating contact lists of family and friends so updates or notifications can be sent quickly and efficiently.
24. DIY Dressing
"Instead of salad dressing, try balsamic vinegar with a little olive oil," Riley says. "You can use more of the vinegar and less of the oil, and you can do sesame oil with rice vinegar, so you can do your own with an Italian flare or an Oriental flare." Riley prefers this to pre-bottled dressings because they incorporate natural oils.
25. Get a (free!) Personal Assist
Caron-Quinn cites IWantSandy.com, which takes some time to set up, but acts as a virtual personal assistant and will send you, your family and friends e-mail updates, text message reminders and daily schedules to keep life running smoothly. If you don't want to go quite that far, programs like Gmail (Google) calendar allow you to keep a personal schedule and send yourself text message reminders.
Scheppmann suggests creating an e-mail group for family and friends, so that all can be notified or updated nearly instantly without typing out email addresses. "The wonderful thing about e-mail is that it's so quick," she says. "You can share the list with everyone else in the family."
27. Daily Downsizing
"Use the one-in, one-out policy," Caron-Quinn says. "If you buy a new sweater, try to choose a sweater you no longer wear to discard or donate. Make your decision ongoing so it's not such a big deal to take things down a notch."
28. Location, Location Location
"It's important to store things as close as possible to where you're going to use them," Caron-Quinn says. "That makes it much more likely that you're going to put them back where they belong. Everything should have a home."
29. Butter is Better
Even though most margarines are trans-fat free, Riley says they still contain saturation and hydrogenation in some way. "I like the idea of having a little bit of butter instead of nonfat margarine," she says, adding that the satiric acid in butter is good for your colon.
30. You're Not On the List
Caron-Quinn helps clients banish clutter by removing them from electronic and standard mailing lists. "That's a tremendous time-waster when you're trying to find your bills or correspondence in with stuff that you have no interest in," she says. There are a variety of online resources that allow you to mail in forms or electronically submit requests to stop the junk mail flow.could not select :Table 'contentdirect.templates' doesn't exist