What do butterflies and tears have in common? Nothing, except you probably experienced both on your first day of school.
Sure, you’re all grown up now. But I’m willing to bet that you can bring yourself back to the emotional rollercoaster that was the first day of school!
Going back to academic prison after a sun-soaked summer of kickball, sleepovers and block parties was always an anxiety-ridden time. However, aside from the natural stress, the first day was always kind of exciting. It was a clean slate. Hot new girls. Fresh beginnings. Hot new girls. New start. Fresh new clothes. Hot new girls.
Anything was possible, and this year, you would keep that spiral notebook neat (at least until tomorrow.)
Why not make your next day at work like the first day of school? Here’s how:
– Get enough sleep. Not only are Zzzzzs important for physical and mental restoration, but the right amount will help you create a more positive attitude, give you more energy, and enhance your coping skills. However, if you don’t sleep well the night before that big presentation – don’t over think it! Our bodies are resilient, and odds are, you’ll still do AOK.
– Eat a good breakfast. Mom didn’t let you run off to school without a bite to eat, why should work be any different? If you’re not lucky enough to have mom stop by with her magical French toast, a quickie bowl of cereal will do the trick. People who skip breakfast have slower reaction times and are more accident-prone. You’ll also have more energy, a faster metabolism and increased efficiency. Many of you probably eat at your desks. On this first day of school, I suggest you try eating at home.
– Lay out a new plan. I’m not a big movie quote guy but like Penelope Cruz says in Vanilla Sky, "every passing minute is a another chance to turn it all around." This is your chance to set goals – some realistic, some far-fetched. They are your goals and can be anything you want them to be. On the first day of class you write them down, then spend the rest of the school year working to achieve them.
– Be prepared. This is also known as Do Your Homework. When we’re not ready for a task, we tend to be anxious. Think about it. Pretend you’re back in seventh grade. Knowing you had a completed assignment put you at ease. However, an incomplete assignment had your stomach in knots, wondering if the teacher was going to randomly call your name. You would take the time to plan for bad weather or a long road trip, why not for the day ahead?
Additionally, it’s important to learn the lay of the land. There are probably parts of your office building you have never visited. Go there! Bathrooms, break rooms, exits, stairwells, etc. Knowing these spots will boost your confidence. Plus, in this day and age of fear and terror, it’s important to have a mental blueprint of your surroundings in case of an emergency.
– Introduce yourself. First impressions are important. It’s never easy because anything that has the risk of rejection we tend to avoid. If there’s anyone you come across that you don’t know on a first-name basis, bite the bullet and say "hi." Talking to colleagues you don’t know is key to success .
– Keep a journal. Listeners of the Working Podcast have heard the Voice of Reason urge them to keep mini-diaries of their workday. It’s a great way to analyze your emotions and the truth about the situation you’re in. You can spot trends and quickly identify potential problems. More often then not, the problem is rattling around in YOUR head, not your boss’s! Since it’s the "first day of school," get a new pad and at the end of everyday write down a brief description of what transpired. Accomplishments, setbacks, emotions, etc. Even a single sentence will do the trick. Even after all these years the most popular assignment on the first day of school is "tell us about your summer vacation." It works because it a) puts you at ease, back into your comfort zone b) delivers a sense of closure that writing or storytelling can bring c) gives people a glimpse of your personal life.
– Ease into a schedule. One of the hardest things about heading back to school after the summer is the dramatic change in routine. If you are changing jobs or embarking on a career transition, we recommend you try to slide into it gracefully. Going "cold turkey" can be quite jarring. On occasion, there are times when time simply won’t permit you to prepare. In these case, we recommend some visualization exercises. Do some deep breathing and picture how it will be. Play it out like a movie. See everything. The good, the bad, etc.
– Don’t be a Lunch Loner. When I made the transition to a job that had a driving commute, I was amazed at the number of people who sit in their cars by themselves. Alone time can be golden. But on the first day of school you should get off on the right foot and mingle with your cohorts. Anything less is a cop out and makes you look anti-social.
– Arrive On Time. My sister’s sage piano teacher once shared some wise advice when tickling the ivories: "Be there before you have to be there so you can be there on time." Arriving early will help reduce the stress associated with rushing.
– Wear a new outfit. I don’t know about you, but on the first day of class I felt like "the man," decked out in stiff new denim and a fresh, off-the-rack sweater. Looking back now, I looked nowhere as cool as I thought I did. But confidence is a state of mind. On your first day of school, if you look good, you’ll feel good.
Most importantly remember that everyone feels the way you do! Back in school we all worried that we wouldn’t be able to read fast enough and that the "cool" kids would deem us geeks. These fears followed us all the way to work. It’s time to let them go.
Be a good student and share your "Back to School" advice below.
Now let go of the butterflies and choke back your tears, we’re off to school — I mean work!