Why Starting Your New Year on Groundhog Day Works

Mike Vardy

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In the movie Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’s character lives the same day over and over again. Eventually he gets it right and time begins to move forward again. The movie has become a cult classic and it’s one I watch every year on – you guessed it – Groundhog Day.

Why does February 2nd work as a start to the new year? There are a number of reasons why:

1. You’ll Have More Energy to Move the Right Things Forward

The thing about January is that while it is the start of the Gregorian calendar year, it comes at a time where our energy levels are at one of their lowest levels. We’ve just come out of the holiday mode, and to try to take on a new habit or resolution when we have so little in the tank is less than ideal.

So don’t do it.

Instead, take the time in January to review the time gone by, recharge your batteries, and renew yourself. You can refine plans for the months ahead and prepare accordingly. Then when Groundhog Day arrives you’ve got the energy needed to take massive action and make the right things happen.

2. You’ll Have More Space to Move the Right Things Forward

By taking the first month of the year to really refine my plans for the year, February gives you the breathing room and space needed to really propel your intentions in the right direction. The mindset of starting the new year on Groundhog Day ensures you give myself the time and space needed to develop a strategy for delivering quality work over the long haul. It will also keep you from attaching yourself to resolutions that have a strict timeline attached to them.

Oddly enough, when I began my year in February I actually started to eat healthier and exercise regularly as of early January. I didn’t attach that lifestyle change to a new year’s resolution of any sort. I just decided I needed to take steps to improve my health and fitness so that I could feel better and have the energy I needed to keep up with my personal and professional aspirations. In essence, I worked on myself during the month of January (reviewing, recharging, and renewing) and by doing so and not attaching it to any sort of specific timeline I’ve given myself the space in February to really take the ball and run with it. After all, you can move the ball forward a lot further when you have more space in front of you.

3. You’ll Have More Focus to Move the Right Things Forward

With more energy and more space, your focus will be much clearer. That means that you can really hone in on what you want to accomplish and make solid progress. You can pay better attention to your intentions, which makes them more powerful.

Attention without intention is powerless. Intention without attention is directionless. And focus is what attention and intention need to be effective. Taking January to map things out gives me the focus you need to take action as of Groundhog Day.

I don’t want to have the same year happen every year. I’m sure you don’t either. Back when I used January as the starting point for my year, that seemed to happen. Failed resolution after failed resolution. A sluggish start. Compressed for time. A year with less focus was the result. When I used February as my jumping off point for my year, I proceeded with vitality and resolve.

So how can you set up Groundhog Day to be the start of your new year? The simplest way is to set aside one day in January to prepare. Consider this day be what I call a "Clarity Day."

What is A Clarity Day?

A Clarity Day is a day to revisit where you’ve been over the last several months and then begin to map out what you want to do from that day forward. The best way to move forward is with purpose and – fittingly – clarity. Taking a Clarity Day will give you a better chance to achieving that.

If you want to take a Clarity Day, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Schedule it well in advance. I like using my birthday because it is a milestone day and I’m generally not expected to work that day. I also use January 1st to do this at it falls right at the midway point between my most recent birthday and my next birthday. That means I’m getting at least two Clarity Days every 12 months and they line up perfectly with how I structure my calendar year.
  • Block off all outside appointments. Make sure you are not available to be booked for anything on that day at all. That’s doesn’t mean you can’t initiate having a lunch with someone or an early morning coffee, but don’t give that power to anyone else but you.
  • Ensure the tasks you have lined up for that day are aligned with what a Clarity Day is meant for. Essentially, this will be anything that can act as a distraction and keep you from focusing on the mission of the day…which is clarity. (Actually, making your Clarity Day a “no tech day” or a “Disconnected Day” is a good idea.)
  • Book (or find) a place where your ability to have clear focus isn’t going to be a challenge. That may mean booking a small meeting space for the day or asking your partner to take the kids out. It may even mean taking a day off when people won’t be home so you’re free to roam and make the most of the time and space you’ll have.

Once you’ve set everything up for your Clarity Day, when the day arrives you’ll need to make sure you have your tasks lined up to knock them out as the hours pass by. Essentially, a Clarity Day is one big time chunk. So use your time as wisely as possible because you will rarely get a time chunk all to yourself that is this long.

No matter what time of year it is, it’s important for us all to improve our relationship with time because it has the potential to be our greatest ally or a terrible enemy. I find that having at least one Clarity Day a year is key to ensuring time is your ally far more often than your enemy. A Clarity Day really creates a safe haven for uninterrupted decision-making and planning at the same time.

So every time a milestone day like my birthday or New Year's Day draws near, I look forward to them because the gift they give me is so rare to come by in this day and age. Being able to take a day just to reflect, recharge, and then restart by deciding what things I need, ought, and want to do and then deciding when to do them (or not to do them) is not only worth taking time to do, it’s worth setting aside time in advance to do.

Groundhog Day is an excellent choice to kick off your year right. You’ll want to map out plans before February – taking a Clarity Day will do that for you – but Groundhog Day marks the beginning of the execution of those plans. After all, you don’t want your new year to be the same as the last year... you want it to be better.

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I'm Mike Vardy, better known as The Productivityist, and my goal is to offer ideas, insights, and information that will help you craft your time better and become more personally productive.

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