10 ways to survive your day job

If you’re reading this, I’m guessing that being a full-time writer, a fully-fledged author, is one of your dream scenarios. Working for yourself and doing what you love – it couldn’t get better.

Unfortunately, most of us have a day job, and it may not be that great.

Here is my advice, practical advice you can implement tomorrow, to make your days easier to get through and give you the headspace to devote to your passions beyond work.

1. Get up earlier. No, no, stay with me! There’s a good reason for this. When you get up and start getting ready for work straight away, the tone for the day is set: it’s not yours, and you are beholden to what you hate. While getting up an hour earlier may seem unappealing, it means you have time to yourself in the mornings – you become the first order of the day.

2. Walk when/if you can. During my worst job, on the way home I got off the Overground two stops early and walked the last mile. Any frustrations I had from the day got stamped into the pavement and it meant I came home with a clear head.

3. Always have something else in the pipeline. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive, like a holiday, just something else. A day out with friends, or a weekend set aside for writing. It needs to be something you can look forward to when you’re sat on the loo at work debating how long you can stay there before everything assumes you’re having digestion problems.

4. Take one minute. Simply zoning out for sixty seconds and focusing on your breathing. It can be on the loo or at your desk or while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil, but unless someone is in mortal danger there is nothing that can’t wait for sixty seconds. Just don’t do it while someone is talking to you. Especially your boss.

5. Having a ‘I’m home’ ritual… Mine is: dump keys, dump bag in the kitchen, go through the post, leave my phone in the kitchen for at least half an hour, and open up my laptop. Sometimes it includes tea. Fifteen minutes later I feel at home, not at work.

6. …and changing out of your work clothes. It does wonders for your frame of mind. I’m a pyjama fan, no matter what time of day it is, so those are my go-to clothes to tell my brain that it’s home now, it doesn’t need to think about work until tomorrow.

7. Write that shit down. Still thinking about work? Get yourself a dedicated ‘work crap’ notebook and write a brief list of what’s in your head, then close the book and put it in your work bag.

8. Set yourself a deadline. If you need this list, your current situation isn’t sustainable. It just isn’t. Tell yourself you will be out by a certain date and mark it on your calendar (just make sure your boss can’t see it). You may need to stay in the role a little longer than you’d like to get the experience, so work out how long will look good on your CV and schedule accordingly. Three months before your deadline, start applying for jobs and going for interviews. That should give you enough time to secure something else and give your notice by your deadline.

9. In the meantime, think ahead. What do you want to do next? Do you have the right experience, training, and skill set to move onto that role? If not, now is the time to act. Take on extra training at your current job, do some reading at home, start researching your desired field. Use whatever is available to maximise your chances of ticking all of the ‘essential’ criteria on your next job’s person specification.

10. Keep writing. Don’t let your sucky job take over your life. I have, and it did both me and my time a disservice. Whether your job is frustrating or soul-destroying or scary or boring or any combination of the above, keep writing. Turn those awful co-workers or clients into characters; use your boss as the inspiration for your novel’s diabolical super-villain. You may not laugh about this one day, unless it’s a rueful, eye-rolling sort of laugh, but you will be in a position where you’ll be able to look back at it.

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