Starting a new school year leads to both excitement and anxiety. That’s true for our students and for us as teachers, too!
After several weeks off, getting back into the habit of early mornings and daily routines can be a bit difficult. But rather than try to commit to a bunch of new habits, I recommend you choose just a few practices to implement. And, instead of trying to follow what every blogger and influencer suggests is life-changing, I suggest you look carefully at your own life, think about what creates stress and what is lifegiving, and make changes in a way that is intentional and selective.
So, at the beginning of this new school year, I’m not going to make suggestions for you to follow. Instead, I want to share a few things I’ve been doing for the last few weeks to get off on a good foot.
And, I’ll share why I chose these as my new school year habits.
1 | Starting the day with a morning walk.
The benefits of walking are well enumerated on the Internet, so there’s really no need for me to launch into them now. It’s probably enough to remind you that walking has amazing benefits for both your physical and mental health, and you should definitely make it a priority!
I think walking has other benefits too. It can help you get to know your neighborhood and generate small interactions with the people in your community. It creates opportunities for you to notice the small changes in the seasons and become more familiar with the plants, insects, and animals in your local ecosystem.
Although I originally set myself a habit of walking once a day, I ultimately decided to take my walk very first thing. Now, I try to be out of the door within about 30 minutes of waking up.
Walking in the morning, especially during the warmer months, ensures that you’re walking during the more comfortable time of day. If you’re walking in a town or city, walking in the morning means it’s likely to be less crowded, busy, and noisy, creating a more relaxing walking environment.
There’s also just something magical about mornings—watching the world wake up and listening to the birds sing.
On a more practical note, walking first thing in the morning means I can go through the rest of my day knowing that I got in at least a little bit of movement, and that makes me feel good.
2 | Doing yoga daily.
I’m not a big fan of working out. But I do love to walk and I do love yoga.
I’m a devotee of Yoga with Adriene, and her August FWFG calendar was the perfect structure I needed to get back into the daily yoga game. I’ve been doing regular yoga for years, and in January I finally completed a 30 day calendar. I knew that daily practice made me feel good. So, just as I committed the beginnings of my mornings to walking, I committed the time right after work was over for the day to yoga.
As someone who now works and teaches from home, a lot of my time is spent on the couch or in a chair, poring over a laptop. Taking 20 minutes or so between getting off work and moving into my evening and dinner routine to stretch out my body has been wonderfully restorative. It also helps shift my brain away from work and into normal life.
3 | Limiting my time on technology.
I’m sure that word creates some sort of reaction in you. Like the benefits of walking, the juxtaposition of the very real benefits and the very real dangers of technology is well talked about. Again, we don’t have to go over that here.
But it’s something I’ve been struggling with, for years if I’m honest. If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll notice there’s a lot of inconsistency in my posting there. That’s partially due to my personality—documenting and making creative things doesn’t come naturally to me—and partially because I get so easily addicted to Instagram when it’s on my phone that I end up deleting it for days or weeks at a time just so I can get work done or live my life.
With all this in mind, I decided to set some limits on how I use technology each day.
- Staying off my phone and computer (other than checking the weather or responding to any personal texts/calls) until after I’ve eaten breakfast.
- Not being on my phone or computer while I’m eating breakfast, lunch, or snacks.
- Turning off my computer for work no later than 8 pm.
- Turning off all of my technology (other than responding to any personal texts/calls) no later than 9 pm.
- Using Instagram and Pinterest (my biggest time wasters) only on my computer.
These types of guidelines seemed more realistic and measurable to me than trying to abide by an arbitrary time limit for the day.
4 | Tracking even the most mundane habits daily.
While the three things I’ve mentioned above are some of the bigger, newer things I’m trying to intentionally implement this fall, I have other daily habits that need to be kept up with: watering my plants, taking my vitamins, etc… I’m notoriously bad at sticking to things, so one of my favorite things about my planner is the daily habits/skills tracking feature.
Every week, I can write in eight habits that I want to track daily. Then, at the end of each day, I just tick off the ones I’ve done. I love that I can change the habits that I’m tracking week-to-week, which gives me some flexibility. This practice helps me IMMENSELY in making sure I’m regularly doing the little things that keep life running smoothly.
I technically began this practice on and off in May when I first got this planner, but I fell off the wagon over the summer. And I noticed the difference! So, when I got back to work in August, daily tracking was one of the first things I reimplemented.
I will say, I try to keep the habits that I track pretty mundane, rather than things that I feel carry an emotional load. I don’t want to feel awful if I can’t tick the box at night!
Why did I choose these habits for the new school year?
So, let’s talk about choosing habits.
I mentioned earlier that you should pick your habits based on your needs and what makes you happy. To that end, I asked myself some questions:
- What stressed me out last school year?
- What stresses me out about starting a new school year?
- What has felt lifegiving to me lately?
- What are the minimum changes I can make to improve my daily routine?
In this particular season of life, taking better care of my body is particularly important to me. Working in the school system did a number on my health, so being out of it seems like the perfect time to make changes. But, for personal reasons, I want to do it in a way that is gentle and sustainable. That means picking movement goals that I feel I can keep up with on a daily basis.
Similarly, I’ve noticed that being on the Internet too much has really been doing a number on my mood. Taking a break over the summer reaffirmed how lifegiving I find being off of social media, especially. But, setting screentime limits never worked, and I’d find myself feeling guilty every single time I picked up my phone.
Having just two movement goals and time blocking my technology use seemed like doable changes with the potential for maximum benefits!
I hope that asking these four questions of yourself near the beginning of the new school year will help you choose new, intentional habits that will benefit you this year.
And I hope that reading my choices and reasoning will give you a little extra inspiration to pursue a bit more intentionality in a way that doesn’t add more stress—because we definitely don’t need that as a new school year begins!