6 Ways to Stay Productive When You’re Between Jobs (without spending a lot of money)

February 5, 2018

A few months back when I took some time to think about the direction of this site, I wanted to put more focus on life changes and how they can impact our health and wellness. Today I’m talking about how one life change has impacted me, and how I’ve learned to stay productive and positive through the experience. A big piece of our lives are our jobs and careers. Our jobs give our days structure, purpose, and are often a way that many people define themselves. When you’re out of a job, by choice or not, this can have an immense impact on your wellness–all around. 

We moved to Spain for MM’s job and right now, I don’t have a job. I’m used to a go-go-go lifestyle and for the greater part of the last 10 years, I’ve always had my main job, plus 1-2 side gigs (teaching fitness classes, freelance writing). The longest stretch I went without a 9-5 job was when we moved from NYC to San Francisco. I didn’t want to start looking for an office job right away, instead I wanted to take my time getting settled while planning our wedding.

I was teaching fitness classes, but this still left me with a lot of down time. It also put me in a negative space when I realized I didn’t want to be a full time fitness instructor (you can read about why here).  The down time and schedule made me a little crazy. Some days I felt little motivation to do anything after getting through my classes.

When you’re used to going to work every day, losing this routine can put you in a major funk, feeling like you lack direction. Whatever routine you’re used to, when there’s a major change to it, it’s going to throw you out of whack. 

When I decided I was ready to look for a job, a new set of challenges set in. It was not easy networking in a new city and I had trouble gaining traction in the search. I had a lot of highs and lows, wondering if and when I’d find the right position. I think anyone who has gone through a job hunt can relate.

To combat these negative feelings, I had to get myself moving. I  wanted to be productive and get out of the house, but I also didn’t want to spend much money. When you’re not making money it’s hard to spend money on activities and outings. Trying to be thrifty can easily lead to sitting at home and wasting the day away. While watching hours of the Today Show and Friends is free and fills the time, it’s not rewarding and it’s definitely not productive (though now that I’m abroad, I really miss my mornings with Savannah and Hoda).

I quickly realized that when you’re between jobs– by choice or not–it’s important to keep busy. Since I’m back in the position of no job, I’m using what I learned the last time around to make the most of my time in this situation.

If you’re in a similar position, here are 5 ways you can get yourself moving in a productive way, without breaking the bank.

How to be productive

Learn a New Skill

Maybe you’ve been working in one industry for years, but have always been interested in something else–perhaps a creative field. Take advantage of this time and explore something new. Who knows, you may discover a new passion or secret skill. Classes can be expensive, but there are low-cost options too. Learn a new language for free with the Duolingo app or check out Skillshare, a site offering videos on hundreds of topics (there are over 18,000 videos!).  I have a few skills I want to develop during these 8 months, I’ll share those with you soon.

Lend a Hand at a Place You Love

There are some luxuries that we’re not willing to give up. Luxuries=$$. For me, that luxury is a fancy gym. Fortunately, while in SF I was working at one so my membership was covered. If you’re not an instructor, you can still get classes for free. A lot of smaller boutique studios will give free classes in exchange for your time, either working the front desk or helping to clean the studio. It’s typically a couple of hours a day, maybe 1-3 days a week. You’ll still get to attend your favorite classes, plus it will get you out of the house and interacting with people. Chat with the front desk people to see if your gym offers this trade off.

Find a Furry Friend

If you’re not working and you’re trying to save money, I won’t suggest adopting a dog (newsflash, they are expensive!), but emotionally speaking, it’s really nice to hang out with a dog. I’m lucky to have Ollie to keep me company at home. Is it normal that I have full conversations with him? Please say yes.  If you don’t have a dog, you can still spend time with them by volunteering a local adoption center or signing up to be a dog walker on sitter on sites like Rover or the European equivalent, DogBuddy. You’ll get to hang out with dogs and get paid for it, what’s better than that?

Volunteer

A lot of us say we want to volunteer, but busy schedules are often an excuse to push it off. Now’s the time! You can volunteer at animal shelters, either playing with pups, taking them for walks or helping with adoption events. Rather hang with people instead? Check out Girls on the Run, an organization that empowers girls to become healthy and confident through running. If you have a lot of time to give, consider becoming a coach, you’ll work with girls for 10-12 weeks to prepare them for a 5k. If that commitment is too much, you can volunteer at events or sign up to be a running buddy for the 5k runs. Taking this time to give back will truly give your days purpose.

Challenge Yourself

Sitting at home on the couch is pretty comfortable, but now’s a good time to get a little bit uncomfortable. I love a good challenge for structure, motivation and a sense of accomplishment. Since you aren’t at work kicking butt on a project that you can feel accomplished after completing, set up a challenge for yourself and kick butt, then feel really great about what you’ve done. Some challenges to consider: take on a new race distance (5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon, etc), a yoga challenge (like 30 days of yoga or learn to do a handstand), a meditation challenge (meditate for 10 minutes every day for a month), walk 10,000 steps every day for a month, and so on. What’s something that will push you out of your comfort zone that you’d feel really happy about completing?

Get Inspired

If you’re like I was between jobs in SF, my moods drastically changed from day-to-day. Once I decided to job hunt, one day I’d feel great and like I was about to nab my dream role, the next day I’d feel low and questioned whether I’d ever get offered a job, dream job or not. Dealing with these fluctuating feelings is tough, but know that if you feel that way, you’re not alone. Get inspiration from others to keep you moving forward.  Listen to podcasts, read books and blogs and change your outlook. Podcasts and blogs are free, and books are quite cheap, all easy ways to find daily inspo and go-get-em motivation.

 

I know that being in between jobs can be tough. My biggest tip is to keep busy (while sticking to your budget!) and to appreciate the time you have. If you’re deep in job hunting, know that you will find something, and when you do, you’ll probably look back on this time and miss it. It might be hard to appreciate it in the moment with the future feeling uncertain, but do your best to see the positive side and use this time for self improvement and exploration.

 

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