September is here already and it’s not just the youngest generation that’s in ‘back to school’ mode. Adults are too, according to Pinterest, which revealed searches for organisation, routine, positivity and goal-setting spike at this time every year, a phenomenon they’ve dubbed ‘back to life’.
People are looking for inspiration on how to improve their finances, feel more positive, organise their home and plan for the future. And it makes sense – when you’ve spent a good chunk of your life adhering to the school calendar, part of you is always going to feel like September is a time for new beginnings.
“Even though we may not be at school or college anymore, the wiring in our brains for this pattern of behaviour was created over many years while we were growing up,” life and career coach Chris Cooper tells HuffPost UK. “This is partially why, as adults, we still have a ‘back to school’ mentality.”
We’ve passed the last bank holiday of the year before Christmas, work is often slower over the summer with colleagues going away, and you might have kids who are preparing for the new school term. “All these factors combine to make us feel it’s time for some hard work,” Cooper adds.
If you’re up for a September reset but don’t really know where to start, here are just some of the ways you can channel those ‘back to school’ vibes to achieve positive outcomes in the last quarter of the year. You’ve got this.
1. Set goals.
It might not feel like it but there’s still a good amount of time left to achieve your goals. If you set yourself a handful earlier this year (hello New Year’s resolutions), it’s worth revisiting them, ticking off what you’ve achieved and assessing the rest to see if you can actually achieve them in the months to come. If not, don’t panic.
Angela Cox, a member of Life Coach Directory, recommends setting one or two big goals you plan to smash by the end of 2019 and focusing on them for the next four months. “Break them down by thinking about the tactical steps you’ll need to take to reach the big goals,” she says. Make sure you set timeframes for each of the tactical steps and, if helpful, create a visual chart which outlines the steps you will take and when.
Cooper suggests that setting quarterly and monthly goals, and reviewing them periodically, is one of the most effective ways of staying productive throughout the year. So this doesn’t need to just be a September activity. Telling friends and family about your goals is a great way to provide a level of accountability that will make you feel more committed. “It also means you have someone to celebrate with once you’ve achieved your goal,” he adds.
2. Reset your tech.
The Scroll-Free September campaign, from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), is now in its second year and provides the perfect opportunity to reassess your relationship with the many devices in your life – from the phone that’s glued to your hand, to the laptop you keep in your bedroom.
The idea is that you give up your tech for a month and participants stand to gain as many as 100 hours of their lives back by going ‘cold turkey’. Imagine.
For some, ditching devices isn’t actually possible due to work needs, but there are ways to be more mindful of the amount of time you spend looking at your screens. Check out ways to take part here or start small: Cox recommends turning off your tech an hour before bedtime so you can wind down properly.
3. Tweak your morning routine.
If you’re royally struggling to get out of bed in the morning, it’s time to rejig your routine. Why not try 10 minutes of morning yoga? Or have some breakfast and a cuppa before your shower? Write down three things you are grateful for every morning. “Invest in a mindfulness app and practice five minutes of mindfulness each morning,” suggests Cox. Start the day as you mean to go on.
4. Invest in your September essentials.
“The ‘going back to school’ vibe certainly delivers a fine excuse to invest in some new stationery, so why not treat yourself to a pretty journal and a set of colourful pens so you can give your goals the respect they deserve,” says Cox. We couldn’t agree more.
5. Prioritise self-care.
Work is full-on, your weekends are jam-packed and any sign of the self-care strategy you promised yourself at the start of the year has vanished into a puff of smoke. Sound familiar? If so, it’s time to pop self-care at the top of your priorities.
Sign up to that gym, carve out an hour a week to have a bath, pick up that book that’s been gathering dust on your bedside table, download a mental wellbeing app – whatever you do, make time for you. (Read more about the different ways people practice self-care in our regular What Works For Me series.)
6. Go green(er).
What’s one change you could easily make to give back to the planet? Whether it’s reducing the amount you throw away, eating less meat or something as simple as switching to a bamboo toothbrush or signing up to the local milkman – if everyone made one change for the sake of the environment, the world would actually be a better place. (More inspiration for going green.)
7. Get your finances in order.
Most of us hate talking about money but it’s got to be done – and the sooner you face up to your finances, the better. Whether you need to pay off your credit card, set up a savings account or start budgeting for Christmas (not long now!), it’s time to take control of your banking – and trust us, you’ll feel better for getting a handle on it. If you need financial support and advice, check out The Money Advice Service.
8. Exercise for body and mind.
If you can’t actually remember the last time you stepped foot in a gym but you’re still paying membership fees, now is the time to rekindle your love/hate relationship with fitness. Why not sign up to PT sessions so you’re less inclined to back out? Or perhaps you can ditch the membership altogether and figure out a routine that works for you, like cycling to work or swimming on your lunch break. An easy way to get outdoors, says Cox, is to do your daily mile – a focused 15 minutes of walking and reflecting.
9. Plan your next holiday.
We all need something to look forward to in life – whether it’s a weekend staycation, camping with the kids or a couple of weeks sunning it up on a beautiful beach in Bali. Make sure you book something in if you’re able to. Chances are, come November, you’ll be up for a well-timed break. Just remember, a holiday isn’t the sole solution to preventing burnout.