How did you hold up during the Writers Guild of America strike out in Hollywood? With freshly scripted programming still weeks away, the next few weeks will be challenging unless you relish a steady diet of reruns, reality television, and reruns of reality television.

I've got a plan. It may or may not make you richer, but it will make you smarter.

See that plug on your TV set? Good. Yank it.

I'm hurting for entertainment as much as the next guy, but I've always believed that when life gives you lemons, you open a mojito bar. This is the best time to profit from the lull in programming. If you have spare time now away from the boob tube, use it to brush up on ways to become a better investor.

I have a few tips to get you started. Some will take you less time than the hour you would have spent watching Desperate Housewives or CSI.  

1. Get up to speed with fundamentals
Is your portfolio making promises that your due diligence can't keep? It's perfectly natural. Most investors start out as speculators, running with stock tips before they understand what truly drives the markets or how to value a company.

There is no shame in being a new investor. Whether you need to brush up on the basics or delve a little deeper into valuation metrics, you've come to the right place.

2. Learn to look ahead
Mastering the concepts will take you only so far if you invest exclusively through your rearview mirror. If you lean on earnings-valuation gauges based only on the past, you're missing the real wonder of how fast-growing companies can become dirt cheap in the future.

Let's illustrate. Here are a few stocks that might seem outlandishly priced based on last year's earnings, but also seem attractive given their growth rates if you apply the same price-to-earnings multiple going forward.

Recent Price

 TTM EPS

TTM P/E

Forward EPS Estimate

Fwd. P/E

Intuitive Surgical (Nasdaq: ISRG)

$290.50

$3.70

78.5

$5.08

59.7

Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM)

$92.89

$2.23

41.7

$3.38

27.5

Baidu.com (Nasdaq: BIDU)

$246.75

$2.42

102.0

$3.99

61.8

Priceline.com (Nasdaq: PCLN)

$122.61

$4.08

30.0

$5.09

24.1

JA Solar (Nasdaq: JASO)

$17.76

$0.41

43.3

$0.68

26.1

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

A lot can happen in a year. Sure, you're going out on a limb when you place your faith in a company's future earnings. Then again, isn't that what investing is all about? It bears pointing out that two of those stocks -- Intuitive Surgical and Baidu.com -- are active Rule Breakers recommendations.

3. Introduce yourself to new stock ideas
Whether it's through our Stocks 2008 premium publication that will instantly unlock 11 promising investments, or through the forward-looking growth stocks singled out to Rule Breakers newsletter subscribers, one can never have too many well-researched stock ideas.

If you can't spring for that at the moment, not to worry -- unearth some great potential portfolio-lifters for free within Motley Fool CAPS, the perpetually replenished supply of online content here, and even the Fool.com discussion boards.

The picks may not be as refined as those in our more in-depth research offerings, but the point is, if you've put in the effort to become a better investor, you'll know what to do when you come across promising investments.

This article was originally published Dec. 24, 2007. It has been updated.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz can't believe he doesn't miss TV as much as he thought he would. He does not own shares in any companies in this story. Priceline.com is a Stock Advisor pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy.