Hurricane Irene
People line up at Brown's Hardware in Far Rockaway, New York, August 26, 2011. New York City on Friday ordered the evacuation of more than 250,000 people and prepared to shut down its entire mass transit system, both unprecedented measures ahead of the expected battering from Hurricane Irene. The powerful and unusually large storm trudged up the U.S. East Coast on Friday, threatening 55 million people including more than 8 million in New York City, which was expecting heavy winds late on Saturday or early on Sunday. REUTERS/Allison Joyce

Hurricane Irene will have some 50 million of us hunkering down along the U.S. East Coast over the next day or two, and many will be wondering what to do with all that free time with nowhere to go, and few stores or transportation systems open.

So we might as well make the best of a bad situation, right? Thus, here are five survival tips to pass the time and even better yourself, family and friends during the storm. Read them, heed them, and pass them along.

After all, whether we're in Raleigh, Norfolk, Boston or New York, we're all in this one big storm together.

Five ways to pass the time while hunkered down during Hurricane Irene :

1) Start writing a book. In years of writing books and leading how-to seminars, I learned that it's true, most everybody does want to write a book. Most just say they can't find the time. Make the best of Hurricane Irene's gift of time and start writing on that book.

So what if you never finish it? Getting started will take away that one big excuse, and perhaps you'll get so ingrained you might one day finish it -- knocking another off that bucket list. Ladies and gentleman, start your writing engines.

2) Read a book in a new category. Expanding our minds and knowledge is the one thing we never seem to get enough of these days. The world spins at such a furious pace. We're always connected, and always on the go. But that's all going to change for a day or two, especially for those about to get hardest hit by Irene. Read a book, but reach for a different category to make it more interesting and beneficial.

If you enjoy history but typically read mysteries, take a dive down that path. One recommendation: Issac's Storm by Erik Larson is an excellent work about the great Galveston hurricane in the late 1800s. You won't be able to put it down, and it's available on Kindle and other eBook formats. Or better yet, if you are spending time hunkered down with family and friends, take turns reading a good book out loud to one another. Or, have a designated reader. It's a great tool for bonding, listening and learning.

3) Become a storyteller. Back in the day before smartphones and cable television storytelling was a cultural delight. Also, it was a necessity. If you are alone, call up a friend if phones are still working and tell them a story, or have them tell you a story. If you are with another or others, arrange storytelling times, and see how fun, interesting and informational it can become.

4) Do a deep house cleaning. Those piles of magazines that keep adding up, or that furniture that never seems to get un-dusted -- well, now is your time. No excuses, right? Start cleaning, and don't stop until you drop. Soon, the storm will be over and your house will be shined up on the inside. Then, you can focus on picking up outside without anxiety over the inside. You'll be nice and tidy once Irene makes her way out of the area.

5) Make a plan. Lists are the best way to organize your live. Get a pen and a notebook or open a notepad on a laptop computer or a tablet device. Make a long-term objective plan, and several short-term accomplishment tasks to meeting those long-term objectives. You feel to rushed all the time? Make one list of how to feel less rushed, and several task lists of how you will start to reach that goal once the storm passes.

Or, maybe you are ready to get in shape and don't want to wait until a New Year's resolution. Outline what you will do, and start by doing pushups or sit ups in the house -- but put down your course of action on paper, and kick it in gear.

Stay safe, cook something good that permeates the house throughout the storm, and good luck making the best of your time. If we just do one of these tips, we'll all be better off. Should Irene give us lots of time and we're able to tackle them all, the storm may end up being more of a blessing than a curse by the time it's over.