When we were kids, the end of summer—and the beginning of the school year—signaled the idea of a new beginning and reinvention. Buying supplies, backpacks, and clothes for school symbolized the possibilities that lay ahead.
This feeling of anticipation and hope persists even in adulthood. “As humans, we love the idea of a reset. Whether we’re writing New Year’s resolutions or reviewing our courses for the semester, there’s something refreshing about a new start,” says career coach Meghan Duffy. “We can try out different strategies, identities, and ideas. Back-to-school time signals the start of a novel routine and opens the door for new possibilities. It encourages us to think about what’s working and what isn’t in our routines and tweak the process.”
For back-to-school season, we spoke to WeWork members, career coaches, and entrepreneurs about the way they incorporate that back-to-school enthusiasm in their professional lives.
Six ways to get the “back to school” feeling at work
1. Reprioritize your time
Instead of pencil sharpeners and protractors, Duffy says that adults need to seek the metaphorical tools they need to organize and prioritize their work. The post-summer rush at work can be overwhelming, so Duffy suggests that you conduct a time audit to plot how you’re spending your time—and if something is off, adjust it. Does everything feel like a priority? Consider triaging your to-do list by using an Eisenhower matrix to define the importance and urgency of each project.
Laura Lopez-Blazquez from the Global Fund for Women, a member company based out of WeWork 1460 Broadway, uses a handwritten planner to reorganize her schedule. “I try to reflect on my goals at the end of every month,” she says. “As summer ends and everyone is coming back to the city, it is also time to set up catch-up meetings. For me, it is really an opportunity to press the reset button and refresh.”
2. Get new school supplies
Buying new physical tools can have value too. Remember how good you felt when you got new school supplies? Neurotransformation coach Jane Maliszewski believes that those memories can reinvigorate your work. “Having something concrete brings us back to that moment,” she says. A new notebook, a business-card holder, she suggests, can do.
3. Learn a new skill
For Chicago-based entrepreneur Taylor Elyse Morrison, September is a great time for her to pick up a new skill, especially a practical one. When she wanted to launch her podcast, she learned audio editing and how to use the necessary tools; now she is studying business models and business growth. “I am very much an ‘I love to see how it ties to a specific project’ type of person,” she tells us. “If I do this,” she says, “it can take me a little bit further.”
4. Engage your community
Unhappiness at work often stems from a lack of connection with coworkers or poor company culture, says career strategist Jena Viviano. She recommends asking a coworker to lunch to foster some one-on-one conversation. Relying on the occasional after-work happy hour is not enough. If you’re self-employed, going off listservs, Slack channels, and Google groups to meet up with peers is a good solution. “If you can’t find a community, create your own,” Viviano recommends.
5. Let go of the old
After the first few weeks of excitement, routine inevitably sets in, and the enthusiasm tied to new beginnings tends to fade. “A lot of times, you want to add something to your life but you haven’t taken anything away,” says Maliszewski. In fact, she warns, if you are packing another pound into an already overstuffed bag, it will fall to the wayside pretty quickly. To avoid that frustration, she recommends figuring out what you’re actually not going to do in the immediate future and bench it.
6. Take it into the future
The beginning of the school year carries a lot of pressure over potential goals and accomplishments, and it’s easy to fall short of one’s own expectations. “We should have a reset button looking at our lives and setting goals in three-month increments,” says Viviano. Doing so, in fact, makes self-evaluation and goal-setting much more digestible: When you just make yearly resolutions (whether that happens around New Year’s or September), it’s way too easy to shoot for the moon, and the goals set hardly ever work out.
Samantha John, cofounder of Hopscotch, a member company at WeWork Dumbo Heights that teaches kids to code and create games via an iPhone app, abides by the “quarterly reset” mentality, despite having a hectic back-to-school (for her, work) season. “Quarters resonate with me,” she tells us. “We send updates to investors every quarter, so that’s always a good time to reflect on what we did in the last three months and on what we want to accomplish.”
Angelica Frey is a writer and translator who covers the arts, fashion, and food. Originally from Milan, she currently lives in Brooklyn.