For kids, back-to-school means buses and backpacks. But for grown-ups like you, the turn of the season might jump-start your desire to get back to your goals—the ones you have for your career and life.
We’re suddenly motivated to 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 motivated once again.
But why NOW?
It’s all about our brain.
Author Dan Pink cites research about this “fresh start effect” (or its fancy term, “temporal landmarks”) in his book “When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” (affiliate link).
Basically, certain days of the year stand out in our brain as opportunities to start something new–or start something over.
So if you’re getting back to your goals, here are three tips to help you squeeze the most out of the months ahead—without stretching yourself too thin.
When Back-to-School Means Back to Your Goals: 3 Actions to Take Now
Action 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. We probably 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.
Perhaps there have been people you’ve met or those with whom you’ve deepened the relationship or earned more of their trust.
Use your calendar and email history to remind you of what you’ve worked on, problems you solved, or new ideas you launched.
Just don’t censor yourself—write everything down.
You’ll feel better about your progress, and you’ll be better prepared when it’s performance review time.
(Psst–if that time is coming for you, read what to do before your annual review here.)
Action 2: Reset a Relationship
Which relationship in your worklife longs for the reset button? Which needs some time and attention?
At work, it might be your boss, a colleague, or even a customer or client.
Pick one—just one—and invite them for coffee, a meal, or a simple catch-up phone call.
Avoid the typical surface-speak, get crazy curious about what’s important to them by asking bigger questions, like:
- What’s the most important thing happening in your world right now?
- What’s working well for you right now?
- What are you looking forward to for the rest of the year?
And of course, there’s the strategy of pure honesty:
- 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? or
- I was thinking about you and I feel like we’ve been out of sync. I’d like to get back on track. Can we hit the reset button?
Then shut up and listen.
Challenges that drain us at work usually involve our interactions with others, and so investing time now to reset a relationship can save you time and energy for years to come.
Action 3: Create Your White Space
The professional designer will tell you that 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 morning a week where you’ll work at home for an hour before heading into the office.
Or maybe it’s Thursday evenings where you’ll switch off your phone and hang with the kids.
After all, they’re back-to-school now—and they can teach us a lot.
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