Lessons from going back to School

Do you remember when you were a kid getting ready to go back to school? For me it was a mix of excitement and trepidation. Mainly because I was a shy kid and moved to a new school nearly every year growing up (I moved 9 times before college). More on this later.

But this year, I was struck by how I actually missed the “going back to school” mark on the calendar, and not because I have kids to send away to regain freedom. I miss the clarity of knowing that going to the next grade was a mark of progress and growth. It was proof that I was indeed going to the next level.

As adults, we rarely get this clarity that we are progressing in our work life. Occasionally we may get promoted, but often this happens after we’ve been doing the work for a long time, so it may not feel much like progress. Sometimes we are so “in it” we don’t step back to reflect on how far we’ve come over the last year, last few years, last decade. So I recommend spending some time reflecting on your progress: count your successes and write them down!

What I also really loved was the preparation back-to-school brought, like shopping for school supplies (my obsession with organization and office supplies started young) and new clothes. But getting ready for school goes much deeper than new supplies to make sure kids are successful to meet their new challenges. These same tips are completely applicable to adults and how we approach our work life to make sure we are successful.

A few of my favorite Back to School Work Tips:

Note: Each of these tips could easily evoke a long monolog, so I’ll keep it short to simply remind you. If you do want to learn more check out the resources under each or book a sample session with me.

1.     Go to bed early.

I’ve noticed that often when we go to bed to get a full 8 hours sleep, we call it “going to bed early,” when in reality, it’s “on time” if we are only allowing ourselves 8 hours. If we were to shift our perspective so that we valued the time we need to rejuvenate and allow us time for at least 8 hours in bed per night (I say at least because we often don’t go right to sleep). However, call it whatever you want, the point is to allow enough time to get sufficient sleep. This country’s sleep deprivation is a bit nuts!

A new book that I’m enjoying on this: The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington

2.     Plan healthy lunches and snacks.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if we had a very cool Mom, excellent at selecting yummy and healthy food, to pack our lunch each day?! I’m going to assume that like me you don’t, so it’s on us. Figuring out what to have for lunch can be a struggle. Then there is the time to plan and prepare AND it’s such an important meal (way more than dinner, but not quite as much as breakfast)!

Hopefully these sites will inspire you: familyfreshmeals.com, eatingwell.com, and ambitiouskitchen.com

3.     Get organized.

I wish I could say this was all about buying office supplies. That might help, but it’s what you do with the supplies that matter. Mostly this is about cleaning up your space, prioritizing your work to meet your goals, setting boundaries, and being focused. All way easier said than done. But all super doable (and I can help if you’re struggling).

Learn another perspective here: tinybuddha.com, theminimalists.com

4.     Take charge of TV time.

I won’t say banish the TV, although I would encourage you to try it out for a time, you’d be amazed how much time you gain. I get that TV is deeply embedded in pop culture and without it you may not have anything to talk about at work around the water cooler (do these still exist?). Taking control and being thoughtful regarding how much time is spent in front of the box WILL increase your time and create space for way more fulfilling stuff.

5.     Stop doing homework.

I love the “no homework” revolution gaining support and research in schools. It was sad to me that we were training kids at a young age to “live to work” instead of “work to live.” I recommend you join the revolution and take back your time off work by spending it doing things that will rejuvenate and fulfill your life. Regardless if you like your work or not, everyone needs a mental break to allow space for creativity and new ideas. So take a break and don’t take work home with you (if you don’t think this is an option, let’s talk).

6.     Read.

Read for reading’s sake. I’m not talking about reading the paper to stay up on the latest craziness, or reading a business journal to stay up on your industry. Read for the pure enjoyment of learning something entirely outside of your daily grind; for the pure enjoyment of expanding your perspective and knowledge into unknown areas. If anything, it’ll give you a little extra material for chit- chat at your next cocktail party. But really we’re creating a better world, the more we know and are curious about it (and each other).

Put these tips into action, even if just for a week. Then let me know what worked and what you notice shifting for you.

Some of you might give the tips a try and are still experiencing what I call the Sunday Night Despair. This is that feeling of dread you may get on a Sunday night as you think about going to work in the morning. This is more than the feeling of wishing the weekend could last forever, but a pretty nasty pit-in-the-stomach angst. This is a sure sign, something isn’t right. I used to have this feeling OFTEN; I thought it was normal and would completely ignore it. It wasn’t until I started doing work I love that I realized just how bad the Sunday Night Despair was ingrained into my version of normal. I’m happy to report I don’t get it anymore, no matter how busy I am. If you’re frustrated, experiencing the Sunday Night Despair, or notice you have a lot of strategies in place to numb the reality of work, let’s talk. There is a better way to live.

I’m working to create a better world, one person at a time. I help my clients get clear on what’s important to them in order to unlock more choices. My clients feel less stressed, have stronger relationships at work and find new opportunities so they WANT to go to work.

Go out and love what you do, do what you love! And if you don’t, contact me.