As summer melts into fall, students everywhere are getting back into the groove of the school year. The excitement of a new season of learning brings back fond memories of new supplies, new routines and reconnecting with friends after a summer of fun. Back-to-school is as much of a time period as it is a feeling – one of a fresh start.
That fresh start can be useful for any professional, whether or not you have a school bus and class bells to force you into it. The season comes with an opportunity to say goodbye to the summer ease and use consistency to your advantage.
Whether you're looking to make a career change or simply to make great strides at work, embracing a back-to-school mentality will help you reach new levels of success. Tap into your inner school kid and gives these four strategies a shot:
Reorganize Your Workstation
Remember back-to-school night when you got to meet your near teachers, and you could set up your desk for the first time? It just felt good to have a place that was all yours... and so clean. While you may not be able to buy a new desk, you can make it feel new by cleaning up and organizing your primary workstation. Researchers at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute published a study that showed when you have a cluttered environment, your ability to focus declines and you're more easily distracted. Career expert Baily Hancock explains, “When you have the things you need at your fingertips, it makes you more efficient and less stressed out, allowing you to use your brain for the hard stuff rather than searching for your sticky notes." Take a cue from your 12-year-old self and make some time for cleaning out your desk.
Define a Routine
While you may not have to sit through nine classes a day ever again, creating a routine you can stick to will help optimize your output. “The key to defining a successful work routine is to make sure it fits your personal work style. Everyone is productive by doing various tasks at different times of the day, so it shouldn't be a one-size-fits-all approach," Hancock says. "If you don't get into your productive zone until the afternoon, then structure your morning to be when you read industry news, take calls, catch up with your team, and other activities that require less thinking and more information intake. Whatever your most productive hours are, be sure your team (and boss) are on the same page so they know what to expect from you when." If you've pushed your work routines to the wayside while vacations and warm weekends took over, now is the perfect time to reestablish them.
Commit to a New Skill
Once upon a time, every new school year meant picking up new subjects. From learning to read to eventually tackling modern literature, each year you had no choice but to grasp something harder. Applying that same appetite for new information is key to long-term career success. Career Contessa Founder and CEO Lauren McGoodwin suggests filling your downtime with developing a new skill instead of mindlessly roaming the Web. “The Internet is filled with awesome online learning tools— and continued learning of new skills helps keep your mind sharp and your career progressing forward," she says. McGoodwin recommends sites like Skillshare, which allows you to explore new lifestyle or business skills which, according to her, can help you advance your career down the road.
Refresh Your Wardrobe
If buying new shoes was your favorite part of going back to school, you're in luck. Refreshing your wardrobe in the same way you did during your school years is still a thoughtful thing to do this time of year. Dressing for success can impact your productivity and performance at the office. A study published in the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science shows that when people dress up, they see the big picture more and sweat the small stuff less. But looking sharp doesn't have to break the bank. Simply try streamlining your wardrobe for the things you love or try taking your favorite pieces from last season to the tailor for a refresh.
Whether or not you're happy to be going to an office instead of a school yard, there are huge benefits in tapping into your school-year days. By applying the back-to-school mentality to your career, you're guaranteed to infuse the rest of the year with some much needed momentum.