10 Ways to Achieve Your Personal Best in 2017

From losing weight to starting a new career, area experts share tips on attainable resolutions.



PURGE YOUR COMPUTER

Digital files are so easy to neglect. But as they pile up, they can derail organizational systems and slow computers. Janet Bernstein has been tackling this problem for 10 years. Her Wayne-based Organizing Professionals creates intuitive, finely tuned systems to eleminate cyber clutter. 

It’s not a complicated process, which might be a surprise to some of us. But it does require patience and commitment. Bernstein recommends backing up files in at least two places. “Once you decide which digital storage will work for you, you have to commit to it,” she says. “Time and again, I see clients save a few things on their desktop, Dropbox and their Google Drive, and they have no idea where to retrieve them.” 

Piles of paper can be easily digitized, too. Bernstein recommends assessing everything coming through the mail and switching to paperless statements whenever possible. Keep necessities like birth certificates and marriage documents in a fireproof lockbox. The rest can be filed or shredded—based, of course, on a personal accountant’s recommendation. 

Finally, Bernstein proposes having two email addresses—one for communication with friends and family, the other for junk mail. “The two should never meet,” she says. “All of these little things that are unorganized weigh you down and cause anxiety and stress. When you start tackling them, the weight comes off. It’s another way of feeling calmer, more at peace and in control of your life.”   

 

MIND YOUR MONEY

“Make 2017 the year to bring order and purpose to your investments,” says Patti Brennan, president and CEO of Key Financial, Inc. in West Chester. 

Lay out everything—401(k)s, 529 college savings accounts, wills and trusts—to get a comprehensive overview of your personal financial health. Know what’s coming in, what’s going out, and what’s saved for taxes, upcoming events and vacations. 

With a clear picture, you can then optimize your investments, Brennan says. Take a deep dive into 401(k)s and truly understand the terms. Look at income-tax situations, and make sure there are no hidden additional taxes. If there are, find out how to avoid them.

And while you’re at it, it’s important to update or create a will. Take into consideration your children’s ages, as well as any grandkids.’

“Your assets represent a legacy of work and savings,” says Brennan. “Make sure the will reflects your wishes and values.”

And last but not least, prepare for a bear market. Brennan doesn’t know when it is coming, but she knows that it will. “Expect to lose value at least once every three years,” she says. “The risk is not that the market will go down. The risk is that you won’t be properly planned to survive it.”

Heather Glazer

Heather Glazer/Personal Trainer

SHAPE UP

One hour per day is all beginners need to execute an effective workout. So says Heather Glazer, a personal trainer at Wayne’s Chiropractic Spine Center.

Start with 15 minutes of low-impact cardio three times a week. Do strength training for 30 minutes twice a week. Alternate upper body with lower body. Do abs and lower back every day. “Do 15 reps at one weight, with the last two feeling challenging,” she says. “When that feels easy, increase the weight or number of reps.” 

How can weekend warriors take their workouts to the next level? Get evaluated by a certified personal trainer like Glazer. Even one session can lead to major changes. “Correcting form can make a big difference, as can introducing exercises to address asymmetry in the right and left sides of the body,” says Glazer. 

Golfers and tennis aficionados can up their games by increasing their strength training and flexibility. “I have many clients who see a golf pro and see me,” Glazer says. 

New moms flock to Glazer—after all, she’s a mother herself. Glazer had her third child at age 41, getting back into shape in record time. “The key is to start a conditioning program while pregnant to gain or maintain strength in the core muscles,” she says. “After your delivery—and after you get clearance from your OBGYN to start exercise—do weight-resistance training.” 

But don’t just leap into Zumba or Pilates. Avoiding injury is goal number one, so get evaluated by a trainer, and consider spending time in a medically supervised gym. 

 

EAT THIS, NOT THAT

No carbs, no sugar, no booze? No way. 

Exton-based nutritionist Sharon Howard tells clients to be realistic, explaining the formula for weight loss: One pound of body fat is 3,500
calories. To lose a pound per week, divide 3,500 by seven days to get 500 calories. That’s how many calories need to be eliminated per day to meet that weight-loss goal. 

“The next step is to know how many calories are in foods and drinks,” says Howard. “Then we find 500 calories to remove.”

Downsize, Howard suggests. “Do you need a 12-inch hoagie, or can you get a six-inch, then eat something else later if you’re hungry?” she poses.

Have five small meals a day, and pack them with protein and fiber. Bring lunch and snacks to work. Eat a snack before you leave for home so you’re not ravenous and tempted to overeat when you walk in the door.

Home is filled with food land mines. People who buy in bulk often overeat, so use one bag or box at a time, and stash the rest out of sight. Make a rule that eating has to be done in the kitchen, not in front of the TV or in bedrooms. “You won’t eat as much if you have to stay in the kitchen while you eat it,” says Howard. 

And if you do slip up, don’t give up. “If you’re in control of your diet 80 percent of the time, celebrate that because it’s sustainable,” Howard says. “Don’t expect 100-percent perfection—that sets you up for failure.”

 

BE NICE TO NATURE 

As the climate continues to change and the oceans warm and slowly rise, some of us wonder what we can do in our own lives to help reverse the process. Being too busy or undereducated on the issues might have been excusable in the past, but being conservation-minded doesn’t take a great deal of effort these days. 

It starts with being conscious of your carbon footprint. “It’s everything that you use that causes the production of carbon—even meat has a carbon footprint,” says Robert Jondreau, executive director of the Pennsylvania Resources Council’s eastern division. 

To be a little greener, Jondreau recommends the classic adage “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”—and, when possible, to “rot,” or compost. Simple changes include using reusable bags, turning down the thermostat by just one degree (which also saves money, by the way) and taking public transportation or bicycling places. Even collecting rainwater in barrels—available at places like the PRC—to use for watering plants can help. 

As for recycling, many of us toss things in the bin without a second thought, but townships all approach the process differently. “Familiarize yourself with the plastic numbers on the bottom of containers. Many communities have single-stream recycling. If you’re putting in non-recyclables like Styrofoam, it costs money,” says Jondreau. “We live in a world of chemistry, and there is a way to live harmoniously—as long as we believe that it’s our responsibility to take care of the environment.”

Carrie Kauffman

Carrie Kauffman/Professional Organizer

CLEAN HOUSE

Carrie Kauffman has been tackling Main Line clutter for four years. “I can work on one area—like the garage or kitchen—or the entire home,” says Kauffman. “I really listen to everything my clients have to say during our initial meeting. Then, once we start working together, I adjust the project for them.”

The Bryn Mawr-based professional organizer has a growing client base of folks looking to whip their homes into shape before they put them on the market. “Moves are major for everyone,” she says. “Doing it in an organized way can help ease the stress.”

Kauffman also helps small-business owners and entrepreneurs. “I come in and get the job done,” says Kauffman, who runs the popular Facebook page, Getting Organized on the Main Line. “I always ask people, ‘What is your time worth? Do you really want to do this on your time off? Let me use my talent so you can enjoy your time with your family.’ That makes it worth it.” 

Ashley Meyers/Fashion Consultant

LOSE THE YOGA PANTS

If you’ve ever found yourself standing in front of a closet full of clothes saying, “I have nothing to wear,” it’s time to call Lula Belle Fashion’s Ashley Meyers. Although she’s always had a knack for assembling on-trend looks, it’s only been a year since the Berwyn resident parlayed her talent into a full-time business. 

A favorite on Meyers’ list of services is the “Closet Edit,” where she approaches a client’s wardrobe in a fresh, nonjudgmental eye. She helps determine what does and doesn’t work for body type, which items that should be donated, and what colors are most flattering. She then puts together outfits with existing pieces. 

Don’t worry, though. Meyers won’t get rid of everything and start from scratch. She prides herself on making budget-conscious changes. “I always want clients to get the biggest bang for their buck,” she says. 

Once her assessment is over, Meyers prepares an online gallery of the outfits she put together. It also includes a list of items they may be missing, along with links to ideas she thinks would work well for them. “It helps them have a better idea of what they should be looking for when they go shopping,” she says. 

Meyers’ services are about more than just clothes. “When I first started in this business, my goal was to get us moms out of our yoga pants and zip-up sweatshirts, and really look pulled together,” she says. “A huge part of my job is giving back self-confidence to my clients. I really want to clear out the self-doubt they may have and fill them back up with great self-talk.”

Angela Tekely

Angela Tekely/College Dean

LEARN SOMETHING

There are many reasons to get a bachelor’s degree, whether it’s for career advancement or achieving a lifelong dream. To help, continuing-education courses are offered at different colleges and universities throughout the region, including Immaculata University’s College of LifeLong Learning. A myriad of career-friendly programs allow for individuals with busy schedules to carve out time to earn a degree. 

“So many of the students at Immaculata who are going back to school are balancing multiple priorities,” says Angela Tekely, dean of the College of LifeLong Learning at Immaculata hey have children of their own, but they’re also caring for aging parents and have work commitments.”

Before you commit to returning to school, Tekely recommends making a list of goals and then seeking a program that fits—whether that’s online, in the evenings, or a combination of both. “Find an institution that offers the degree you’re interested in and a format that works with the multiple priorities and demands in your life. Then set attainable goals,” she says. 

Beyond the logistics, Tekely recommends that prospective students talk openly with their families, friends and colleagues. “If you’re unable to do things because you’re doing homework, you need to be able to share with them why that is and why you’re going back to school,” she says. 

Students in such programs tend to have careers—and they bring their real-life experience to the classroom. More than that, they can create a support system, since many returning students are going through similar life events. 

Ultimately, continuing education can happen at any stage in life. “Going back to school is one of the best things you can do," Tekely says. “No one can ever take that away.” 

TAKE A FULL-BODY INVENTORY

Start the New Year by taking a health inventory. Schedule a complete blood workup, including thorough testing to detect thyroid and adrenal gland imbalances. Keep a three-day food log to get an honest view of what you’re eating and how that impacts your mood, energy and sleep. “Poor sleep is a symptom of your overall health,”says Dr. Georgia Tetlow of Philadelphia Integrative Medicine in Wayne. “Instead of taking a sleep aid, try to figure out why it’s happening and if there’s something you need to change.” 

Establish a mind-body practice. Don’t just go to a yoga or tai chi class. Mind-body apps are great tools, as are the free eight-week mindfulness classes taught at most major medical centers. “Learn a skill that becomes yours so you have an independent practice and can do it anywhere, on your own schedule,” Tetlow says. 

Consider testing DNA for genetic disease factors. Do the same for your microbiome, the billions of organisms living in humans—especially in GI tracts. "Your gut microbiome contains 100 times more genes than your DNA,” Tetlow says. 

Among other things, microbiome regulates nutrient absorption, plays a large role in weight management, processes toxins, and affect the immune system. Such testing gives Tetlow important information that leads to proactive treatments.

Mindy Thomas

Mindy Thomas/Career Consultant

CHANGE CAREERS

Whether you're recently laid off, lacking advancement options, or no longer liking the culture at work, changing jobs can alter your life dramatically. “The foundation of making a good career decision is a self-assessment process,” says Mindy Thomas, founder and president of Thomas Career Consulting in Media and a certified professional résumé writer. 

Thomas uses a triangular model for those shifting directions. The self-assessment part is at the bottom, followed by an exploration of options, all leading to a decision. She can help you evaluate your skill sets as they pertain to what you truly enjoy doing. 

“We look at the options against—and in the context of—what’s important to you. [We measure] the skills you have against market demand. Research and due diligence are essential,” she says. 

Going through a transition can be an overwhelming process, and it’s not uncommon to make rash decisions that fail to lead to any significant life change. But making the right choice can be empowering. “When you’re doing meaningful work and getting the recognition, there’s nothing like that validation,” says Thomas.

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