Happy new year (in September)
“Although no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” – Carl Bard
I don’t know if it’s because I have a background in teaching but September always feels like the start of a new year to me. After the lazy days of summer, the back to school activity coupled with the changing seasons brings an energy and excitement that feels like a fresh beginning. This year I’ve decided to try harnessing some of that energy by abandoning my 4th quarter altogether and declaring September as Q1 of a brand new year! I’m working on the theory that ramping up activity, rather than winding it down, in the last few months of the calendar year could have some great benefits and give me a head start on everything I want to achieve financially, professionally and personally in 2014.
Getting ahead of the game
One of the big advantages of making September the start of the year when it comes to financial goals is that you’re refocusing your energy three months before one of the most expensive times of the year, the Holiday season. This gives us an opportunity to plan exactly what we want to spend and allows us to save enough to meet our goals so that we’re not dealing with giant credit bills in January and February. Getting ahead of the game through the Fall means that we’re in a stronger position to hit the ground running again in January with more energy and fewer obstacles and that increases the chances that the positive energy will carry through into the spring, leading to greater success.
September or January?
Professionally, one challenge with having a year-end in December is that it falls in the middle of the holiday season. Vacation time, businesses operating reduced hours and the psychological winding down that happens in the weeks running up to the holidays mean that December can often be fairly unproductive compared to the rest of the year. Anyone who’s ever run a race knows that you need to keep your focus on a point beyond the finish line so that you don’t lose momentum before you’ve crossed the line; the worst time to slow down is right before the finish line. This is what makes December a challenging month for a year-end because, at the very time when you need to be putting energy into making that final push towards hitting your goals and planning for the upcoming year, everything around you is slowing down. Now, it could be argued that having a year-end in August, right in the middle of vacation season, might have the same effect. However, I’m working on the logic that businesses operate in much the same way over the summer as they do during the rest of the year so there’s no reduction in opportunity. There’s also the added incentive that if you push to hit your goals early you can take a guilt-free break at a time of year when the weather is at its nicest and you don’t have to get on a plane in order to relax by the water!
Are you running out of steam?
On a personal level, as summer starts to fade it can be hard to find the same level of commitment to our goals that we had at the beginning of the year. If we’re making good progress then the fact that the finish line is in sight can be ample motivation to keep pushing towards the goal. If we’ve lost a little momentum over the summer though, it can be tempting to just coast through the next few months with the intention of getting fired up again in January. That’s the point that I’m at and I know myself well enough to know that if I don’t try something new then there’s a good chance I’ll have run out of steam by October and the last two months of the year will be frustratingly unproductive. I am a great starter; I love the creativity and fresh energy that comes with starting new projects and what I like most about declaring September my New Year is that I’m not abandoning the goals I’ve set for 2014; I’m just redefining the action plans with a new timeframe and a fresh commitment to hit the finish line strong.
With a recent house sale, new living arrangements, improved cash flow and new opportunities on the horizon it feels like a good time for me to declare a new year. At the end of the day, our perceptions and attitudes are key factors in increasing or decreasing our chances of success at achieving any goal. Starting the next year three months early is my strategy for injecting a little extra energy into my goal setting; I’d love to hear yours!