Although it’s been years since many of us were in school, this time of year may put us in the mood to start a new project or build proficiency in a new area. It is also a great time for new beginnings and getting organized. Here are some tips to help you to get back on track and regain that “back-to-school” spirit after what was hopefully a more relaxed summer.
Take stock of your supplies. Remember how exciting it was to have new textbooks, notebooks and pens? That same fresh feeling can be achieved if this is the time to update equipment. Do you need new hardware or software? Are all your firewalls and security measures in place? Is your data backed up? Time and productivity can be wasted if you are suddenly sidetracked by malware or very slow processing laptops therefore it is important to stay on top of upgrades of devices and software.
This is also a great time to prepare your desk, your to-do list and to become organized at home. Do you lay out what you need to bring to work, and have your gym clothes ready for stopping for a workout on the way home? You might want to bring your lunch, which you can prepare the night before, in order to have a lower-cost, perhaps healthier lunch than you would if you white-bagged it. Like in school, you can also invest in a reusable, insulated lunchbox or bag to avoid wasting plastic and paper bags and avoid warm tuna sandwiches like those you used to squeeze into your locker.
Look into existing processes, making more comprehensive business plans and reviewing your spending habits. At school, every teacher shares information at the beginning of the school year on how they like to do things such as how homework is collected or on which side of the paper to write one’s name. The way this year’s teacher does things may be different from your last year’s teacher. If your staff has become bogged down by rules, reporting, triplicates and paperwork, now may be the time to look into software such as Concur or databases such as Pardot for customer relationship management. It may also be a good time to start preparing for the next fiscal year and think about budgets, where money was spent in 2018, and what funds will be needed for 2019. Just as every teacher has lesson plans or a syllabus, managers and staff need to have a business plan or roadmap to know where they need to go and which tasks will aid them in fulfilling these goals.
Set new goals. Now is the time to evaluate past goals and set new ones. Every school year has new classes and curricula with specific targeted skills and information. Business goals can cover both realistic and stretch objectives and not all goals succeed. It can often be worthwhile to try, fail, reroute, and accomplish. It is how children learn from the very beginning as they stand up, fall down and pop up again. Walt Disney was told he lacked imagination and Thomas Edison, that he was too stupid to accomplish anything. As they saying goes, it doesn’t matter how many times you fail, what counts is how many times you stand up again.
Practice, practice, practice. Did you play a sport in school? Then you’ll remember practices. The point of practice or training is to build skills and improve. A good coach, leader or mentor knows how hard to push team members and when to hold back. The key is to take some time, if needed, to evaluate where members are strongest and where they require help in order to grow in their careers, but without disparaging or de-motivating them. The same way that coaches celebrate reaching the finish line, when goals are met or projects completed scoring goals, baskets or touchdowns, it is important to recognize and celebrate successes at work. A celebration can range from verbal acknowledgement and gift cards to pizza parties or promotions.
Make new friends. In a world before instant messaging, texting and Facebook, students often lost track of each other over the summer. Once back at school, we reacquainted with friends and made new ones. Fall is a great time to meet new people at your company and in your industry and build relationships. We work better with people we know and it is useful to take a few minutes at the end of a business conversation to chat about personal interests for a minute. Also, take time for networking events. (See Summertime is a Great Time for Networking). Think about the things we can learn from new people. Today, in the corporate world, embracing this ideology is liberating — to view every encounter as a potential friend and every experience as potential knowledge for professional and personal growth. Teamwork is about playing nicely with colleagues, suppliers and customers.
Kids have a great way of looking at the world. They generally share, are kind to each other, and say what they mean. Each fall, students and teachers refocus and turn their attention to what needs to be done and having more structure in their lives. Getting back into the back-to-school mode can be what we need to get back on track and accomplish what is needed.