In the weeks leading up to the end-of-year holidays, most of our schedules are jam-packed with holiday parties, gift shopping, and visiting family. Then, after weeks of excitement and excess, it all comes to an abrupt halt.
Unless you’re hitting the December 26th sales, the end of the holidays can feel like a massive weight has been lifted from your shoulders. Your calendar clears. You’ve made it through another December and lived to tell the tale.
This year, instead of lounging for a week and waiting for the ball to drop, take advantage of the ample time between Christmas and New Year’s Day – especially if you’re lucky enough to be off of work – to be productive, put your life back in order, and prepare for the coming new year. There are a number of simple tasks to add to your to-do list.
Making the Most of Your Holiday Break
1. Catch Up on Your Chores
Yes, the holidays are merry and bright, but they can do a number on your house – pine needles on the floor, wrapping paper overflowing from the recycling bin, and boxes of decorations waiting to be sent back to storage.
All of the scattered holiday paraphernalia can wreak havoc on your home and your psyche. Set aside a few hours to tidy up the place, put gifts away, and whip your home into shape so you can kick off the New Year without a mess to clean.
2. Look for a New Job
If you’re unemployed or underemployed, this is a great time to concentrate on identifying job opportunities, writing a great resume, and brushing up on your interview skills. Plenty of companies hire at the beginning of a new year, so it’s worthwhile to start putting your “feelers” out now – especially while your competition is taking a breather.
3. Make Your New Year’s Resolutions
Many of us make New Year’s resolutions we can’t keep, such as losing weight, quitting smoking, and getting out of debt. The reason we fail is because we make broad goals that require a long-term commitment, which sets us up for failure.
This year, make resolutions that are reasonable and achievable. If you’re eager to exercise more, promise yourself to walk at least 20 minutes a day, several times per week. If you wish to quit smoking, set a firm quit date and order cessation aids in advance. And if you’re trying to improve your credit score, cancel the credit cards that you know will get you into trouble. By setting smaller goals that you can actually accomplish, you’ll have a higher chance of seeing them through.
4. Get Ahead at Work
If you find yourself at the office between Christmas and New Year’s Day, use the time to tie up loose ends, and get a head start on new projects. Chances are that your office will be fairly quiet, since many employees use their vacation time during this period. This simply means that you’ll have fewer interruptions, both in person and via phone and email.
5. Schedule Necessary Appointments
Whether you need to get your annual physical from your physician, take your pet to the vet for check-ups, or just get the oil changed in your automobile, try to fit these minor inconveniences into your schedule while you have time to spare.
6. Clean Out Your Closet
Make room for the new clothes you received as gifts by clearing out the old items that you no longer need. I always offer my old items to friends, or I donate used clothes to charity. Another good way to get rid of some pieces of value is to sell them on eBay or on Craigslist. You may not think the garments have much monetary value, but you may be pleasantly surprised.
7. Make Your Holiday Returns
If you receive an unwanted gift and plan to return it, do it while it’s fresh in your mind. That doesn’t mean that you need to go to the store at noon on December 26th (when a million other people will be in the returns line), but you should return your items before January 1st. Consider heading to the store as soon as it opens or right before closing time later in the holiday week.
8. Put Away the Holiday Decorations
I like to keep my decorations up until around January 5th, but if you want to strip down the seasonal decor early, now’s the time to do it. However, consider this: If you like to score deals on discounted holiday decorations after the holidays, wait until you’ve bought your new scores to put everything into storage.
9. Clear Your DVR
With all the celebrations taking place, you probably have not had much time to catch your favorite shows. If you have a queue full of programs clogging your TiVo, set aside a few hours to watch, delete, and repeat. Very grueling work, I know, but somebody’s got to do it!
10. Send Thank You Cards
This is a lost art that is especially neglected during the holidays. If you received gifts at a baby shower, wedding, or birthday, you would send thank you notes (at least, I hope you would). So why do we forget about it at Christmas? Show your appreciation this year by dropping a quick card in the mail expressing your thanks to those who thought of you this year.
11. Spend One-on-One Time With Someone Special
Though the holidays are a time for family and friends to gather, the time spent together is not always quality, due to the commotion and excitement. Furthermore, it’s not always time spent with people you necessarily want to be around!
If there are friends or relatives who you did not get to see over the holidays, schedule an afternoon to enjoy each other’s company. You can discuss the gifts you received, your New Year’s plans, and why next year you plan to skip the family reunion and jet off to the Caribbean.
12. Use up Your “Daily Deal” Vouchers
My husband and I usually take a big trip at the end of the year, but this year we’re staying home to save money. That doesn’t mean we won’t have any fun though. During our “winter staycation,” I plan to use up some of my Groupon and LivingSocial vouchers that I’ve accrued during the past few months, which include deals for miniature golf, billiards, a massage, and go-kart racing.
13. Rearrange Your Rooms
While you’re cleaning up the mess Santa and his elves made, why not rearrange the furniture? You’ll feel doubly refreshed ringing in the New Year with rooms that give you a feeling of newness.
You don’t need to limit yourself to repositioning chairs and couches. Switch up your artwork, replace the shower curtain, and splash a new color on the walls if you’re up for an even bigger change.
14. Plan Your Budget
If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to cut back on spending, start planning now as to how you’ll achieve this. Sit down and consider where you need your money to go in the new year, and figure out how you can save. Are there expenses you can omit? Do you want to pay off more debt per month than you have in the past month? Study your finances to see where you can save and where you need to spend, and make your budget accordingly.
15. Prepare Your Tax Materials
Preparing and filing your taxes is never a fun task, but remember: The earlier you file taxes, the earlier you receive your tax refund! At the end of every year, I sit down with all my receipts and separate them into categories to give to my accountant. As a small business owner, it’s also my responsibility to inform my accountant of the contractors I’ve hired who will need 1099 tax forms. By giving him my materials at the beginning of the year, I’m practically guaranteed to be first in line to receive a refund.
If you have time off between Christmas and New Year’s, don’t waste it by sitting around the house waiting for something to happen. Get up and stay active! There are a myriad of productive activities that will make you feel good about yourself and the prospect of a brand new year.
Even if you have to go to work during the holiday week, try to fit in one of these chores between December 25th and January 1st. By starting the year with a clean and uncluttered life, you’ll increase your chances of keeping it that way throughout the next 12 months.
What other tasks do you suggest completing during the holiday week to start off the new year on the right foot?
(photo credit: Shutterstock)