Backpacks replace beach bags, the air gets cooler and … are those pumpkin-spice lattes I smell? Summer break and the accompanying vacations might be over, but it just means now is the time to start the best school year ever! And even if you don’t work in a school or university, the start of a school year often generates a spike in new clients and referrals for audiologists and speech-language pathologists across work settings.
Easier said than done, though. If you’re like most people—even those who don’t work in schools—starting off a new school year or coming back after a vacation causes stress. I hope these quick tips help you get back into the swing of things after a successful (and deserved!) vacation—whether it was a couple of weeks or a couple of months.
Give yourself some time to adjust. No matter what your summer entailed—kids at home or in camp, lighter traffic, working from home, weekends at the beach, or taking a long trip—your schedule or level of business probably changes this time of year. Try to plan earlier dinner and bedtimes these first days back and set aside some time in the evening to plan for coming weeks. Get up a few minutes earlier to enjoy your coffee in the morning. When at work, take a minute to breathe and get in the right mindset each day. Celebrate each accomplishment or success as it occurs throughout the day. Habits take time to create, and it’s okay to give yourself that time after a long change in routine or a break.
Tap into your creativity to help your team make the biggest possible difference to the most students’ speech and language.
Set some goals. The benefits of long-term goals and short-term objectives aren’t just for our kids. Think about what you want to accomplish this school year and the steps you need to take to achieve those goals. Start with smaller daily goals that help you accomplish the bigger ones. Creating goals gives you something to work toward and can prevent a feeling of aimlessness, which can sometimes set in after a vacation.
Get organized and establish routines. Go through those old files and shred unnecessary paperwork. Any outdated materials you don’t need? Toss them. Set up a spreadsheet of all timelines and important due dates for the school year. And while you’re at it, learn how to make those tasks change colors as they get closer to their due date. Now is the time to set up procedures to make everything run more efficiently this school year.
Take a few sessions to get to know students/clients. Regardless of work setting, audiologists and SLPs often start seeing new clients this time of year. Chances are, they also struggle with the transition back into a school-year routine, so focus on fun, ice-breaking activities for a session or two. I like to plan some motivating “get to know you” activities I can use with a variety of ages and skill levels. Let students pick out a game or activity they want to try for the session. You’ll establish rapport, they’ll associate speech-language sessions with enjoyment, and—bonus!—you have simple prep for these first sessions. Yes, you keep student goals first in your mind, but it’s okay to engage in activities they find motivating even if those activities might not exactly target all of their goals.
Create balance between work and personal life. Outside of your treatment room, make weekend plans to have something to look forward to at the end of the week. Or plan a small treat during the afternoon—like bringing in a bag of your favorite coffee to share with co-workers or a stop at your favorite smoothie place on the way home. We all enjoy work much more when we know we get a reward at the end of the day or week. Creating that balance leaves us feeling more refreshed and ready to start the madness all over again Monday morning.
Coming back after vacation isn’t so bad, right? Of course not, if you get yourself in the right mindset and form positive routines with yourself and your caseload. Routines allow us to stay on track for meeting goals and managing our time efficiently. Enjoy fall’s fresh new start and keep in mind there’s only about 275 days until next summer!
What do you like to do to get back into the work routine after a vacation or break? Please share in the comment section below.