5 Tips for Optimizing Your Life

Lylah Alphonse

The New Year is all about making resolutions -- and, for many of us, breaking them a few weeks later. This year, though, things will be different: U.S. News & World Report has put together a guide to help you optimize your life year-round. Best You offers weekly tips for improving your health, making the most of your money, stretching your travel and recreation dollars and getting ahead at work or school (or both!). Here are five tips for ringing in the New Year with a new-and-improved you:

1. Know the tricks to exercising in cold weather. If you're devoted to your daily run, you already know that it's difficult to reach your peak performance once the temperatures drop. It takes a while for your body to acclimate to the colder weather; add wind, frost, or snow to the equation and your work-out really gets affected. "It's key to focus on effort versus actual pace," John Honerkamp, chief coach of the New York Road Runners organization, tells U.S. News.

2. Learn to handle feeling overloaded. If you feel like everything on your to-do list has "High Priority" written next to it, you're not alone. It's all well and good to talk to your manager about your workload, but given today's "do more with less" mentality, can you really expect a break? Yes. Don't assume that your manager knows exactly what's on your plate -- if you're not speaking up, she might not realize there's a problem. When you do talk to her about your situation, don't just ask for relief, offer up some solutions of your own.

3. Up your income by monetizing your skills. You might not be able to fit a seasonal, part-time job into your schedule, but you can still make extra money around the holidays. Instead of filling out job applications, put yourself to work by making your hobbies pay for themselves. Handy around the house? Offer your fix-it-up services to your neighbors. Love to cook? Ready-to-freeze meals can be a lifesaver around the holidays. Got a great eye for family photos? Snap pictures of local families and sell them the prints. (Bonus: Services like kodakgallery.com, vistaprint.com, and smugmug.com let you turn those great shots into lovely gifts.)

4. Learn how to fight right. "Conflict is the price we pay for a deeper level of intimacy," says Les Parrott, a Seattle psychologist who, with his wife, Leslie Parrott, wrote the book, "The Good Fight: How Conflict Can Bring You Closer." But there's a trick to making sure your conflict stays constructive. Focus on your CORE -- cooperation; ownership of one's part in the issue; respect; and empathy. Empathy, especially, is key. It's "so immensely powerful that about 90 percent of the time, that's all that's needed to resolve the conflict," Parrott says.

5. Don't be afraid to fly solo. Have you always wanted to take a dream vacation, but don't have anyone to take it with? Book the trip anyway, just choose your destination wisely, pack only the necessities (so you can avoid relying on others to help you with your bags), and consider joining a group activity or two once you're there.

That's just a sampling; there's much more at usnews.com/BestYou. Check back each week for more tips on making the most of your health, wellness, money, travel, recreation, education and career. And get ready to ring in 2014 with your Best You.