With 2010 just beginning, Bottom Line/Personal asked a diverse group of our successful experts to tell us something they did in 2009 that went so well that they would recommend it to others for this year. Here’s what they had to say…

Daniel G. Amen, MD: I cut 500 calories from my daily diet to live longer. I’ve never paid particularly close attention to my caloric intake—I’ve always been in pretty good shape, so I didn’t think that I had to. But a pair of studies released in 2009 convinced me that I should cut back.

A 20-year University of Wisconsin study of rhesus monkeys published in Science provided convincing evidence that we can significantly reduce our risk for age-related health problems—including heart disease, deteriorating brain function and cancer—by consuming 30% fewer calories than the amount that makes us feel full. Meanwhile, a study published in Human Brain Mapping by a UCLA neurology professor found that the brains of overweight people look an average of eight years older than the brains of those of the same age who are at their proper weight…and the brains of obese people look 16 years older.

As a brain-imaging researcher who comes from a family of overweight people, those studies really caught my attention. I decided to reduce my diet from more than 2,000 calories per day to 1,500 to 1,700. I’m already glad I did. I’ve lost 15 pounds…I sleep better…and I have more energy.

Thomas J. Stanley, PhD: I lived like a millionaire—I spent time with my grandkids. People tend to think that living like a millionaire means life in the fast lane, spending lots of money. In fact, my surveys have found that the single leading pastime of the richest Americans—those worth at least $10 million—is spending time with their kids and grandkids. That’s something we all can afford.

I set a personal objective in 2009 of spending more time with my grandchildren, and I discovered that young kids add amazingly to life. The more time I spent with them, the easier it became to set aside my worries and relax.

Sheldon Jacobs: I did nothing (with my asset allocation). When we experience problems, our inclination is to do something to solve them—but sometimes doing nothing is the best alternative. Like many retirees, I lost money in the stock market in 2008 and early 2009. But that didn’t make me pull my money out of stocks…and it’s not going to convince me to invest more money in stocks now in hopes of cashing in on a continuing rebound.

Before I retired, I decided that a 40% equity/60% fixed-income allocation was appropriate for my financial assets. It gave me the exposure to equities that every portfolio needs…but not so much exposure that my lifestyle would be affected by a bear market. That was the right allocation for me before the market fell, and it’s the right allocation for me now. (Market losses actually shrank the equity component of my portfolio to 35% in early 2008, but it has rebounded.)

Nancy Snyderman, MD: I got away from it all—truly and completely away. Two girlfriends and I went hiking in the hills north of San Diego for a week in June. We left behind our cell phones and BlackBerries and enjoyed the nearly total isolation that people took for granted until recent decades. We got up at dawn…hiked all morning…read books and took it easy in the afternoon…then went to bed when the sun set. It was deep relaxation of the sort you can’t find when phones are around.

Nella Barkley: I reconnected with former clients to find new ones. Contacting people from our past can be time well spent. It’s easier to rebuild existing business relationships and friendships than it is to start new ones—and you can’t just sit back and wait for work to find you in this weak economy.

Referrals from former clients who have used our career-coaching services have always been our best source of new clients, but in 2009, we took the initiative and placed calls to former clients as a reminder that we’re here. We even hired extra help to track down former clients with whom we had lost touch. Not only did reaching out to former clients bring in new business, many of them were pleased that we checked in with them.

Deborah Norville: I backed up my computer’s hard drive onto an external hard drive. My timing couldn’t have been better—the computer’s hard drive failed just a few weeks later. If I hadn’t backed up the files, I would have lost a lot of work. Now I’m thinking of giving external hard drives to my sisters as gifts. They’re the least sexy gift in the world, but backing up computer files could save my sisters a lot of trouble, too.

It isn’t just text files that are at risk—now that everyone has digital cameras, we could lose irreplaceable family photos if we don’t back up our hard drives.

Scott Hamilton: I took charge of my health. In the past 12 years, I have battled testicular cancer and a brain tumor. By last year, I lacked the energy to keep up with my kids, and I weighed more than I wanted to. I could feel myself getting old, and I had come to see my health as a series of problems that happened to me. In 2009, I decided that I had to stop waiting to feel good before getting back into shape. I forced myself to go back out on the ice and start skating again, even though I didn’t really feel up to it. Within weeks, I felt a lot better. Medical problems might be a good excuse for not exercising, but making excuses wasn’t ever going to improve my life.

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