Tag Archives: Routine

Rediscovering Inspiration


I know it’s here somewhere…

While I’m sustaining today the (dubious) accomplishment of having posted at least every month since I started this blog, the obvious truth is that it’s been a while. Even my food budget posts have been absent since April, although near the start of this month I did collect the data together for May and June with the idea of catching up (the new plan is a 3-month-budget post in the near future that includes July). In any case, if this blog is to be in any way a record of my thoughts and actions during my experience with unemployment, I clearly have some blanks to fill in. I’m not sure, exactly, that’s what this blog is for – but let’s go with that for now, at least. I think the original struggle to keep this blog more related to “tips” and “successful stories” was more limiting than I’d hoped. There’s only so much of that type of content to go around.

Anyway, let’s begin. I’m here in part because I’ve experienced a wave of inspiration this week, after what can fairly be described as a multi-month period where I felt it lacking. I was kind of down, I lost interest in cooking and tracking my finances carefully, I didn’t read many of the other bloggers who originally helped inspire me and obviously all but stopped posting here. I gave in to a vice I very much already identified as a unenjoyable time-suck and let it soak up hours. I’d roughly mark the time of things falling apart a little as beginning in late-May, when the little groove I was trying to get going fell off the rails. Ironically, one of the reasons I think that happened was a series of interviews (a good thing!) packed tightly around a spate of travel (a fun thing!), but for whatever reason, it threw me a little and I didn’t really recover until recently.

Not that I wasn’t getting myself by. After striking out for pretty much the first three months of my unemployment, starting in May a snowball started rolling, and on top of those interviews (didn’t go anywhere) I’ve currently got interviews at four other organizations that are either in process or still open as I await word. And when I collected the May and June food budget data, things were surprisingly decent despite the lack of micromanagement (sure hope that’s sustainable). Those months weren’t a loss, but at times I was simply dragging myself from one day to the next, always feeling like I wasn’t getting enough done.

So what changed?

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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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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?


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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One Month Unemployed – Is This What FIRE is Like?

calendar-jumbleThe first month of my unemployment has come and gone faster than I would have thought. Sure, it’s February, technically the fastest possible month that could go by, but the fact remains. A month of not working, with my days my own – my first such month in the better part of a decade. While I am tracking my spending more than ever, I can honestly say that I didn’t really reckon with the financial implications of being unemployed. Is this a taste of the FI life? Is this bliss?

First things first, despite the lack of a job, mine is not exactly a life of FIRE. Most prominently, I would not be spending hours each week in the pursuit of a job, exploring the market, drafting and sending off cover letters and resumes. And I am aware that this month was more of a “break” from reckoning with long-term finances than any sort of permanent release from it. I still haven’t deposited the last checks I received from my working days, which are sitting in their envelopes a few feet away. The mental break will end and pressure will begin to slowly mount to find something – at a certain point, exploration and pursuit won’t be enough. Finances will have to be taken off the existing auto-pilot and reexamined, then stabilized, for where I am today.

However, I have had a month, and during this month I’ve made exactly the kind of effort to set my own priorities, accomplish my own goals, and own my days that I think I would have made if I truly were FI. My “free” days were perhaps crimped a little with job-related activities, but the overlap is substantial. It’s time to take stock of how that went.

It seems fair to go back to the goals I spelled out when I began this blog to start framing my answer.

1) This Blog. I never give myself a chance to write, and I miss the reflective power of journaling more in my youth (aka, the last time I wasn’t working). I also think blogging here about my goings-on will keep me honest.

Writing in this blog has been a good experience – as with most personal writing that I do, even when it’s hard to drag myself to my desk, I’m happier after I’ve done it. That being said, I haven’t posted a ton lately, which means I get less of the exact happiness I just referred to. I’m happy with my start here, and will be happy to continue it (and more) next month.

2) Other Blogs… One will be geared towards creative writing… I’m also planning to start a blog in [the e-commerce] vein… if I can find a way to approach it that feels honest and not soul-draining. If all goes well, these blogs might earn me a buck or two.

Oof. I get no credit here. I have not started either of these blogs, and I can’t even blame it on burning out from posting here every day. I have thought about both of these blogs, what I’d put in them, how I’d run them, but there’s hardly any visible results. I need to reexamine this goal and see if maybe it isn’t actually so important to me, and if it is, I need to figure out how to, and then commit to, begin getting it off the ground.

3) Home Stewardship… I’ve already begun keeping a sharper eye on my household costs and cooking a lot more. Without being tied to my computer for eight hours, I am now free to take this to the next level. If I do this right, I anticipate I can slash thousands off our yearly home budget, chiefly through the cooking of delicious food.

This one’s gone pretty well. I’ll have the final numbers in a couple of days but there’s no doubt that our food/grocery bill is lower this month than last month. I’ve really enjoyed cooking more, including baking cookies from scratch just for the fun of it, and am further integrating bulk shopping into my routine. I think my main goal is still just to get even better at this.

It’s helpful to look back at these goals because it’s easy to wonder just what I’ve been doing with myself. It’s been a month! As I continue to wrestle with the distractions that prevent me from being as focused – and happy – as I’d like, I have to admit that it’s a work in progress.

A month feels like a long time, but in the scheme of things, it’s not, not for a significant lifestyle change. I’m still doing some paid editing, all that job-seeking, all the extra dishes and cleaning that comes along with doing more cooking, reading more, and slowly decreasing our expenses. I know I could be doing more, but that’ll pretty much always be the case, and it’s key to let that thought feel inspiring, rather than dreadful.

So how’s it been living a life of faux-FIRE? I have been waking up far more often excited by the possibilities of what I will do with my entire day, rather than by trying to remind myself of what I might be able to squeeze into my night after work. I have had more time to spend on things I enjoy, and am much less interested in ever “getting through” a day of my life ever again. I still need to intentionally remind myself to align my actions with my desires, a task not made easier by simply having more time on my hands… it’s hard to say whether I’m doing better percentage-wise on that score than I was when I was employed, and that’s an area of continued focus.

I imagine that would be my central challenge in a life of FIRE. Though I’ve come to realize how good they can be for me, I’ve never been particularly successful at getting routines to stick.

One month in, and though I am a long, long way from FIRE, it’s interesting to reflect on this time as a bit of a case study. It’s not without its challenges, but unsurprisingly, I think I’d like it. That’s going to take getting back to work and building the ol’ stash up though, because it’s a marathon, not a race. We all just have to keep moving as steadily as we can.

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Seeing Discipline as a Good Thing

When I think of the word discipline, I think of what negligent parents are instructed to do to their kids to keep them in line, or of memorizing multiplication tables. It’s a term that grates against what I like to think of as my creative and rather whimsical personality. While I’ve always loved structure, the idea of discipline has always gone hand-in-hand with the concept of routine, of boring, lifeless monotony. Of course, anyone will tell you that discipline is the way just about anyone gets good at anything (even artists), and I knew this. Still, the process of coming around to the notion that discipline and routine themselves are good, rather than just means to an end, has been a long and ongoing one.

In the weeks leading up to my layoff, I’d begun making a special effort to reinforce some good habits and routines I wanted to cultivate. I’m an inveterate time waster, so these were things like going to bed when I had nothing left to do, getting out of bed when my partner did rather than going back to sleep, and procrastinating productively by accomplishing small tasks like doing the dishes when I needed a break from work. This was essentially yet another attempt to break long-held habits from my college years, where staying up late, sleeping in, and doing nothing for as long as it was possible were basically virtues. In any case, those couple of weeks in January were among my more successful efforts, but then I got laid off, shattering key parts of my routine and eliminating a certain amount of outside accountability.

College-me would have glorified my newfound ability to collect unemployment while doing nothing, but present-day me valued routine and had a pretty good time of it yesterday, getting up early and setting out goals. I didn’t accomplish them all, but I felt all right about the way things had gone, and was eager to start to set myself in some productive patterns.

Then today came, and I slipped. A late and meandering start basically sucked up my morning, and I know from experience this feeling of getting behind can send me on a multi-day bender of self-destructive frustration and avoidance. I rallied around midday, aiming to replace the downward spiral with an upward one, and am proud of my afternoon. But it’s a reminder that this foundation is shaky, and success during this time will be built on the wide, steady base of discipline and routine over time.

Discipline is why I’m posting again for a second consecutive day, but it’s also why I’m doing so when I have to leave the house in mere minutes. It’s a powerful thing to master, and if it wasn’t already, it’s definitely going to be one of my biggest challenges as I seek to make the most of that good pink slip.


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