According to most people and popular media (so it must be true, right?) the most depressing day of the year is Blue Monday – the third Monday in January. Not for me. January isn’t a depressing month at all as far as I’m concerned – it’s February that’s the kicker. And today means it’s behind me for another year.
I’m a compulsive goal setter and personal development freak. Given the holiday downtime and resolution nature of the New Year, I’m generally fired up for January. I have plans. Ambitions. A reason to keep going even though my body is sluggish from too much Christmas food. And because I don’t make resolutions on the fly on 1st January, I have the power to keep going through Blue Monday.
Now, February is unique. It is the only month with 28 days and for me, each of those days feels like 2 regular month days. February drags. It’s a combination of factors.
Give me my sun
Living in England most of the time means that by February the dark nights are getting tiresome. The days are grey and dull. I’m starting to dream of sunshine but aware that lying out in the heat is still a long, long time away.
Goals and habits hit the tough spot
Even if you’re lucky enough to have stayed on track all the way through January, you’re probably about to hit the hard bit. It used to be that people believed it took 21 days to create a habit, but more recent research indicates it is closer to 66. That’s an average. For some habits it will be much, much longer. This is divided into three sections. The first third, when it is painful and horrible but you still have the motivational x-factor. The second third, where it’s still painful but you’re not seeing the benefits yet. The final third, where it stops being painful and some benefits also start to trickle through. February tends to embrace that middle third with open arms and strokes you with misery.
Collaborative projects start to wobble
These can be passion-driven projects or work related projects. When everyone comes back after the holidays in January, they’re refreshed. Projects seem doable. The plan is put in place. Of course, no project ever goes one hundred per cent according to plan, so February is when people start to become out of sync. They work at difference focus levels, and emotional commitment to the project starts to waver. By the time these have been worked through, there is no avoiding the negative impact on the other areas of life.
So, now I get to welcome March with open arms. In four weeks the clocks change and the extra sunlight will make it easier to escape the soft warm clutches of the duvet. Today, I have set a few hours aside to review my goals and plans as set out at the beginning of the year and allow myself to course correct.
I sit down with my fieldnotes book and journal for a little while, trying to get to the root of what I’m feeling and any obstacles I’m putting in the way of myself subconsciously. By using the bullet journal approach, it becomes clear which tasks I’ve been deferring just a little too frequently.
Just doing that can be scary, but it will allow me to draw a line under the past four weeks and move on once more with a new sense of purpose. The new habits are either engrained or are about to hit the payoff stage. If I’ve not really kept up with them, I can ask myself why and see if they are still aligned with the bigger picture I have for the year.
Remember: March = momentum, if you let it.