There’s just something about fall that evokes a sense of longing for fresh notebooks, a brand new pen, and a snazzy backpack. Although you may not be attending classes or sending little ones off to school yourself, there’s still a reason to push the reset button. So this year, take a cue from all of the back-to-school buzz and recommit to making positive strides now instead of waiting until January 1 to establish better habits.
Who knew that your time on the cheerleading squad, endless amounts of homework, and having a locker would help you in your adult life? Although you may not be using algebra or diagramming sentences (thankfully!), here are seven back-to-school habits that adults can use in everyday life.
Write down your homework.
Start using a planner once again, even though it’s not Jan. 1. The zest and fervor you feel after purchasing a new journal and marking out significant dates can be easily achieved in the fall, too. Many academic planners have autumn start dates so that you can get a head start on organizing, or you can opt for a customizable design that lets you move the pages around yourself.
Keeping a planner handy helps with scheduling, but you can also use it to take notes and serve as a tangible record to reflect on later. “Academic life has taught me to keep a planner not just for things I need to do, but for a record of what’s already happened,” says Teresa Lynn Hasan-Kerr, who taught English in Tetouan, Morocco. “It helps tremendously to know what the bottom line of a meeting was, or when I traveled for work.”
Adult life tends to be more sedentary as playgrounds and kickballs give way to desks and computer screens. Tailor outdoor time to your abilities, tastes, and weather each day. Sit on your front porch and watch for wildlife. Go for a quick 15-minute walk between meetings. If you absolutely can’t get outside on a given day, open a window.
Keep your eyes on the end goal.
Even if your high school goal was to get a diploma and move on to your next life stage, there were steps to achieve those milestones. Small actions like tackling dreaded homework assignments and finishing group projects — and yes, looking forward to vacations — helped along the way. “Making goals allows me to prioritize my to-do list, which I write every day,” offers Melissa N. Edwards, a 5th grade teacher in Orlando, Florida. “I like to check off boxes and see that I am making progress, so there is a feeling of success.”
Edwards also suggests organizing your list into both long- and short-term goals to keep things manageable. Clarissa Silva, a behavioral scientist and relationship coach, agrees with breaking down long-range objectives into smaller chunks. “Try to not focus on what needs to be accomplished tomorrow,” she says. “Instead, look at what you can accomplish in that year and work backward. That way you can compartmentalize events into months and feel a sense of accomplishment in each goal achieved.”
Many students count down until the final bell rings as schedules regulate school days. Whether you adore routine or like flexibility, create a pattern to structure your day, even if it’s a loose one. “As a teacher of students with dyslexia, I tend to stress routine and repetition. This helps students with executive functioning,” says Edwards. “Adults thrive when there is routine and create a routine that works for you.” A schedule can simply be having something to look forward to each day or week, or you can manage your days with time blocks. Agendas will look different for each person, but, above all, consistency is key.
Education doesn’t have to stop when you finally turn your tassel. If your job requires you to give presentations, take a public speaking course, or brush up on the latest presentation software during a free hour of your workday. Honing a skill or learning something new offers a therapeutic escape from the daily grind and builds confidence.
Raising your hand and asking for help or training can also help you feel less alone in the day-to-day. “For many, trying to manage work and life can become stressful when you try to take it on all on your own,” says Silva. “Including elements in your day that help you recharge and replenish is restorative and preventive for your mental health.”
Keep your locker organized.
Instead of scrambling to find your phone, keys, and laptop each morning, store your items in the same place each day. “Designate a spot in your house for essentials,” says Dianna Radcliff, a 5th-grade English language teacher in Tampa, Florida. “Keep a file box, basket, magazine holder, or something of this nature on your desk or table.” An organization system can reduce morning stress, especially if you need to rush out the door before that first cup of coffee kicks in.
Participate in extracurricular activities.
Whether you were second string on the basketball team or the chess club’s mastermind, extracurricular activities were an opportunity to gather with others with similar interests. “While school creates relationships of convenience, adults are learning to create connections around adult affinity play groups,” advises Dr. Akua K. Boateng, Ph.D., a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in therapy for individuals and couples. “Emotional connection, which is core to our growth, does not have to end when school days are over.”
Outside of work enrichment, take a creative class, such as watercolor or photography. You can also try out for a musical at your local community theater, take a group exercise class, or join a book club. Trish Barlowe, who teaches adult pottery classes in Lynchburg, Virginia, has seen students challenge themselves while appreciating a new art medium and getting in touch with their creative side. “Students report feeling grounded, calm, and distracted from everyday worries,” she says. “The students feel a satisfying sense of achievement when they complete a pottery project that started out as a ball of mud.”
Not only will you be using a different part of your brain, but you’ll make new friends along the way. So whether you join a plant mom tribe, get together with a travel collective, or organize regular game nights, prioritize getting together with like-minded folks. Going back to your school days — at least with your mindset — can open up new opportunities and organize your daily life.