In some ways, this fall might be a bigger adjustment than last fall was. By last fall, we had pretty much gotten down the quarantine routine. It was terrible, but it wasn’t new; we had six months of lockdown experience under our belts at that point. By the time the new school year started, kids had figured out how to log into Zoom school. People who were working from home had gotten into that groove by the time fall arrived, even if time management was a struggle.  

Back to School and Back to Life this Fall

This fall, a lot of people are going back to a way of life that they’re out of practice with. Some people are going back into their offices for the first time since last March. Some professionals are just starting to travel for work again, which complicates the family schedule. Kids of all ages are heading back to school after having spent all or most of last year attending school from home. Teachers and other school staffers are making the same adjustment. And a lot of people are feeling… unsteady.  

Speaking with my clients and friends, “awkward uncertainty” seems to be the general attitude about the upcoming season. The awkwardness largely stems from being out of practice with normal life. Some people feel like they don’t know how to make small talk anymore! Navigating discussions around topics like vaccinations and masks continues to be awkward. For professionals who are headed back to the office for the first time since the pandemic began, having face-to-face meetings and dealing with office politics is going to be an adjustment.  

As for the uncertainty: It’s still going to be a huge part of our lives this fall. Virus concerns are still top of mind for a lot of people, and there’s a lot that’s outside our control. None of us knows exactly what this fall is going to look like. Being able to plan for a productive fall feels daunting when so much is up in the air.  

This is a golden opportunity to develop a new set of skills that bring in the best of life before the pandemic and the lessons we learned during the pandemic. Even though going back to the office this fall is yet another change, that doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to struggle.  

Time Management Tips for an Unprecedented Fall: 

Think through your daily routines and your weekly schedule. Any change to your daily schedule, or a family member’s schedule, is going to have a ripple effect on your entire day.  To avoid being thrown off course completely, be proactive and map out your new plan and then think about what balls might get dropped.  Allow yourself extra wiggle room the first few days as you work through those unexpected glitches. As a time management expert, I often recommend that my clients start with putting together a flexible plan for their week that includes routines to handle the mundane yet important stuff. That way as you navigate the first few weeks of being back in the office, you won’t have to wonder when the laundry or the grocery shopping will get done.  You’ll already have a plan for that. 

Ask for what you want as you incorporate your new pandemic habits with your post-lockdown work life. This is a golden opportunity to put together the best of what you liked about your work routines before the pandemic and during the lock-down.  Say you’ve gotten used to working out at 6:30 each morning and having breakfast as a family from 7:30 to 8 but that means you won’t be able to get to the office super early. As you are planning your return to the office, talk with your office mates about what you need and see if you can keep some of the things that worked better for you. You are much less likely to end up with the work situation that you really want, if you don’t ever ask for it.  If you are concerned with a manager’s opinion of your request, take a moment to present the benefit to the business as a whole as you ask for what you want.  For instance, if you are better able to be focused and less stressed when working from home a couple of days a week, let them know that you get more done and are a more responsive coworker when you don’t have to commute every day.  

Be clear about what might throw a wrench in the works and have a back-up plan. 

Other Time Management Issues for This Fall

  • Commuting and traffic are going to complicate things. The monthly client meeting that only took an hour on Zoom might take two hours when you factor in driving to and from their office. Driving kids to and from school and extracurriculars might put some hard limits on your time.  Ask yourself which meetings can stay on Zoom and which ones really need to be in person.  
  • Kids and pets are going to need extra patience. Students of all ages are going to be struggling with anxiety that’s bigger than the usual back-to-school nervousness. If you are a working parent, plan for disruption this fall and make sure you have thought through your back-up plans if you have kids that may need extra support. Likewise, if you have a pet that is used to you being around 24/7, think about what you need to be doing now to train them that it is OK when you are gone. 
  • If you will be on a hybrid schedule, think through the key items you need to take back and forth.  Put together a “command central” bag that has all the chargers, devices, and papers that go back and forth so it is an easy grab and go from one place to another. 

Still feeling like you need some support to prepare for all that awkward uncertainty? Worried about getting it all done and figuring out time management and productivity when you’re dealing with so many changing variables?  

Having Flexible Structure and Support is Everything. 

When you have a flexible plan that you can follow even during an unpredictable week, the important stuff always gets done. Support helps you create lasting habits that allow you to make progress on your goals.  

I want you to have the time you need for everything that’s important to you, and that means learning a new way of doing things. If it was easy to implement a new system for better time management and productivity on your own, you would have done it already. 

Time Matters Boot Camp 90-Day Virtual Program helps you create the structure you need to make your fall not just manageable, but actually enjoyable. Join Time Matters Boot Camp now and get the support you need for the fall you crave. Click here for more information and to register. 

Have questions about what my support might mean?  Reach out to us at [email protected] and let us help you! 

I hope to see you for Time Matters Boot Camp in September! Until then, happy summer! 

Sarah 

Sarah Reiff-Hekking
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