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Why I Start the New Year in February

Why I Start the New Year in February


    I’ve written about my idea of starting the new year off in February before here at Lifehack, but I only touched on some of the more obtuse reasons why it’s an ideal time to do so. This time around, I want to focus on the more practical reasons behind why I make the second month of the year my starting point…and why you should consider it too.

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    1. February is closer to tax time

    In the United States (and in Canada, for that matter), April is the time of year where we have to deal with taxes. By starting off the new year in February, you’re through the rush (and imminent hangover) that accompanies the tail end of the year and are fresh and ready to take on the undertaking of getting everything ready to go. Plus, it’s more at front of mind because any holiday credit card bills will have already arrived and any uncertainty left over from December and the start of January will have been dealt with by the time February 1st rolls around.

    2. Starting in February opens up July, August, December and January as vacation months

    Think about it. Those who take on new activities in January (thanks to those ever-present new year’s resolutions) start off the new year with less actual energy than those who hold off until February. They are still wiped from the events of the previous month. But if you give yourself that extra month (January) to wind up your year, you actually free it up for downtime. That also means you can afford to (both mentally and emotionally) take time off in December and enjoy the holidays without worrying about all the work that January is going to bring. You also give yourself a six-month buffer between thee winter months and summer months (in the northern hemisphere, that is). So as the kids leave school at the end of June, you’re not feeling like you need that mid-year break right away (you know, that break you don’t really get). Instead, you can ease into summer and take your mid-year break in the heart of the hottest months of the year.

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    3. Starting in February allows for gearing up for September

    Since starting the new year in February shifts your start date by an entire month, it makes the start of the school year (September) that much closer to the midway point. Rather than have it start of the final third of the year, it is positioned sooner and allows you to have that break in the middle of the year to reconnect and refocus just as September begins. This is great for parents who often look at September as another start to the year (renowned author of The Happiness Project Gretchen Rubin views September as the start of her year, for example), and if you don’t have children yet but are looking to do so down the road then you’re putting yourself in a great place to deal with thee month by making the halfway mark of your year now.

    4. February is a shorter month

    When we make any sort of resolution or start a new habit, we want to stick with it for as long as possible in order to give ourselves a greater chance of success. Often we will use the start of a month to start those efforts, and the beginning of the year is no different — except when you make February the beginning of the year. Since February is the shortest month, you’ll have less days in succession to concern yourself with. So that means you’ll be able to see the end of the cycle that much sooner come into play — and it may very well mean that you can continue to keep the momentum going into March and beyond.

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    The bottom line is that you can really start the new year you want anytime you want. The calendar is just more of a road-map than a rule. And the thing about a road-map is that it gives you many ways to get to where you want to go. I choose to take one of the roads with less traffic.

    Which road do you take…and why? Let me know in the comments below.

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    Photo: “February” courtesy of Shutterstock.

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    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on March 25, 2020

    How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

    How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

    Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

    However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

    Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

    Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

    Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems.

    In this article, you will learn why it isn’t easy to build new habits, and how to change habits.

    What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

    To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

    The Biology

    Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

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    Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

    The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

    A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

    Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

    So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

    Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

    Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

    Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

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    Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

    The Psychology

    Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

    Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

    Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

    Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

    What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

    Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

    Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

    1. Identify Your Habits

    As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

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    2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

    Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

    It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

    3. Apply Logic

    You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

    Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

    4. Choose an Alternative

    As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

    Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

    5. Remove Triggers

    Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

    Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

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    6. Visualize Change

    Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

    For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

    7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

    Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

    Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

    Final Thoughts

    Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

    Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

    More About Changing Habits

    Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

    Reference

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