Happy new (school) year: Why September is the perfect time to refresh your personal knowledge management system
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September is the real new year
I know that January is technically the start of a new year (and is apparently the official Get Organized month). But for me, September always feels like the true start of a new year. Fresh school supplies, empty notebooks with blank pages, pristine binders, clean desks, new fall sweaters, a hint of crisp autumn air and cool evenings, bouquets of freshly-sharpened pencils… it all feels new. Promising. Full of hope and fresh starts and optimism.
While January is the top time for new year’s resolutions, September might actually be the better month for creating new habits. I think that September is the perfect month for refreshing (or creating) your personal knowledge management system.
Take advantage of that back-to-school feeling— even if you’re not a student
It’s a completely natural time if you’re a student— as you head back to campus, you need to figure out the best way to take notes for university classes or grad seminars. But even for those of us not heading into a classroom this fall, we’ve got at least twelve (or many more) years of mental muscle memory associating September with fresh academic starts.
Our brains are creatures of habit. So let’s harness those positive associations of blank pages and possibility as we head into autumn.
Our schedules are more flexible at the start of the year
Many of our obligations, personal and professional, ramp down over the summer months and speed up again in the fall. September is a month of transition, of setting new routines and expectations. Our calendars are starting to get filled up in comparison with July and August— but they’re not (usually) as filled to the brim as they tend to get further into the autumn months.
September is the perfect time to carve out dedicated space for researching new personal knowledge management apps and software, or transferring over existing notes into a new folder structure or setup.
New projects require a fresh approach
You may be taking on new duties or new roles in September. Perhaps you’re starting a new job or have taken on a new volunteer position for the school year. Maybe you’re starting a new academic program— heading off to university for the first time, or starting grad school, or med school, or law school. Or perhaps you’re in the midst of a graduate program, and finally at the stage where you’re tackling the challenge of research and writing a thesis or dissertation head-on this year. Maybe you’re a faculty member teaching a new course or overhauling an existing program. Maybe you’re launching a new product in your business this fall. Perhaps you’re writing a new book.
Whenever we take on major new projects, that’s the perfect time to step back and re-assess our existing digital note taking system.
While our existing apps and structures may have been a great fit for our old job/program/course/life, are they still right for us? Have we moved onto a new phase of life, but are still trying to use old systems and software that isn’t quite right (anymore)?
We’re (relatively) motivated and energetic
Sure, on any given day in September you might feel a bit tired as you transition back to the daily routines. But in September most of us have had the advantage of at least a bit of summer vacation (even if it didn’t feel like nearly enough). Our daily routines have the advantage of novelty. We’re transitioning to new settings, new schedules, and a new season (but still with long-ish days). Things still feel fresh and new— and we’re a little more motivated by the novelty.
Compare your average level of energy in September with your average level of energy in the short-day slog of mid-November. So even if you feel tired in September— remember, the mid-fall energy dip is coming. So harness those feelings of novelty and promise in September to create a sustainable PKM system that works even when life gets overwhelming.
It’s fun to update and refresh your personal knowledge management system
Enough gloom and doom musing on November doldrums… let’s acknowledge that updating our digital note taking systems can in fact be quite a joyful endeavour:
- It’s fun to bring order to chaos.
- It’s fun to find a digital note taking app that suits our tastes and preferences.
- It’s fun to create a personal knowledge management system that simplifies our lives and helps us get more done.
Wishing you all the best on your personal knowledge management journey!