Take Some Time Out to Work Out Your Work Life
By JANN MITCHELL
When her mother died suddenly at age 61, just months before her much-anticipated retirement, Valerie Young realized she had to make some changes in her work life.
For 10 years, she was dissatisfied with her Fortune 500 company, the 90-mile-a-day commute, the salary that paid the bills but starved her soul. After her mother died, Young left abruptly to head the marketing department of a smaller company closer to home.
But the Buddhist concept of “right livelihood” intrigued her, and she recalled how happy she’d been as an entrepreneur. So she launched her own publishing and training company called Making Waves in her Northampton, Maine [Massachusetts], home.
Young transformed her passion into income and simplified her life. Now she’s helping others revamp their work lives with an eight-page newsletter, “Changing Course” (six Issues yearly, $29; (1.(800) 267-6388).
“There are a lot of people who feel like they’re living in a ‘Dilbert’ cartoon,” Young says. “At the same time, it’s hard to think about making a major life change when you’re already feeling caught between a clock and a hard space.”
Young offers these six actions even busy people can take:
- Turn griping time into planning time. Stop wasting time and energy kvetching and devote at least five minutes daily on defining your ideal work life and devising a plan to get you there.
- Tune into your true passion. Use commute time to ponder the clues to what you love doing (not your skills or what you’ve already done). What did you love as a child? What kinds of jobs do you envy?
- Set a target date for taking the leap. Set a date for your new life to start and write it on the calendar to motivate you, even though you don’t have all the details worked out
- Invest in your dream. Put the money you would put into treats for yourself into an account for your new life–classes, home computer or whatever you’ll need.
- Make the most of your current job. Without slacking at work, take advantage of whatever training, resources, contacts, etc., you can to further your dream — and make a list all the skills and expertise you’ll need.
- Do what you can — but DO SOMETHING. Take small but steady steps toward your goal, at least one thing a day.
If you’re not Interested in changing careers, as Young did, consider other options (with some reading):
WORKING PART TIME: Paring down other areas of your life (less-expensive housing, for instance) may enable you to work just enough to meet your needs. You may lose sick days or health coverage for dependents, but you’ll have more time to make a life outside of work.
“Breaking Out of Nine to Five: How to Redesign Your Job to Fit You.” by Maria Laquerer and Donna Dickinson; and “Good Work” is the theme of February’s Utne Reader.
TAKING TIME OFF: Increasing numbers of companies are allowing employees to take sabbaticals; people use them to travel, study or relax.
For further information, read “Six Months Off! How to Plan. Negotiate and Take the Break You Need Without Burning Bridges or Going Broke,” co-authored by Portlander David Sharp.
DOWNSCALING YOUR LIFE: Some parents elect to forgo a salary and instead stay home with children. This often entails downscaling their lifestyles to live on one wage.
“If some sacrifices must be made because you devoted time toraising your children rather than providing for them, it’s not a foolish sacrifice,” says Andy Dappen of Mountlake Terrace, Wash. He’s author of the book, “Shattering the Two Income Myth: Daily Secrets for Living Well on One Income.”
DOWNSCALING YOUR JOB:, “I never quit — I always segue,” says Barbara Sher, purveyor of work and change wisdom in such books as “Wishcraft” and “Live the Life You Love.”
Staying on the job while making changes may include: declining a promotion; moving within the company to a position with less stress and/or responsibility; not going Into the office on days off (or constantly checking phone messages or e-mail from home).
“We invariably fear the worst will happen if we make big changes,” says Julia Cameron, author of the best seller, “The Artist’s Way.” “Has it in the past? … Leap and the net will appear.”
Living Simply Is a weekly column designed to help make life less frenetic and more meaningful. Send your suggestions to Living Simply, Jann Mitchell, the Oregonian, 1320 S.W. Broadway, Portland, Ore. 97201, fax 1-503-294-7691, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.