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An alternative New Year

I’m sure I’m not alone in finding the arrival of September comes with a feeling of foreboding. For years I couldn’t quite understand why, then I realised that it was a throwback to my schooldays (which I hated) – the autumnal nip and the damper air recalls the feeling of dismay that used to mark the end of six weeks of freedom and a return to the semi-imprisonment of school. Despite the passage of 25 years I still feel a slight frisson of something looming…

And yet, and yet… The change of air arouses another feeling, a sense that now is time for something new. Going back to school used to mark the start of a new set of challenges for the year ahead, with the slate wiped clean and a chance to get off to a good start for the new year.

Even in the world of work, the start of the academic year still designates a time for change – how many new projects start in September? Indeed, I’m looking to ramp up my team to cover a new phase of work right now. Looking back I realise that three of my five jobs started in early autumn, and a fourth would also have started then if I hadn’t been required to work the whole of an extended notice period. It’s more than just coincidence that each of those employers was recruiting to fill a vacancy to start in September.

In many ways this is a natural time for a fresh start. During the summer period (really any time from late May onwards) work continues pretty much as it has done all year, except that most of the time the team is below strength due to annual leave. Many European countries often effectively have a national closedown period when most organisations are on a skeleton staff and any interaction with them has to wait until their staff return. Although in the UK we try to keep operating normally throughout the summer holiday season, inevitably people with families are off work for much of the time in late July and August (and those without often just before or after those times) there is still some disruption and a tendency to defer making wholesale changes.

By September, most people are back at work and teams are at full strength again. There is also a good three-month window to make progress before things start to slow down again in the approach to Christmas. Initiatives that have been held over are now put into practice – I have noticed that I have received a lot more announcements and instructions to comply with various requests in the last couple of weeks than during July and August.

Personally, it is also a good time to get something done. Returning refreshed after a holiday, now is a good time to act on resolutions that follow from some reflection while away. I feel much more inclined to tackle new or difficult work now, or set about a change to my routine, than I do when I come back to work after the Christmas/New Year break. Maybe it’s also something to do with it being the middle of winter, dark both when I go to work and when I leave for home. I always feel much more motivated in bright sunlight, which we still have at this time of year, than while suffering from January blues.

Why wait for January 1 to make New Year’s resolutions? Make them now!

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