It is nearly the end of July, so you know what that means? It’s the back-to-school season! Yes even if you don’t have kids going back to school, this is the time of year where we all experience change.
In fact, it’s really one of three times a year where life shifts focus. No matter how old you are or what season of life you’re in, you’ve probably noticed these seasons of change. Maybe you’ve not necessarily acknowledged them, but you’ve seen how life changes over the course of a year.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve viewed the calendar year as really three mini years within the year. That’s because at the beginning of each of these mini years it seems natural to either set or reevaluate our goals as well as our schedules.
I divide up my year like this. January through May makes up the first mini year. June through August makes up the second. And September through December makes up the third.
I started thinking about my year like this when I was in high school. I became aware that these three mini years were opportunities to change and try something new. For example, school would start back in the fall and bring with it the promise of new and exciting things to learn, new people to meet, and new experiences. Then January would roll around and it was time to set goals for the new calendar year as well as to reevaluate how I would approach the rest of the school year. When summer came along, I saw that as an opportunity to reinvent myself for the next school year in some way. It could be that I was trying to learn new skills or change something about my appearance.
Even though it has been 30 years since I graduated from high school, I still view time in this way. I could still sense after college graduation and beginning to work in the real world that I had the same opportunities to change and try something new during these three mini years.
Maybe I think of time like this because my life was naturally divided up this way for so many years that it was ingrained in me. I’m not sure. I think part of it could be that the changing of the seasons, the defined time periods for schools, and just the natural flow of life all contribute to this. I do believe that I will always think of time this way even when I don’t have kids in school.
The Purpose of Viewing The Calendar Year as Three Mini-Years
Viewing the calendar as three mini years gives us the opportunity to do something new. Maybe you’ve been caught in a rut of doing things the same way and you’re ready for life to be different. Usually, when we get to that point, we tend to say, “Oh I’ll start doing things differently come January 1.”
As I’ve talked about in other episodes, you don’t have to wait until January 1 to set goals or do something new. You can start now. You can take advantage of naturally occurring times of change and make your own change happen.
The main purpose of thinking about time this way is that the mini-year helps you focus your planning so you can use your time more effectively.
September Through December Mini-Year
Fall is a great time to set some goals and to also cultivate new routines. Usually, when you create new routines during this time, you will have a better chance of them sticking throughout the next year.
For example, if you have kids at home you may have been frustrated by them dropping their backpacks and lunch boxes wherever they may land when they get home from school. Now is a great time to think about what you want your home to look like and feel like over the coming year.
So you could work with your kids to create a new after-school routine. Let’s just walk through this example for a minute. These are the steps I’d go through in setting up the routine.
- Create a place for them to put their backpacks and shoes if they wear the same ones all the time. You may want to go ahead and have a place for them to hang their coats when it gets colder.
- Set up a spot on the kitchen counter or your desk for the kids to put the papers you need to look at.
- Designate a lunch box spot in a cabinet or your pantry where lunch boxes can live. And you can have all non-perishable lunch items handy in this same area.
- Create an after school snack area so the kids can get their own. You can set this up to where they can only eat what you stock there.
- Figure out when homework is going to be done each day and be diligent about enforcing the time. You could make a couple of rules so that they know doing homework is important. These could be things like no screen time until homework is done. Soon your kids will get into this routine. You won’t always have to be on top of them reminding them to do their homework.
The fall is also a great time to prepare your home for the winter. It’s a time of changing seasons, so that means it’s also a great time to go through everyone’s clothing and get rid of anything that is outdated, unworn, in bad shape, or doesn’t fit anymore. If you have kids this is a natural time to go through their clothes as you are buying new ones for the school year.
The fall is a prime time to organize your kitchen for the holidays and do some decluttering in the public areas of your home. This way you’ll be prepared for the holiday season and will be ready to welcome guests into your home without having to frantically pick up everything at the last minute.
January Through May Mini-Year
This is the longest of the three. It’s a good time to complete longer goals or projects.
For much of the United States, January through March is like a hibernating period because of the bad weather. We often stay inside because we’re stuck or we don’t want to get out in the cold often dreary weather.
This is a great time to work on projects inside your home while the weather is less than ideal. And I don’t know about you, but for at least January through March, my schedule is a little less hectic. So I’m able to really buckle down and get some things done.
It’s a great time to organize your papers as you prepare the information you need to do your taxes. It’s also a great time to do a little more detailed decluttering in your home.
I said that the fall was a great time to organize your kitchen and declutter public spaces in your home. During this January through May mini-year, you can focus on your private spaces. So areas like your bathroom cabinets, linen closets, laundry room, and storage areas are great places to start.
With spring occurring during this mini-year, it’s the optimal time for decluttering any area of your home.
If you find yourself unmotivated to tackle some of these areas, then I encourage you to try decluttering something just 15 minutes a day. Start with one small drawer, and as you do more and more, you’ll see progress. And you may even be motivated to declutter in longer stretches of time.
So in May at the end of this mini-year, you’ll want to begin making plans for the summer mini-year.
June Through August Mini-Year
While the summer mini-year is the shortest and most laid back, it’s definitely not a time to drop the ball. You can still set some goals for this time period. I just wouldn’t get over ambitious and say “I’m going to declutter and organize the whole house this summer.”
That is unless you are a teacher and have the whole summer off.
Go with the flow of the summer and do things like maintenance around your home or set goals to do fun and meaningful activities with your kids or grandkids. Really enjoy this shorter mini-year because before you know it, it’ll be fall and we’ll start the cycle all over.
What are your thoughts on this? Leave a comment below and let me know.