At the end of every summer, students get a fresh start at life as they approach the first day of the new school year. It’s a time when millions of students reinvent themselves and face the challenges of the upcoming year head on; equipped with a backpack full of the tools they need to succeed. But just because you’re a grown-up doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from back-to-school traditions and mindsets. Incorporate these 7 traditions back into your work routine to advance your career, save money, feel more confident, and experience greater satisfaction at work and home.
1. Dress to Impress
Remember how excited you were to rock your brand new jeans and stain-free sneakers on the first day of school? Remember how your new clothing and haircut gave you confidence as you started the school year surrounded by your friends and frenemies? As you settle into a job, sometimes you forget to give yourself the attention and confidence boost you so deserve. You might not be going anywhere new, but with all of those Labor Day sales, now is a great time to update your work wardrobe.
Not only can changing the way you look on the outside change the way you feel on the inside, it can change the way others see you. If you’ve ever worked in an office environment, chances are you’ve questioned the competency of superiors (silently to yourself, I hope) because of the way they’ve presented themselves. Have you ever heard the phrase, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have?” Adopting a professional and polished appearance tells your coworkers and managers that you’re serious about your role at your company. You don’t have to start wearing a suit every day, but take a look at what the people wear who are in positions you’d like to have and incorporate some of their styles into your wardrobe. It’s possible to make a new first impression, so go out there and get yourself some new threads that show you’re ready to get ahead!
2. Organization Overhaul
A new school year always meant a new structured schedule, a squeaky clean weekly planner, an organized backpack and an impressively clean locker. Over the course of the year, as you became caught up in your busy schedule and homework assignments, you probably became lax about your organization methods. And often, work isn’t that much different. You get buried in endless meetings and piles of paper that you neglect to straighten up.
But the truth is, staying organized can help you feel calm, in control, and on the ball. Messiness at work can also impact your work performance if you have trouble finding documents you need. Take an afternoon to purge and rearrange your desk drawers, clean up your computer files, and delete excess emails in your inbox. If you struggle with keeping track of your deadlines or meetings, get yourself a weekly planner, calendar, or to-do list app.
3. Bag Lunches
Back to school used to mean a new superhero lunchbox stuffed with PB&J’s, fresh fruit and juice boxes, but just because you’re a proud graduate doesn’t mean you can’t still pack a daily lunch. If you’ve gotten caught in the cycle of buying lunch a few times per week or more, it’s time to redefine the way you dine. It takes additional time and planning to bring your own lunch to work since mom’s not going to make it for you anymore, but doing so can easily save you hundreds of dollars a year. That’s a lot of coin you can put into your savings account or vacation fund – trust us, it’s a good idea to still keep a piggy bank.
Not sure where to start? If you need inspiration, check out some work lunch meal plans and printable grocery lists. Then schedule a weekly grocery trip to pick up your ingredients; if you need some motivation, bring a friend. Next, consider ditching the brown bags. Investing in a stylish lunch box or set of snazzy, practical lunch containers can get you excited to bring your lunch. If you’re not a morning person, take a few minutes before bed or at dinner time to prep your lunch so you can grab it and run out the door in the a.m. Bringing your own lunch can also get you on track to eating healthier, so it’s a win-win situation that’s worth the few extra minutes.
4. Fresh Office Supplies
Didn’t you just love buying No. 2 pencils, wide-ruled notebooks, celebrity-clad folders, and a new backpack that complemented your look? I did, anyway. Starting a new school year may not have been exciting for everyone, but getting a new slew of supplies made the transition a little bit more enjoyable. The same goes for work.
If your company has an office supply budget, check to see if you can order yourself some new gear – pens, post its, a wall calendar, the possibilities are endless! If your office doesn’t have a budget, there are plenty of sales during back-to-school season where you can get some office supplies on the cheap. Adding some decorations to your office or cubicle can also make you feel more cheerful and motivated at work. Check out the dorm room supply aisles at your local department stores to pick up some funky office embellishments.
5. Social Circle Face-Lift
See you in September! The first day of school meant you’d get to see your best friends every day again, another plus to the back-to-school grind. A new school year was also a new opportunity to reinvent your social circle and seek out new BFF’s. At work, we often see the same faces day after day. The people who surround us at work become our work besties and the people we call on for coffee runs and lunch dates. It’s great to have people we enjoy spending time with at work.
But making new friends at work has many benefits. It’ll break up the monotony of your workweeks, get you in touch with what’s going on in other areas of your company, expand your networks and references for future jobs, and give you a reputation as someone who’s willing to put themselves out there. Don’t ditch your old office mates completely, but reach out to people you want to get to know better and invite them to lunch or a coffee meeting. Make it a point to meet with someone new once a month and watch your opportunities for collaboration and post-work happy hours grow.
6. Get Schooled
Once you graduate you become completely responsible for your future learning. Your life is no longer scheduled into required periods of math, science, and social studies. Post-graduation burnout is no joke, and we all can use some time to relax our brains. But at some point, you’ve got to adopt some lifelong learning practices.
Your learning can be as formal as taking on a new degree program or as informal as attending an optional training session at work. Seek out a mentor who can teach you some skills that will help you in your present or future job. Sign up for a local, affordable professional development workshop or ask your boss if you can attend a regional or national conference that will help you become a more effective employee. Take on a new, challenging project at work or join a committee. You can even check out the plethora of free online classes the worldwide web has to offer or take a class at a local college. Find out if your employer has a budget for professional development or opportunities for tuition reimbursement – this can be a great incentive to further your education.
7. Extracurricular Activities
In addition to a back-to-back class schedule, school offered opportunities outside of the classroom to learn and play. If your school offered a wide variety of extracurricular activities, you could easily find a club that matched your interests in athletics, community service, science competitions, or maybe even basket weaving. Involvement in those activities not only provided you with a close-knit group of friends, it probably helped you gain acceptance into colleges.
News flash: extracurricular involvements can also help you advance your career, explore your interests and widen your social circle. Hiring managers like to see candidates who are involved in nonprofit organizations, community service activities, workshops and conferences, leadership roles, and even intramural athletics. By taking on out-of-work activities, you are showing to future hiring managers that you’re eager to connect with others, seek ways to grow your skills, nurture a variety of interests, and/or dedicate your time to contribute to your community or career field. Even if your activities have nothing to do with your work (such as art classes, hiking groups, book clubs, or weekly yoga sessions), you’re opening yourself up to nontraditional ways to network. And you never know – maybe your extracurricular activity will turn into your full-time career someday.
See also: 7 Back-to-School Shopping Trends
Don’t get stuck in your same old work routines - sometimes you have to treat your job like it’s a new school year to keep moving forward. The best part is, you don’t have to wait for a new year or a new job to adopt some of these traditions. Incorporate them one by one, or choose a few that you’d like to tackle this month. Reflect on what made you excited to go back to school and incorporate some of your own traditions. You can even get your work friends in on the fun by shopping for new work wardrobes, picking up an after work activity, or taking a class together.
What back-to-school traditions did you always look forward to as the new school year approached? How can you apply them to your workplace for greater job satisfaction? Let us know in the comments section below.