Updated on 12.25.10

Out With The Old, In With The New: Don’t Waste a Day

Trent Hamm

Throughout the month of December, The Simple Dollar is posting a daily series focusing on specific activities you can do right now to set the stage for a great 2011. Out with the old, in with the new.

26. Don’t waste a day.

An awful lot of you are spending this day after Christmas doing things like traveling or resting after spending the last few days with family members. More than a few of you are probably reading this at an airport, waiting for a flight to take off.

It’s going to be very tempting to spend this day simply doing very little. Why not take a nap during your flight, or just stare at the in-flight movie? Why not veg out in front of the television or idly surf on your laptop?

Instead, I suggest that you spend today taking care of things that need to be taken care of in your life.

Instead of napping during your in-flight movie, use a notebook and a pen to to a brain dump of all of the things on your mind, then transform that into an actionable to-do list.

Instead of kicking back in front of the television, utilize today to get your papers in order or clean out your pantry.

Instead of idly surfing the web, take a serious look at various online bank accounts, sign up for one, and start moving some of your savings there.

Yes, yes, I know many of you are going to simply say, “Uh, I need this time to relax.” It doesn’t sound like fun to spend time doing stuff like this, especially after the stress and energy burn of the holiday season.

I agree – one should relax after a stressful or energy-sapping event. However, spending a day just relaxing usually ends up with a much worse effect – you find you don’t have as much energy the following day, either. You don’t want to go back to work. You’re depressed at the things left undone. You feel less initiative in the evenings after work.

So, here’s what I propose: spend an hour doing something deeply relaxing. Get a massage. Take a nap. Spend some intimate time with your partner. Take a jog. Do some yoga or some stretches. Meditate. Do whatever it is that most intensely relaxes you.

Once that’s done, spend the rest of the day tackling what you need to do. Yes, you may have family or social engagements, but they likely won’t take up the whole day. Spend the rest of it taking care of the things you need to get done.

What will happen is you’ll go to bed tonight with the warm glow of having actually accomplished some things and that healthy sense of actually being tired because of the effort you put out. One day at a time, you’ll move towards being more productive – making your leisure and relaxation time actually be leisure and relaxation (and not just idling) and the rest of your time productive and fulfilling.

For me, a day well lived is a day where I go to bed tired from the things I’ve done that day, not merely tired because my biological clock tells me I should be tired.

Strive to achieve that today – then strive to achieve that tomorrow, and the day after that.

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  1. I will absolutely be taking a nap to day! And then after that, movie and dinner with my husband to celebrate our 32nd anniversary. :)

  2. dianne says:

    I kind of agree, in that I’m anxious to resume a normal schedule. But after 2 days of traveling and cooking and hosting, I need a little more than an hour to recuperate. I don’t need to nap or lay around all day but I do need to do something out of my regular routine (read fiction, which I rarely do, or start a new art project). Routine will be welcome again tomorrow.

  3. Sarah says:

    Great advice! My husband and I have actually spent his days off work continuing our journey of decluttering our house. We tackled the basement Christmas afternoon during the kids’ nap time and we got a lot done. It felt so wonderful and I am feeling a great deal more peace about being IN our home which is important since I spend most of my time here with the kids.

  4. Michele says:

    We spent the morning in recovery from the festivities of yesterday…but we also sorted all the things that can be recycled or re-used for Christmas next year. That’s a good use of our day!

  5. Kelli says:

    I was in a funk this morning when I read this. When faced with a few days off I tend to create a giant mental to-do list and then get depressed when I realize I won’t accomplish all of it. Happens every time. Well, after reading today’s advice I got off my butt and enjoyed some time reading, some time skiing, and some time updating our bank accounts on our new computer. Now I’m going to do some research on insurance shopping as a result of your encouragement. Thanks!

  6. Terry says:

    I was offline most of the last three days and wish I had seen your blogs! I did a lot of nothing on Saturday and Sunday, feeling a little stir crazy but also enjoying not thinking about much. Yesterday (Monday) I worked a little bit, did some cleaning, etc. In the future, like this coming weekend, I am going to devote at least a couple of hours to constructive projects so I feel a little better about my time use. I did enjoy socializing over the holidays and need to do more of that — am going to work this week on my new year’s resolutions, too — One is: at least two networking events per month. Doesn’t sound like much but for me I know I can do that, and maybe more. Happy New Year Trent and Everybody!

  7. Golfing Girl says:

    I renewed my driver’s license today and got my allergy shots while I was on that side of town. My husband went ice skating with our daughter–which I consider a very good use of time–any time quality time is spent one on one with a child you are doing something very worthwhile.

  8. Steve in W MA says:

    @Q5, wanting to earn the $1000 per month that you are allowed without endangering your SSI:

    I would consider one of the following two options: Esatblish a Chapter C private corporation (they don’t require earnings to be distributed to shareholders) to invest on your behalf, or look into establishing some category of trust with you as the trustee and beneficiary, to hold and invest that money. Both the Chapter C and the trust are considered legal entities by themselves and are taxed as individuals at a given tax rate. If money is not distributed to you in a given calendar year then you will not have income and come up against income limits for your SSDI.

    There is a minimum $400 annual tax for a chapter C corporation, I believe. I am not sure of the minimum tax status for trusts. But a good estate planning accountant could help you hash it out, or you can investigate it yourself.

    Another option is to invest as an individual but only invest by buying direct shares of companies and do not sell the shares. With no sales of equities, you will have no capital gains. Tell your broker to reinvest all dividends so they are not reported as income. Again, not sure if this will work but it’s worth investigating.

    Finally, determine whether there are asset limits to your SSDI benefits and don’t exceed them unknowingly.

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