BOSTON (MainStreet) -- You know what you're going to do for New Year's, right? Where you'll be at midnight, who you'll be kissing or how you plan to get to that point, what you'll be drinking and where, maybe what you'll be watching, even how you'll be pursuing the traditional resolutions once New Year's Day is history.
But between now and that moment is likely a blur -- always has been, always will be -- a wasted week in which people bide time between the Christmas and New Year's holidays. A
poll by flexible-workspace expert Regus showed
that 39% of business respondents expect little to be accomplished during the week, and that 58% thought staff would be using the time just to catch up on unfinished tasks. And that's according to 3,000 U.S. workers from among 12,000 business people surveyed in 85 countries.
>>13 Smart Things to Do Before Year-End
But it's more than business that's slowed to a crawl for these few days, but civic life as a whole. And there's more to do than just move paper around your desk and forward links to YouTube videos to similarly indolent friends.
Consider this your last wake-up call and last chance to do a few vital things before Dec. 31, including the things you'll be wishing you did in now when your brain finally comes out of hibernation in late January. Or February. Or the spring.
Whenever you realize it, you'll be kicking yourself if you don't get to these few items on the end-of-the-year checklist:
1. Use up your vacation and sick days
While many companies allow you to roll over at least some portion of your unused vacation and sick days into the new year, others stick to a use-it-or-lose-it policy (though this practice is illegal in some states, such as California). Working Americans will forfeit an average of two vacation days this year -- poof! -- according to
by travel site
. But you earned those days, so try not to let them go to waste.
For one thing, your absence may go mostly unnoticed. Nearly
over the holidays, according to the American Automobile Association, and the
found that fewer than two-thirds of Americans plan to come into work at all this week. So even if the most exciting trip you have planned is to return a sweater at
, if it's already a slow week for your company now might be a good time to take a day off.
You'd be wise not to leave your boss or coworkers in the lurch, though. Try to give as much notice as possible, and be sure to make preparations or find someone to cover for you while you're out. And if using those last vacation days is simply out of the question due to a major deadline, it might be worth asking your boss if you can take a comp day once things calm down in January.
We don't endorse feigning illness just to cash in your sick days by year-end, but those typically vanish as well once the ball drops on New Year's Eve. If hacking up phlegm while watching
reruns at home sounds idyllic compared with a normal day at work, we hope you played plenty with your young nieces, nephews or grandkids at family gatherings this holiday season; they're sure to be carrying the latest school- or day care-spawned bug that will have you happily laid up at home for a couple of days.
Then again, you may find this is a great week
to go on vacation. After all, while airfares and hotel rates skyrocket amid the holiday travel rush and the slopes swell with skiers, the traffic on your commute will undoubtedly lessen and you'll just about have the office to yourself. Plus, remember that your peers don't expect you to get anything done at work this week anyway.
-- By Jon Gorey in Boston.
2. Swap out your calendar
Getting a wall, desk or blotter calendar for the coming year is more than just a tradition; in an era of multiplying demands on time, it's a necessity for anyone who lacks a smartphone or needs a visual scheduling aid to share with others in your family or office. While calendars get cheaper after the new year, anyone who waits until then is likely to already be buried on the transfer of key dates from one year's calendar to the next, or at least behind the ball. And why should that be when we're talking about a purchase that can be low as a few bucks (or up to $75 for an At-A-Glance three-year calendar book).
In addition, this is the last year you may ever have to buy one. If the doomsayers are right, especially those with a limited understanding of the Mayan calendar, next year is when some kind of apocalypse lays waste to the Earth and paper goods industry. Investors take note: calendar makers such as
( ABD), At-A-Glance parent company
may be dogs if 2012 brings the apocalypse.
-- By Marc Levy in Boston.
3. Clear the beer from your fridge.
If that pumpkin ale from Halloween, witbier from the Fourth of July party or
from St. Patrick's Day hasn't been drunk yet, it probably shouldn't be.
As beer drinkers pour the last remnants of 2011 into the slop sink, it's as good a time as any to clean out the beer fridge. We're not saying that folks who've been stashing away bottles of Westvleteren 12 or Russian River's Pliny the Elder or Pliny the Younger in their darkened basements at 55 degrees should haphazardly huck bottles of liquid gold into the recycling bin. We're directing these comments toward beer lovers with deep fridge shelves in the kitchen or rusting Frigidaires in the cellar or garage whose surplus beer may be older than they suspect.
Before questioning the need to purge your
Redhook Longhammer IPA
( HOOK), ask yourself the following questions: 1. Did I put this in a cooler at some point and then put it back? 2. Did this I lug this from somewhere other than where it was bought? 3. Did I leave it out during an event where it didn't get used? 4. Did it spend any amount of time in a temperature warmer than where what the fridge is set at now?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, your beer is probably skunked. Craft brewers
and Stone hate this because the beer you've let linger around for months is in no way going to smell or taste like the beer they made for you. The drinker should hate this because their lemony wheat beer or hop-laden IPA now smells like musty laundry.
It seems like a waste to dump skunky beer, but the only way to protect your investment is to enjoy it within about three months or so after its purchase or, if it's a beer that can or should be saved, remember that beer used to be preserved in caves and keep it in your cellar at a cool, constant temperature. Don't end up like that guy -- me -- who let a bomber of Ommegang Witte sit in his fridge this summer, took it on a trip to Vermont in October and brought it back to the fridge until the end of his honeymoon in November. When he finally poured a glass of the normally citrusy witbier, it t smelled and tasted like a woolen sock he'd worn during a Boy Scout hike in the late '80s. Don't drink sock beer.
-- By Jason Notte in Boston.
4. Cancel your month-to-month memberships
After the champagne bottles are emptied and the party streamers are swept up, people often bear down and get serious about their new year's resolutions. One of the most common, of course, is to lose weight, and many end up at the gym signing for a one-year commitment with hopes and aspirations to shed those pounds.
Well, it's December, and you likely haven't seen your old friends the treadmill, the elliptical, or the stationary bike since sometime around Valentine's Day. Sure enough, though, you're still paying the monthly membership costs, either because you forgot to cancel it or because you're locked into a one-year commitment.
Town Sports International
is going to hate to hear this, but it's time for you to face reality: You're wasting upward of $100 a month for every time you choose to stay in for the
Law & Order
marathons rather than work out. If your resolution for 2011 was to lose weight and you've abandoned the gym, cancel your membership now that the annual contract is up.
But why stop at gym memberships? Are you really excited about watching "hot new" 2007 movies such as
Dan In Real Life
? Are you going to get your fill of Howard Stern on
America's Got Talent
that you won't need to hear his radio show on
? Are you really getting the most out of that PlayStation Plus membership since
has compromised your private data all year?
This just makes sense, so make sure to do it now before the calendar turns to 2012. You may get fatter, it's true, but so will your wallet.
-- By Rob Holmes in Boston.
5. Make New Year's dinner reservations
One benefit of tough economic times is that it had been a lot easier to get a table at most restaurants. Unless you want to celebrate the festivities from an
, though, don't expect such luck to apply to New Year's Eve.
Whether your goal is to dine at an upscale restaurant or toast with drinks at a crowded nightclub, you are running out of time to reserve space.
The National Restaurant Association estimates that 100 million Americans plan to celebrate the New Year by going out to a restaurant or bar, or order restaurant takeout or delivery. That's one in five eyeing a restaurant or bar; 22% counting on takeout or delivery.
With almost a third of the nation hitting up restaurants as they bid adieu to 2011 -- spurred by the many special menus chefs will be serving up -- it would be unwise to put off making reservations. Now, my friend, do it
-- By Joe Mont in Boston.
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This article was written by a staff member of TheStreet.