Taming September: Avoiding Fall Frenzy

When September rolls around, does it generally hit you like a ton of bricks? Do you feel as if that invisible being in charge of your life has suddenly ratcheted up the speed on your treadmill? WAY up?

This year, take on September with some new tools and expectations. See if you can stand up to it more strongly than you have in the past.

After Labor Day, it's as if summer's message, "Enjoy life," is replaced with a shrill "Get back to work! Do you know how much there is to do??" And many of us are so shocked by the change in the message and the cool weather, that we give it all up, rushing back to our old habits of working too hard and playing too little.

But taming September is possible. Here are some practical ways you can do it.

  • Tie Your Hand to Your Hip

    Which hand? The one you raise when you volunteer for more responsibilities. September is not the time to take on anything extra. Just shifting gears into fall is hard enough. You're already dealing with its inherent tripling of the pace of life around you and the resumption of heavier schedules and obligations after summer's lighter load.

    Restrain yourself from chairing a committee, hosting 25 extended family members for dinner, or taking on yet another new project at work, especially if it keeps you at the office longer hours. Underline this suggestion twice if you or other members of your household are going back to school. And if you're job-hunting . . . tie both hands to your hips.

    Use strong rope when you tie your hand, because your hand will repeatedly and vigorously attempt its habitual "Yes." Remember you can always take on more in October, not to mention the entire rest of your life.

  • Streamline Your Operation

    As you re-enter the faster-paced portion of the year, you will initially see things with an outsider's perspective. Leverage this to your advantage. For a brief moment, you'll have the consultant's fresh and objective point of view. In particular, look for ways to streamline your operation both on the home front and at work.

    Here are some examples:

    • If you regularly drive your children places throughout the week, see if you can consolidate driving and trade off with other parents.
    • Identify the repetitive low-level tasks that you do every week, and consider delegating them. Don't be stopped by financial considerations or failure of the imagination or money ? there ARE ways to have other people do some of these tasks.
    • Where are you spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere? Stop spinning. Get some help.
    • Identify where technology could help you get things done more efficiently. Make the effort, take the time to learn and implement the new technology.

    Do not postpone harvesting and implementing your "consultant" ideas. Once you're entrenched in last year's MO again, you'll no longer have the perspective necessary to make the change.

  • Keep Some Summer in Your Fall

    Imagine that you've been kidnapped into servitude, unjustly whisked away from your happy life. When your taskmasters aren't looking, take a break! Schedule a date for time for YOU. Get a massage. See a friend. Go for a bike ride. Walk along a body of water. Fuel yourself with what truly nourishes you. You must not get worn down! You owe it to yourself and all the people who depend on you. Now more than ever is when you need it, even though it may not look that way.

    Know, of course, that you have the strength and character to do what needs to be done, to rise to the challenge of yet another September. But take extra good, loving care of yourself. Make sure you don't become your own relentless taskmaster.

  • Spread Calm

    You can do this with very little personal risk, cost, or effort. This is how it works. Assume that EVERYONE around you is overly stretched in September. Whether they acknowledge it or not, trust me, they are Septembered Out. Your highly essential task here is to a) know this and b) gauge your time and expectations so you can cut people a little extra slack this month. They will love you for it, and your life will run more smoothly. If you have followed the tips above, you will have the personal reserve to give others in your life the unexpected gift of extra slack.

    For example, your son will NOT be organized enough to buy all his school supplies in one trip, no matter how directly you request it. He will need to go back a second time. After all, he's only 8 (or 14). Pace yourself for it, so when he realizes what he forgot and asks you to take him again, you can be cool and calm and just do it. You don't have to get irritated. You might even take him out for a slice of pizza afterwards and ask him how his September is going. He will be shocked and pleased, even if he turns you down.

  • Try out these techniques and see how it goes. Be bold in using your whip and your chair. You'll avoid some of the stress and overwork you've experienced in the past, leaving you more available to enjoy September's own freshness, energy, and beauty.

    And by the way, who IS in charge of your life?

    Copyright 2005. Sharon Teitelbaum.

    Sharon Teitelbaum is a Work-Life and Career Coach who works with high achieving women with young children, people at mid-career, and professionals seeking greater career satisfaction or work-life balance. Her book, Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued: Restoring Work-Life Balance, is available at her website, http://www.STcoach.com.

    Certified as a Professional Certified Coach (PCC), Sharon works by phone with clients around the world and in-person in Boston.

    She delivers keynotes and workshops on work-life balance issues, has been in national publications including The New York Times and Working Mother Magazine, and has appeared on cable and network television. She publishes Strategies for Change, a newsletter offering practical tips for work-life success.

    Sharon has been married for 30 years and is the mother of two amazing young women. You can contact her here.

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