There are many situations that cause us to be out of full-time work or work that offers a consistent pay of some kind. Sometimes it is out of choice in the hope of finding something better, and sometimes you have no choice at all, which applies to many people at the moment, in the light of the coronavirus pandemic. Full-time employees have lost their jobs, business owners have seen their businesses impacted and struggling to stay afloat, and freelancers may have lost some or all of their clients and continue to struggle to find new ones. But what many people still have are commitments in terms of their household bills and lifestyle. So what can you do about it?
Often we can all say that we want more time in our lives, and in these circumstances, we are given the gift of time to utilise. As a freelancer myself, I’ve been out of work for some months, not completely workless, but the work is minimal enough that I have a lot of free hours in the day to play with. At times, I have used this opportunity to focus on productive and beneficial activities, but a lot of the time I find myself – because of a lack of routine, I think – just procrastinating, distracting myself, and wasting time on mindless entertainment.
With that in mind, I’d like to share some ideas on how to make the most of being out of work, as this spare time is a chance to improve your working life in the future and to do things that can lead to genuinely matter to you.
What Caused You to Be Out of Work in the First Place?
One of the first things you need to highlight is exactly what brought you to this situation in the first place. There are many scenarios. For example, you may have been fired or chose to leave because of a different opinion or working environment. Maybe the job didn’t give you the lifestyle you wanted and are hoping for something better.
Knowing your situation will help you to determine your next move and what you are capable of doing. If a previous job involved too much work, time, stress, and pressure, then a more sustainable career path will likely need to involve fewer hours and personal sacrifices. Some colleagues and work cultures can also be quite toxic, involving egotism, competitiveness, and the worship of overwork. Whether you were let go from this kind of work environment or you left it yourself, it’s important to think about how your personality (and just general mental health) calls for a better-suited job.
Doing What You’re Passionate About
As I mentioned at the start of the article, when I have a lot of free time on my hands, I sometimes use this to my advantage. For example, during the lockdown, I found myself revisiting some activities I used to do in the past that I kind of neglected and lost interest in. I paid more attention to the content I was creating for this blog and wanted to focus on more challenging topics, exploring interesting ideas in philosophy and psychology and trying to write original and in-depth essays on these topics. I’ve had so many ideas for articles I wanted to write but never got round to it, always putting it off because I knew the article could end up quite long and because the subject wasn’t always familiar or easy to understand.
While I haven’t been exactly efficient with my use of time, I still managed to write some long-form essays during the lockdown period, with one article clocking in at 16,000+ words. Completing these articles was rewarding in several ways:
- It was intellectually stimulating
- It helped me to re-evaluate big questions in philosophy and my personal beliefs and values
- It introduced me to several new and fascinating ideas
- It allowed me to focus on topics and a style of writing that I personally preferred over much of the paid work I was doing
- It helped to build on my content creation skills, as well as my understanding of subjects I genuinely cared about
- I received positive feedback from many readers who found the articles useful
These positive effects have motivated me to focus more on the kind of writing I’m passionate about and to think about ways to steer my career in this direction. For example, I’ve also been working on a book for a few years, so that seems like one avenue to consider (not that it’s likely to be highly profitable, nor is that my underlying aim, but it’s at least one possible way to combine the writing I enjoy with another side income).
Another challenge for me at the moment is trying to find new clients offering work that I would feel properly engaged doing, as often much of the paid writing I’ve done has felt like a chore; not mind-numbing, necessarily, but not really stimulating or personally interesting enough. Over the lockdown period, I was grateful to gain two positions that involved writing about psychedelics, which is one of my main interests. I wouldn’t have imagined I could get paid (and paid fairly well) to write about psychedelics, but writing about the subject extensively on this blog – as well as for other publications elsewhere – helped me to get to that point.
I’ve also used the time during lockdown to write on interesting topics for publications for free. When starting out as a writer, I was doing it purely for fun, and so happily wrote for publications on a voluntary basis. But after I started getting paid work, I adopted this principle that I wouldn’t write for free anymore because I viewed writing something valuable for a website as a form of work that deserved at least some compensation. However, I realise not all publications are in a position to pay writers and compensation can also mean the positive impact you create through your writing.
I got some articles published on blogs related to mental health, philosophy, and psychedelics. This wasn’t just rewarding to do, it was also helpful in terms of my own writing career – it got my name out there and allowed me to promote my own blog (through links I included in the article and my bio). My main motivation for this kind of writing is always to enjoy the writing process, challenge myself, and have a positive impact on others, but there are undoubtedly other side benefits as well, like improving my website’s SEO and my work portfolio.
So, if you’re currently out of work and want to make the most of it, focusing on your passions and hobbies can be a useful way to not only enjoy the spare time in a meaningful way but also benefit your career path.
Taking the Opportunity to Start a New Venture
This might actually be the moment you’ve been waiting for: the opportunity to have the time to actually start up your own business or freelance career. Not all of us get the privilege of time on our hands so this could give you a real chance to make a difference and do the job or have the career that you are passionate about. Whether it is something like starting a blog, which many people can do in their spare time, working freelance in the area you are skilled in, or actually starting up a whole new business, now could be the ideal time to do it.
Learning New Skills
Maybe you just like the idea of a different career altogether, so if you have the time and can maybe look at different options, then why not go back to education to gain the skills and degrees you need for the career you want? There are many options to consider: if you want a career more based around leadership, then you could study a postgraduate leadership degree; then there’s also business degrees and subject-specific degrees where you can become qualified in a specific field.
Of course, any degree can be expensive, so if you have financial restrictions (which may be the case if you’re out of work), you can still choose from a variety of free online courses or at least online courses that are far cheaper than the fees you’d pay when enrolling into a university. As well as learning courses and new skills online, you can also watch lectures on YouTube for free to build on your knowledge, as well as learn languages for free with sites like Duolingo and language exchange websites.
If you find yourself out of work, this doesn’t mean you have to stagnate or feel at a loss with the abundance of time on your hands. As we’ve seen, there are many possible options that can help you fill your day with meaningful and engaging activities.