Ah, September—new clothes, new books, new teachers, new beginnings. But why should kids be the only ones to get a fresh start in the fall? Most people feel a sense of possibility and inspiration come September. Since childhood, we’ve been conditioned to begin major undertakings at the start of each school year, so fall logically feels like the right time to begin a new project. But how can you make sure you take advantage of all that energy without over-committing? Begin by taking a closer look at the source of your inspiration.
How long have you had the idea?
Did your project come completely out of the blue or has it been lingering in the back of your mind for a while? The longer you’ve been thinking about something, the greater your interest and the more likely you are to stick with it once you get started. Keep a running list of your ideas for new projects and activities, along with the dates you came up with them. When you’re feeling the need for a new challenge, check your list for the ideas that have had staying power.
Why do it?
If you decide to take on a new project just because you’re caught up in the back-to-school excitement, you’re missing the key ingredient of success: commitment. In fact, not sticking to plans doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re inclined to bail on projects. Rather, dropping out is generally related to the reason you decided to begin something in the first place. A weak reason usually means poor follow-through. List your reasons for wanting to embark on a new challenge and reasons not to. The strong ideas will emerge. This is the best way to test the strength of your arguments.
When is the right time?
September is a busy time, particularly if you have school-aged kids. Will your idea suffer if it waits for a month or two? Consider a gradual approach to a new venture so you don’t swamp yourself and take on too much all at once. For example, rather than enrolling in the fall session of a course, see if you can book for winter but get a jump on the required reading. Or hold off on joining that daily running group but set up twice-weekly runs with friends and then increase your commitment once you’ve carved out regular time for the activity that you can stick to.
Is there another way?
Just because you’re interested in something doesn’t necessarily mean you have to dive into the deep end, especially if you’re already busy. You can sign up for yoga three times a week, or you can buy an instructional tape and try it out at home to see if you like it. You can agree to be chairperson of the community project, but maybe signing up to help on the committee is better. Look for ways to take part in new and rewarding experiences while keeping your commitment load manageable.
Balance coach Karen Wright is president of Parachute Executive Coaching and walks her talk as the mother of two young boys.