What Back to School Can Teach Us About Our Careers
This week was all about getting my step kids and my nieces ready for back to school. It’s an exciting time for the little ones, and the teenagers wish the summer would go on forever. After spending 25 years as a student, I still instinctively feel like September if the beginning of the year. Even if you don’t have kids, you could probably sense a shift at work this week, as the pace increases, workload is ramped up, and the lazy days of summer are over. Going ‘back to school’ isn’t just an important time for parents, the lessons that kids (and parents) learn during this time of year can be beneficial for everyone, and can be applied to our careers.
Here are a few “back to school lessons” that you can use to help focus your career and improve your work performance.
Organization is the key to staying on top of responsibilities and making sure that everything gets done. This time of year is a good opportunity to review how you keep on schedule and determine if there is anything you can do to improve your current organizational system. If you have been planning to go paperless, or reduce the amount of paper you rely on, this is a great time to digitize your files, convert everything onto a tablet and sync your contacts, calendar, CRM etcetera together. This will streamline your processes and make it easier to be organized.
It’s also a good idea to take this opportunity to clean up and get focused. Much like children start a new school year with a blank workbook and a fresh set of binders, why not clean out your inbox, and complete the follow-ups and small projects that you’ve been meaning to do for a while? This means calling people back that you should have called in the summer, organizing your files, updating your contact lists, purging files from your office, etc. Starting with a clean slate will help you get focused and stay organized for the rest of the year.
Try New Things
I am always inspired in September to sign up for new courses or classes and learn something new. The same can apply to our careers. Often we get stuck in a rut at work, we do the same job for years and our enthusiasm decreases and we don’t feel inspired. Identify how you can push yourself outside of your comfort zone, take a chance, try something new, make a change. Sticking with the status quo could mean you are missing out on some incredible opportunities.
Most children are taught to say hello and introduce themselves to new classmates. This is an important for us as well, to focus on building your network. I am constantly surprised and reminded of the power of building a strong network. Many people only take the time to network when they’re looking for a new role, however, that is a shortsighted approach. There are a lot of benefits of expanding beyond network, introducing yourself to new people and forming new relationships particularly outside of your industry profession or organization. Not only can this be professionally rewarding, but you could make some new friends as well.
Children get recess. They also get an entire lunch break – one that they don’t “work through.” While eating lunch at your desk and not getting out of your chair for ten hours straight may seem like your only option to get everything done on your ‘to do’ list, we all know that there are several benefits to taking breaks. Even a couple of small breaks throughout the day to stretch your legs and clear your mind can make you more productive. The same goes for vacation time. There are a lot of very good reasons to actually use the vacation time allotted to you. So if you didn’t take time away during the summer month, now is a great time to plan your next adventure which you can look forward to.
At the start of a new school year, many teachers have children write out their goals for the year. This is a good practice for adults to follow as well. Writing down your goals helps you stay focused and think about what matters most to you. Plus, it gives you something concrete to strive towards and be accountable to. What are your career goals for the next year? The next three years? Spend time thinking about your goals and then write them down. Review them once a month to help keep you on track.
Do Your Homework
Research your industry, take the time to stay on top of trends and keep learning. While it’s certainly tough to do “extra” work on top of your already busy job, it’s also very beneficial. Most children don’t like homework either, but it’s still important.
Schedule a certain number of hours a week that you will dedicate to reading, learning, and researching. Not only will this help your career, but it will be mentally stimulating and help you come up with new ideas and strategies for your personal and professional life.