The quest for self-improvement comes sharply into focus as the start of a new year looms. It's easy to imagine yourself pumping iron and making green smoothies whilst it's still December and you're blanketed in Quality Street wrappers, less so when January rolls around and you actually have to do it.
Instead of promising to upheave your entire life with wildly unrealistic goals you're bound to fall short of, make small adjustments that don't feel like a huge sacrifice and you'll reap those sexy long-term rewards. As Mark Twain once wisely said, "Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection."
1. Get up seven minutes earlier
Seven minutes is nothing, likely the amount of time you wait for a train without protesting. It is also a reasonable amount of time to deduct from your sleep and dedicate to exercise. The 7 minute work out app is the easiest work out you'll ever do, no excuses about having to pack for the gym or it being too cold to run, all you need is your phone and a floor.
The app has different intensity levels so doesn't feel intimidating and is an endorphin-boosting way to start the day that you'll see real difference with but doesn't need huge motivation. You can get through seven minutes of almost anything after all.
If you do have a little longer, these simple workouts can be done in 15 minutes or less.
2. Don't give Pret all your money
Gone are the days of the humble cafe where you can get a baked potato for £2, now we must spend nearly a tenner on a salad pot with three prawns and some kale in it. Don't make your working week any more miserable than it has to be by giving the same chain your money every single day.
Becoming a tupperware tyrant might seem unappealing but bringing your own lunch in means eliminating a boring choice from your day, saving money and exercising some control over giving into another quick pizza when you're starving. Cook an extra portion of your dinner and put it aside or add standby salad ingredients to the protein of what you've cooked. If you're feeling more inspired these one tub lunch recipes are satisfying and healthy.
3. Save 1p extra every day
Saving money is exactly the sort of boring task that makes adulthood a wildly unappealing prospect, especially if you haven't got any cash to spare. You've probably heard your granny mumbling "Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves"' and of course regularly putting aside small amounts has a cumulative effect but what if it was so small you never noticed?
Enter the 365 day money saving challenge. Ignore the tragic name, all it means is putting aside a penny more every day so 1p on day 1, 2p on day 2 etc. The most you'll ever have to put in is £3.65 on the last day of the year and you'll have racked up £667.95 without even noticing. Print off a guide here if you're old school, or arrange a repeat direct debit with your bank and watch those pennies clock up.
If you're looking for other creative ways to make cash, here's some ideas that include dog-sitting and recording a voiceover.
4. Stop going to work in a hoodie
If you happen to work in some urban media conglomerate that runs on Flat Whites and Nike Roshes then fine, wear away. However, if you're trying to dress a little smarter for the daily grind or get some space from that weekend grey hoodie you're sick of then cultivate a work uniform.
The beauty of a work uniform is that is doesn't have to be smart it just means narrowing down your look into several pieces that are easy to wash, relatively smart and you feel good in. This might be some unbranded white trainers with a grey shirt or could be a plain black jumper and some cropped flat front trousers. It can be as simple as just buying a stack of Gap plain white t-shirts. Upending the laundry bin and dashing around in your pants every morning is stressful and tedious. With a work uniform you'll feel more sorted, waste less time and you won't have to keep worrying about the looks your Family Guy t-shirt is getting.
5. Have an argument time out
The whole "new year new you" thing is great, but if you've got someone else in your life make sure you're giving that some TLC too. Stepping away from an argument can stop you saying that awful thing about her mum that you can never take back, it also puts your fight into perspective and defuses the tension.
Regardless of the seriousness of the argument, if tension is building make a pact to go into separate rooms for at least five minutes. Literally time yourself. If the argument is still worth having, go ahead but you'll often find the space to reflect spares you pointless rows. Think of your relationship as a scene of The Hurt Locker and this your personal bomb disposal mission.