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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 May 22, 2019

    The Pomodoro Technique: Is It Right for You to Boost Productivity?

    The Pomodoro Technique: Is It Right for You to Boost Productivity?

    If you spend any time at all researching life hacks, you’ve probably heard of the famous Pomodoro Technique.

    Created in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is one of the more popular time management life hacks used today. But this method isn’t for everyone, and for every person who is a passionate adherent of the system, there is another person who is critical of the results.

    Is the Pomodoro Technique right for you? It’s a matter of personal preference. But if you are curious about the benefits of using the technique, this article will break down the basic information you will need to decide if this technique is worth trying out.

    What is the Pomodoro Technique?

    The Pomodoro Technique is a time management philosophy that aims to provide the user with maximum focus and creative freshness, thereby allowing them to complete projects faster with less mental fatigue.

    The process is simple:

    For every project throughout the day, you budget your time into short increments and take breaks periodically.

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    You work for 25 minutes, then take break for five minutes.

    Each 25-minute work period is called a “pomodoro”, named after the Italian word for tomato. Francesco Cirillo used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato as his personal timer, and thus the method’s name.

    After four “pomodoros” have passed, (100 minutes of work time with 15 minutes of break time) you then take a 15-20 minute break.

    Every time you finish a pomodoro, you mark your progress with an “X”, and note the number of times you had the impulse to procrastinate or switch gears to work on another task for each 25-minute chunk of time.

    How the Pomodoro Technique boosts your productivity

    Frequent breaks keep your mind fresh and focused. According to the official Pomodoro website, the system is easy to use and you will see results very quickly:

    “You will probably begin to notice a difference in your work or study process within a day or two. True mastery of the technique takes from seven to twenty days of constant use.”

    If you have a large and varied to-do list, using the Pomodoro Technique can help you crank through projects faster by forcing you to adhere to strict timing.

    Watching the timer wind down can spur you to wrap up your current task more quickly, and spreading a task over two or three pomodoros can keep you from getting frustrated.

    The constant timing of your activities makes you more accountable for your tasks and minimizes the time you spend procrastinating.

    You’ll grow to “respect the tomato”, and that can help you to better handle your workload.

    Successful people who love it

    Steven Sande of The Unofficial Apple Weblog is a fan of the system, and has compiled a great list of Apple-compatible Pomodoro tools.

    Before he started using the technique, he said,

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    “Sometimes I couldn’t figure out how to organize a single day in my calendar, simply because I would jump around to all sorts of projects and never get even one of them accomplished.”

    Another proponent of the Pomodoro Technique is Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal. Shellenbarger tried out this system along with several other similar methods for time management, and said,

    “It eased my anxiety over the passing of time and also made me more efficient; refreshed by breaks, for example, I halved the total time required to fact-check a column.”

    Any cons for the Pomodoro Technique?

    Despite the number of Pomodoro-heads out there, the system isn’t without its critics. Colin T. Miller, a Yahoo! employee and blogger, tried using the Pomodoro Technique and had some issues:[1]

    “Pomodoros are an all or nothing affair. Either you work for 25 minutes straight to mark your X or you don’t complete a pomodoro. Since marking that X is the measurable sign of progress, you start to shy away from engaging in an activity if it won’t result in an X. For instance…meetings get in the way of pomodoros. Say I have a meeting set for 4:30pm. It is currently 4:10pm, meaning I only have 20 minutes between now and the meeting…In these instances I tend to not start a pomodoro because I won’t have enough time to complete it anyway.”

    Another critic is Mario Fusco, who argues that the Pomodoro Technique is…well…sort of ridiculous:[2]

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    “Aren’t we really able to keep ourselves concentrated without a timer ticketing on our desk?… Have you ever seen a civil engineer using a timer to keep his concentration while working on his projects?… I think that, like any other serious professional, I can stay concentrated on what I am doing for hours… Bring back your timer to your kitchen and start working in a more professional and effective way.”

    Conclusion

    One of the best things about the Pomodoro Technique is that it’s free. Yeah, you can fork over some bills to get a tomato-shaped timer if you want… or you can use any timer program on your computer or phone. So even if you try it and hate it, you haven’t lost any cash.

    The process isn’t ideal for every person, or in any line of work. But if you need a systematic way to tackle your daily to-do list, the Pomodoro Technique may fit your needs.

    If you want to learn more about the Pomodoro Technique, check out this article: How to Make the Pomodoro Technique More Productive

    Reference

    [1] Aspirations of a Software Developer: A Month of the Pomodoro Technique
    [2] InfoQ: A Critique of the Pomodoro Technique

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