I Feel Fine: An Adventure in Quitting My Day Job (Part Three)

Across the Line by Trey Ratcliffe, on Flickr I quit my day job in April, and I feel fine. It’s been an eventful couple of months here, and I’m fixin’ to tell you all about it. See parts one and two for the beginning [and middle] of the story.

With planning and a strict budget under my belt, I handed in my notice and worked my last day. But despite my preparation, I wasn't fully expecting what happened next—I fell into a trap that put me in a productivity tailspin.

The Great Trap

Gemeentemuseum Den Haag - Stairs & Stripes by Maurice, on Flickr

Buying a house is a big deal, and generally we knew what we were getting into. No matter how much online research you do and friends that you talk to, though, the actual process is a rollercoaster of paperwork, waiting, more paperwork, more waiting, and then finally getting the keys.

We closed on our house just two and a half weeks after my last day at work, so it's safe to assume that I was a little distracted leading up to and immediately following the day that we moved in. Doubling square footage meant countless trips to IKEA, and between buying curtains and yard tools and all those little things here and there, moving and settling in became a full-time job.

Don't get me wrong, it was incredibly exciting, too! And all those little projects from hanging art on the walls to painting a room on a whim to weeding and getting the mature landscaping under control were a lot of fun to work on. The truth is, though, I lost focus of what I really needed to be doing. I had freelance income goals to meet, a to-do list seven miles long for Maker's Nation, and commitments to helping out with this year's World Domination Summit.

More importantly, the freedom that I felt from leaving the day job was intoxicating. My sleep schedule was thrown off, I avoided any form of routine, and I was eating poorly. All this translated into difficulty focusing on key tasks for more than an hour or two at a time, and it took my several weeks to even realize what was happening.

The only two things I was successful at each day without fail were procrastinating and letting myself get distracted by less important things, and that needed to stop.

The Great Lessons Learned

Untitled by Fabrizio Mingarelli, on Flickr

I wouldn't say I'm out of the woods yet. I'm still struggling with staying focused and not spending too much time in the yard building a patio or re-learning songs on the piano (new toy!) or playing a video game. But I'm getting better. Time management has never been my forte, and ditching the "ass in chair" structure of a day job started out hurting more than it helped. But I can already say I've learned a lot of lessons along the way.

Set a routine: If I know that certain times of the day are dedicated to certain tasks, it makes it easier for me to keep my mind focused. I've always felt that my writing is best done in the mornings, so why should I be answering customer support emails then? Perhaps those are best done after lunch. But what's key is flexibility. A home work routine isn't going to function the same as an office routine, so don't try to shove the square peg into the round hole.

Make lists: Holding myself accountable is easier when I've written out tasks I need to accomplish each day—on Post-It Notes, on my white board, or in Basecamp. I'm learning to take a bias toward action thanks to Scott Belsky's Making Ideas Happen, and it's a tough habit to get into, but so far it's really helped get into the productive mindset.

Invest in your body: This desk chair I bought last year is great for about an hour or two at a time. Anything beyond that and my back starts complaining, my posture sags, and I wiggle and squirm like a five-year-old that needs to go potty. I haven't replaced it yet (not in the budget!) so until I do I need to make sure my activities are varied enough to keep me moving around and circulating blood to my cheeks and legs.

Give back: Volunteering my time as a member of the core team for this year's World Domination Summit was phenomenal. Not only did I join an amazing group of people, I learned new skills, worked with some great production vendors, and received a lot of great support and publicity for Maker's Nation that I likely wouldn't have received otherwise. I've firmly believed in giving back to a community for a long time, but never has anything reciprocated so directly and with such impact as joining the team this year. It was just the fire I needed lit under my seat to get things moving in the right direction again.

The Great Adventure

Leeds secret railway by phill.d, on Flickr

Quitting my day job has been an adventure indeed. Has it been a challenge? Yes it has. Has it been scary? Yes it has. Has it put a strain on my relationships? Yes it has. Have I failed so far to bring in any freelance work? Yes I have. Am I behind on my fundraising goals for Maker's Nation? Yes I am. But it's also exhilarating, invigorating, and rejuvenating. I'm proud of what I've been able to accomplish, grateful for the opportunity to take the leap, thankful for those who helped teach me how to swim (or at least tread water), and willing to blaze ahead into the great unknown.

The great adventure has only just begun. And I feel fine.