February 2, 2022

How the Fresh Start Effect Might Be Holding You Back from Working on Your Creative Projects

Are you calendar agnostic?

I’m not. In fact, I plan to “get my life together” every December 31, feel the buzz on January 1, then procrastinate from January 2 until December 30-ish (maybe except on the Day 1s of each month and a couple of Mondays).

Yes, I’m a sucker for the proverbial “clean slates.”

Does the “fresh start effect” sound familiar?

We regard new years, new weeks, new months (birthdays and holidays, too) as the fitting time to restart our habits, pursue our goals, or revive creative projects. But why? Dai et al. (2014) suggest, “These landmarks demarcate the passage of time, creating many new mental accounting periods each year, which relegate past imperfections to a previous period, induce people to take a big-picture view of their lives, and thus motivate aspirational behaviors.

Granted, we can use the fresh start effect to boost our motivation by scheduling critical tasks on said “landmarks.” But what happens when our typical Tuesday arrives and the rush wears off?

We only get one Day 1 every 30 days.

So here I am, starting and writing again — not on a Monday, not on the 1st day of the month, but on a random Wednesday. Because we shouldn’t pause our progress and stop playing the piano or painting masterpieces or baking red velvet cakes just because we failed yesterday.

March 1 isn’t the next best time to try again. There isn’t one perfect day or moment to start. Just pick up where you left off. No shame, no judgment, no pressure.

Create again.

You can turn over a new leaf every hour if you choose.
— Arnold Bennett, How to Live on 24 Hours a Day

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