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Making hay in August

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Blink am you might have missed it. It feels like yesterday we were struggling not to write 2018 on box fresh diaries, and it seems we fast forwarded eight months into final quarter of the year. Not quite yet, but hurtling towards mid-August, we’re not too far off either. Count with me: September, October, November… And before you know it, it’s the frenzy of another festive period just before we ring in another year.

It’s easy to sit back and relax during these last couple of weeks of summer as you enjoy the summer holidays, days out and family fun. However, it’s equally productive to use these few weeks of downtime to recalibrate before the mad rush of the new season. I say ‘new season’ as in another life, working as a teacher, I always felt excited and a little bit apprehensive about the arrival of September.

One minute it was movies and sweets for a whole week in glorious July as you wound down towards the holidays and students didn’t have any patience left for anything involving brain cells and focus. You’d take down classroom displays and pack the planning essentials in the boot of your car, whizzing out the school gates with six whole weeks of eternal sunshine and clean diary sheets – or so you’d hope – laid bare before you. The next minute September had quietly crept upon you, with the last-minute frenzy to prep for a new school year as parents rushed to the shops for new uniforms, shoes and stationary.

It was those last two weeks in August that I used to really enjoy, only because after a week of catching up on much needed sleep, I’d dedicate the first two weeks of August to planning for the next year, which meant with work out of the way, I could enjoy the rest of summer, without anything mental load weighing me down. It was the same work ethics that one of my friends from university reminded me a couple of months ago. “You used to really annoy me,” she announced, matter-of-fact, “During the finals week, we used to run around headless chickens swapping notes and swotting the night before the exam. I’d call you to see what you were up to and you’d say, ‘Oh I finished my studies last week, I am going to the cinema this evening.’”
I guess this was a result of the “make hay while the sun shines” ethos my mum had drummed into me growing up. Over the years, it has become harder to stick with it. Unlike teaching which provides around six weeks of downtime, any other 9-to-5 pretty much keeps us busy nine to five, but that doesn’t mean we’ve got the rest of the time for all our other earthly endeavours. Life gets in the way, more so if you’re a woman.

Writing for The Guardian UK recently, Brigid Shulte lamented the lack of time which she considered a woman’s greatest enemy.

“A few months ago, as I struggled to carve out time in my crowded days for writing, a colleague suggested I read a book about the daily rituals of great artists. But instead of offering me the inspiration I’d hoped for, what struck me most about these creative geniuses – mostly men – was not their schedules and daily routines, but those of the women in their lives,” she wrote.

“Their wives protected them from interruptions; their housekeepers and maids brought them breakfast and coffee at odd hours; their nannies kept their children out of their hair. Martha Freud not only laid out Sigmund’s clothes every morning, she even put the toothpaste on his toothbrush. Marcel Proust’s housekeeper, Celeste, not only brought him his daily coffee, croissants, newspapers and mail on a silver tray, but was always on hand whenever he wanted to chat, sometimes for hours.”
And it’s not just women with any creative aspirations, just think of all the life admin that calls for your time and attention, it’s hard to even see how we manage to get any work done.

While for most women with kids summer might feel like an endless rollercoaster of activities with kids out of school and constantly demanding attention, now is the time to slow down and plan ahead. If not hay, while the sun shines, August is the time to put your head down to prioritise what can be done now, and what else we can prepare for to disaster-proof the mad rush that begins before school starts and only ramps up a few notches towards the festive period and the silly season of dinners, parties and festivities that follows.

As for me, in the next two weeks I aim to tackle all jobs half-done and postponed in the last few months while the days are long, meaning I can work hard and still play hard. So when the last quarter of the year knocks on my door and I am preparing that ultimate end of year Z report, I can smugly tick a few boxes of accomplishments.


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