(Re)start your year in September.
So this week, I was going to talk about the French concept of la rentrée.
It’s a celebration of the return to routine after the long, lazy August holidays. When shops and restaurants reopen after their long summer break, the children go back to school, and the adults back to work. When friends meet to catch up on news, and France settles joyfully back into daily life.
It’s the perfect time for planning, plotting, moving forward. For a while now, I’ve used this first week in September as a time to reset, to make new plans for the year to come.
For me, the academic year just has a better rhythm than the calendar one. In the UK it’s cold and dark at the start of January, I’m tired from the social whirl of Christmas, and all I want to do is curl up with a good book. It just feels the wrong time for a fresh start.
In September, however, I’m usually rested from the summer, excited to get going again, and full of energy and ideas.
The key word there is ‘usually’.
I dutifully wrote a post for this blog, going through my usual September planning process, outlining my plans for the year ahead. And writing some strange, contorted sentences that tried to both pretend this was just another year and acknowledge that 2020 has not been normal at all.
It was exhausting to write. And actually pretty tiring to read. And I couldn’t press publish on it. Because really, if I can’t be honest with you or even myself here, what’s the point?
So let’s just say it.
Nothing about 2020 has been normal. And this September, I’m just not ready to look too far into a future that feels so uncertain.
I don’t want new milestones, goals and intentions. Actually, right now, all I really want is a rest. The truth is, I haven’t been walking my talk.
No one in my family got any financial help during lockdown. So as the only person in our household able to earn any money at all, I’ve been working long hours and I have barely had a day off since March.
Now don’t get me wrong.
My job consists of writing about things that interest me, and having fascinating coaching conversations with interesting creatives. And I love all of it. So I’ve hardly been on the Covid frontline.
I also feel very grateful that I’ve been able to move a lot of my business online. It’s been a steep learning curve, but quite a few of the new things I’ve tried out have eventually worked.
It’s been fun, exciting even. And I’ve learned loads.
But I am tired, now.
So I’m starting the whole planning process again. This year, my reset consists of simply acknowledging that it’s been a difficult few months.
I don’t want to be more productive. I don’t want to plan new projects. I’ve been feeling behind for a while now, but I don’t want to catch up. I just need to do a little less, for a while.
I’m finally realising that this pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint. We still don’t know how or when it will end, or what will be left when it does. But it’s clear that we’re all going to need to be flexible, resilient, inventive – and more creative than ever.
So here’s what my new plan is, for the rest of the year.
I’ve pared my sprawling list down to three key activities:
- coaching my brilliant clients
- finishing my next book
- growing my mailing list so I have a bigger community of interesting artists, writers, designers, musicians and film, theatre, TV and fashion folk to play with. (And if that’s you please feel free to sign up here.)
Everything else – all the projects I’d been planning to start or finish – are on hold, for now.
Instead, I’m going to rebuild.
I’m going to sleep more, rest more, drink less and eat better. And look after myself better in general.
I’ll cut down my work hours and use some of that time to start moving more. I want long walks in the countryside, picking blackberries and watching the leaves turn.
I’m going to try short bursts of writing interspersed with long gossipy phone calls with friends.
And I’ll clear some of the clutter out of the house and give it a good clean, because it looks as if three messy adults have been caged up in it for six months now.
Probably because that’s exactly what’s happened.
This won’t give me my Best Year Ever.
It won’t help me Finish Strong, or any of the slogans that normally motivate me through the final months of the year. But it will keep me sane, and make me more fun to be around. Which is enough, for now.
So this is la rentrée, 2020 style. Or my version of it, anyway.
Sheryl Garratt is a writer and a coach helping creatives to get the success they want, making work they love. Want my free 10-day course, Freelance Foundations: the secrets of successful creatives? Click here.