Those of us with children will know that although we officially celebrate the start of a new year in January, September is secretly the best time to work on some self-improvement. As a new school calendar gets underway and many children finally return to the classroom after months away, the back-to-school season is a natural time to start a new cycle of healthy habits. In doing so, you’ll set yourself up for success, well ahead of everyone else’s New Year’s resolutions.
Although as an adult you might not physically be going back to school, that doesn’t mean you can’t harness that ‘new term’ feeling by getting stuck into a fresh set of extra-curricular projects. Here are a few ways you can capitalize on the back-to-school feeling and have a productive year ahead.
Clear Out Your Digital Life
This is a perfect time to start new routines, and what better place to begin than with your digital feng shui? Although it may not feel like physical clutter, having a bunch of disorganized documents and files on your screen can subtly stress you out. Plus, there’s nothing worse than starting the day with an overflowing inbox and worrying about what you’ve missed among the mayhem.
Spending an afternoon unsubscribing to emails you never read, cleaning up your desktop, deleting the contents of your downloads folder, and turning off non-essential alerts on your smartphone will help you to feel more in control of your digital footprint.
Then you can start the term as you mean to go on; by setting some rules on your inbox so that your emails are filtered in a manageable way and won’t spiral out of control again.
Buy Some New Stationery
As much as you like to think you can keep on top of your deadlines by storing all the information in your brain, unless you’re superhuman, you’re probably going to drop the ball on something important. While time-keeping and organization come from within, having some tools to help you map out your time can really break down difficult tasks.
Loading up your desk with a set of notepads, some decent pens, and sticky notes can help you keep on top of your work and life admin. Plus, the blissful feeling of a fresh new planner can work wonders on your productivity levels too.
Learn a New Skill
Whether you’re picking up a totally new skill or improving on an existing one, now is a great time to hit the books and enjoy learning again. For example, you could take up a language, learn how to draw, pick at the guitar, or even try dusting off your camera. Not only can learning new skills improve your employability, but it will also expand your horizons and improve your wellbeing. It’s also a really helpful way to bring the joy of learning back into your life if you’re currently stuck in a life or career rut.
Take a Break From Social Media
Social media can easily lead to endless procrastination – a quick swipe break suddenly turns into an hour-long stalking session and before you know it, you’re 53 weeks deep in your ex-colleague’s new partner’s profile.
This is a great time to go cold-turkey on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Setting some virtual boundaries means you can spend more time invested in personal projects, engaging with people in real life, and getting yourself organized. In addition, some studies have suggested that social media can have a profound effect on our mental health, increasing the risk of depression, causing low self-esteem, and body image issues – so there could be added benefits to limiting your screen time this season.
Chart When You Are Most Productive
Everyone has a power hour – that pocket of time where you can get into a deep focus and tackle difficult problems. Some people work best first thing in the morning when they’ve just woken up. For others, it’s in the evening. The ‘power hour’ phrase was first coined by Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, but has since become a widely-used productivity tool.
Keep a tally on your most productive hours to figure out when you work best, then plan your time around these pockets of productivity. For instance, if you can knock off the majority of your to-do list between 10am and 11am, make sure you haven’t filled that time with meetings.
And to fully respect your power hour, make sure you switch off your phone and television, before getting stuck into your meatiest task of the day. You’ll be surprised at how much you can get done in 60 minutes.