September Tips: The Swirl, Signings & School Return

Sep 6, 2023

Dear Together Friends, Fans, and Family

Let’s just start with the big news! I wrote another book! It is out there in the world! This always terrifies me. Who has read it? Write me here and let me know what you think, or better yet, stop over at Amazon and drop an (honest) review. If you have never written a review before, do consider it now – it really helps authors like me. My friend Mekia and I even did a real-life event at a local independent (educator-founded and owned!) bookstore, and we felt very professional and legit.

Mekia and Maia ready to discuss Togetherness! Yes, we coordinated our outfits.

Anyway, book excitement aside, is anyone else’s brain in what I have now started to call The September Swirl? Maybe you and your kids or students have been back in class since July like on the West Coast or in the South – or maybe you were one of those post-post-Labor Day starts on the East Coast – or somewhere in between? For me, every single year, The September Swirl creeps upon me slowly, and then crushes me with Calendar Babies, paperwork galore, at least 5 different apps that coaches use to manage my kids’ sports teams (thank you coaches!), two different district ParentVue log-ins, a last minute international trip for Dr. Together, and then OH MY GOODNESS HAVE I ORDERED MY HOLIDAY CARDS YET BECAUSE HERE IS A COUPON FOR THE EARLY BIRDS? (This is not to mention so many events happening domestically and internationally and their impact on all of us in various ways). Okay, maybe this is just my brain, but follow me here.

When I entered The September Swirl this month, my best friend lovingly pointed out a pattern she has observed. (Never mind that when she entered the conversation saying, “Can I share an observation about what happens when you get time-stressed?” I said, “No, thank you. I’m not open to feedback at the moment.” #truestory). But, I got curious and she said, “Maia, I have noticed a pattern. When you feel yourself getting VERY busy, you start looking forward and planning a million fun things on your calendar. But, that causes me to feel stressed because I simply cannot think about our annual Ladies’ Winter Beach Trip on the first day of school. When I’m busy, I burrow into the now, and when you are busy, you flurry into the future.” Oh, the beauty of close friends. She is correct.

On the first day of school for my kids, I went on a bit of a planning spree. . . sent a text to Dr. Together about our holiday photos needing to be scheduled now, tried to set up a Tuesday morning standing running date with a friend I want to see more regularly, sent an invite for an annual Education Boss-Lady event I host each fall, texted another group of friends about a rock climbing reboot, asked bestie The Together Tech Exec how she wanted to celebrate her birthday in November, and called my sister to confirm she was traveling here between Christmas and New Year’s. Phew. And this was just the start of it. While I’m too embarrassed to continue (okay, maybe I just set the date for our St. Patrick’s Day party and started a Google doc with ideas for my 50th birthday party in the summer of 2027), I share this with you so that we can all learn from it – on both sides of the coin. What do you do when you are in a Swirl? How does it serve you and not serve you? How does it affect the people around you? I took a poll of some members of The Together Team, and we all have our own little Together Tricks that help us in times of The Swirl.

  • Build in the Breathers: I knew September and October would be a little bananas. I could see it coming as I booked courses to teach, as my kids’ activities stacked up after school and on weekends, as Dr. Together and I have a few weekends away, and so on. Once I identified this Swirl, I looked at least four months ahead on my Outlook calendar, identified activities / meetings that could be clustered, cancelled, or consolidated. On particularly heavy teaching weeks, I cancel all internal team meetings and move to an office hours model instead. And, per the anecdote above, I start going into Big Fun Planning Mode.
  • Make it Micro-Plan-y. Two members of The Together Team get super micro-plan-y when hitting a Swirl. When Ana was planning for an intense two weeks away from her desk and was against the clock in her preparation, she made tighter timelines for her days and shifted into more of a When-mode over her preferred What-approach. This approach helped Ana ensure that all of the tasks would actually fit in the time she had available. Bonus – it put her in a position to ask for help early.
  • Burrow and Blinders-On. Two other members of our team go into Burrow-Mode, with an intense focus on the task at hand (for you this might be leading a weeklong teacher professional development series, preparation for a board meeting, or a grant proposal), and quite literally turn off all the other noise. This looks like telling team members your email replies will be slow or delayed, Slack is or is not happening right now, and so on. The trick with this approach to a Swirl is that one cannot just go radio silent. You must TELL other people about Burrow-Mode, when you will emerge, and what you are choosing to let go.

So, talk to me. . . when you see a Swirl coming (whether you can anticipate it OR you recognize when you are in it), what is your go-to strategy? Tell me about it here, and this could turn into a fun blog post offering a menu of options.

In other Together News, our fall classes are ON, and we have a few launching over the next few weeks. Take a peek below, and sign up early. We will also preview our 2024 classes over the next month. Our team is considering offering a Together Tune-Up open enrollment 4-week series December – February that involves actually creating your Priority Plan WITH our team at your side, and holding your Meeting with Yourself with us as guides. This would be for people who have taken any previous Together courses, and are looking for assistance with implementation and customization. Some co-planning, if you will. Let us know of your interest here, and we will contact you if we decide to do this.

My books out in the wild! I almost fell over with emotion.

#togetherforever #clipboardsandclogs


PS I seem to always use this first post-script for things I’m loving, and let me tell you, September is a big reading month. Several books by my favorite authors have dropped and are here, here, and here.

PPS Dr. Together and I are taking the LIRB Society (that is what our kids call themselves, do not even ask!) to his native Ireland over Thanksgiving break. While Dr. Together was born and raised there and we will be spending a lot of time with my in-laws, we would also love your recommendations on any fun things to do with teens in both Dublin and Sligo.

PPPS I completed my 12th triathlon. It was not pretty, y’all, but I got it done. That is all.

Together Treasure Box

  • One more plug for the Try-its! The Together Teammate is out in the world and one of the parts of the book I’m most excited about is the list of Try-Its! I had fun blogging about a few: Close the Loops, Forecast Forward Frequently, Pause to Plan, Clear the Cobwebs and Keep it One-Click!
  • Swimming in fall sports / after-school activity calendars? I’m not saying I have found the perfect solution, but I wrote this description of how my four-kid four-cat blended family household tries to keep our calendars aligned! And you can find other cool options here and here.
  • And for one’s own priorities I offer this from a few years ago about re-setting my own calendar each fall. Do you need a Seasonal Scheduling blitz? Are there Calendar Cuts you can make? Take a few hours, or even 30 minutes and get that fall calendar in order!

Top Together Tributes  

  • Why overworking is so tempting! Longtime Tony Schwartz fan over here (I once met him in person and was supremely awkward), and his recent piece takes us through how and why so many of us end up working too much and resting not enough – with some tips to help break out of that pattern. If you like this and want some vintage Tony, here is a great place to start.
  • Need a new notebook? Yeah, me neither. We have written LOTS about notebooks here, here, and here, but I’m intrigued by this very simple checklist analog notebook someone sent me recently. It is cute, it is lightweight, and it has the basics. Has anyone tried this? How do you make it work in conjunction with your calendar?
  • Keeping all the paperwork – especially the most important – in order. Perhaps it is the Big Back-to-School-Energy happening, but Instagram targeted me with this product. While we have decent filing systems at home for VERY important documents (inspired by this article some years ago), I am always intrigued by a systematic approach. How do you all approach paperwork in your household? (Email me here with all your tips and tricks!) We try to digitize most of it into Evernote (I’m looking at you, new refrigerator serial number), but also keep a fire safe box with the passports and such, an “active” household file for gift cards, coupons, etc, and then a file cabinet for items we cannot discard, but we don’t need at our fingertips.