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5 Things to Do If You Aren’t Celebrating Christmas

5 Things to Do If You Aren’t Celebrating Christmas
5 Things to Do If You Aren’t Celebrating Christmas

Christmas is a great holiday — you get to spend a day with your family, wallowing in nostalgia and familial love, and you get presents on top of that! But what if you don’t celebrate Christmas? What if you’re not Christian, or your family is too far away, or you have no family, or you just aren’t in the mood?

If you aren’t celebrating Christmas, it can be a real drag — most stores are closed, there’s nothing good on TV, and everywhere you go there are constant reminders of the wonderful time other people are having. It’s no surprise that depression spikes around Christmas!

Well, here are a few things you could do to take advantage of the time off Christmas gives you.

  1. Get organized. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, why not make December 25th of every year your day to clean up and get organized? Collect your tax receipts in a box or folder to get ready for tax time, finish off any filing that’s been waiting to be done, throw out old magazines you aren’t going to read again (or at all — you know who you are!), straighten up your office or working area, clear off your bulletin boards, put up next year’s calendar, and just generally get ready for the new year.
  2. Be productive. We run a lot of posts at lifehack .org about dealing with distractions. If you’re not celebrating, though, then Christmas is a day without distractions — unless you lack the willpower to avoid watching that It’s a Wonderful Life and Christmas Story marathon on the oldies channel. Fire up your computer and get to work on whatever project’s been sitting on the back burner all year. Start your novel, write your business plan, or email the college buddies you’ve been out of touch with for years. Take this one day that society demands you take off to get started on something new, and let the momentum carry you through into the new year.
  3. Catch a movie, or two, or four. Most movie theaters are open on Christmas day, especially in communities where large non-Christian populations are found. Drive by a theater on Long Island (NY) on December 25th, and you’re liable to see a line around the building! Use the time to catch up on all the latest releases without feeling guilty about anything else you’re supposed to be doing. Go early in the day and catch matinées — you can probably squeeze two or three good ones in without spending too much money.
  4. Volunteer. In a perfect world, you’d be able to volunteer regularly throughout the year but if your schedule doesn’t allow it, at least take advantage of the one day you know you’re free to pitch in at a local charity. Look up local shelters, soup kitchens, or pantries in the Yellow Pages or online and call the day before to see if they can use some help. Leave behind the attitude that you’re offering your time and people should be grateful — you weren’t using that time anyway, remember? Go with an open mind and an open heart, and seriously think about doing this again next week, and the week after, and the week after that…
  5. Do An Annual Review. If you follow the GTD or similar systems, you already know how important regularly reviewing your todo list, projects, and goals can be. Why not take a couple of hours on Christmas Day, when you’re not doing anything else and distractions are at their lowest, to do a yearly review? Leave your daily lists out of this one, and think instead about the “big picture”: what did you accomplish the last year, what are you particularly proud of, what could you have done better, what bridges have you built — or burnt — along the way? What do you want to achieve next year, what projects do you want to start, who do you want to meet or get in touch with, what lessons can you apply to the new year? Really dig into yourself and figure out where you’re headed and what you have to do to get there.

If you’re not Christian, or you are but really don’t care about Christmas, it can feel as if Christmas is forced on you. And you’re right, it’s not fair, especially when you have to get special permission to celebrate your own holidays. But you can spend the day stewing over it, or you can take advantage of the fact that, for whatever reason, you’ve got a day off with minimal distractions — there’s not even mail! What is normally little more than a pipe dream — a day all to yourself! — comes to you all wrapped up with a pretty red-and-green bow.

What about you, lifehack.org readers? Those of you who won’t be celebrating tomorrow, what are you planning to do? How can your fellow readers make the most out of this day off?

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

How to Self-Taught Effectively

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

More About Self-Learning

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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