In your never-ending quest to get more done in less time, you should consider a leap year a generous gift.
How many times have you dreamed there were more hours in the day, so you could do all you wanted--and still get your sleep? This is the year to view February 29 as that precious dosage of bonus time. It's not just extra hours. It's an extra day.
What's more, Feb. 29 falls on a Monday this year. Which means, in all likelihood, you'll be working. Whether you lead your own company or work for someone else's, there are countless ways to take advantage of an extra day. Here's a quick list:
1. Determine your quest. Are you inspired by the companies, leaders, or characters who prize profit over everything else? Or are you inspired by those whose quest serves a larger purpose?
The most beloved and respected brands have a quest that "defines an ambition beyond commercial aspiration," says Ty Montague, a branding and business strategy expert. On your extra day, give yourself permission to discuss how your company's efforts transcend money or shareholder value. And if your company is a place where the bottom line is the only bottom line, you can still create clarity and alignment by having this discussion.
2. Forget measurable results. Innovation and leadership expert Hal Gregersen, co-author (with Clayton Christensen and Jeff Dyer) of The Innovator's DNA, believes that earnest, big-picture thinking remains a struggle for executives. "Their leadership habits are largely oriented around delivery and execution and getting things done," says Gregersen, who is also executive director of the MIT Leadership Center and senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School. "And for that, they're rewarded, supported, and promoted."
Which means it's hard for them--even on an extra day--to separate themselves from the grind and ask the big-picture, quest-oriented questions. So if you're going to have these discussions, give yourself--and everyone reporting to you--amnesty from short-term deadlines.
3. Try a stress-relief technique. Many take only 30 seconds.
4. Meditate. Meditation sessions usually take at least 15 minutes. You have an entire day (theoretically, at least).
5. Write down your goals. Successful people from Jeff Bezos to Derek Jeter believe in it. If you don't know what your goals are, Feb. 29 is the perfect day to ponder them.
6. Publicize a goal. Use social sharing as motivation. The support you'll receive will keep you going, says EXOS's Brett Bartholomew, a performance trainer who works with NFL athletes.
7. Find like-minded partners. In the fitness world, training with a buddy means you're less likely to veer from your routine, because you don't want to disappoint your friend.
8. Pay homage to a hero. Chances are there's someone you look up to--a relative, a colleague, a celebrity--who has accomplished what you wish you could. If you know the person, reach out and say thank you. If you don't, read a book about the person. It's a leisurely way to indulge an aspiration.
9. Keep your phone in your pocket for one whole meal. Converse. Observe. Smell. Touch. Taste. You'll survive. And you'll have taken a step toward that technology cleanse you've dreamed of.
10. Make something with your hands. It could be a drawing, a model train, or a Lego structure. Whatever it is, research suggests it will boost your creativity.
11. Form a new habit. Block it out on your calendar and get it done, as if it's non-negotiable, starting Feb. 29 and continuing into March. This process, called ritualization, is what makes new habits stick.
12. Settle for small windows. If you tell yourself 30 minutes a day is not enough to begin a new habit, you'll never change behaviors. Work with what you have.
13. Reconnect with long-lost colleagues. You can call, email, or use social media. Research shows even your weaker, dormant ties can lead to new opportunities.
14. Compose your follow-up emails in advance of meeting someone new. Networking expert Robbie Samuels suggests you write your "nice to meet you" notes before you encounter the person you're aiming to meet. It will help you stay focused when the moment arrives. And you'll have taken the first step toward staying in touch.
15. Begin the headache project you've been procrastinating. Whether it's organizing your attic or manual data entry, the only way to make the burden go away is if you begin.
16. Embarrass yourself. Making mistakes--even humiliating ones--is the best way to learn new skills. If you can get over your embarrassment--think how few mistakes are harmful in the long-run--you'll be on your way to becoming a more skillful, creative person.
17. Schedule a trip. Where are the places your mentors and colleagues say that you have to visit? The five minutes it can take to book a flight could change your career--and at the very least, give you plans to look forward to.
18. Ponder a sabbatical. TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie credits his sabbatical with helping him reshape his--and the company's--mission.
19. Play a drinking game at work. Use the leap year as the excuse, and build the game around a project. You'll laugh, and even grow more excited about upcoming company presentations.
21. Pursue your outside interests. What fun are weekdays if you are all job, all the time? Besides, productive procrastination improves job performance.
22. Assess your verbal tendencies. Here's a short list of likeable speaking behaviors.
23. Ask your parents a life question. If you're lucky enough to have living parents, lean on them for advice--they can be an untapped source of career wisdom.
24. Pick a new motivational quote. Here's a list of 101 of them.
25. Update your resume. It's a productive way to seize an extra day, even if all you do is edit out the overused words.
26. Shop for new dress clothes. Here's a five-step guide.
27. Block out time to revisit your ideas. Mark your calendar for March 29 to evaluate what's working--and what's not--one month after your leap-year inspirations. Ongoing evaluation is crucial to habit retention.
28. Remain open to the foolishness of setting goals or changing habits. Not everyone is a write-it-down, get-it-done type of person. If you prefer living in the moment, it's an important thing to find out--and embrace.
29. Give yourself a fun task for tomorrow. This is a favorite habit of Inc.com columnist Jeff Haden, who loves simple productivity tricks. The idea is simple: If you're enjoying a project, you shouldn't pressure yourself to finish today. By not finishing something fun Feb. 29, you'll give yourself something to look forward to March 1. And beyond.