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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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    Last Updated on September 20, 2018

    8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

    8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

    You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

    Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

    When you train your brain, you will:

    • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
    • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
    • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

    So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

    1. Work your memory

    Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

    When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

    If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

    The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

    Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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    Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

    What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

    For example, say you just met someone new:

    “Hi, my name is George”

    Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

    Got it? Good.

    2. Do something different repeatedly

    By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

    Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

    It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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    And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

    But how does this apply to your life right now?

    Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

    Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

    Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

    So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

    You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

    That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

    3. Learn something new

    It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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    For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

    Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

    You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

    4. Follow a brain training program

    The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

    5. Work your body

    You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

    Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

    Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

    Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

    6. Spend time with your loved ones

    If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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    If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

    I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

    7. Avoid crossword puzzles

    Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

    Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

    Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

    8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

    Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

    When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

    So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

    The bottom line

    Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

    Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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