New Year's resolutions: Five ways to be a better adult in 2024

Woman smiling to herself while drinking a tea
Explore learning a new household skill in 2024. You won't be caught off guard the next time there’s a minor inconvenience. Photo credit: Getty Images

By AJ Willingham of CNN

Sometimes to achieve your goals, you have to go back to the basics, and there's no better time than a fresh, clean calendar year.

Being an adult - and navigating grown-up dreams, relationships and responsibilities - is challenging no matter how old you are (do we ever really know it all?), but by knocking out these five, relatively manageable, adult-y tasks, you're laying good groundwork for everything else you need to accomplish in 2024 and beyond.

Purge a subscription or two 

Is there anything more adult-ish than knowing where all your money is? Chances are, there's a recurring charge in the mix that's sucking unnecessary funds from your coffers. It doesn't even need to be big. It could be a streaming service or productivity app you don't use anymore, or a membership you've kept past its usefulness. Besides getting back a little bit of coin, this exercise will remind you to keep regular tabs on those little expenses that, if left ignored, can turn into big ones.

Do a friend overview

Whoever told you friendship is effortless was lying to you (or didn't have very good friends). Even your favourite people can fade into the background when life gets busy. Banish any shame you have about putting effort into it and make a list of everyone you want to give a lot of love to this year. Is there a friendship that fell by the wayside in 2023? Make 2024 the year you feed and water it and watch it grow again. Like everything else worth doing, it may take some intentional work.

Don't feel silly about making little reminders to check in on people, or a calendar appointment for a nice, long call with your long-distance bestie. What you'll get out of it is more than worth the effort. (Need to make some new friends? Trying a new fitness activity and joining a creative group are among several strategies that have worked for others. You got this. 

Learn a new household skill

No one knows everything. Oh really, Bob the Builder? Do you know how to fix a taillight? Change a tire? Do you know how old your household air filters are? When's the last time you cleaned your coffee maker? Do you know how to clean your coffee maker? (Don't lie!) How well-acquainted are you with your fuse box? Where's your fire extinguisher? Do you know how to clean your dryer ducts, caulk tile or spackle a little hole in the wall?

The internet is full of people waiting to share this knowledge, and it can be genuinely rewarding to learn. The more you know, the more confident you will feel, and the less caught off guard you'll be the next time there's a minor inconvenience.

Get more inspiration with these six household tasks to stop putting off

Take time for mental health hygiene

For some reason, we equate adulthood with being stressed every single moment of the day. It makes sense - life is stressful - but to be an effective adult who gets stuff done and has at least a decent relationship with yourself, you need to do something to mitigate all of it. Just 15 minutes a day of any activity that brings you calm - drinking tea, positive self-talk, stretching - is all you need to kick-start a mental health hygiene habit.

"This is the mental health equivalent of brushing your teeth before you need a root canal," said Dr Broderick Sawyer, a clinical psychologist in Louisville, Kentucky. It seems simple until you realize how often you forget to do it. That's why, like all those productive and stressful parts of adulthood, it should become a mindful habit.

Decide what matters to you 

This one feels big, but we can make it manageable. Effective adults have a sense of priority that drives their choices, from their financial decisions to how they spend their time. Try this little bit of recalibration: Imagine it's 2025. You're proud of yourself. You've achieved something you really wanted over the past year or worked hard to make a positive change. What does that look like to you?

Now, rewind. How will you get there? What should you focus on? What little steps can you take, day after day, from this moment forward, to make it happen? Take note of how you feel when you think about what the future you will have accomplished. Working through this can give you a renewed sense of purpose - an important ingredient not just to success but to a long and happy life. Now go out there and get it done!