At the start of every new year – calendar, fiscal year, or even one’s birthday – there is a spirit of making the next year a better year than the one that ended.

In creating a business, sales, or marketing plan to make it a better year, individuals creating a plan for themselves are asked a very difficult question: “What can you do differently this year to bring about a better result?”

Goals for the following year are always set a little higher than the previous year, and the law of diminishing returns states that doing the same things over and over and putting more effort into them will result in lower results.  Then there’s attribution to Einstein which says “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

If you look at those two statements, however, you’ll see they’re not the same.  The former says “lower results,” while the latter says “different results.”  Indeed, results MAY be different.  They may be lower!  So, let’s update that phrase to say, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting better results!”

You may recall at the start of the year this category of articles, I suggested thinking differently.  In the world of business, it’s a practice of not finding better solutions, but reframing the question.

So let’s take a look a something different to help schools find a different vantage point to look upon their issues.

It seems that many schools have difficulties increasing enrollment and generating funds from outside sources.  So rather than trying to find better solutions or coming up with new ideas to answer those questions right off the bat, as we’ve done for the past 50 years, let’s first take a look at something we’ve been using the same way for those past 50 years – the calendar.

What would happen if we stopped designating the first quarter of the school year (in a fiscal sense) with a start date of July 1st, and, instead, start the school year on April 1.  Schools can prep for opening in March on the first day of Spring with in service days for teachers, and start the year for students on April 1, and go through December 15.   That’s about 36 weeks.  4 quarters of 12 weeks, with testing to be done December 16 through the 22 (with allowances for the weekends).

The “break” then begins in time for the major holidays, and we can either hibernate in winter, or enjoy the winter’s recreational activities.

Going to school in the summer?  Most schools have air conditioning, which may be less costly to run than heating bills in the winter, especially if solar panels are installed on the roof of the school.  There would be minimal snow days or cancellations because of inclement weather, causing parents to call sitters or make arrangements for the children since the school won’t be caring for them that day.

What about those summer vacations?

Really?  Do you really have to ask that question today?  Parents take their kids out of school for an “educational experience” during the school year (an if the experience happens to be at a theme park, that’s OK).

Besides,  do you really want to go to Florida in the summer when it’s 110 degrees and stand in line at one of the theme parks there while sweat rolls down your face?  Or, would it be nice to go in February or the beginning of March when the temperatures are comfortable, and a nice break from the blizzards slamming into the mid-Atlantic states?

And today with distance learning FINALLY engaging students in this country, students wouldn’t need to learn from home – they could learn from anywhere.

As for the validity of this type of change, I made such a change myself – in 2020.  The year of the pandemic.

Because everything changed that year, I decided to change up my calendar.  I was constantly frustrated by the way that the “calendar year” runs, as well as how it’s applied to businesses.  Even for those organizations that work on fiscal years (like schools), the quarters of the year are still defined as a particular set of three calendar months.

I always seemed to behind, and that “end of the month” deadline always added to the pressure.

So, when the pandemic hit home on March 13, 2020, and no one knew what was going to happen next, I started the next quarter – on May 15.

Why May 15?

It’s 6 weeks after March 31…and nothing was going to be happening in April due to the lockdown.  While the media was announcing the shutdown could last for a couple of weeks, those who we knew in the medical profession said this was big, and there was no end in sight.  One hospital administrator likened it to building the airplane while flying it.  Besides, educators know that everyone in education begins to think “summer” on May 15th as the end of the school year is only a few weeks away – and high school seniors have, for the most part, “checked out” for the remainder of their PK12 experience, and now look forward to graduation and their undergrad experience.

For colleges, most students are done by mid-May.

The effect of the shift, however, was profound.  Check it out!

The summer became May 15 through August 14.  Teachers go back to school for in-service days in August, and students follow a short-time later.

The fall became August 15 through November 14.  It’s the time of the school year when everything gets done!  It’s when planning for the following school year should begin!

The winter became November 15 through February 14.  It’s the holiday season!  It’s hibernation time.  Nothing gets done because of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, snow days, modified schedules, etc.  How fitting the “holiday” quarter ends on a special celebration day – Valentine’s Day.

The spring became February 15 through May 14.  Indeed, it’s a uniquely crazy time of year – more frenetic that the fall, since testing, school plays, proms, concerts and other special events happen during this time period, and schools that haven’t made planning a prior for the coming school year because of putting out fires are now super stressed about collecting deposits, filling seats, and even changing software, thinking that technologies can be changed as easily as turning on a computer.  (Spoiler alert: It takes time to change – that’s why it’s called transition with an implementation and training process).

I’ve been using this new grouping of seasons for the past three years, and it’s been incredibly successful.  In fact, it’s allowed me to realize I can break down each month into 28 days.  This allows me to plan for something very special on the 29th, 30th and 31st of each month.  Rather than scrambling, the days are reserved for certain activities:

The 29th is Consolidation.  All those organizational tasks that need to be reworked; all the paper on the desk that needs to be sorted and/or filed; and cleaning out all the unnecessary things.

The 30th is Visioning.  Taking a look at the short-term plans, one to three years into the future.  Reviewing, adjusting, augmenting, and bringing a little more clarity to the vision.

The 31st is Dreamcasting.  Taking a look at the long-term plans, three to five years into the future and beyond.  Planning for retirement, special events (like wedding and graduations) and other dreams that may be able to move into the visioning category, are deferred until the next time to dreamcast, or simply drop off the list since priorities, situations and needs can change, affecting the wants and desires.

It was also kind of interesting that the first letters of those words Co-Vi-D, actually correctly spelling that pandemic we experienced.

Even if it isn’t a “new year” today, it is a new day!  Seize it.