Once we’ve finished celebrating and looking back on the year that’s passed, our attention usually turns to the year ahead. For many people, January is a time of self-development and reinvention. It’s a time to hit the ground running, get organised, and develop some healthy habits so that we can get the most out of the coming year.

If you’re looking to make 2024 your year, there are plenty of ways to use January to your advantage.

With this in mind, here are 11 different ways you can make the most of January.

1. Develop a new self-care habit

develop a new self-care habit

It might sound a bit contradictory, but when you want to be more productive, one of the most important things you can do is give yourself a break and make time to relax.

Many of us are so busy with work, family, and general life that we frequently get to the end of each day without having taken any real time for ourselves.

So, one of the best things you can do this January is to start practising self-care and make it a habit that you commit to throughout the year. Simply blocking off 30 minutes each day just for yourself can help you feel restored and protect your mental health and wellbeing.

What you choose to do with this time is up to you – you could have a bath, go for a run, do some yoga, practise mindfulness, or read a book. The key thing is to carve out some ‘me-time’ in the day to spend precisely how you want to.

For more ideas on how to look after your mental and physical health over the next few weeks, you might find it useful to browse the healthy mind section of our website and read our article; 33 self-care ideas to boost your mental and physical health this winter.

2. Do a winter clean

Do a winter clean

Many people use the new year as an excuse to give their house an early spring clean. And while it’s not a cure-all formula, having a clean, tidy home is proven to reduce stress and improve happiness. So not only will cleaning your home freshen up your living space, but it’ll likely re-energise your mood too.

Often the first step of a winter clean involves taking down and putting away your Christmas decorations. After this, you might want to take some time to give your home a deep clean. You may not find this the easiest or most enjoyable task, but one way to make it more fun is to play upbeat music to keep you motivated.

So why not make yourself a cleaning playlist? For inspiration, you might like to check out our article; 10 of the best Spotify playlists for every mood.

Cleaning can also be a surprisingly effective form of cardio, as chores like vacuuming and mopping floors can burn more calories than you might think. So not only will you be able to enjoy a cleaner, less cluttered home once you’re done, but you’ll also have got some exercise.

For more tips and tricks, have a read of our article; How to declutter and reorganise your home.

3. Set a fitness goal

set a fitness goal

Prioritising your health and fitness this January is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your mental and physical wellbeing.

Setting fitness goals and aiming to do more exercise is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions. But on cold, dark days, committing to exercising regularly can be challenging.

Whether you hope to run a marathon, lose some weight, or simply improve your general fitness, setting yourself goals is a great way to start the year with positivity. And whatever your goal is, making an exercise plan is one of the best ways to help you stick to a routine and achieve your goals.

Remember that no matter how difficult a fitness plan is to start, if you keep at it, it’ll soon become part of your normal routine.

For more ideas on staying fit this January, have a read of our guide to winter fitness motivation.

If you’re looking for new ways to get active, why not check out the upcoming fitness classes over on Rest Less Events? There’s everything from Pilates and Tai Chi to Afrofusion dance fitness and the Fizzical Experience with Mr Motivator.

4. Try Dry January

Try Dry January

Many of us would like to cut back on drinking alcohol, and after the excess of Christmas and New Year, January can be the perfect time to do so.

Rather than simply reducing your alcohol intake for a while, why not take part in the Dry January challenge, and commit to a whole month without booze?

It doesn’t matter if you missed the start of January: you can commit to 31 days of no drinking at any time of the year. The benefits of being sober for a month are powerful: research has found that 86% of people save money, 70% report better sleep, and 66% have more energy.

Plus, while there’s nothing wrong with the occasional drink, many of us are in the habit of reaching for alcohol after a hard day, or when we feel sad or stressed. Taking part in the Dry January challenge isn’t only a great way to improve your health, but it can also help you reject unhealthy coping mechanisms and develop healthy new habits instead.

If you’d like support with taking part in Dry January, why not visit the website below to download the app or sign up for coaching emails?

5. Take part in Veganuary

take part in veganuary

If you like a challenge, why not take part in Veganuary? Veganuary is an annual campaign that encourages people to try a plant-based lifestyle for a month – although, just like Dry January, you can do this at any time of the year.

Over 700,000 people signed up for the initiative in 2023, and it’s predicted that even more people will take part in 2024. With over 790 new vegan menus introduced in chain restaurants, and over 820 new vegan products launched in Veganuary 2023, it’s a great way to try new foods and mix up your diet habits.

The benefits of a plant-based diet can be very powerful. Studies show that diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure are linked to consuming animal products. So, switching to a vegan diet can help to prevent and treat some of the leading causes of death.

Aside from the health benefits, a comprehensive analysis by Oxford University found that moving to a plant-based diet is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on the environment. Knowing you’re doing something so helpful for the planet (and animals, of course!) can be a positive way to start the year.

If you’re interested in learning more about Veganuary, then why not check out their website? Here you’ll find easy meal plans, helpful tips, delicious recipes, and tailed support – all for free.

6. Check the health of your car

check the health of your car

Your car breaking down isn’t fun at any time of the year. But in winter, when it’s cold, dark, and icy outside, it can become a real risk. And while you can always take your car to a garage, doing a basic car maintenance test is something most of us can do from home.

To give your car a thorough winter health check, you’ll need to check the tyres, coolant, lights, wipers, oil, brakes, batteries, and bodywork. Have a read of this article by Admiral for further guidance.

Or, for more information on car repairs that you can do yourself, check out our article; 8 practical DIY skills you can learn from home.

7. Send thank you cards for Christmas gifts

send thank you cards for christmas gifts

Often, it’s the small things that have the biggest impact – so why not unleash your creative skills this January by making some thank you cards? You can tell people how much you appreciate them, and to thank them for any Christmas gifts you received.

Check out these thank you card designs by Wonderful DIY for inspiration. Whether you’re skilled at arts and crafts or have always bought your cards, there’ll hopefully be a design here you fancy replicating.

You could also try your hand at calligraphy and write a beautiful and personal thank you letter to a loved one. Learning calligraphy is a relaxing, meditative, and enjoyable way to spend a January afternoon. Why not read our introduction to calligraphy guide to learn more?

And, if you’re completely new to card making, you might want to check out our introductory guide.

8. Clean out your wardrobe

clean out your wardrobe

If you have a wardrobe full of clothes but nothing to wear – or your wardrobe is messy, cluttered, and disorganised – why not start the new year by introducing some order to your clothing collection?

Many people dream of downsizing and living a more minimalistic life, and cleaning out your closet is one of the best places to start. The easiest way to organise your wardrobe is to put everything in four piles: keep, sell, donate, and recycle (you can find out where to recycle clothing and textiles near you here).

Another good rule of thumb is the ‘six month rule’: if you haven’t worn a certain item in the past six months, and don’t think you’ll wear it in the next six months, the chances are you won’t ever wear it! 

Parting with old clothes can be difficult, especially if you’re a bit of a hoarder or you hold onto things because they have sentimental value, but having a clean, decluttered wardrobe is a great way to feel more organised and avoid wasting time in the morning wondering what to wear. Plus, donating clothes to charities always feels good. Have a read of this article by Minimalism Made Easy for more tips on cleaning out your closet.

One of the best methods to minimise your clothing collection is to create a capsule wardrobe. This will make it easier to find outfits to wear each morning and also help you avoid buying fast fashion items. Why not check out our handy guide of tips on creating a sustainable and timeless capsule wardrobe?

9. Learn a new skill

learn a new skill

Learning a new skill or picking up a new hobby is incredibly rewarding. It can keep you busy, provide a confidence boost, improve your mood, and maybe even lead you to discover a lifelong passion.

If you’re interested in learning something new but you’re not sure where to begin, there’s plenty of inspiration in the learning section of our website. Here, you’ll find articles like 9 creative skills that you can learn from home and 8 very different digital skills that you can learn from home.

You may also like to check out the hobbies and activities section of our website where we have various hobby-specific guides. These will show you everything from what sort of tools and materials you’ll need to get started to what learning resources are out there.

Maybe you’d like to try something that’ll help you connect with nature, like stargazing or bird watching, or perhaps you’d prefer to get creative with something like crochet or origami?

Once you’ve decided what skill or hobby you’d like to learn, we have a range of courses available on our website to give you an introduction and help you to develop your skills.

We also have lots of hobby-specific classes on Rest Less Events, where you can meet like-minded individuals and try out some new skills. Why not join a beginner’s Spanish class, learn to draw figures, or even learn the basics of Microsoft Excel?

10. Make a reading list

make a reading list

On an especially cold and dark day, many of us might not be in the mood to have a big clear out, or give our car a service. But having a lazy day doesn’t mean you still can’t be productive.

Curling up with a good book is a great way to spend an afternoon – and the right book can provide you with a welcome dose of motivation too.

Why not try making a reading list for the year, where you commit to getting through all those books you’ve always intended to read but never have? Then, when you’re not feeling too energetic, you can always pick up a book and spend a few productive hours being transported to another world.

If you want some reading recommendations that are perfect for January, check out our winter reading list guide. From books set in the blistering Arctic cold or on sun-drenched tropical islands, to self-improvement titles that’ll give you a burst of motivation for the year ahead, there’s hopefully something for everyone.

11. Defrost the freezer and clean the fridge

defrost the freezer and clean the fridge

Cleaning the fridge and deforesting the freezer are often overlooked when it comes to organising the house. Though, after the festive period, January is probably one of the best times to clear them out.

It’s a good time to get rid of any expired foods. It’s usually best to be relatively ruthless here; if you’ve had a jar of chutney sitting in your fridge for a long time, it’s better to cut your losses and get rid of it. Rather than throwing it out, however, you might want to download the OLIO app, where you can give away unwanted food and household items to your neighbours.

Or, if you’ve got a few random ingredients which you aren’t sure what to do with, you could try out the Supercook website. After entering your ingredients, Supercook will come up with a recipe which combines them for you – this is a great way to reduce food waste as well as save you some money.

Many new freezers don’t need to be manually defrosted. But if you have an older-style freezer that tends to get iced up, you’ll probably need to defrost it now and then. Luckily, this doesn’t have to be a messy or time-consuming task. Have a read of this guide to see how to easily defrost your freezer. 

During a time when many of us are planning to eat more healthily, having a clean, organised fridge and freezer makes meal planning that bit easier. If you’d like some tips on how to best organise your fridge, have a read of this article by Good Housekeeping.

Final thoughts…

During the cold, winter days, many of us are keen to hide out at home. But spending more time at home doesn’t mean you can’t stay productive.

Whether it’s learning a new skill, organising your wardrobe, or trying a new health challenge, there are so many ways you can keep busy and improve yourself from home.

For more ideas, check out our articles, 10 activities to help you embrace the winter season and 5 ways to make the most of winter.

And remember, bright mornings and sunny afternoons will be here before you know it.

Have you got any ideas for staying productive in January – or are you inspired by any of our suggestions? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.