Now, we'd never, ever, try to stand between you and your first marathon, a major weight loss, or the job of your dreams. Thinking big—and having big goals—is important, especially as you set your sights on a new year. That said, sometimes thinking a little bit smaller—in fact, maybe making just a few minor tweaks to your routine—can yield some pretty big W’s, too. That could mean just swapping out a single drink of the day for water and watching your weight plummet. Or using a simple timer at your desk that will up your productivity tenfold. Or even doing some very small, invisible exercises that will have a major impact on your sex life. Best of all: None of these tricks costs a nickel, and none of them takes much time. Yet according to experts from a range of disciplines—productivity, nutrition, dating, finance—they all offer measurable results.
1. To get things done, try the "pomodoro" technique
You know those red kitchen timers that are in the shape of a tomato?
That’s the inspiration for this hack.
Instead of trying to focus on work for hours on end, carve your time into 30-minute chunks. Work on a task for 25 minutes, then give yourself five minutes to goof off, zone out, or screw around on the Internet. Repeat.
“It’s highly effective,” says productivity guru Michael Sliwinski, CEO of nozbe.com. “When you really focus on your task and work on it without any distractions, you’ll be surprised by how well you can perform.”
2. To trim stress, do a "2 by 4"
“The less stress you have in your body, the better you’re able to perform. Stress makes you stupid,” says Emily Fletcher, the founder of Ziva Meditation. She recommends a simple hack that requires no knowledge of Zen, meditation, or mindfulness: what she calls the 2x breath.
“If you’re getting heated with a co-worker or your partner, simply stop and take a walk about the room or down the hall,” explains Fletcher. “As you walk, breathe in for two steps and out for four. Do this for a few minutes, then come back and finish the conversation. It gives you a way to calm the vagus nerve, which connects the brain to the body.”
3. To drop some fat, swap one drink for water
“Stop drinking one soda and replace it with water every single day,” explains nutritionist Mitzi Dulan, co-author (with NFL legend Tony Gonzalez) of The All-Pro Diet. “Doing this every day saves you 150 calories, which adds up to a yearly weight loss of 15 pounds.”
You might think, “Right, but I’m smarter than that, and I already switched to diet soda years ago.” Yet the same principle applies to healthier-looking drinks like juice. I used to drink OJ every morning because it feels healthy—vitamin C, right? But the average 12-ounce glass contains nine teaspoons of sugar...or nearly as much as a can of Coke.
4. To have better sex, do kegels (yes, really)
They might sound weird or scary or even, well, unmanly, but sex therapist Gloria Brame, Ph.D., (author of The Truth About Sex) says that kegels are the single best thing you can do to boost your performance in the sack.
“Kegels are essential for male sexual health. They keep your anatomy healthy, enhance virility, and assist with proper bladder and bowel function.”
Here’s how you do it: Clench down on the pelvic muscles for a few seconds, then release. Repeat three times. And you’re done. If you’re not sure exactly where these muscles are, go to a urinal. “Hold back your urine stream. Stop, let it start to flow, stop. Repeat two more times. Now you know which muscles you need to work,” says Brame. Doing the exercise is quick and easy. You can perform it at your desk, in your car, or in an elevator—whenever you have a free moment.
5. To tame your schedule, plan your day the night before
“Planning out your day the night before has significant benefits for both the early risers and the night owls,” advises Mike Vardy, founder of Productivityist. “Early risers can hit the ground running with their game plan, allowing them to be more productive from the get-go.” And if you’re a night owl? Suddenly you have an agenda that gives you direction in the grogginess of morning, letting you build momentum for later in the day.
6. To get wealthier, turn nickels into the S&P 500
A new crop of personal-finance apps will round up your purchases and invest the difference. “One of the best is called Acorns,” advises Andrew Schrage, partner and editor-in-chief of personal-finance blog moneycrashers.com. “Say you make a purchase for $4.50, then 50 cents gets invested into an ETF (exchange-traded fund) that holds a wide variety of different companies across different investing sectors.”
7. To strengthen your relationships, (always) tell women the truth
“Right now, say this sentence in your head: ‘I choose to tell women the truth, no matter what. I will be a man of my word,’” says dating and relationship coach Lindsay Chrisler. The logic? Too often we instinctively tell lies for her protection. This backfires. “Women don’t need protection. You may not sleep with the woman that night, but you will have integrity, a clear conscience, and higher-quality women surrounding you. The truth is the secret to a hot sex life.”
That, and clenched pelvic muscles.