Every year, the days go by faster and faster, and February isn’t doing anything to help pad out the time. Famously, or perhaps infamously, it’s the shortest month of the year. Goals are already hard enough to accomplish during a regular month. But rather than letting your aspirations slip away, use February as a planning challenge. Here are seven ways to maximize your time during the shortest month of the year.

1. Have A Goal

Most people have a goal they’re working toward in one form or another. For some, their goals are work-related, while for others, they might be personal or a mix of the two. Even if you don’t actively have a goal in your life, there are likely things you want to accomplish before you die. So take some time to think about it, and set an overarching goal that you want to accomplish. Then find ways to make sure you’re working towards that goal throughout February.

To make that overarching goal more approachable, keep the acronym S.M.A.R.T. in mind. S.M.A.R.T. goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. For example, exercising more is one way to approach the goal of being healthier. So you could do your preferred exercise routine Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning at 7 a.m. for 20 minutes. This structure helps make your goals more approachable than merely vague ideas that present overarching objectives that can be put aside.

2. Make A List

With fewer days in February, it can be difficult to get all your to-do’s done on time. Even with S.M.A.R.T. goals, projects can accumulate, making them feel bigger than they actually are. Something as simple as getting the laundry done each week can feel overwhelming when you’ve got too much on your plate. So take a proactive approach instead of trying to tackle each project as it comes along.

Rather than let all your tasks float around in your head like an amorphous specter, capture them in a list. Categorize each item into repeatable tasks, like laundry, or one-time events, like social gatherings. Writing everything down will help ease your mind a bit, as will adding all those to-do’s to a calendar. A calendar will help you map everything out, so you have a clearer timeline for your month. Then you’ll have a sense of how much time you need to budget for each item.

3. Break It Down

Making a list can be incredibly helpful, especially if you’ve got lots of little tasks littered throughout February. But there’s a chance that looking at everything on your calendar; you’ll still feel a lot of pressure. If you identify with this experience, then it can be helpful to break up your list into even smaller parts. This block-and-tackle approach will give you a clear starting and end point for each task.

Take the example of laundry again. If you feel like you just can’t get started on the task, break it down into its component parts. “Doing laundry” can mean: gathering dirty clothes; bringing them to a washer; separating darks and lights; washing; drying; bringing them to your room; folding them, and putting them away. Add or subtract any component that does or doesn’t apply to you specifically. Any task can be broken down into finer parts until the resistance you feel becomes so small that it no longer stops your start.

4. Set Reminders

One of the simplest ways to make sure you stay on task is to set reminders. Without them, you’re prone to letting the hours and days slip by. Reminders are automated messages that ping your devices at set times. They’re highly customizable, too, so you adjust where, when, and how they remind you.

You could set a reminder to ping your phone when you cross the threshold of a certain location. Or, you could set a reminder on your calendar to appear on your computer after a certain time. Many electronic devices have customizable reminders that will help improve your time efficiency. And, if you want, you could even go the old-fashioned route and slap a sticky note on the back of your bedroom door. That way, you’ll see it every morning after you wake up — just make sure to rub the sleep out of your eyes first — or throw a little cold water over your face first.

5. Be Consistent

One trap that many people fall into is letting tasks accumulate until they become a big problem. Rather than push off the little things, make a habit of knocking them out as you go. Doing the dishes is an easy chore if you do it every day, but it becomes a real pain if left unattended. There are many tasks like this that can be outright eliminated from your planning if they’re done with consistency. Otherwise, add a weekly dish-cleaning hour to your calendar.

Granted, this mentality takes willpower, but it’s effort well spent. And the more you approach your life in this way, the easier it will be to knock out the little things as they arise. Your future self will thank your past self down the line for being so thoughtful. And a reminder that February is shorter than the other months, so this applies even more than usual.

6. Give Yourself A Break

From hustle culture to being terminally online, it’s easy to forget to give yourself a break these days. Especially in American culture, being busy is often a point of pride used to generate social credit. However, prolonged busyness can lead to frustration and burnout. Running yourself ragged won’t help you actually accomplish what you need to get done. Unless, of course, your goal is to see just how much stress you can handle.

You might need to change your mentality a bit to adapt to this one, but it can be well worth it in the long run. Rather than seeing the time you take off as being lazy, see it as recuperative. Taking short, consistent breaks can actually boost your productivity levels above normal. This applies both to small breaks during your work day and longer time off to help break up the weeks. It might sound counterintuitive at first, but taking more breaks can actually help you maximize February.

7. Optimize Your Day With Your Morning

To make the most of February, you’ll also want to make the most of your day. What “make the most of your day” means can vary from person to person. But it’s likely that optimizing your routine doesn’t mean scrolling through your phone for a few hours every morning. What you do each morning can have a lasting impact on your productivity throughout the day. So to get the most out of each month, get the most out of each morning.

Everyone’s optimal morning schedule will vary in how much they differ from one another. There are many morning routine activities to help motivate you for the hours ahead. You might find that meditation helps clear your mind, exercise gives you energy, or journaling gives you confidence. Whatever it is, find what works for you and, most importantly, stick with it. Use each morning to build the foundation for your day, your month, your year, and your life.

Practice Productive Planning

With even fewer days than normal in February, you may feel pressure to get everything done. Rather than flail through the month, take some time to plan out your schedule. Use S.M.A.R.T. goals alongside a mindset of consistency to get the most out of each day. But don’t overwhelm yourself either; take regular breaks to boost your productivity in the long run. Optimize each day to get the most out of February and bring yourself closer to your long-term goals.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Bich Tran; Pexels; Thank you!