Just handling day-to-day tasks can be a monster achievement (seriously, we all deserve a medal), but sometimes it can be even harder to keep tabs on those to-dos that only need annual attention. We’ve got you covered. Here’s a checklist of 15 things you should be doing with every trip around the sun.
1. Get physical, but not necessarily physical.
You know your body best, but mounting evidence suggests that, contrary to popular belief, you probably don’t need an annual physical. Still, that doesn’t mean there aren’t certain health checks you should be doing every time you have to buy a new calendar. In lieu of a check up with your doctor (again, everyone is different, and we aren’t talking about children, the elderly, or those with a medical condition), give yourself an annual, self-administered fitness test. You should be breaking a sweat on the regular anyway, but consider instituting a tradition in which you challenge yourself to a set of physical tasks to see how you measure up. There’s an adult version of the President's Physical Fitness Challenge to get you started, but the specific parameters can be up to you. It’s a good way to see where you’re at in terms of physical health and fitness, and a good motivator if you’re not where you want to be.
2. Do see the doctor for other things.
Eye exams, mole checks, and even dentist visits should be done annually (yep, healthy teeth also only need a checkup once a year), and while you’re making the rounds to keep your body in tip-top shape, take a look at your health coverage. Medical needs can change from year to year, and there’s usually an annual enrollment period in which you can adjust your plan. Mark that window on the calendar and spend a little time making sure your needs are covered. Your body will thank you.
3. That health check goes for your pets, too.
We wish our pets could talk to us for all sorts of reasons, but especially when it comes to how they’re feeling. Since we haven’t quite cracked the animal-to-human translation code just yet, it’s important to be proactive about the health of your furry or feathered friend. Take them to the vet at least once a year, and include blood work in the checkup. It’s a good way to get ahead of any health issues that could arise, ensure your pet is up-to-date on any necessary vaccinations, and get valuable insights into how your beloved is doing.
4. Scope your credit score.
Being an adult means knowing what’s up with your financial health, too. And the best way to do that is to know your credit score. It’s hugely important for landing that apartment or home you want or getting a good rate on a loan, two of the big things you need to do in the game of life. It’s also free to check annually, so no excuses (and contrary to popular belief, these kinds of “soft inquiries” do not negatively influence your credit score). Basically, a good handle on your credit is a good way to keep money in your pocket. While you’re at it, consider scheduling an annual sit-down with a financial advisor as well to review your money, your plans, and any changes in the market that may have occurred over the course of the year.
5. Drain your water heater.
The next few annual check-ups are related to the home. If your household has one or two people in it, your water heater needs to be checked every six months and drained at least every 12 months. Draining it will help it last longer by eliminating any minerals or debris that have built up and could cause the unit to break down. It’s a job you can do yourself with a little time and a hose, so pick a Saturday, read the instructions, and hop to it.
6. Clean your carpet.
No matter how clean you are, there are certain items you just can’t deal with on a regular basis (and often don’t need to). That said, once a year you should roll up your sleeves and tackle your home's carpets, rugs, and upholstery. This isn’t just a run of the vacuum, but a deeper purge with steamers, a soapy bucket, a rented machine, or professionals. Other yearly cleanups include emptying the gutters and cleaning the fireplace and chimney. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it.
7. Get inspected.
To keep the well-oiled machines in your life running, you have to keep them, well, oiled! Or you know, whatever the particular efficiency-booster might be. And to do that, you often need the help of professionals. Once a year, bring them in to check out your air conditioning units, furnace, roof, gas appliances, and pipes. Termite inspections should happen on the regular, too, as that’s one enemy you definitely want to get a jump on.
8. Mind the gap.
Time, use, and the elements cause wear and tear on outdoor spaces that can damage their integrity in no time. When it comes to decks or outdoor woodwork, reseal once a year to keep the raw materials protected. They’ll function better and look how they’re supposed to, plus resealing extends their lifetime every time you do it. Same goes for driveway pavement, especially in snowy climates. Whether you have concrete or asphalt, take care of your cracks every 12 months to lengthen the life of your outdoor surfaces.
9. Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors.
We’ve all had that moment when a piece of toast starts burning, the smoke alarm goes off, and we want to rip the thing out of the ceiling—but those loud beeps are exactly what you want to be hearing from your smoke detector. To make sure yours are always in top form, test them monthly and replace alkaline batteries every year. It’s an easy bit of maintenance to ensure the safety of you and yours in the event of a fire.
10. Take spring cleaning seriously.
It doesn’t have to be spring (though the built-in reminder is kind of nice), but you should take some time out every year to go through your many beloved belongings and decide what isn’t so treasured anymore. The best place to start is your closet: Take a good hard look at your wardrobe and figure out what you love and what you can live without. Everything that’s still in good condition can be donated or sold, and the rest can go in the garbage can. It’s also worth going through books and other collections that can get out-of-hand right under our noses. Those, too, can be sold or donated.
11. Give your digital life a good cleaning, too.
The more we live and work on our computers, the more cluttered they become. When you’re done cleaning out those closets, take a load off and direct those cleansing efforts toward your music collection, documents, and other bits of electronic waste that have accumulated over the course of the year (or longer). You probably do this regularly too, but the spring cleaning attitude also applies to social networks where connections and follows should be regularly evaluated. Just because it’s the internet, doesn’t mean it doesn’t require some timely decluttering. While you’re at it, take a peek at the security and permissions settings on your accounts, too. Let’s be honest: you might need to change your relationship status from time to time.
12. Trash your beauty stash.
Not all of it, but it’s a good idea to keep an eye on beauty products and stay diligent when it comes to refreshing the supply—this stuff is going on your body, after all, often in highly sensitive areas. In particular, nail polish, sunscreen, hair products, lipsticks and liners, eyeliner, brow pencils, face creams, foundation, cream eyeshadows and blushes, cleansers, and other like items should not sit on your shelf for more than a year. Many of these you’ll be using with enough frequency that they won’t last long anyway, but pay attention to those items that might accidentally stick around longer than they should.
13. Get your wheels checked.
The schedule for car maintenance is almost entirely individual to the driver because it’s based more on mileage than time. But assuming you’re an average driver and your car isn’t drifting where it shouldn't be, you should get your wheel alignment checked about once a year (if you drive a lot or have a habit of hitting potholes, you might need to get them realigned more frequently). Having properly oriented wheels makes a huge difference in how your car rides and performs. Not only that, it’s better for the hardware, which will save you money and time as the car ages.
14. Reassess your retirement plan.
You’re saving for retirement, which is great, and should feel like an accomplishment in and of itself. But it’s really an ongoing process that requires regular check-ups if you want to party hard when you’re an octogenarian. Check up on your retirement plan at least once a year to figure out how things are going, whether you can or should be contributing more, and make considerations about whether you want to tweak your savings plan and/or investments. Many retirement plans are set up to run and adjust to the market without your constant supervision, and while all that's great, it’s always a good idea to make sure your nest egg is incubating as efficiently as it should be.
15. Do your taxes.
OK, you knew that already. But there’s something you might not be doing when you’re settling up with Uncle Sam, and that’s keeping tabs on how much you’re withholding. Many people have too much or too little withheld, resulting in unexpected bills or refunds come April 15. Ideally, you want it to be just the right amount, and luckily it’s pretty easy to take a quick evaluation at IRS.gov (the amount is based on what you earn and the allowances you claim on your W-4 Form—something you filled out when you were hired). An annual appraisal will help make tax time a little less daunting, and that’s something worth scheduling.
An earlier version of this article was published in 2015; it has been updated for 2023. An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to a “water heater” as a “hot water heater.”