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How to Have a Day Job: It’s Dangerous to Go Alone!

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That’s a line from 1986 Nintendo video game, The Legend of Zelda. Before you go off to try to save the Princess, as a character was wont to do in 80s video games, an old man bestowed upon you a sword for your quest. And off you went!

So too do I make sure that my adventuring pack is full when I am facing the forces of timesheets and reporting in my 40 hour work week. No matter how much I want to pack light at my job, there are a certain key things that I always make sure to have to fill my breaks and lunch time with productivity (as well as fun).

Whenever I go to work, I carry with me:

  • My phone and a charger or spare battery pack.
  • A notebook and pen (as well as a spare pen). There is something very satisfying to using a “good” pen as opposed to the ballpoint garbage sticks you get from the supplies drawer.
  • A book. If possible, I prefer a physical book to really take me out of my element (the element being the electric screen in front of my face for 8 hours per day).
  • Headphones. When I don’t have music to listen to during the quiet periods of work or while walking outside, I feel completely and utterly lost.
  • My tablet and bluetooth keyboard. As a writer, sometimes I get ideas for projects I’m working on that I simply need to type out before it disappears. I always make sure my tablet is charged and that I have access to offline files so if inspiration strikes in the parking lot, I am so on it.
  • A pencil. Sketchbook is optional. Recently, I’ll grab post-it notes and envelopes and doodle when I am feeling like my hands are growing restless.

So why do I carry all this? It ultimately comes down to knowing that the key to surviving your day job is balancing your Job Self with your Real Self. It means being able to seamlessly shift perspective so you are doing things you love while you’re doing things that you have to do (to get a paycheck and do more things you love!).

What do you carry on you to work each day? How do you spend your breaks and lunches? Do you think that Ganon is just grossly misunderstood and needs to learn to love himself before he lets any princess into his heart? Tell me about it!

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How to Have a Day Job: On Multitasking

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This week, I’m in an extensive training at my day job. It’s essentially eight hours of training, although we still have to keep up with our normal tasks. The topic is expansive and very mentally consuming, and I’ve found myself having to really focus in on understanding what I’m learning to do.

At the end of the day yesterday, we got done with about an hour to spare. I’m rocking the equivalent of mental bed head, and the trainer goes, “Okay, I’m going to set you all loose to go back to work so you can finish whatever you need to for the day. But you were probably working on it during the training too, but that’s alright! That’s what power users do!”

I stopped and sort of squinted my eyes because I was a bit thrown off that this guy – whose entire role at this point was to teach us a job – was essentially accepting if not encouraging us to give half of our attention.

As I’ve given more thought to it, though, this seems to be a talent that is fostered in the corporate workplace. You should be able to juggle tasks. You should be able to split your attention. You should be able to work and work and work and if you aren’t getting it all done, there is a problem. It essentially becomes a new evolution to ‘quantity over quality,’ even though the ‘quantity’ is a number of tasks rather than a massive amount of a single one.

And as I gave it some thought, I realized that this mindset has seeped its way into my every day life. I am constantly thinking how I can get multiple things done at once, dividing my focus so at the end of the day I have a grandiose list of all the things I’ve done (even though they’ve been half-assed). And when I can’t get all those things done? I get discouraged.

And all of this after I had made a determination some time ago to be more ‘present.’ News flash: hard to be present when you’re being present in five different things at once.

So here are some brainstorming ideas I have put together for kicking the habit of having too many habits:

  • Create a list of priorities daily: it’s easy to go ‘here are the things that are the priorities in my life right now’ but how often does one go ‘here are the things that are a priority today’? This is different from a to-do list, though. It is not a questionable list of fifty things that you swear you are going to get done today. Pick three. For example, my priorities today were my writing, my art and my day job. Once I accepted those priorities, I felt much more focused. Likewise, once I accepted what was not a priority, I found what was really important.
  • Portion out time for specific tasks, even if there isn’t anything to get done: this is something I am really trying to do at my job. Instead of having a huge group of items that need done all in a pile, I’m setting different piles of what I know I need to do on a day to day basis. For example, checking my voicemails. If I have any voicemails, they are being done at a specific time. If I don’t have any voicemails? Cool. Time to move on to the next pile. The point, however, is that I am stopping to acknowledge that this is the time I am doing this thing.
  • Keep notes: recently I’ve been trying out the bullet journal method, which has been very helpful, but when you’re sitting and working and suddenly go, “Oh man, I wanted to do this other thing!” don’t stop and try to figure out how to do that thing. Jot it down. Something simple that you can remember later. Then, at the end of the day, look at this list and think when you can schedule these things to be a priority. Plan accordingly.

How do you feel about multitasking? Am I the only one who is tired of this madness? Is there anything wrong with being, say, a rechargeable user? Tell me about it on Twitter or Facebook!

 

5 Things, how to have a day job, Uncategorized

How to Survive Bad Work Days

  1. Remind yourself that it is only a temporary badness. Nothing bad lasts forever.
  2. Acknowledge that you do not deserve to feel bad just because something bad is happening around you. Your feelings are valid, yes, but it’s not somehow ‘coming to you’ to feel that way. You do not ‘have’ to feel that way.
  3. Love the good things in your life. Count them. Say ‘thank you’ to them. Focus on them.
  4. Find something to do with your hands. Whether it’s squeezing a stress ball or doodling or writing, move your hands and focus on that instead of the world.
  5. Once it’s done, let it die. Tomorrow is another day.
Uncategorized

How to Have a Day Job

Next week, I’m going to be moving my series How to Have a Day Job to Self Dare!

For those of you not aware of H2HaDJ, it began as a mailing list and then a blog series on my writing blog, bohemian.on.rye. I feel that it will be more relevant here, as this blog more heavily focuses on taking care of one’s self, which is the core of the series’ aim: teaching how to maintain your creative spirit while paying the bills. And I’m telling you not from some lofty cloud of complete self-reliance, but from the trenches, in my own day job.

For the first post, I was hoping that you all might have some questions or thoughts regarding your own career history. Is there some particular insight you have been looking for? What do you struggle with? What is the worst job you’ve ever done and how did you survive?

Tell me about it in the comments!

How to Have a Day Job

[How to Have a Day Job] 5 Ways to Survive Overtime

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Oof, there’s that word. No one wants to hear it, but chances are good you’ve been told that it’s going to be a part of your day job at one point or another. Overtime. Wherein your 40 hour workweek becomes…well, more than that. And that has been the case for me recently, which is why I want to share with you 5 ways you can keep yourself from drowning in the wake of the overtime tsunami:

  1. Take breaks: make time to take breaks throughout the day. Know what you’re entitled to and take advantage to avoid burn-out. When you’re taking those breaks, get up and move away from your desk, out of line of sight of whatever work you have. Don’t answer your phone.
  2. Sleep, eat, drink: it’s the big trifecta of not ruining your body, and probably one of the top reasons that people get so sick during ‘busy seasons’ at work. Go to bed. Eat some damn vegetables. Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. Have options of healthy snacks and easy meals.
  3. It’s over when it’s over: this one is kind of tricky, but after you clock out – whether that be for lunch or for the end of the day – tell yourself that the work day is done. Don’t think about it. Don’t talk about it. Don’t complain about it (or if you must, set a time limit – allow yourself to only vent for 30 seconds or 1 minute). You aren’t getting paid for the time you’re spending dwelling on it, so you may as well not do it.
  4. Make plans for the rest of the time: when overtime rears its ugly head, it’s easy to just vegetate once the workday is done. It’s been a long day; you deserve several hours in front of the television, right? Make plans to do something else. Start a creative project. Take walks after work. Don’t let these extra hours define you. You are more than these repetitive daily tasks.
  5. Don’t close yourself off (except when you need to): I am a social introvert. I recharge on my own, but I regularly surround myself with friends for fun and shenanigans. It’s easy to just shut down when I’m stressed out and see no one, and ultimately I will suffer for it in the long run. Make sure you schedule time with friends and family with the same regard you would for, say, a doctor’s appointment.

How do you survive overtime? Tell me about it!

How to Have a Day Job

[How to Have a Day Job] It’s All About Who You Know

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In terms of work-life balance, this article is going to be more ‘work’ heavy.

So. You have a day job. I define that the same way Cambridge does, if we cut it down to the clinical aspects: it is “a ​job that you do to ​earn ​money so that you can do something ​else that you ​prefer but that does not ​pay you much ​money.” Generally, this is when we are working under someone else.

It is so, so crucial to work under someone who has your best interests at heart. It is also crucial to be able to have open communication with that person. My best day jobs (including my most current one) are thanks to a good rapport with my supervisor. And, likewise, my worst day jobs have been caused by fissures in that foundation. When I’ve felt like I haven’t had someone to go to, everything has fallen apart, ruining my life outside of work as a result.

It has become very, very important to me to maintain a solid relationship with my leadership in my work.

What does that mean exactly? How do you know that you have a winning supervisor? Here are a few prize-winning attributes. A good supervisor:

  • Recognizes your accomplishments and appreciates them.
  • Respects your time and space.
  • Asks for your feedback and thanks you for it, even if it isn’t implemented in some way.
  • Brings issues to you immediately in a courteous manner.
  • Allows you to grow, even if it means it is out of a given area or company.

You can feel the difference between good management and bad management. You can see it in your department and among your teammates. Does poor leadership mean you should leave a given occupation? Not necessarily, if it’s work you really love, but it means that the onus is on you to know where your ducks are so you can keep them in a row.

There are also a few ways you can create a stronger bond with your leadership, including:

  • Engaging them in a friendly manner in passing.
  • Being prepared for interactions and proposing solutions to problems rather than just complaining.
  • Asking questions about what you’ve been doing and how they see your work, including ways they think you may improve.
  • Making your expectations clear about what you want from them.
  • Be honest.

It’s really easy to want to slip under the radar, but that really doesn’t work for me, I’ve found. Over time, when crisis has arisen, I’ve felt better knowing that there’s someone in my corner who I can talk to.

What are things that you’ve noticed about your superiors in day jobs? What have been your best experiences? Worst?

How to Have a Day Job

[How to Have a Day Job] On the Importance of Spiral Notepads

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As I was unpacking paperwork from our move last summer, I came across a small, spiral-bound notebook. I had had it for notes about the new house and little scribbles about mortgage figures, etc. However, without thinking, I put it into my pocket. It fit perfectly.

I started carrying it around with me. I put it on my desk, in my purse, in my pants. I started taking all kinds of notes in it: blog post ideas, lists, grains of story sand, reminders of things to do.

It has been a godsend.

No matter what you do – whether you’re a desk jockey, a janitor, a veterinarian, or a vacuum cleaner salesman (if you are, tell me, I want to know if this is still a thing) – always have a simple, nondescript spiral notebook.

The best ones are:

  • Thick
  • Have enough room to fit a pen into the side
  • Sturdy
  • Have nothing printed on the cover or any inference that it is anything other than a plain notebook
  • Perforated pages

Keep it on you at all times. Here are ten rapid fire things you can do with it to achieve ultimate work-life mastery:

  1. Write a poem.
  2. Rant about something that is bothering you.
  3. Make a list of places you want to visit before you die.
  4. Keep track of hilarious quotes you hear in the lunch room.
  5. Write down your favorite songs of all time.
  6. Imagine what the world would be like if you were king/president/high chancellor.
  7. Create doodle animals.
  8. Sketch out an editorial calendar for your blog.
  9. Complete a self portrait.
  10. Make a list of bizarre character names.

So do it now. Go to the drug store and get a spiral notebook. It will save your soul.

How to Have a Day Job

[How to Have a Day Job] On the First Monday of the Year

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This week is always rough. Every year, without fail, the Monday of the week after the last day off until MLK Day feels like…the End of the World.

In Pittsburgh, it hasn’t snowed more than a few flurries this year. This morning, my husband and I were out in twenty-some degrees, huge bunches of dandruff-y snow coming down at our car. There was traffic. It was dark. Everyone had left their warm cozy spot in the bottom of their stockings and gone back to work or school. Or both.

I know that not everyone is lucky enough to get holidays off, but I can’t help feeling like the first full week of the year is long. The winter is so very, very present – short days, long nights, cold hours. The expectation and happy buzz of the holidays comes to a screeching halt, and you’re just left trying not to think too much about how long or much or badly it’s going to snow. That last bit may be a yankee problem, but it’s definitely in my head.

So here are some tips of how to stay sane after the holidays are over and you’re facing nothing but grind ahead:

  • Stay well-stocked: I know few people who have said, sincerely, “I love grocery shopping.” It’s very tempting to just stay in bed on the weekends or order food for dinner on the sly. But you’ll actually find it much, much less stressful to have extra food and household stuff on hand during these horrible months, especially when the work day is draining.
  • Sleep. Eat well. Exercise. Even if it’s just running up and down your stairs a few times, or doing calisthenic exercises in-doors. Anything to get your blood pumping.
  • Plan ahead: take this time to really decide how you’d like the year to go. The winter will be over before you know it.
  • Take a look at your current job and decide if you want to develop certain skills or work on goals. During this time of year, my day job is really, really big on career development. Is yours? Is there anything you can do to try something different? You’re stuck there for a large portion of your time – make it happen on your terms.
  • Start new projects, especially ones that are just for you: try painting. Journal. Create collages. Take photos (B&W is so in this time of year). Expand your imagination.
  • Get really, really into things you enjoy. Recently, for me, that has been anime, movies and really good television series. I do make sure to monitor my time, though, so I know I am being productive as well as recharging.