Work and Passion and Whether it Matters

lego-jobPassion and Work have long been thorny issues for me. As in, passion for your work – where to get it, and how necessary it is. Even while fully employed this was a big question for me, and certainly it’s all the more so now that I’m unemployed and spending vast sums of time looking for new work. Work and passion are two things I rarely feel like I have at the same time.

I suppose that’s to be expected – when I’m passionate about my work, it shouldn’t feel like work. But how on earth do you search for passion in a job search engine? There’s no checkbox for that. You have to guess. You have to leap.

Today, before setting out on a walk to collect some thoughts, I read the latest article on MMM. It’s a retrospective from a person named Ethan who’d been in a rough financial position, got himself together and worked hard, and was rewarded with lots of promotions and money. Taking nothing away from his accomplishment, I found myself wishing he’d written a long post right in the middle of things, right when he got his first good job and “forced himself to believe” he was going to succeed if he worked hard. Sometimes stories like that seem to take on a classic rags-to-riches theme, with the lead character changing his or her life by sheer will power and determination. I love reading them, but there’s an emotional struggle that is left out of the narrative. In my experience anyway, sheer will power, while vital, often won’t get me through an emotional block by itself.

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April Food Budget – Holding the Pace

bulk-foodAnother month, another measured look at whether we were able to keep up with our progressively lower food cost goals.

From February to March we excitingly saw a 13% dip in total food expenditure (which translated to a 20% dip in cost per meal, given the shortage of days in February). That coming on the heels of February, the first month of our food challenge, already representing a 22% drop compared to our 2014 averages. This was a pretty fantastic start, but I predicted last month that we would not be able to see such a substantial reduction again. I would have loved to prove myself wrong though.

Rather than keep you in suspense, I’ll come clean that we did not reduce our spending by another 20% – in fact, spending went up. But I’m still happy with the month and we remain right on the pace I was hoping for.

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Huzzah for Routines of Freedom, Boo on Routines of Oppression

yoke-of-freedomAs you can see from the tag-cloud over on the right, one of the topics I’ve written about a few times here is routines. How the word can recall monotony and discipline, how even when I acknowledge their usefulness I’m not always good at getting them to stick, how distractions come up. Routines and I are not natural friends, it would seem.

But a routine can be a helpful productivity tool – as I’ve been navigating the numerous uncertainties of life as an unemployed person,  I’m beginning to think it may be an essential one. I’ve been thinking lately about trying to reframe the way I think about this issue that will agree with me on a deep, easy, intuitive level.

Routines of Freedom are good. Routines of Oppression are bad.

Perhaps not the biggest revelation out there, but it acknowledges the powerful truth that a routine is neither good nor bad by itself. It’s merely a tool. And right now in my life, I have a downright opportunity to embrace the relative freedom I have with my time to make my routine awesome.

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March Food Budget – Still on Track?

Photo via Miroslav Vajdić

I’ve been on a bit of a blog haitus for the past few weeks, so I thought I’d ease myself back into things with a numbers post. Halfway through the month of April, it’s time to look back and see if I’ve been keeping up with my goals of reining in our food budget.

As I spelled out back in early February, I’d set $10 per person per day as a reasonable ceiling for a food budget. It’s a lot more than experienced frugal eaters spend, but it felt like a reasonable benchmark to start with, and then improve upon. For the month of February, excitingly, we hit the mark, reducing our food budget by about 22% compared to our 2014 averages in the process.

Now, let’s see about March.

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Weekly Wondering: Getting Further with Positivity than Anti-Negativity

thumbs-up-thumbs-down

Over time, I have come to learn there are things I can do that make me feel pretty good, like reading a book, going for a walk, writing, cleaning parts of the house, cooking, or even just kicking ass at an obligation I have, like the freelance editing I do.

There are also things I can do that make me feel bad, like mindless procrastination or oversleeping – basically failing to spend my time doing things in the above list. Some parts of the work I did for my old job would have fallen into this category as well.

When I look back at my posts, I can see I’ve written about ways to remove some of the wasteful drains on my life, whether it’s on my time or my budget. I don’t have as much on ways to add value back in. For some reason, the former is a much easier idea for me to tackle, but ultimately, I don’t think it’s nearly as effective.

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Weekly Wondering: Removing an (Anti)Productivity Crutch

This is a new segment I’m trying to implement, because hey, writers gotta write. This post will be a little more of my musings as opposed to my take on absorbed wisdom or reports on numbers. Let’s see what comes of it, shall we?

smartphone-on-table

It’s just sitting there…

I am something of a master procrastinator.

I think as a child some part of me determined my (non-negotiably kinda nerdy) identity was more “smart slacker” than “overachiever,” and I decided to get really good at putting off doing certain types of work. That identity doesn’t really fulfill me any longer, but old habits die hard, and I’ve come to see these procrastination habits as a crutch that keep me from having to come up with a new one.

We all have our coping strategies that keep us from facing a reality that we’d rather avoid. One of mine is on my smartphone.

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Negabucks – The Currency you can Earn Without a “Job”

apple-money-treeI love the concept of “negabucks.”

If you google the word negabucks, the #1 hit is a post about the financial value of home gardening. I think the term is used somewhat widely in the personal-finance community, but I’ll admit I first saw the term used by David of The Goblin Chief. The essential meaning of a negabuck is money earned by not paying for someone else’s work/labor. It’s a gratifying way of quantifying money saved.
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