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When Back-to-School Means Back to Business

Back to school means back to business

It’s Labor Day once again, and while kids in my neighborhood have been sweating to school for a couple weeks now, everyone else is finally, officially, heading back to their respective halls of education.

For kids, back-to-school means buses and backpacks. But for grown-ups, the turn of the season kickstarts our drive to get back to business.

Even those without children find that the Labor Day holiday now signals an unofficial new year. We’re suddenly motivated to get back to a more disciplined schedule. We look at the list of goals and projects we conjured up on January 1 and—after our “oh crap” moment of realizing our progress to date–we get moving once again. Right now, it’s still not too late. Phew!

So if you’re getting back-to-business—or, like many in today’s economy, you’ve never left—here are three tips to help you squeeze the most out of the final stretch of the year—without stretching yourself too thin.

1. Assess Your Accomplishments.

Okay, maybe your goal to land three mega-clients hasn’t panned out yet. But have you acquired one? Or made inroads to another you never expected? In today’s business landscape, things shift quickly, and we achieved things in July we never could have predicted in January.

Stop beating yourself up for what hasn’t happened and make a list of what has. Your calendar and email history will prompt you for problems you solved or new ideas you launched. Don’t censor yourself—write everything down. You’ll feel better about your progress, and you’ll be better prepared come performance review time. (Psst–if that time is coming for you quickly, grab our free tools about preparing for your annual review here.)

2. Reset a Relationship.

Challenges that drain us usually involve our interactions with others. Which relationship in your worklife longs for the reset button? Maybe it’s your boss, a colleague, or a customer. Pick one—just one—and invite them for coffee or a catch-up phone call.

Avoid the typical surface-speak, get crazy curious and ask bigger questions: “What’s the most important thing happening in your world right now?” or even “I’ve been thinking about our working relationship, and I’d like it to be stronger—what can I do to help make that happen?” Then shut up and listen.

3. Create Your White Space.Time for some white space

White space on a page makes text more comfortable to the eye and gives us our brain a place to rest. White space in your schedule works the same way.

We need white space to process our thoughts, to bring our superpowers to work, and to regenerate our energy and focus. When we trade our white space for clicking and commitments, we miss opportunities, wear out faster, and have less fun.

Take five minutes and mark blocks of white space in your calendar. Maybe it’s a 3 p.m. escape from the office in December to get a jump on the crowds at the mall. Maybe it’s Thursday evenings where you’ll switch off your Blackberry and hang with the kids. After all, they’re back-to-school now—and they can teach us a lot.

YOUR TURN: What does Labor Day signify to you in your work? The end of a busy summer? Or the start of a crazy fall? Tell us about it by replying below, or share on Facebook or Twitter.

Psst–looking for some good books this weekend? Here are eight suggestions from me.