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A Time to Reflect & Move Forward

Last updated by on December 26, 2013

The holiday season is full of good and bad extremes. Traditions made to endure and traditions made to be broken. Some make us happy, some make us sad, and some are a bittersweet.

Spending time with loved ones that I regretfully don’t see enough of throughout the rest of the year? Outstanding. Gorging myself with delicious food and drink until I’m bursting at the seems? Sign me up (even if the after-effects are regretful). Spending a lazy afternoon on the couch watching Griswold Vacation or other beloved mindless entertainment. Guilty. Using a good chunk of annual savings to buy a bunch of shit that people don’t want or need and expecting your family to do the same for you? Well… like I said, some traditions are made to be broken. And de-commercializing the holidays is a tradition we’ve successfully broken in our families.

One thing I’ve really learned to cherish with the influx of free time around the holidays is that it presents an opportunity to disengage from the stranglehold that having a very demanding full-time job can have. I work with clients and when you work with clients, your clients own you and your time, often to an unhealthy extent. This leaves little time for me. But not over holiday break. I typically take two weeks off, because most of my clients do the same.

setting goalsThis free time off allows me time to reflect on where I am at, where I want to go, and actually gives me an opportunity to work towards those things, versus the normal 2-day weekends that are mostly filled with chores and writing posts for this blog.

My holiday breaks are typically anything but a “break”. But two weeks of sitting around and doing nothing but eating and buying stuff is not in my bones – so I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It typically starts with me creating one giant to-do list of things I want to accomplish. As a married man, much of it is in coordination with my spouse. And it looks a little like this:

1. Career:

What better time to take stock in how the previous year went, discuss short and long-term career goals, and game-plan together what our next moves are?

My work situation has been fairly static over the last few years, but in the event something changes, I want to be prepared. And my wife has made a number of career moves, including going back to school and starting a new career, which has been a great move for her. Without having these discussions, I’m not sure anything would have changed.

2. Personal Finance:

Despite being a personal finance blogger, I’m human as well. And like many, a number of financial objectives get put on the back burner, because I just don’t have time to do them throughout the other 50 weeks of the year. This often includes:

  • Moving funds between accounts and between investments.
  • Re-analyzing where I should be investing.
  • Shopping for better insurance rates.
  • Analyzing the previous year’s expenses.
  • Looking for new ways to cut my expenses (signing up for the Upromise card I reviewed was an early start on that).
  • Reading a classic financial book. This year, I’m aiming for Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor or John Bogle’s The Little Book of Common Sense Investing.

3. Household:

Being a homeowner creates a nagging list of weird to-do’s that I don’t have the time or mental energy to complete. Take this year for example: we have loose bricks on the front porch that need some bonding, our kitchen and bathroom faucets are both leaking from joints when we use hot water (wtf?), and our laminate kitchen counter is peeling up in spots and needs some sort of replacement.

This is also a great time of the year to annually rummage through our closets to find clothing or other items that have become useless to us, and declutter the home through donations, selling on Craigslist or Ebay, or giving away (there is never a shortage of items that can find their way in to white elephant exchanges in our household).

4. E-Clutter:

When my email inbox and article reader gets too difficult to manage, I start getting stressed. E-clutter can own you and weigh on you just as much as physical clutter, I’ve found. So, I use my free time to go through both and whittle them down to almost nothing.

5. The Blog:

There is a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes during the holidays. G.E.’s little elves (actually, it’s just me) are hard at work to make this blog a better user experience for all. Every year, I go through every single article I’ve written to update and enhance articles and trim the stuff I’m no longer proud of. As I approach 700 published articles, you can imagine how daunting this task has become. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll continue to be able to do so, but I’m going to give it another shot this year.

A few other things I like to do:

  • Write a post of my favorite articles for the past year. And last year, when this blog made it to the 5-year mark, I put together lists of the top 25 ideological and top 50 strategic posts to mark the occasion.
  • Try to make the site faster by cleaning up code.
  • This year, I’ve been intending to find and adapt a new theme. The current theme is an ancient 5 years old and I’d like to find a quicker and more responsive theme that provides a better user experience on all devices. If you have any recommendations on themes or theme designers, I’m all ears (eyes).

What About You?

What do the holidays look like for you?

How do you use your free time around the holidays?

And what goals do you typically set out to accomplish?

About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 10,000+ others by getting FREE email updates. You can also explore every post I have written, in order.

  • Matt says:

    Well the holiday season begins as it always does with the customary gift shopping which as I get older begins to focus on the true meaning of the holiday and less on adding new clutter. I take a little time around the holidays to take inventory or my financial dealings, clean up and consolidate where practical. As I become more savvy there are always loose ends and I like to start the year a little leaner and well organized. I really step back on December financial goals, with holiday spending,rent,student bills and the usual bills I try to come out of December neutral as far as the budget goes.

    Goals for the new year will be trying to used credit cards more to my advantage rather than steering clear of them all together. I also am going back to school for my associates degree part time which my employer will contribute, so I would be foolish not to take advantage.

  • Alex says:

    Greetings Mr Miller.

    This time of year certainly is one for reflection. Personally I’m not a fan of Christmas (whinge whinge whinge), except for the joys of being around family and gorging myself. I guess January should be re-named ‘Guilt Month’ when we all consider what we’ve spent and consumed over the holiday period.

    My personal goals in the New Year will circle around productive writing habits and saving money where I can. I want to get back into the habit of enthusiastically writing every day. Though, unlike when I was a younger it won’t be for angst-based poetry and prose but more on adult life planning and finances, expressed through story telling. In addition I want to get back to nurturing my inert creativity and write an award winning script of the comedy/drama genre, or just any script that is published.

    Of course having the goals is not enough alone, I need to learn as I do. In your case it’s admirable because you have to manage a career, a home, a marriage and a website. I hope you achieve your goals for 2014, even the tedious ones we all long to avoid!
    Alex L

  • Steven Le says:

    The holiday season always tends to be family gatherings and spending time which is great and all. But I never use it as a break, especially if I don’t feel like I need one just yet. ‘All men are created equal, some work harder in preseason.’

    Not to say I won’t be spending any time with anyone, I just won’t let my goals wait till next year or anything like that. I’ll still continue on!

  • Vicky says:

    I believe that we should have our “ME” time. A time with ourselves, a time to reflect and a time to re-energize not only during the holiday season.

  • Kalen says:

    I have found that if I don’t make a list of things to do for my blog then a lot of things will never get done. The end of the year is always a good time to look back on everything you accomplished and see what you forgot.
    Sidenote: The Intelligent Investor is a great book. I actually just finished it a few weeks ago.

  • Jonny Debt says:

    Love it! What a great post. I’m totally with you on the e-clutter point (as well as the rest). It’s amazing how much rubbish you accumulate on your laptop/tablet and smartphone. I feel so much better when I’ve de-cluttered all those unwanted downloads and temporary internet files! This time of year is always a great time to think about the coming year and plans for the future. 🙂

  • Having some time off at the end of the year is a godsend for me. I use this time to just relax and unwind and relieve my levels of stress. When I get into a relaxed state I can think about the few things that really matter and plan for the following year. I can definitely relate to your post GE! thanks for sharing.


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