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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 April 8, 2019

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

Unless you’re infinitely rich or prepared to rack up major debt, you need to budget your income. Setting limits on how much you are willing to spend helps control expenses. But what about your time? Do you budget your time or spend it carelessly?

Deadlines are the chronological equivalent of a budget. By setting aside a portion of time to complete a task, goal or project in advance you avoid over-spending. Deadlines can be helpful but they can also be a source of frustration if set improperly. Here are some tips for making deadlines work:

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  1. Use Parkinson’s Law – Parkinson’s Law states that tasks expand to fill the time given to them. By setting a strict deadline in advance you can cut off this expansion and focus on what is most important.
  2. Timebox – Set small deadlines of 60-90 minutes to work on a specific task. After the time is up you finish. This cuts procrastinating and forces you to use your time wisely.
  3. 80/20 – The Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of the value is contained in 20% of the input. Apply this rule to projects to focus on that critical 20% first and fill out the other 80% if you still have time.
  4. Project VS Deadline – The more flexible your project, the stricter your deadline. If a task has relatively little flexibility in completion a softer deadline will keep you sane. If the task can grow easily, keep a tight deadline to prevent waste.
  5. Break it Down – Any deadline over one day should be broken down into smaller units. Long deadlines fail to motivate if they aren’t applied to manageable units.
  6. Hofstadter’s Law – Basically this law states that it always takes longer than you think. A rule I’ve heard in software development is to double the time you think you need. Then add six months. Be patient and give yourself ample time for complex projects.
  7. Backwards Planning – Set the deadline first and then decide how you will achieve it. This approach is great when choices are abundant and projects could go on indefinitely.
  8. Prototype – If you are attempting something new, test out smaller versions of a project to help you decide on a final deadline. Write a 10 page e-book before your 300 page novel or try to increase your income by 10% before aiming to double it.
  9. Find the Weak Link – Figure out what could ruin your plans and accomplish it first. Knowing the unknown can help you format your deadlines.
  10. No Robot Deadlines – Robots can work without sleep, relaxation or distractions. You aren’t a robot. Don’t schedule your deadline with the expectation you can work sixteen hour days to complete it. Deathmarches aren’t healthy.
  11. Get Feedback – Get a realistic picture from people working with you. Giving impossible deadlines to contractors or employees will only build resentment.
  12. Continuous Planning – If you use a backwards planning model, you need to constantly be updating plans to fit your deadline. This means making cuts, additions or refinements so the project will fit into the expected timeframe.
  13. Mark Excess Baggage – Identify areas of a task or project that will be ignored if time grows short. What e-mails will you have to delete if it takes too long to empty your inbox? What features will your product lack if you need a rapid finish?
  14. Review – For deadlines over a month long take a weekly review to track your progress. This will help you identify methods you can use to speed up work and help you plan more efficiently for the future.
  15. Find Shortcuts – Almost any task or project has shortcuts you can use to save time. Is there a premade library you can use instead of building your own functions? An autoresponder to answer similar e-mails? An expert you can call to help solve a problem?
  16. Churn then Polish – Set a strict deadline for basic completion and then set a more comfortable deadline to enhance and polish afterwards. Often churning out the basics of a task quickly will require no more polishing afterwards than doing it slowly.
  17. Reminders – Post reminders of your deadlines everywhere. Creating a sense of urgency with your deadlines is necessary to keep them from getting pushed aside by distractions.
  18. Forward Planning – Not mutually exclusive with backwards planning, this involves planning the details of a project out before setting a deadline. Great for achieving clarity about what you are trying to accomplish before making arbitrary time limits.
  19. Set a Timer – Get one that beeps. Somehow the countdown of a timer appears more realistic for a ninety minute timebox than just glancing at your clock.
  20. Write them Down – Any deadline over a few hours needs to be written down. Otherwise it is an inclination not a goal. Having written deadlines makes them more tangible than internal decisions alone.
  21. Cheap/Fast/Good – Ben Casnocha in My Start Up Life mentions that you can have only have two of the three. Pick two of the cheap/fast/good dimensions before starting a project to help you prioritize.
  22. Be Patient – Using a deadline may seem to be the complete opposite of patience. But being patient with inflexible tasks is necessary to focus on their completion. The paradox is that the more patient you are, the more you can focus. The more you can focus the quicker the results will come!

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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