Overcoming the Back to School Malaise

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Summer is over, Labor Day weekend has come and gone, and the 4th quarter looms just ahead. As businesses get in gear for the year’s end, the prospect of resuming a demanding routine often induces profound malaise. Here are three steps you can take to help ease the transition and hit the ground running:

  1. Get organized.

    Returning to an established routine can be especially draining because of the endless petty tasks that come with it. Each new day brings a million little logistical problems like figuring out timelines, coordinating meetings or calls, managing calendars, etc. Investing some energy to reduce this clutter is a great way to not only save time but also reduce the tedium of your day.

    Delegating logistics to others so you can focus on the big, interesting problems is one way to do this. But if you don’t have access to an assistant, you can take advantage of the growing number of virtual assistant apps and productivity tools on the market to help automate tasks and allow you to focus on stimulating challenges instead of humdrum logistical concerns.

  2. Change it up.

    Although routines have their benefits (they build discipline), trying new things can prevent boredom according to this article in Psychology Today. Since part of what makes a routine difficult is its repetitive nature, making changes can go a long way towards tackling malaise. Making even slight alterations like rearranging your workspace, taking a more scenic route to the office, or trying a new spot for lunch can have an impact.

    Not only is it good to introduce some novelty into your life for its own sake, but you might find unexpected sources of efficiency or enjoyment in the process. Furthermore, pushing back against settled habits keeps things interesting and prevents us from getting bogged down by complacency.

  3. Rethink your schedule.

    Optimizing your schedule can be a huge part of getting more out of your workday. Nothing induces fatigue faster than the realization that, despite your best efforts, you’ve ended the day at about the same spot you began. Dan Ariely, a leader in behavioral economics, argues that eliminating distraction from key parts of the day dramatically improves efficiency.

    According to Dan, the brain is at its most productive for the first two hours in the morning, starting from about an hour and a half after waking up. This is when alertness and memory are statistically at their peak, but often much of this time is wasted on distractions like email and Facebook. By devoting your mornings to solving demanding problems, you can help ensure you never feel as if you’ve been treading water. Jealously guard against distractions during that precious time when the mind functions best.

With hours of daylight diminishing but hours in the office only beginning to lengthen, it is easy to lose steam and become lethargic. However, by taking these practical steps to energize your routine, you can find that second wind you need to power through the final stretch of the year.

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