It's one of my favorite seasons of the year: Back to School. As a kid, I loved fresh school supplies, new outfits, the change of seasons, and the chance to crack open a new textbook. As an adult, in the lead up to Labor Day, I always feel like I need to regroup and "get back to work" after the summer. I do best when I have a routine and some drive to accomplish something before the end of the year.
In my new book "And the Good News Is..." I provided some of my most helpful mentoring advice that can be applied both at work and at school. Since it's the season of thinking about goal setting and achievement, here are five more tips for a successful re-entry into school and work after a great summer:
1. Make the First Day of School Like New Year's Day
New Year's Eve is a great time to think about making a resolution to change a behavior, improve upon a practice, or to start something new. Most people don't keep their resolutions very far into the year, but there's no reason to wait until Dec 31st to reboot. I like to think of the First Day of School as I do New Year's Day. For some reason, the goals seem more achievable, especially if you ask yourself, "Can I do this for the next four months?" rather than for a full year. The resolutions can also be more specific, for example, "I will turn off my computer and phone an hour before bed," and "I'll finish my Spanish homework before I watch my favorite show," are bite-sized commitments that can be fulfilled and can lead to better sleep and, hopefully, better grades.
I like to think of the First Day of School as I do New Year's Day. For some reason, the goals seem more achievable, especially if you ask yourself, "Can I do this for the next four months?" rather than for a full year.
2. Become a Reality TV Snob
One of the best ways to deal with the peer pressure of the "Fear of Missing Out" is to opt-out whenever possible. Take reality television, for example. There are so many programs to watch and keep up with and they eat up hours when you could be more productive. Instead of trying to keep up with it all, imagine being able to say, "Oh, I don't watch that." It can sound kind of snobbish, as if you don't have time to waste on such frivolity. But that's a good thing! It's OK to be a reality TV snob -- think of the time you'll save. Or choose one or two programs and treat them as a reward that you get to watch when all of your work is done for the day. -- I personally like the talent-related shows, and I think of watching them as "dessert." Reality TV is easier to digest if it comes in small amounts.
3. Check Your Posture
Yes, this is your grandmother's advice -- your posture is so important and Smartphones are making it so difficult to fight gravity, that this reminder bears repeating. When we're looking down all the time at our phones or typing on our laptops, we round our shoulders and our head weighs even heavier on our necks. It takes no time at all to lose the muscle strength that holds us upright, and it takes a lot of time and effort to correct the problem. Having -- and maintaining -- good posture is not only important to your health, but studies show that it can also put you in the top spot for job openings (as well as making you more attractive). Try to correct yourself whenever possible -- hold the phone up higher and avoid slouching on the couch when you're typing a research paper. You will thank me some day!
4. Downplay the "Uptalking"
What is uptalking? It is a pattern of speaking where every word goes up at the end of a sentence, as if every declarative statement is a question. It is annoying as...anything. The problem of young people uptalking is reaching epidemic levels, and you might not even realize that you are doing it. But take a moment to ask yourself if you tend to fall into a pattern of uptalking -- whether because you're unsure of what you're saying, you're concerned you might offend someone, or you're trying to fit in with friends who talk like that. It is a very easy problem to fix -- you can catch yourself doing it and regain control of your speech. This is worth doing because it will help you sound and feel more confident, and it can ensure that your professors or your bosses pay attention to you. Give them every reason to take you more seriously.
5. Join the Speech Team
One of the best clubs at school for future career development and personal improvement is the speech and debate team, also know as Forensics Club. The speech team is open to everyone -- the only skill set required is a commitment to show up for practice, to be ready to learn and to participate in the weekend events. Speech and debate is often an affordable activity -- there are no expensive uniforms, for example. Even if you don't plan to be in a career that will include a lot of public speaking, the speech team provides everyone with better presentation abilities that can help make the difference in future job opportunities and promotions.
Consider Back to School as a way to reboot your system -- embrace the clean slate and have a great semester!