One of the biggest challenges for me since being laid off nine months ago has been that my days were, at the time, no longer subject to outside requirements and structures. There was no time I *needed* to be online at in order to catch up on client communications from overnight or to check daily publishing calendars. And there was no time I *needed* to be available until in order to catch as much of the day as possible, especially important when dealing with west coast clients from my Central time zone base of operations.
That was tough at first. Over the first month, I practically drove myself crazy by adopting the “looking for a job is my job” mindset, which lead to me feeling a wave of panic anytime I was away from my computer or hadn’t checked my phone for updates for more than 10 minutes at a time. While I tried to work outside, including going over to my parents to help with some projects there, I was filled with anxiety. What if someone tried to call me and I didn’t hear it because I was shoveling mulch? What if the perfect job for me, the one I was meant to have, was posted while I was pulling weeds and I didn’t see it? These are the things that rattled around my head incessantly.
Eventually, that feeling calmed down a bit. I got a short-term contract position that got me out of the house and gave me somewhere to go. Even after that ended I tried to chunk up my day a bit more effectively to not only make sure I was getting done the things I needed to do but also build in breaks I was allowing myself to take so I didn’t develop tunnel vision and once more develop the paranoia that crept into my mind back in July. A combination of using my calendar to block out periods of time for specific tasks and beginning to use a bullet journal to track to dos and action items helped build some very clear and trackable moments into the day. Instead of sitting there bouncing from one pointless thing to another I was more focused on finishing one task or at least moving it forward and then having a demonstrable deliverable at the end of it.
Getting a part-time retail job has helped as well. Once more, the primary benefit has been in giving me somewhere to go at a set time. I need to get a bunch of stuff done in the morning because I need to be at work at 2:00 PM or whatever the case might be. That has kept me on track when it comes to getting things done and has broken up the day so that once again I don’t fall into the “OMG I can’t look away from my computer for more than five minutes” trap that I will easily give into.
My tip to those who are working for themselves and hustling for work of any kind is to add some structure to your day. Find a system that works, either getting an outside part-time job or just using your calendar to keep you focused or whatever works for you and do it today. The benefits are tremendous on a number of fronts, mostly in how it winds up getting you out of your own head for a period of time, something that can be more detrimental than any other setback you might be facing.