Back to School

Getting back in the flow

Is it just me or despite completing my school years some twenty plus years ago, those habits of living by the school year still runs deep?  That feeling of the summer fading like the tan and September being a new start. The need for new goals and, of course, new stationary!  What also comes with that though is finding refreshed motivation to work. Although I have kept work ticking over during the summer, going on holiday and having children around the house has meant that my focus and output hasn’t been at its usual level. So how can we energise that motivation and focus?

I usually try and avoid client work on the first day back.  However, an urgent piece of work that landed in my inbox less than 24 hours after stepping off the plane meant that I had to quickly get back out of holiday mode and park any jet lag for a few days. However, once it was out of the way I meandered around my work without any strong focus so now with September, and a new school term, here are my tips I use to re-gain some much needed focus.

Tidy space, tidy mind

First my workspace, email, files all have a bit of a tidy up.  It could feel a bit like colouring in your school timetable (remember those days?!) when you should be getting on with real work but honestly a clear workspace is so good for the mind.  Starting afresh knowing where everything is means you’re less likely to get distracted at your busy periods by trying to find things.

Review those goals and pick up some quick wins

You may have some goals that you set yourself earlier in the year.  Revisit them.  Are they still fit for purpose? What actions do you need to put in place to deliver them?  Add the actions to a planning list.

If you haven’t goals, what are your aspirations for the next month, three months, six months, year?  They can be a mixture of simple as well as larger goals. I often find that during the time away from work, perhaps after reading a book or having time to reflect, that I come back buzzing with new ideas about how I want to develop and change my world!  Now is a good time while they are fresh and before everyday routines start consuming your mind to jot these down so that they aren’t lost.  Even if they aren’t immediate goals its good to keep them somewhere for revisiting at a later stage,

Now work through the actions that you need to undertake to make the goals a reality.  Little, achievable steps with some realistic timescales.

Place your goals and actions in a place where they will motivate you and you will revisit them.  You can even go to town on them using all that new term stationary!!

From the goals take just a couple of actions that you will commit to delivering this week.  This will be the start of your ‘to do’ list and give you some focus for this week.

Review your contracts

Tick off and add to your work list.  Be realistic about what you will achieve this week and add these to your goals/actions for the week.  There is nothing wrong with easing yourself back in gently and focusing on the easy actions first.  There is something very motivating about achieving actions and ticking them off your list even if they are small. A diminishing list with lots of completion ticks is highly motivating to keep going with the more difficult actions.

Open the in-box when you are ready

Most of us keep a check on the email even when we aren’t officially working so I suspect most of you will be like me and we can feel slightly smug that it won’t be the challenge of returning to an inbox of hundreds of emails that our non-freelance working friends have after they return from leave. However, I do still tend to put an out-of-office on and so will choose a time when I feel ready to start filtering through the messages and start to re-connect with clients.  I usually send a ‘Hey, I’m back’ email to clients and use it as a way to reach out to some of my other contacts who I haven’t been in touch for a while.  Never miss a marketing opportunity!

Pin up those photos

Finally, change that screen saver, put up those holiday pictures.  Nothing wrong with reminiscing and refocusing the mind when you look at a couple of great holiday pictures to remember the great time you had and give some motivation to work towards the next one. 

Back to your routine

Good luck with the new term, we all know that once you find your routine you will be fine.  Once you’ve done the easing back in you need to start back to the daily routine that works for you – time blocking, exercise, visiting a co-working space, listening to podcasts, etc.  and before you know it will be half term! 

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