Friday, September 14, 2012

[Unemployed Life]: The Benefits of Busy

"You are the busiest unemployed person I know."

I can't tell you how often I've heard this.  From my boyfriend, my friends, my parents, my chiropractor...

To them, I know it must seem like I'm constantly running around.  I'm at my awesome internship.  I'm at my part-time job.  I'm meeting a friend for a writing session at a cafe.  I'm having girls night.  I'm going out of town for a wedding.  I'm going camping.  I'm going on a hike this weekend.  I'm having a meeting about some consultant work.  I'm editing someone's e-book for publication.  I'm jumping on an online tele-seminar.  I have a workshop to go to in the city.  I'm meeting friends at a coffee shop for a collective job-hunting session.  I'm meeting my research professor for lunch.  I'm seeing a friend who's in town for the weekend.  I have a doctor's appointment.  I have errands to run.  I have a call about some copyediting I'm going to be doing.  I'm going to happy hour (where I won't drink because I don't have the money, and I don't really drink anyway).  I'm baking cookies for a bake-sale...

"Busy" seems to be my default setting these days.  And there's definitely something to be said about not letting your life be consumed by "busy-ness" so much that you forget to see and enjoy where and who you are in the moment.

But let's be real.  I've been mostly unemployed for about 15 months now.  That's a long while to spend without a set place to be and thing to do from the hours of 9-5 each day.  If I didn't fill my life with busy, I can almost guarantee that I'd go not-so-quietly crazy in the span of a week.

Being busy helps me to stay sane.  It helps me to be productive with all this time that, if left to my own non-busy defenses, would otherwise be wasted.  And most of all, busy helps me to feel useful.  It helps me to not feel like I've failed at something.

So here are some of the things that have helped me to continue being/feeling busy and useful while I've been sans job:

Wake up at a self-respectable hour.  This is pretty self-explanatory.  Nobody likes to feel like a lazy ass and, whether you like it or not, that's probably how you're gonna feel if you're rolling out of bed at 1pm everyday.  I generally set my alarm for 7:50 in the morning, and actually get myself going at around 8:20am.  That way, by 9am I'm halfway through my workout, or at my desk firing up my computer, or heading out the door to a coffee shop, ready to go.  When I first began forcing myself to get up in the morning I couldn't believe how many hours in the day there were to actually get shit done.  It was revolutionary.

Brush your teeth, dammit.  The best and fastest way for me to kill both my mood and my day is to stay in sweatpants.*  Being in sweats, hair all haphazard, face maybe washed, teeth hopefully brushed but I make no promises...These are the killers of my productivity.  It pretty much guarantees that I'll be in bed, snacking on chips, reorganzing my Pinterest boards until Nate gets home that evening.  Cause that's just the kind of girl I am.  So instead, I get dressed.  I put on actual pants, brush my hair and put on some basic make-up, and choose a great pair of earrings (because earrings are my power accessory, obv). 

*Fridays are the exception, guys.  Yoga pants all day long.

Schedule your days out.  Much like I did over outlook when I had a full-time job, I try to schedule out every hour of a typical "work day."  I usually do this on Sunday nights or Monday mornings, and when I say I schedule things, I mean ALL THE THINGS.  I schedule out lunch breaks, exercise, dog walking, phone calls, reminders, errands, EVERYTHING.  This helps because I'm terrified of missing deadlines (cough*brown-noser*cough), so I'll do everything that's in that calendar.  I also take the first ten minutes or so of the day and, looking at my calendar, write out a to-do list.  This is redundant, and is pretty much just so I have an excuse to cross things off a list.

Find someplace to give your time.  These are my current commitments: My internship.  My part-time job.  My consultant work.  My volunteer work for Stratejoy.  And my position as a Board Member for an organization.  I'm also considering volunteering with another nonprofit and as a campaigner this election cycle.  And while none of these positions (as they are currently) will sustain me in the long-run the way a full-time job would, I take them because the two worst things I could do to myself right now is: 1) Not have anything to do all day, and 2) Leave a huge, gaping hole in my resume for the months (years?) between jobs.  These positions also all help to grow skills I'm looking to cultivate in myself, and to network.

Dedicate actual hours to YOU.  I can't count the number of times when I had a full-time job and said, "I wish I had more time to do xyz," or "I would do that if I had more time."  Well, I'm unemployed now and have no excuse.  I refuse to live my life just saying "I wish" when I'm in a position to act on those wishes.  So that's why I spend some time doing things I love and exploring things I think I may love.  Like copyediting classes.  I totally take those.  And writing dates with a friend?  We have those too.  I read for both pleasure and research.  I blog more.  I hike more.  I spend more time with my friends scheming things we're going to try once we have the money (like rock climbing).  I'm exploring vegetarian cooking.  I'm re-learning to play the piano (and eventually the violin).  And I'm definitely spending more time on my relationships.  This is all part of the self-care thing I mentioned earlier this week.  It's a practice, and it's meant to be done daily.

Finally, I think the thing I try to do the most of everyday is job hunt.  I know this one sounds less fun than maybe the others did [if you're me and think things like calendars and to-do lists are super fun], but the point of my becoming unemployed was two-fold: So that I could find myself and my direction again, and also so that I could find a job that was better suited for me.  I think I've been a rockstar at spending time discovering this new path I'm on, but I also have to be practical.  I need full-time work.  The only way I'll get full-time work is to set aside time to look for it.

So I put that into my busy schedule too.

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