27 Life Hacks To Make 2016 Your Best Year Yet
Want to be more organized, get fit and save money this year? Try these 27 ingenious — and easy — life hacks.
Additional reporting by Louise Atkinson
1. Make a healthy and filling breakfast — fast
“These easy-to-make protein pancakes keep you feeling full — thanks to more than 19 grams of protein from the egg whites and 4 grams of fiber from the oats,” says “Today” health and wellness expert Joy Bauer. “You’ll score more fiber from fresh fruit if you use it (as) a topper.”
- ½ cup quick-cooking oats
- 4 egg whites
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
- Makes 1 jumbo or 5 small pancakes
2. Stop wasting money
“Take a look at last month’s bank and credit-card statements and identify any recurring subscription fees for services that you may have forgotten about,” Roberge says. “Some examples are Netflix, BarkBox, a gym membership . . . You may be paying for things you no longer use.”
3. When in doubt, say yes
“Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rhimes writes in her 2015 book“Year of Yes” that her work life is betterbecause she now says yes when her kids ask her to play. “15 minutes . . . uninterrupted is the key: no cellphone, no laundry, no dinner, no anything. Wanna play? Yes. The more I play, the happier I am at work.”
4. Clean everything with one tool
“Magic Erasers are one of the few cleaning [items] worthy of being promoted as ‘magic,’ ” says Carolyn Childers of cleaning service Handy. “Unlike sponges — which require a cleaning solution to be soaked in — the water-activated micro-scrubbers in Magic Erasers reach into surface grooves to lift grease and soap scum.”
5. Prime yourself for a seat upgrade
If you’re traveling alone, don’t reserve a seat when prompted online. Should the cheap seats all get claimed, you might get a bump up to a roomier section — for free. “Chances are you’ll get to sit in an extra legroom seat for free on the major airlines,” says George Hobica of airfarewatchdog.com.
6. Sock away savings — effortlessly
Download the free app Acorns, which automatically invests your spare change. Connected to your debit or credit card, it rounds up spending to the dollar and invests the extra once you reach $5.
7. Get to the airport faster
When hitching a cab, download traffic app Waze and instruct your driver on the fastest route to save time and money.
8. Instantly sound more professional
Lizzie Post, co-host of the “Awesome Etiquette” podcast, recommends putting the kibosh on the casual “no problem” and “no worries.” Instead, rely on the old faithful “you’re welcome.”
9. Make a truly healthy smoothie
Too many people overload on carbs and calories with their supposedly “healthy” smoothies. Nutritionist Keri Gans recommends this fail-proof formula.
1 serving of frozen fruit (like 1 cup of berries or mango) + 1 cup of spinach or kale + 1 tablespoon of nut butter (almond, peanut, cashew or soy) + ½ cup low- fat plain yogurt and 1 cup of nonfat milk + 1 tablespoon of chia seeds for an extra hit of fiber.
10. Get rid of pests
To keep ants away, wipe down an affected area with white vinegar. For a mouse problem, dip cotton balls in peppermint oil and place around the house — they hate it. And use peanut butter, not cheese, in traps. Contrary to cartoons, rodents love PB more.
11. Clean up your keyboard
Use the sticky side of a Post-it note to pick up any between-key crumbs.
12. Spend less money
Studies show that if you have large bills in your wallet, you’re less likely to spend than if you’re carrying around fives and tens.
13. Charge your phone faster
Put it on airplane mode while charging, and you’ll actually save a few minutes in getting to 100 percent.
14. Don’t bother fighting aging
“Fighting aging is like the War on Drugs,” Amy Poehler says in her book “Yes Please.”“It’s expensive, does more harm than good, and has been proven to never end.”
15. Simplify tax season
“Avoid saving receipts with a free app called Expensify,” says Eric Roberge, founder of financial-planning Web site Beyond Your Hammock. “Take a picture of each receipt, record notes in the app, and then throw away that receipt . . . You can go online and access expense summaries by category, and it’s very convenient if you have an IRS audit.”
16. Focus on the routine — not the motivation
According to S.J. Scott, one of the reasons so many people fail in their exercise goals is that they keep waiting for some great “motivation” to strike. Forget about it, insists the author of “Exercise Every Day: 32 Tactics for Building the Exercise Habit (Even If You Hate Working Out).” Motivation is nothing compared to practice — the ritualization of an exercise habit and simply getting on with it. Over time, it’s this routine that will make the biggest difference in your quest to get fit.
17. Make your iPhone battery last longer
When you’re down to 20 percent, switch your settings to Low Power Mode — it stops all background apps from refreshing. (Just remember to switch it back later, so apps stay up-to-date.)
18. Don’t drain the bath straight away
Studies show the flu virus lives longer when air is cold and dry. You can humidify your home by leaving bath water to cool naturally (and moisture to evaporate into the air) before pulling the plug.
19. Cut out the snooze-button laziness
Use the Barcode Alarm Clock app, which requires you to scan a household item’s barcode — like from your toothpaste in the bathroom — to shut off the alarm.
20. Squeeze in the perfect workout
No excuses: Carve out 10 minutes, at least three days a week, for this full-body workout from Exhale Fitness founders Elisabeth Halfpapp and Fred DeVito.
Upper body: Lie on your stomach and push up into a forearm plank, with bent legs for beginners or straight legs for more advanced. Hold for one minute, then move to Step 2.
Thighs, Part 1: Stand with hands on hips and straight legs 2 feet apart. Bend knees over toes into a squat. Raise your heels a couple of inches, and hold for 30 seconds. Come back to standing with straight legs. Repeat eight times.
Thighs, Part 2: Stand with legs straight and raise up on the balls of your feet, keeping knees together. Balance for 30 seconds. Repeat three times.
Glutes: Lie on your stomach with legs slightly turned out, feet pointed. Bend forearms into 90-degree angles and place atop each other, resting your forehead on your arms. With hips on the floor, lift one leg off the ground and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on other leg for 30 seconds, then lift both and hold for 30 seconds. Rest, then extend and lift legs and arms for 30 seconds, in a Superman pose.
Stretch: Sit with legs in a wide V facing up to the ceiling. Bend to the right and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the left, then in the center of the V.
21. Send e-mails faster
In Gmail, enable the Canned Responses feature to save text you send regularly in work-related emails. That way, messages reminding people to gather for, say, a weekly meeting are sent in a snap.
22. Stay upright on slick sidewalks
Walk like a penguin when you’re on ice. Keep your center of gravity over your front leg when you walk and point your feet outward to stabilize balance.
23. Pick up broken glass safely
A piece of soft bread is great for collecting extra-tiny shards of glass.
24. Pack better
Save free hotel-room shower caps to store pairs of shoes in your suitcase, and keep your clothes safe from dirt.
25. Put first things first
“Organize and execute around priorities,” writes author Stephen Covey in the 25th edition of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” And do it every day when you get into work. Focus on the big stuff, and leave the little stuff last. In doing so, you’ll tackle the most important items on your to-do list, and you’ll probably end up realizing that several of the less important items don’t merit your attention at all.”
26. Sneak in extra nutrients
Add a scoop of pumpkin puree to spaghetti sauce. It adds lots of vitamins and minerals — like potassium and iron — and you won’t even taste it.
27. Make a better cup of coffee
“Put a little vanilla extract in ¼ cup of milk, warm it in the microwave and then stir into coffee,” says health expert Joy Bauer. “You can add a dash of nutmeg or cinnamon. It’s delicious and will make you feel like you splurged for a $5 cup at a coffee chain.”