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morning habits

How you start your morning sets the tone for the rest of the day.

You can start your day by hitting the snooze button, dragging yourself out of bed at the last minute, rushing to get ready, and then running out the door with a doughnut in one hand and your briefcase in the other. Or, you can start your day with good morning habits. I recommend the latter.

one-hour-banner-largeBelow you’ll find nine morning habits to start the day right.

1. Wake Up Early. Early risers reap many benefits. Some of these benefits include the following:

  • Being able to go through your morning routine in a calm and leisurely manner instead of running around like a chicken with its head cut off being rushed.
  • Having time for introspection and getting yourself in the right frame of mind.
  • The quiet morning hours are a great time to get things done.
  • You can get an early start on your goals, such as getting daily exercise or tackling a 30-day challenge.

Waking up early will also allow you to practice the eight habits explained below, which will help you to start your day in high spirits, ready to tackle anything that life throws at you throughout the day.

2. Smile and Think Something Positive. As soon as you wake up, smile. Scientists have discovered that smiling does all of the following for you:

  • When you smile your body releases the feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine and endorphins. This means that by smiling first thing when you wake up you’ll be starting your day in a better mood.
  • In addition, when you smile your mood is further lifted by the release of serotonin.
  • Smiling strengthens the immune system, so by smiling first thing in the morning and remembering to do it throughout the day you’ll be warding off disease, specially during flu season.

If you have trouble getting yourself to smile in the morning, force yourself: even a forced smile has benefits.

In addition, say something like the following to yourself when you wake up (say it out loud or just say it silently in your head):

  • “Every day, think as you wake up: today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it.” – Dalai Lama
  • “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

Lastly, ask yourself these two questions:

  • What am I grateful for today?
  • What am I looking forward to today?

3. Make Your Bed. Get up and make your bed. Gretchen Rubin, author of “The Happiness Project”, indicates that a simple way to be happier is to make your bed every morning. By taking this small step to create outer order, you create inner calm. It’s something small and doable which gets your day started off right.

In addition, Naval Adm. William McRaven, ninth commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, said the following about making your bed in his commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin:

“If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.

By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.

If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.

And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made—that you made—and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

4. Brush Your Teeth and Scrape Your Tongue. Most people were taught to brush their teeth after having breakfast. However, it’s healthier to brush your teeth as soon as you wake up. Plaque—which is a film of bacteria–builds in your mouth while you sleep. You should remove this plaque buildup by brushing as soon as you wake up.

Also, brushing coats the teeth with a protective layer of fluoride to guard against the sugars and acids introduced in the mouth at breakfast.

In addition to brushing your teeth, you should also scrape your tongue. Here are five reasons why:

  • Fresh Breath – Most bad breath comes from the bacteria at the back of the tongue.
  • Better Tasting Food – By scraping your tongue you remove mucus which can block your taste buds.
  • Boost Immunity – Scraping your tongue prevents toxins from being reabsorbed into your body.
  • Healthier Teeth – The process of scraping your tongue promotes general tooth and gum health.

Then, after you’ve eaten your breakfast, rinse with a fluoride mouthwash.

5. Drink Warm Water With Lemon. After brushing your teeth drink a tall glass of lukewarm water with half a lemon–or one whole lemon–squeezed in it. This is an easy health tip which will do all of the following for you:

  • Lemon water cleanses and stimulates the liver and kidneys.
  • Lemons have lots of Vitamin C, which helps to protect you from catching a cold.
  • Drinking lemon water alkalizes the body — when the body does not have sufficient alkalizing substances and is overly acidic, it takes these substances from the bones or vital tissues.
  • The antioxidant properties of lemons help combat free radical damage, which keeps your skin looking young and healthy.

I use a straw to drink my water with lemon in the morning in order to protect the enamel on my teeth from the acid in the lemon.

6. Do a Stretching Routine. Performing a morning stretching routine will help you to loosen your muscles after sleeping, while increasing blood flow to your muscles. Taking ten minutes to do a few yoga poses will allow you to connect your mind, body, and breath in preparation for the day that’s ahead.

7. Meditate. Start your day with stillness by meditating in the morning. Meditating does everything from improving your focus to reducing stress, improving emotional stability, and preventing common health ailments. You can start simply by focusing on your breath for three minutes each morning, and build from there.

Do the following:

  • Sit in a comfortable position.
  • Close your eyes and focus on your breath.
  • Inhale for 4 counts, retain for 4 counts, and exhale for 8.
  • Every time you feel your mind wandering, bring it back to your breath.
  • Do this for three minutes.

8. Eat a Healthy Breakfast. You’ve already heard this a thousand times, but I’m going to say it again: breakfast in the most important meal of the day. A healthy breakfast consists of lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats. You’ll gain all of the following benefits from eating a healthy breakfast:

  • You’ll be less hungry throughout the day.
  • You’ll have better focus and concentration.
  • Skipping breakfast is tied to being overweight.
  • You’ll have more energy.

9. Create Something. Before you start taking in information–reading emails, listening to the news, attending meetings, and so on–create something. This can be anything: write a blog post; draw something; create an info-graphic; record a video; write a chapter of your novel; and so on.

Start you day in creativity-mode.

Conclusion

Your morning habits can make or break your day. The nine habits explained above are guaranteed to get your day started off right. Live your best life by creating good morning habits.

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early riser (2)

Look at the following quotes and tell me they don’t motivate you to become an early riser:

  • “It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.” — Aristotle
  • “The time just before dawn contains the most energy of all hours of the day. This has helped me become an early riser and an early doer . . . When I wake to see that it’s light out already, I feel the world has started without me.” — Terri Guillemets
  • “The early morning has gold in its mouth.” – Benjamin Franklin

Are you ready to commit to becoming an early riser? If so, this post will help you get started. Below you’ll discover seven things to stop doing to become an early riser.

1. Stop Mindlessly Watching TV Late At Night. Obviously, if you stay up late watching TV you’ll have a tough time getting up the next morning. And, let’s face it, it’s easy to zone out in front of the TV and let yourself binge watch your favorite TV shows late at night (I’m currently being tempted by “Sons of Anarchy”).

With the new season of “House of Cards” being released soon, it’s more important than ever to set limits on your TV time. To stop mindlessly watching TV late at night, establish a specific window of time during which you’ll allow yourself to watch TV, and limit your viewing time to that window. This probably means the following:

  • You’re going to have to be more selective when it comes to choosing which TV shows you’re going to follow. Just follow the shows you truly love.
  • In addition, you’ll have to force yourself to wait for the resolution of the cliff hanger of your favorite shows until the next day, even if the next episode of the show is already available (tough, I know).

Follow this same strategy if your late night addiction is playing video games, playing games on Facebook, or even reading vampire novels.

2. Stop Working Late at Night. A lot of people tell themselves that they’re most productive at night, and that they have their best ideas at 3:00 a.m. If you fall into this category, your late-night work habit is probably the major obstacle that you’re facing on your journey to becoming an early riser.

One strategy you can try is to give yourself a 9:00 a.m. challenge. The challenge is to spend 90 minutes working on your most important task of the day before 9:00 a.m. This challenge does two things for you:

  • It gives you a deadline. Procrastinators are often productive at night because they’re being pushed by the deadline of having to finish their task for the day before they’re too tired to work any longer. They can use this same strategy for being productive in the morning by setting a 9:00 a.m. deadline for their most important task.
  • In addition, it’s very likely that by taking this challenge you’ll discover that—like most people–you’re more productive in the mornings rather than late at night.

3. Stop Sitting In Front of Your Computer Until Your Bedtime. You should turn off your computer and all electronic devices in the hours before your bedtime. The artificial light that electronic devices emit—which is called blue light–keeps you alert and suppresses the body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that promotes sleep.

Aim to turn off all of your electronic devices two hours before bedtime. If you simply have to use your smartphone, tablet or computer close to your bedtime, try doing the following:

  • Turn down the brightness, ensuring that the device is at least 12 inches from your eyes.
  • Use an app that dims the lighting on your screen at night. One option is f.lux.
  • Use amber-tinted glasses that block blue light.

4. Stop Drinking Caffeine After Noon. Caffeine is a stimulant, and it disrupts sleep. A study conducted by researchers at Michigan’s Henry Ford Hospital’s Sleep Disorders & Research Center and Wayne State College of Medicine sheds some light on the time at which you need to stop drinking caffeine in order to get a good night’s sleep.

The researchers found that caffeine consumed 6 hours before bed reduced total nightly sleep amounts by more than 1 hour. That is, even if you fall asleep at the time you want to after having consumed caffeine in the afternoon, the quality of your sleep will be affected. To avoid sleep disruption, do the following:

  • Stick to a 2 o’clock cut off. Drinking caffeine can be a good thing. It can give you energy and make you more alert. However, you should drink caffeine at the right time. Try to restrict your caffeine consumption to the morning hours. If you do have a midday cup of coffee, drink it before 2 p.m.
  • Ease up on the caffeine as the morning progresses. Start the day with your most highly caffeinated beverage and ease up on the caffeine as the morning goes on. For example, have a strong cup of coffee in the morning but then have tea for your mid-morning coffee break.

5. Stop Relying on Willpower Alone. When you rely on willpower, which is a limited resource, you’re pushing yourself to carry out a specific action. However, when there’s something that you really want to do, intrinsic motivation will help you to carry out the task. And there’s no shortage of intrinsic motivation.

If you don’t have something to look forward to as soon as you wake up in the morning, only sheer willpower will get you out of bed. However, scheduling something you look forward to early in the morning will practically pull you out of bed. Here are some things you can consider doing first thing when you wake up to make sure that you’ll be bounding out of bed:

  • Have everything you need on hand to prepare your favorite breakfast (delicious food will get me out of bed any day).
  • Enroll in an early exercise class that you love, such as Zumba or a hula hoop class.
  • Schedule your favorite activity in the early morning, such as writing, drawing, or going out to walk in the countryside and take photos.
  • Work on a passion project first thing.

6. Stop Trying to Force Yourself to Go to Sleep at the Same Time Every Night. You should definitely aim to be ready for bed by the same time every night. However, don’t go to bed until you’re sleepy. If you’re waking up at the same time every morning, the time at which you start to get drowsy at night will vary depending on how tired you are that day. Look at the following:

  • On days in which you had more to do than usual, or if you didn’t sleep well the night before, you’ll naturally want to go to sleep earlier at night.
  • On days in which you’re less tired you’ll naturally want to go to sleep later at night.

To sum up: get up at the same time every day, and be ready to retire at the same time every night, but don’t go to bed until you’re tired.

7. Stop Hitting the Snooze Button. Everything that’s been explained so far is simply preparation for the key moment in becoming an early riser: the moment in which your alarm rings. What do you do when your alarm goes off? Do you get up immediately, or do you hit the snooze button and stay in bed?

If you hit the snooze button you’re not only missing your target wake-up time, you’re also restarting your sleep cycle. This means that when the alarm goes off a second time it’s very likely that you’ll be at an earlier and deeper part of your sleep cycle, which will make it even more difficult for you to get up.

Here are some strategies you can use to stop hitting the snooze button:

  • Put your alarm on the other side of the room so that you have to get out of bed to turn it off. An alternative is to put one alarm next to your bed, and another, louder alarm that will ring a minute later across the room.
  • Set your coffee maker to start brewing your coffee just before your alarm rings so that you wake up to the smell of coffee. The arousing aroma of coffee will activate your brain and help you wake up.
  • Get an alarm that forces you to do something, such as an Android alarm that makes you get up and scan an item so that it will turn off. There’s also an iPhone alarm that makes you do math.
  • Use an outlet timer for your lamp so that you have light shining in your face right when you wake up.

Conclusion

In order to become an early riser, stop doing the things which prevent you from getting up early in the morning. That is, stop doing the seven things explained above. Live your best life by becoming an early riser.

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Happy New Year decoration
The New Year is filled with promise. Most people would recognize the following phrases:

  • “This is the year I’m finally going to write my novel.”
  • “This is the year I’ll stop smoking.”
  • “This is the year I’m going to get into the best shape of my life.”
  • “This is the year I’m getting organized.”

Whatever your New Year Resolutions may be for 2015, here are 100 blog posts to help you achieve them:

1. Stop Procrastinating

2. Be More Productive

3. Make Better Use of Your Time

4. Keep a Journal

5. Get Richer

6. Cross a Few Items Off of Your Bucket List

7. Have More Fun, Go On More Adventures

8. Achieve Inner Peace

9. Become a Better Person

10. Be Happier

11. Be More Creative

12. Write a Novel

13. Find Work You Love

14. Increase Your Willpower

15. Increase Your Self-Esteem

16. Increase Your Motivation

17. Travel

18. Be Healthier and Get Fit

19. Be Smarter

20. Get Organized

21. Build New Habits

Conclusion

Start living your best life in 2015 by setting New Year Resolutions and creating a plan for achieving them. The 100 blog posts above are a great place to start (if I do say so myself). Have a great 2015!

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South America

South America includes the following twelve sovereign states: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela. The French Territory of Guiana is also located in South America, as well as the British Overseas Territory of the Falklands Islands.

Although Central America is technically part of North America, I’m going to include must-see landmarks in Central America in this blog post.

Below you’ll find seven must-see landmarks in Central and South America. Add them to your wish list, bucket list, dream list, life list, or whatever you want to call your list of life goals.

Tikal National Park1. Visit Guatemala’s Tikal National Park, where ruins of an ancient Maya city-state  lie deep in the heart of the jungle. These ruins housed approximately 100,000 people from the 6th century BC to the 10th century AD. Remains of more than 3,000 separate buildings, including temples, palaces, and tombs are preserved here.

Panama Canal2. Traverse the Panama Canal, a ship canal which cuts across the isthmus of Panama and is a key conduit for international maritime trade. It connects the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans, and is considered to be one of the engineering marvels of the world.

While you can see some of the canal’s more interesting features from land, the best way to experience the canal is by embarking on a boat tour. Highlights include the locks, which raise and lower the ships, as well as the Galliard Cut, a nine-mile passage through solid rock.

Nazca lines3. See the Nazca Lines in the Pampas de Jumana, Peru. These geoglyphs depict living creatures, stylized plants and imaginary beings, as well as geometric figures several kilometers long. They were scratched on the surface of the ground by the Nazca culture between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500. The Nazca Lines are among archaeology’s greatest enigmas because of their quantity, nature, size and continuity.

Machu4. Visit Machu Picchu in Peru. Machu Picchu is a citadel of stone built by the Incas more than 500 years ago, nearly 8,000 feet up in the Andes. The complex of palaces and plazas, temples and homes may have been built as a ceremonial site, a military stronghold, or a retreat for the ruling elite.

Christ the Redeemer5. See Christ the Redeemer, an Art Deco statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It’s 30 meters (98 ft) tall, not including its 8 meters (26 ft) pedestal, and its arms stretch 28 meters (92 ft) wide. The statue is located at the peak of the 700 meters (2,300 ft) tall Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park overlooking the city of Rio de Janeiro. The monument is accessible by road and by cog railway.

Mano del Desierto6. Visit Mano del Desierto (Desert Hand) in the Atacama Desert, Chile. The Atacama desert covers a 1,000-kilometer (600 mi) strip of land on the Pacific coast, west of the Andes mountains.

Mano del Desierto is a large-scale sculpture of a hand by Mario Irarrázabal located about 46 miles outside of the city of Antofagasta. Surrounded by a vast expanse of desert, it appears to rise out of nowhere.

Catedral de Sal7. Visit the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá located near the town of Zipaquirá, in Cundinamarca, Colombia (48 kilometers from Bogotá). It’s a church built deep inside a salt mine–which has been active since the 5th century B.C.–, and everything in the church is built from blocks of salt.

It’s one of two salt cathedrals in the world (the other one is in Poland).

Conclusion

Live your best life by making a list of life goals that include everything that you want to see, do, and experience. Make sure that you include the must-see landmarks above on your list. You can find 10,000 ideas for your life list or bucket list here.

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must-see landmarks in North America

I’ve done a post on 17 Must-See Landmarks in Europe, and another one on 16 Must-See Landmarks in Asia. Of course, I couldn’t leave out the continents of North and South America, both of which are filled with incredible landmarks. Although I’ve lived in Europe and Africa, I’ve spent most of my life in these two continents.

Below you’ll find 10 must-see landmarks in North America (and my next post will cover 7 must-see landmarks in South America). Add them to your wish list, bucket list, dream list, life list, or whatever you want to call your list of life goals.

Chateau Frontenac1. Visit the Chateau Frontenac, a grand hotel located in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, overlooking the St. Lawrence River.

With its copper turrets and stone towers, the 620-room hotel combines the architectural styles of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and resembles a fairy tale castle. It was built between 1892 and 1893 as a stopover location for those traveling on the Canadian Pacific Railway.

CN Tower Toronto2. Visit the CN Tower, a communications and observation tower in Downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It’s Toronto’s tallest and most defining landmark. Soar up to 342 m (1,122 feet) and you’ll arrive at the outdoor observation deck which gives you great views of the city. Stand on the glass floor–the first of its kind–which lets you look all the way down to street level.

For thrill-seekers, there’s the Edgewalk, a walk outside on top of the CN Tower’s main pod, at a height of 356 meters. You can even lean over the edge of the pod.

Parliament Hill (2)3. Visit Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. It’s a Gothic revival suite of buildings sitting atop the Hill and overlooking the Ottawa River. The complex serves as the home of the Parliament of Canada.

Climb up the Peace Tower–a bell and clock tower–for great 360 degree views of the city.

Golden Gate Bridge4. Visit the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, US. This Art deco bridge, which is 1.7 miles long and is easily identified by its orange color, connects San Francisco to California’s northern counties. It opened in 1937 and is a magnificent monument set against a beautiful backdrop.

You can drive across the bridge, or you can choose to walk or bike across.

Mount Rushmore5. See Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It’s a sculpture carved into the granite face of Mount Rushmore. Specifically, it features sculptures of the heads of four United States presidents:

  • George Washington
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • Abraham Lincoln

The entire memorial covers 1,278.45 acres (5.17 km2).

Seattle Space Needle (2)6. Climb the Seattle Space Needle, in Seattle, Washington, US. The Space Needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair; it’s 605 feet (184 m) high and 138 feet (42 m) wide at its widest point. It features an observation deck, as well as the rotating SkyCity restaurant.

From the top of the Needle, one can see the Downtown Seattle skyline, as well as the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, Elliott Bay and surrounding islands.

Statue of Liberty7. Visit the Statue of Liberty, New York City, USA. A gift from France, the Statue of Liberty has been standing at the entrance to New York Harbor since 1886. Since then it has welcomed millions of immigrants who reached the United States by sea.

The Statue of Liberty is a highly potent symbol of ideals such as liberty, peace, human rights, democracy, and opportunity.

Hoover Dam (2)8. Visit the Hoover Dam, a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the US states of Arizona and Nevada. It’s located just minutes outside of Las Vegas. Recognized as an engineering marvel, it was completed in 1936.

Washington Monument9. Visit the Washington Monument, located at the center of the National Mall in Washington, DC, US. The 555-foot, 5-1/8″ obelisk made of marble, granite and bluestone gneiss honors the nation’s founding father, George Washington. It’s one of Washington, DC’s most iconic structures, as well as its tallest. You can even take a tour up to the top of the obelisk.

Kukulcan10. See the Kukulkan Pyramid in Chichen-Itza, Yucatán, Mexico. Chichen-Itza is the most important archaeological vestige of the Maya-Toltec civilization in the Yucatán Peninsula (10th-15th centuries). The Kukulkan Pyramid–also known as “El Castillo” (which means the castle)—is one of the undisputed masterpieces of Mesoamerican architecture.

 Conclusion

Live your best life by making a list of life goals that include everything that you want to see, do, and experience. Make sure that you include the must-see landmarks above on your list. You can find 10,000 ideas for your life list or bucket list here.

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Happy New Year

The New Year is about to start. Are you ready? If not, here’s an A to Z list of ideas for the New Year to help you out.

A. Auld Lang Syne – Auld Lang Syne is also known as “The New Year’s Anthem”. It was bandleader Guy Lombardo who turned the old Scottish song into a New Year’s tradition. Listening to it on the 31st of December is a must.

Here’s a version sung by Mariah Carey:

B. Bucket List - Create a bucket list for 2015. Make sure that you fill it with all of the fun things you want to do in the upcoming year, the adventures you want to go on, and the places you want to visit.

Here’s one item you can consider adding to your list: on March 20th, 2015 there will be a total solar eclipse which will be visible in the North Atlantic.

C. Chinese Zodiac – The year 2015 is the year of the sheep. Feng Shui expert Hanz Cua predicts that 2015 will be calmer and more prosperous than 2014 (which is, of course, good news). Go here to see how you’ll do in 2015 depending on your Chinese Zodiac sign.

D. Decorations – Make sure that you decorate for the New Year, even if it’s with cheap stuff you find at the dollar store. Here are some ideas:

  • Fill the mantel with clocks.
  • Hang streamers, lanterns, and tissue paper pom-poms everywhere.
  • Also, hang lots of balloons.

The conventional colors for New Year’s decorations are white, silver and gold.

E. Exchange Memories – Exchanging memories of the year that’s just ending helps us remember the good and bring some closure to the bad.

Some people write down things that they don’t want to forget on little pieces of paper throughout the year, and then they put the scraps of paper in a “Memory Jar”. On the 31st of December they take out their “Memory Jar” and they go through all the memories that they recorded for the year.

F. Fireworks – Fireworks go off everywhere at midnight on the 31st of December. Start off by watching the amazing fireworks display over Sydney Harbor in Sydney, Australia, and then just follow the celebrations around the world until you hit midnight where you are.

G. Grapes – In Spain it’s traditional to eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight. They’re known as the 12 grapes of luck. You eat one grape with each bell strike which ensures that the upcoming year will be prosperous.

Hint: Buy small grapes so you can eat one grape per stroke of the clock.

H. Hope – Even if the year that just ended was challenging, there’s a New Year full of hope which is about to start. As Alfred Tennyson once wrote: “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering ‘it will be happier’…”

Write down your hopes for 2015.

I. Ice Bucket – Make sure you have an ice bucket ready to chill your champagne. Buy the best champagne you can afford and get flute glasses that say “2015”. In addition, frozen rose buds and other flowers make beautiful ice cubes.

J. Joy and Jubilation - Throw a New Year’s Eve Bash filled with joy and jubilation. Make sure to have paper party hats and tiaras, party blowers, and lots of confetti.

K. Kinship – The holidays are for spending with family and friends. Gather your tribe, serve up some great food and drinks, and ring in the New Year with those you love. If you’re not with your kin on New Year’s Eve, you can always have brunch with them on the 1st of January.

L. Launch a 365 Day Project – Choose something you’re going to do every single day in 2015. You can create a 365-day project for just about anything. Here are three examples:

  • Document 2015 by taking a photo a day.
  • Relieve stress by meditating every day in 2015.
  • Write 500 words of your novel every day in 2015.

You’ll find many more ideas here: Launch a 365-Day Project.

M. Movies – Watch movies with scenes set on December 31st. Here are some ideas:

  • “The Godfather II” has a crucial New Year’s Eve scene set in Cuba.
  • “New Year’s Eve” is a 2011 film which weaves several romantic stories against a backdrop of New Year’s Eve in Times Square.
  • “When Harry Met Sally” because of this scene:

N. Noisemakers – Traditionally people made a lot of noise and ruckus at the stroke of midnight on the last day of the year in order to frighten off evil spirits. Today, people greet the New Year with lots of noise because it’s fun. Get noisemakers in a variety of colors, styles, and shapes and see how loud you can be when the clock strikes twelve.

O. Out With the Old, In With the New. The last day of the year and the first day of the new year are a perfect time to clean out the old and bring in the new. Choose three items in your home that need to be replaced. Then, do the following:

  • Throw out the old items.
  • Purchase new items to replace them.

I’m replacing my ASICS running shoes, 6 pairs of socks, and my towels.

P. Parade – Attend your town’s New Year’s Day parade. If there’s no parade in your town, or if you’d rather stay in on the 1st of January–watch the Rose Parade held in Pasadena, California, USA, on TV. Known as “America’s New Year Celebration”, the theme for 2015 is “inspiring stories”.

Q. Questions and Prompts – Have a series of questions and prompts ready to help you plan for the year that’s just starting. Your questions can include the following:

  • What one accomplishment would make me say at the end of 2015, “This was a great year”?
  • What are my three most important goals for 2015?
  • If this were my last year left on earth, how would I live it?

In addition, here are 36 prompts to help you plan an awesome 2015.

R. Resolutions - ‘Tis the time for making New Year’s resolutions. Popular resolutions include losing weight, eating healthy foods, and managing stress. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Don’t set too many resolutions.
  • Make sure they’re realistic.
  • Make them very specific.
  • Make them measurable.
  • Set deadlines.

S.  Sparklers  - It’s fun to ring in the New Year with sparklers. Get your box of sparklers beforehand (make sure they’re legal where you live). Then, wrap the box in a fun printable that says “Have a Sparkling New Year”. Have a lighter or some matches ready to light up your sparklers.

T. Theme – Instead of setting New Year’s resolutions, some people prefer to choose one word–or to choose a theme–for the year. Your one word should summarize who you want to be or how you want to live. You should focus on your word every day of the year.

As an illustration, your one word for the year could be any of the following: mindfulness; fun; or action.

U. Undies – In some Latin American countries, people believe that the color of the underwear that you wear on the 31st of December will influence the kind of year that you’ll have. For example, yellow underwear brings prosperity and success, red brings romance, white brings peace and harmony, and so on.

I know what color undies I’ll be wearing (but I’m not going to tell you).

V. Virtues – Benjamin Franklin famously wrote down a list of 13 virtues which he strove to live up to. He would then concentrate on acquiring one of these virtues at a time. Follow in Franklin’s footsteps by creating a list of 12 virtues and devoting one month of the upcoming year to each one.

W. Watch the Ball Drop – I think everyone has “be at Times Square in New York City on December 31st and watch the ball drop” on their bucket list. It’s arguably the best-known New Year’s event worldwide. However, until the day comes when you’re actually in NYC on the last day of the year, you can watch the ball drop on TV.

X. XOXO – In many countries it’s a tradition to hug and kiss someone at the stroke of midnight. There’s a superstition that not doing so means that the upcoming year will be a lonely one. So pucker up and start the year off right.

Y. Yearly Review - It’s a good idea to conduct a yearly review at the end of each year. Reflect on the year completed and how it went.

In addition, look over the list of goals which you created at the beginning of the year and ask yourself how many of those goals you accomplished. If you didn’t accomplish some of your goals, ask yourself why. In addition, analyze what you need to do differently so that you can accomplish all of your goals during the upcoming year.

Z. Zappy – Create a playlist of zappy music to listen to all day long on the 31st of December and then on the 1st of January. Here are some songs with a New Year theme:

Conclusion

As you can see, the ideas above include a little bit of everything, from introspection to revelry. Use this A to Z list to plan a glorious New Year.

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punctual

Being on time matters; it matters a lot. However, a large number of people have a problem being punctual. In fact, surveys show that 15 to 20% of the US population is consistently late.

There are many negatives that go along with having a habit of being late. Here are a few them:

  • Being late signals to others that you have self-control problems. In addition, people who are not punctual project incompetence.
  • Being late is rude to those whom you keep waiting. It tells others that you don’t value their time (which is the same thing as not valuing them).
  • Being late will probably make you feel flustered and insecure, and this will be reflected in the way in which you conduct yourself during any meeting or appointment that you’re late to.
  • Being chronically late can make you lose clients, it can make you lose your job, and it can strain your relationships with the people who are most important to you.

In addition, there are several different reasons why a person might have a punctuality problem. Some of these include the following:

  • Some people like the adrenaline rush that comes from cutting it close. They can’t motivate themselves to take action unless there’s a mini-crisis looming on the horizon.
  • Disorganization is one of the main reasons why people are chronically late. It’s hard to be on time when you can’t find any clean clothes to wear, you misfiled the documents that you need for your meeting, or your car keys seem to have grown legs and walked off.
  • People who are easily distracted have a tendency to be late. After all, just when they’re about to walk out the door something shiny catches their eye and distracts them long enough to make them late.
  • Those who lack conscientiousness are chronically late. Conscientiousness includes regard for others and making deliberate choices.

Regardless of the reason why you have a tendency to be late, there are things you can do to adopt the habit of being on time. Below you’ll find 12 tips for being punctual.

1. Make Being Prompt a Priority. The first step in becoming punctual is accepting that you have a punctuality problem. Then, realize that it’s not a cute or quirky character trait. Instead, it’s a habit that’s having a negative impact on your career, on your business, and/or on your relationships.

Make a commitment to drop the tardiness habit and become punctual.

2. Know Why You Want to Be Punctual. Whenever you want to create a new habit, you need to be very clear on the reasons why you want to build that habit. The more reasons you have for wanting to adopt a new habit, and the stronger those reasons are, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to make the new habit stick.

Sit down with a pen and a piece of paper and ask yourself what you’ll gain by overcoming your tardiness habit and adopting a habit of punctuality, instead. You can write down things like the following:

  • Being on time will help you to cut down on stress (after all, few things are as stressful as always running late).
  • Being on time will reduce friction with your co-workers; nobody likes to be kept waiting.
  • Being on time will let your boss know that you can be counted on, which could lead to a promotion.

Be very clear on the benefits that you’ll gain by being punctual, and then keep reminding yourself of those benefits in order to motivate yourself to become someone who’s prompt.

3. Track How Long Tasks Take. A lot of people who are constantly late have trouble determining how long it takes them to perform different tasks; even those tasks that they perform on a regular basis. For example, they might think that it takes them 25 minutes to get ready in the mornings, when the reality is that it takes them a lot longer than that.

If you fall into this group of people, do the following:

  • Make a list of all the tasks that you have to get done in the morning in order to get ready to leave for school or work (or wherever it is that you go in the mornings).
  • Then, spend a week tracking how long it takes you to complete each of these tasks. For example, how long does it take you to wash your face and brush your teeth? How long does it take you to take a shower? How long does it take you to get dressed? How long does it take you to fix your hair?

Once you’ve tracked how long it takes you to get ready in the morning, you may realize that it takes you 45 minutes to be ready to walk out the door, not the 25 minutes that you previously thought. If this is the case, accept that you need to start getting out of bed 20 minutes earlier in order to make it to your morning destination on time.

4. Use a Timer. Once you know how long it actually takes you to complete different tasks, use a timer to make sure that you adhere to those times. For example, if you know that it takes you three minutes to take a shower, set a timer for three minutes right before you step into the shower. Then, when you hear the timer ring, turn the water off and step out of the shower right away.

5. Be Ruthless With Your To Do List. One reason why you may have a tendency to be late is because you simply have too much to do. If your schedule is unrealistic, how can you possibly be on time for anything? It’s better to say “no” to something you don’t have time for than it is to say “yes” and then be an hour late.

Take out your to do list and ruthlessly cross out anything that’s not a priority. Make sure that you only commit to do the number of things which you can realistically get done, and which you can realistically be on time for. Punctual people accept that they can’t do it all.

6. Be Prepared to Be On Time. Preparation is one of the keys to punctuality. As an illustration, if you’re constantly late leaving your house in the morning, set up the night before. The night before, do the following:

  • Choose the clothes that you’re going to wear and lay them out.
  • Pack your briefcase and leave it by the door.
  • Make sure that your house keys and your car keys are by the door.
  • Make your breakfast —one idea is to cut up some fruits, put them in a container, and store the container in the fridge.

As a second example, if you’re constantly late to meetings because you can’t find what you need, start preparing for meetings long beforehand. At least an hour before the meeting, gather all of the materials that you’ll need and place them on a corner of your desk or on a chair.

Always be prepared to be on time.

7. Give Yourself a Time Cushion. Even if you know how long it takes you to perform different tasks—such as driving to work or driving to a meeting across town—give yourself some extra time  in case of unexpected events. It’s a given that things are not going to run smoothly 100% of the time.

Here are some of the myriad of things that could go wrong as you try to get to your meeting across town:

  • Just as you’re leaving your office you spill coffee on your shirt, so now you have to change into the spare shirt you keep in the closet.
  • There’s construction along the route that you usually take, so now you have to take a different, longer route.
  • It starts to rain, which slows down traffic.

One of the habits of people who are punctual is that they don’t just give themselves the amount of time that they need to get to where they’re going on time. Instead, they also give themselves a time cushion in case something goes wrong.

8. Be Prepared to Wait. People usually don’t like to be early because they feel that the time that they spend waiting for others is wasted time. That is, they prefer to be late rather than having some downtime. The key to overcoming this hurdle is to be prepared to have to wait. Waiting time doesn’t have to be wasted time.

Do the following:

  • Keep a manila folder filled with industry related articles and take it with you so that you can catch up on your reading while you wait.
  • Plan to answer emails on your iPhone.
  • Use the downtime to close your eyes for a while and meditate.
  • See the waiting time as “extra time” and use it to work on a personal project, such as working on your novel or on your business plan for the small business you want to start on the side.

The best way to avoid being late is to plan to be early. In addition, you can stop dreading being early by having a plan for how you’re going to use the waiting time.

9. Change Your Thoughts About Being Early. A lot of people think that those who are important keep others waiting. Therefore, being early is a sign that they’re not that important. And no one wants to feel unimportant.

However, being early is really a sign of being organized, having respect for others, and having good time management skills. And these are all character traits of important people. Keep telling yourself, “Important people are punctual”.

10. Always Leave on Time. The moment which ultimately determines whether you arrive where you’re going late or on time is the moment in which you walk out your door. Once you’ve reversed engineered the time at which you need to leave in order to arrive at your intended destination on time, force yourself to leave at that time.

Think of the following scenario: you’ve calculated that you need to leave by ten a.m. in order to get to your meeting with the board of directors ten minutes early. Therefore, at ten a.m. on the dot get up and go. Look at the following:

  • If an email comes in at 9:59 a.m., ignore it.
  • If a colleague walks into your office two minutes before you have to leave, tell them you can give them two minutes. When the two minutes are up, excuse yourself and leave.
  • If it’s 9:58 a.m. and you feel like trying to squeeze in one more task before you leave, have the discipline to stop yourself, get your things, and walk out.
  • If you get up to leave and you notice that your diploma–which is hanging on the wall– is dusty, make a mental note to clean it when you get back. Under no circumstances should you start looking for a dusting cloth to clean it before you leave.

If you leave for your appointments on time–and you give yourself a time cushion in case something goes wrong–, you’re practically guaranteed to be on time.

11. Set Up Reminders. Set up a reminder for meetings and appointments an hour before you have to leave. Also, set up another reminder for fifteen minutes before you have to go. That way, you can time yourself so that you’re ready to leave on time.

12. Practice the Day Before. For important events, such as a job interview or if you have to give a presentation, practice how to get to where you need to be the day before. That way, you won’t lose time on the day of the important event trying to find the right address.

Make a good first impression when it comes to important events by practicing the day before so that you can be on time.

Conclusion

When you’re on time you’re prepared to do your best. Being punctual signals to others, as well as to yourself, that you can be depended on. Use the 12 tips above to become more punctual.

Live your best life by adopting the habit of always being on time.

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do less and achieve more

Lots of people think that the key to productivity is to find ways to get more done. However, the real secret to optimum productivity is to do less while achieving more. Below you’ll discover eleven strategies for doing this.

1. Identify the Tasks With the Greatest Impact. Make an inventory of everything that you’re trying to do, identify those tasks on your list which will have the greatest impact in helping you to achieve your goals, and put those tasks at the top of your to do list.

Look at all of the tasks at the bottom of your to do list and eliminate, delegate, or outsource them.

2. Train Your Brain to Focus. Once you’ve decided what to work on—that is, once you’ve chosen the highest impact task—get to work on that task and calibrate your brain to focus on it completely. Look at the following two scenarios:

  • You work on a report for 45 minutes; during that time all of your attention is on the report.
  • You work on a report for an hour; during that time your attention wanders, you check your email, you make a phone call, and you check your Twitter feed a couple of times.

Obviously, you’ll get more done during 45 minutes of focused work than you will in an hour during which your attention wanders all over the place. You can get more done, in less time, by focusing on what you’re doing.

3. Listen to Your Body’s Clock. One of the best ways to get more done in less time is to work on your most important tasks when you’re most effective. We all have a peak time of day during which our brain capacity is at its highest. Identify when that time of day is for you, and set that time aside to work on your most important task for the day.

For most adults, the best time to do cognitive work is in the late morning.

4. Work on Your Strengths. It’s a lot more effective to work on the things that you’re good at, than it is to spend time working on things that you don’t do well. Think of the following: you have a plot of land and you’re trying to decide what to grow on it. You can choose between apples and pears.

When trying to make your decision, you need to take the following into account:

  • The conditions of the soil on your plot of land are such that apples grow well.
  • The conditions of the soil on your plot of land are such that pears grow poorly.

What are you going plant on your plot of soil? I really hope you said “apples”.

Working on your strengths is the equivalent of planting the crop that grows best on your plot of land. On the other hand, working on your weaknesses is the equivalent of planting crops that grow poorly. It doesn’t matter how hard you work at growing pears, they’re never going to grow well because the soil is simply not suited for pears.

5. Be Exceptional. You get much better results in life by doing a few things exceptionally well, than you do by doing many things at an average level. Therefore, instead of wasting time trying to be a jack-of-all-trades, focus your time and efforts on a few things that you enjoy doing, which you’re good at, and that get you the results that you’re after.

It takes less time–and you reap greater rewards–to learn to do a few things very well, than it does to learn to do lots of things reasonably well.

6. Sharpen the Saw. Leadership guru Stephen Covey identified “sharpening the saw” as one of the seven habits of highly effective people. Imagine trying to cut down a tree with a saw that has a dull blade. You’ll be sawing for hours with little to show for your efforts.

Then, imagine trying to cut down a tree with a saw that has a really sharp blade. You’ll cut down that tree in no time. A sharp blade gives you better and faster results than a dull blade. When it comes to you, the equivalent of sharpening the saw is doing the following:

  • Get enough sleep at night.
  • Take frequent breaks throughout the day.
  • Devote at least one day a week to rest and relaxation.
  • Take a vacation at least once a year.

7. Use the Best Tools for the Job. Whenever you’re going to work on a task, look for the best tool that you can find to get that task done. Here are three examples:

  • If you’re going to clean your house, get the best cleaning supplies you can find.
  • If the task you’re working on involves doing research on the internet, use the fastest internet access you can find.
  • If you’re going to manage a project, use the best project management software you can find.

8. Set Deadlines. Deadlines serve several important purposes, two of which are the following:

  • Setting a deadline for a project forces you to get started, since there’s a date by which you need to be done.
  • Setting a deadline tells you when to stop working on a project.

Knowing when to stop is very important in order to get more done in less time.

In theory, a project can go on indefinitely. No matter how good a job you do, there’s always room for improvement. You can get more done in less time by setting a clear “stop date” for each of your projects, instead of continuing to edit and polish your projects indefinitely.

9. Do What Works. It’s much more productive to spend an hour doing what works, than it is to spend that hour experimenting with things that may or may not work. While it’s important to be unique, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel when the wheel is working just fine.

And how do you know what works? By modeling those who have succeeded where you want to succeed. Find out what has worked for others, and then emulate them. Of course, the idea here isn’t to rip people off by stealing their ideas. A good rule of thumb is the following: don’t copy what they did, copy how they did it.

10. Leverage Your Time. Look at the following three scenarios:

  • You work with people one-on-one teaching them a skill.
  • You set up a workshop and teach that skill to several people at once.
  • You create a course teaching others how to perform that skill and you sell it on the internet.

In all three scenarios you’re doing the same thing: you’re using your time to teach others a skill. However, depending on which scenario you choose, you’ll get very different results.

Doing it one-one-one is much less effective that it is to teach a workshop in which you can teach several people at once. In addition, you leverage your time even more by creating a course and selling it online to potentially thousands of people. Get more done in less time by leveraging your time.

11. Leverage Your Knowledge. Finding ways to leverage your knowledge is one of the best ways to do less and achieve more.  For example, if you have a core idea you can do all of the following with it:

  • Write a blog post and put Google AdSense on your blog so that you make money from the traffic that lands on your blog to read your post.
  • Take three tips from your blog post and create a video that you can put up on YouTube.
  • Create a slide presentation of your blog post and put it up on SlideShare.
  • Expand the blog post, turn it into an ebook, and sell it.

What you’re doing is repackaging your idea several times in order to get as much usage out of it as you can. That is, you’re leveraging your knowledge. The more you can leverage your knowledge, the more you can get done in less time.

Conclusion

Many of us were taught that in order to succeed we have to exert enormous amounts of effort and be constantly busy.  However, the most successful people do not necessarily work harder than everyone else; instead, they work smarter.

Live your best life by doing less and achieving more by applying the eleven strategies explained above.

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Christmas fun activities

December is here and ’tis the season to be jolly. The best way to feel joyful this Christmas is to partake in activities which will infuse you with the holiday spirit. Below you’ll discover 25 Christmas activities filled with holiday cheer.

1. Choose a Fun Way to Countdown to Christmas. How are you going to countdown to Christmas this year? Stretch out the Christmas joy by doing something fun and Chrismassy every single day from the 1st to the 25th of December. The options are endless. Here are some ideas:

  • Get 25 pieces of paper, write a Christmas activity on each one, and stick them in envelopes numbered one to 25. Activities can include things such as going to the mall to listen to carolers, watching “Elf” (starring Will Ferrell), and going to Starbucks for a Gingerbread Latte.
  • Get an over-the-door shoe organizer with 24 pockets, and number the pockets from one to 24. Put little gifts in each pocket.
  • Make a beer advent calendar and toast the holidays.

2. Trim Your Tree With a Theme. Trimming the tree is always fun, but it’s even better if you come up with a theme. Ideas for themed Christmas trees are endless. Here are some of them:

3. Go on a Christmas Scavenger Hunt. Piling into the car to go look at the Christmas lights is fun, but going on a Christmas Scavenger Hunt is even better. Make a list of the things that you’re going to search for before heading out. Your list can include things such as the following:

  • A nativity scene.
  • A polar bear.
  • A reindeer.
  • A snowman with a top hat.
  • A Christmas tree in a window.
  • Three wise men.
  • Penguins.
  • Santa on his sleigh.

4. Have a Christmas Treasure Hunt. A favorite Christmas tradition for many families is to let each family member open one present on Christmas Eve (and the rest are opened on Christmas morning). Instead of just giving each family member a gift to open on Christmas Eve, make them search for their gifts.

Hide one gift for each family member, and then come up with a series of clues to help them find their gifts.Here’s an example:

  • Clue #1 leads them to the cookie jar in the kitchen, which contains Clue #2.
  • Clue#2 leads to them to the lamp on the coffee table; Clue #3 is under the lamp.
  • Clue #3 leads them to the plant by the entrance; Clue #4 hidden among the leaves of the plant.
  • Clue #4 leads them to the closet in the den.
  • The gifts are hidden in the closet.

You can come up with rhyming clues, jumble up the letters to make the clues more difficult, use cryptograms, or write the clues in a foreign language.

5. Create a Christmas Playlist. Make a list of your favorite Christmas songs, find the best version of each song, and create a Christmas playlist. Then, listen to your playlist from the 1st of December to the 25th. Include perennial favorites, such as these:

  • “‘O Holy Night”
  • “Jingle Bells”
  • “Let It Snow”
  • “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”
  • “White Christmas”

6. Have a Neighborhood Christmas Party. Host a Christmas party to kickoff the holiday season and invite your neighbors. Ask each of your guests to bring a new unwrapped toy to donate to a charity that gives Christmas gifts to the needy. You’ll be strengthening your bonds with your neighbors, celebrating the season, and giving some holiday cheer to kids in need.

7. Take in the Smells of Christmas. Christmas time is an incredible olfactory experience. Make sure that this year you take in all the scents that make up the holiday season. Here are some of the smells of Christmas:

  • The smell of fresh pine.
  • Roasting chestnuts.
  • Cinnamon.
  • Honey-glazed ham.
  • Orange and cloves.
  • Peppermint.

8. Bake Gingerbread Men. Christmas isn’t complete without baking and eating at least one batch of gingerbread men. Gingerbread dough is made from flour, ginger, molasses, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Make sure to have cookie cutters shaped like little men, and icing to draw little faces and clothes on your gingerbread men. Of course, you can also make gingerbread ladies.

9. Make Gifts in a Jar. Gifts in a jar are all the rage, and for good reason. They’re inexpensive, easy and fun to make, and they’re always well received. Just get some nice jars–such as mason jars–and fill them with anything you can think of. Here are some ideas:

  • Create a journal jar by filling a jar with small pieces of paper, each one containing a journaling prompt. You can even add a nice journal and a pen with your gift.
  • Give them brownies in a jar. You can make these by layering all of the  ingredients that you need to make brownies in a jar. For example, the first layer is salt; then baking powder; then flour; then cocoa; then chocolate chips; last but not least, top it all off with walnuts.
  • Give them a sewing kit in a jar. Fill a jar with everything you would find in a sewing kit: a pin cushion; little scissors; spools of thread in different colors; needles and pins; and so on.

You can give gifts in a jar to anyone: teachers, neighbors, the mailman, other service providers, and so on.

10. Try Your Hand at a Holiday Craft. Buying Christmas ornaments is always fun. However, there’s nothing better than making an ornament yourself, and then proudly displaying it on the tree or on the mantle, or even wearing your handiwork. Even if you’re not crafty, there are lots of easy crafts you can try. Beaded safety pins with Christmas patterns are an easy holiday craft.

11. Watch Holiday Episodes of Your Favorite Sitcoms. Your favorite TV sitcoms almost certainly have at least one Christmas episode. My favorites are “The Christmas Story” from the Andy Griffith Show; “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” from The Honeymooners; and all the Christmas episodes from “Frasier”.

12. Watch Christmas Cartoon Classics. Watching classic Christmas cartoons is a fun Christmas activity for the whole family. Christmas cartoon classics include “A Charlie Brown Christmas”; “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”;  “Frosty the Snowman”; and “Garfield’s Christmas Special”.

13. Put Together Themed Stockings for Your Favorite People. There are few things as rewarding as spending the day putting together themed stockings for the most important people in your life. Do you have a little boy who loves trains? Get him a train quilted stocking, and then fill it with toys that are train-related.

Is your sister a bookworm? Get her a stocking decorated with books and fill it with all of the following:

  • An Amazon gift card (to buy books, of course);
  • A personalized bookmark;
  • The first book in a series you know she’ll love;
  • A rolled up tote bag (to carry books);
  • A coffee mug with a Shakespeare quote on it; and so on.

14. Go Look at the Christmas Window Displays. Go to the major shopping street in your city, or visit the biggest mall in the area, just to look at the window displays. Stores go all out this time of year, and each window display is more magical than the one before. Many of the displays are even animated.

15. Go Christmas Camping. Camp out in front of your Christmas tree one night. Keep the tree lights on and read holiday stories. Make sure to eat holiday treats: Krispie Treat Christmas trees; chocolate dipped pretzels covered in red and green sprinkles; Christmas caramel popcorn; and so on.

16. Play Christmas Trivia. Get the family together and play Christmas trivia. Here are some sample questions:

  • What are the names of the three wise men said to have brought gifts to the baby Jesus?
  • What are the three gifts which are mentioned being given by the wise men?
  • Which animals does the Bible say were present at Jesus’ birth?

17. Attend a Performance of “The Christmas Carol”. Charles Dickens’ novella, “A Christmas Carol”, was first published in December 1843. It tells the story of an old miser named Ebenezer Scrooge and how he’s finally filled with the Christmas spirit after a visit from the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Yet to Come.

For most local theaters, “The Christmas Carol” is the crown jewel of the holiday season.

18. Have a Gift Wrapping Party. Do you have lots of gifts to wrap? Turn it into a party. Pick a date, gather gift-wrapping supplies and invite your friends to bring over the holiday gifts they need to wrap. Everyone has a great time and leaves with a holiday to-do checked off their list. Here are the supplies you should have on hand:

  • Rolls of holiday wrapping paper
  • Ribbons
  • Gift Tags
  • Scissors and tape
  • Gift trims
  • Pens and markers

19. Shop for An Ugly Christmas Sweater. The ugly Christmas sweater has become a ubiquitous feature of the holiday season. The tackier and the funnier your sweater is, the better. Think bold red and green; large depictions of snowmen, reindeer, and Santa; and pom-poms. If the sweater lights up and plays holiday music, that’s even better.

20. Come Up with a New Family Tradition. Traditions and rituals keep us grounded, and some of the best traditions revolve around the Christmas holiday. Old family traditions bring back memories of childhood, and they help create that “warm” Christmas feeling. However, just as it’s important to maintain old traditions, it’s also fun to come up with new traditions.

One idea for a new tradition is the Christmas pickle. A decoration in the form of a pickle is hidden in the Christmas tree, and whoever finds it first on Christmas morning gets good fortune for the year to come. It’ll get the kids to take the time to really look at the tree!

21. Have a Christmas Karaoke Night. Consider giving yourself or a loved one a karaoke machine as a Christmas gift. Open the gift early, stock up on Christmas karaoke music, and have a Christmas karaoke night. You can also choose to rent a karaoke machine or visit a karaoke bar.

22. Make a Christmas Piñata. Did you think that piñatas are just for birthdays? Think again. Make or buy a piñata in the shape of Santa, a Christmas tree, a candy cane, or a snowflake. Fill it with Christmas favors,  lottery tickets, Christmas candy, and so on.

23. Watch the Classic Claymation Christmas Specials. The stop-motion animation Christmas specials from the 1960s and 1970s are still some of the best holiday films that exist. These are the best four:

  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
  • Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (1970)
  • The Year Without A Santa Claus (1974)
  • Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (1977)

24. Have an Eggnog Tasting Party. For many, including myself, eggnog is synonymous with the holiday season. And what better way to discover the best eggnog to have during the holidays than to have an eggnog tasting party? Try different brands of store-bought eggnog.

In addition, you can make several batches of eggnog yourself and try adding different spirits to each batch. Although eggnog is traditionally made with rum, you can also make it with bourbon or brandy. You can also try white chocolate liqueur, Godiva chocolate liqueur, or come up with your own twist.

Gather all of the supplies that you’ll need–such as punch glasses and tasting grids for taking notes–and make sure to have finger food.

25. Have a Christmas-themed Game Night. Family game night is always fun, and it’s even more so in December when you get to play your favorite games, but with a holiday theme. There’s everything from Christmas Bingo to Charlie Brown Christmas Uno. Here are some more Christmas-themed board and card games for the family:

  • Nightmare Before Christmas Scrabble
  • Christmas-opoly
  • Holiday Yahtzee

Conclusion

There you have it: 25 Christmas activities filled with holiday cheer. Which ones are you going to try this year?

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prompts for 2015

The holiday season is here, which means the New Year is just around the corner. It’s never too early to start thinking of ways to make 2015 even better than 2014.

Below you’ll find 36 prompts to help you plan an awesome 2015.

1. One habit I’m going to build.

2. One bad habit I’m going to break.

3. One person I’m going to forgive.

4. One person I’m going to befriend or reconnect with.

5. One person I’m going to spend more time with.

6. One way I’m going to strengthen my personal relationship.

7. One thing I’m going to create.

8. One negative belief I’m going to drop.

9. One positive belief I’m going to reinforce.

10. One unhealthy food I’m going to stop eating.

11. One healthy food I’m going to start eating.

12. One book I’m going to read.

13. One new place I’m going to visit.

14. One adventure I’m going to go on.

15. One hobby I’m going to try.

16. One personal development goal I’m going to achieve.

17. One fitness goal I’m going to achieve.

18. One new food I’m going to try.

19. One fear I’m going to overcome.

20. One risk I’m going to take.

21. One thing I’m going to throw out.

22. One thing I’m going to save for and purchase.

23. One way I’m going to make more money.

24. One expense I’m cutting out.

25. One way I’m going to stop wasting time.

26. One skill I’m going to learn.

27. One class I’m going to take or workshop I’m going to attend.

28. One way I’m going to make myself indispensable at work.

29. One thing I will no longer tolerate.

30. One way I’m going to keep my energy high.

31. One way I’m going to relax and de-stress.

32. One way I’m going to get better sleep.

33. One way I’m going to have more fun.

34. One small way in which I’m going to make the world a better place.

35. One bucket list item I’m crossing off.

36. One way I’m going to follow my bliss.

Use the prompts above to help you plan how to make 2015 the best year of your life.

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