A calendar year is 365 days, but the earth’s orbit around the sun is a bit longer — 365.2421 days, according to History.com. Hence, the need for Leap Day, the extra 24 hours tacked on to the end of (nearly) every fourth February to keep the calendar on track.
Of course, we don’t really get an extra day every four years. But it is fun to think about what we’d do with an additional 24 hours. Leap Day is also a pretty good reminder that time is subjective. You can make more out of the hours you do have, if you pay attention to how you’re using them.
Here are 29 things you could choose to do with the 29th of February this year to boost your career:
1. Do Something Nice for Someone Else
The best way to network is to be a good friend and colleague — and the best way to do that is to help others when they need it, with no expectation of reward. So, go ahead: write that LinkedIn recommendation for your former intern. Give sincere praise to your coworker who went above and beyond on your last project. Listen to someone who really needs an ear. It’s not about short-term gains. It’s about being a better person, a better coworker and a better neighbor. (And yes, in the end, it will help you as well. People are more likely to help those who help them.)
2. Throw Something Away
You don’t need to give your office the full Marie Kondo treatment, but clearing some of the clutter — be it physical or digital — will help you focus. You’ll feel less distracted, more creative and more in control when you’re not spending a good chunk of your day looking for the things you need.
3. Make a Coffee Date
These days, it’s totally possible to do most of your socializing online. If your company supports remote work, and you’re extremely online in your personal life, you might go days without interacting IRL with someone who doesn’t live in your house. Mutuals are great, but human beings didn’t evolve inside a social network. Make a plan to meet up with a friend or former coworker you haven’t seen for a while.
4. Try a New Time Management Technique
The Pomodoro Technique. The Pareto Principle. The 2-Minute Rule. There are hundreds of time management techniques out there. None of them are magic, obviously, but one of them just might get you out of a productivity rut and help you rethink how you use your time. (Looking for ideas? There are a few good roundups out there, including this one.)
5. Find Out How Your Earnings Stack Up
Do you feel underpaid? Many workers do. But if you’re planning to negotiate a new job offer (or a raise at your current employer) it’s a good idea to find out whether your gut feeling is right. Take the PayScale Salary Survey and find out how much your skills are worth in today’s job market.
6. Mix Up Your Schedule
And speaking of ruts, do you keep the same schedule every day? Some of that may be beyond your control. If your employer isn’t OK with a flexible schedule, you can’t very well waltz into your boss’s office and announce that you’re now working 8 a.m. to 4 a.m. But where you can mix things up, it’s worth trying something different. Work from a conference room instead of at your desk. Check your email only at set times. Batch tasks so you’re doing one type of thing at a time.
7. Forgive Yourself for Something
Do you tend to obsess over perceived failures? Many people — especially those who care deeply about their work — have difficulty letting things go. Today, try giving yourself a break about just one thing.
8. Update Your Resume
When’s the last time you refreshed your resume? If you haven’t been in the job market recently, it may have been a while. Now’s a great time to dust off the old CV.
9. Sign Up for a Class
One of the best things you can do for your career is to cultivate a lifelong love of learning. And that doesn’t just mean renewing your skillset. Think about what you’ve always wanted to learn. Maybe you want to speak French fluently … or learn how to play poker well enough to win all the matchsticks at family poker night. Let yourself enjoy learning something new and look forward to broadening your mind.
10. Write a Thank-You Note
If you’re like many of us, the only time you send a thank-you note is when you have a job interview or get a wedding present. But saying thanks to someone who’s helped you in some way can be a powerful gesture. It will likely mean more to the recipient than you think. One study found that participants underestimated how much recipients of thank-you notes would value the gesture. (They also overestimated how awkward the experience would be, in case that’s been holding you back.)
11. Throw Your Hat in the Ring
12. Connect With an Expert
It’s scary to reach out to experts in your field, but it’s worth doing — if you can do it in a way that helps them as well.
“In most cases, to gain the privilege of being aligned with experts, you’ll give more than you receive,” writes Mark Anthony Dyson, founder of the podcast The Voice of Job Seekers, in an earlier post on Career News. “If you’re working with a big name in your field — writing an article on them, quoting them in a paper, or interviewing them for a podcast — you want to show appreciation for their time.”
13. Make a List of Everything You Like About Your Job
Beyond harnessing the power of gratitude to make you happier at work, listing the things you enjoy about your job can help you see where you should focus, moving forward. For example, you might realize that although you find public speaking stressful, you like one-on-one coaching. Or, you might come to understand that while you don’t connect with your company’s products or services, you really do love being in sales.
14. Track Your Social Media Use for One Day
Want to get back an hour or two every day? Track your social media use and cut down where you can. You might be shocked to learn how much time you’re spending scrolling … even while you’re at work.
15. Ask Someone for Help
Do you have trouble asking for help? If so, you’re not alone.
“There is a tendency to act as if [asking for help is] a deficiency,” said Garret Keizer, author of Help: The Original Human Dilemma, in a 2007 interview with The New York Times. “That is exacerbated if a business environment is highly competitive within as well as without. There is an understandable fear that if you let your guard down, you’ll get hurt, or that this information you don’t know how to do will be used against you.”
But obviously, everyone needs help now and then — and if you never ask, you’ll never get.
16. Set Up an Informational Interview
Sometimes, the most useful interviews are the ones that don’t lead directly to getting hired. Informational interviews, in which the interviewee seeks information, connections or insight instead of a new job, can help you in multiple ways. You might discover a new career direction, find a mentor, or avoid pursuing a job that wouldn’t be a good fit.
17. Make a Career Plan
Where do you want to be in a year, in five years, in 10? Of course, your answers will evolve over time. But if you’ve never sat down and thought about where you want to go, you’re missing an opportunity to be more intentional about your choices.
18. Start a Journal
Record your dreams or goals, write a line a day, or jot down ideas as they strike.
19. Adopt One New Healthy Habit
When we talk about habits, we often talk about breaking bad ones. Instead of focusing on your candy addiction or procrastination problem, focus on the positive by developing one new healthy habit. Bring snacks from home instead of subsisting on vending machine treats. Go to bed half an hour earlier. Say no when you need to.
20. Make a Budget
Although you shouldn’t bring up your personal financial situation when you’re negotiating salary, you need to know what you need before you can plan. Make a budget and get on top of your finances.
21. Tell Yourself a Better Story
“Right now, think of six tasks that are on your agenda to do this week,” suggests performance consultant Jeffrey Hodges at Sportsmind. “They might be work tasks, an assignment due for some course you’re doing, home chores, or training for your sport – it doesn’t matter. As you think of each task, rather than say to yourself, ‘I have to do such-and-such’, think instead: ‘I want to get that report to my boss by Friday morning’…. I now use this process for everything I choose to do – including wanting to put in my tax return on time!”
22. Read a Book
There’s a reason that some of the most successful people in the world release reading lists on a regular basis. Great thinkers tend to be great readers. These days, it’s all too easy to lose your reading time to scrolling social media. Put your phone aside for a day and enjoy a real book.
23. Read a Newspaper or Magazine That’s Not Part of Your Bubble
And while you’re reading, consider stepping outside your comfort zone and picking up a periodical that’s not your usual read. If you’re politically liberal, try a more conservative newspaper, or vice versa. Or read a magazine or site that’s focused on something you don’t know much about.
24. Meditate for 5 Minutes
25. Go for a Walk
Need to change your thought patterns? Go for a walk.
“Walking helps us think in a way other types of activity or exercise can’t,” writes Gina Belli in an earlier post on Career News. “Maybe it’s because of the meditative rhythm of our feet and our movement through the world. …There’s something special about the way that we process everything when we’re walking.”
26. Set a Goal
It doesn’t have to be potentially career-changing, like going back to school or even applying for a new job. Maybe you’ll decide to sign up for a one-day seminar or keep a more organized to-do list. Even a small goal can yield big results.
27. Say Hello to Someone New
Ask the new team member to join you for lunch. Strike up a conversation with someone in another department. Say hello to people you don’t see every day.
28. Do Something You’ve Been Putting Off
Everyone has an item on their to-do list that’s been carried over from eight previous lists. Today, give yourself the gift of crossing it off. If it’s not something you can do in a day, commit to getting started. You might be surprised at how much you can get done.
29. Take the Whole Day Off
Finally, if you’re reading this post on or around Leap Day 2020, it’s worth noting that it’s a Saturday. The best thing you can do for your career – and for yourself – may be to unplug. So, turn off your phone, shut down your laptop, hide your tablet and put up your away messages. Take a real day off from work. You’ll be more productive, more creative and just plain happier when you plug in again.
Tell Us What You Think
Will you spend Leap Day doing any of these things? We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.