Step away from the job

Pregnant? Moving location? RSI? Sometimes taking time out from work the greatest gift

Sometimes a step back is just right to give you a sense of perspective. © Laura Eades 2014

Sometimes a step back is just right to give you a sense of perspective. © Laura Eades 2014

“Now that I’ve stopped doing my job, I’ve realised I don’t want to go back to my old way of life. But I’m not sure what I want instead…”

This is a conversation I’ve had with many people since I went on maternity leave two and a half years ago, took redundancy from my journalism job, started writing a novel and blogging, and began trying to redesign my lifestyle. It’s one of my favourite conversations to have.

It’s one of life’s big unanswerable questions

No it isn’t. It’s not even really that big a conversation, it’s just hard to focus on it and engage your intuition. Which is why sometimes, you’re lucky if you have an incentive/kick-up-the-bum to leave one situation before you envision the next one.

Is your discontent making it hard to feel your desire?

It’s hard to make decisions about your life when you’re stressed. Or too busy to think. Or are they the same thing?

We feel fear about leaving our present situation for another unknown one, and this clouds the airwaves. (I know this feeling! Even with a redundancy incentive, the decision to leave the security of a job, and all that you’ve invested in it isn’t easy…)

Sometimes the presence of what we don’t like in our life is shouting at us so loudly, we can’t hear the part of us that would tell us what we’d prefer.

So, if you do take a career break, make it a relaxing one. Don’t get tempted to do too much – you won’t be able to hear yourself think.

Maternity leave is a mindful break

If your career break is a maternity leave, you’ll probably not be in the market for lifecoachy homework. Instead, you’ll feel triumphant when you’ve sung to the baby long enough to keep them happy while you shower, and then put on your mascara in the tiny mirror that’s in the back of the cuddly turnip baby book.

But you do have one advantage, I’ve found (makes wise face): a newborn baby completely alters your relationship with time. You will have contemplative time with a newborn – walking in the park, in the rain… time to slow down and reconnect with your intuition; to feel that yearning to spend more time –––––ing rise up from the depths of you.

Where to start thinking about career change

Maternity leave: Start annoying your newborn with your handheld device from the word Go! If you have an iPad, and no other children making demands on you, you can also surf the internet while breastfeeding.

If you’re not breastfeeding, then you’re probably commuting – and that is reading and dreaming time.

Since I’ve found most of my inspiration on the internet these last couple of years, there are lots of links coming up I’m excited to share with you. They include:

  • Where to start thinking about having your own enterprise
  • Where to start reconsidering your passions and purpose
  • Where to start redesigning your home life so it’s workable

Are you worried you’ll regret it

Hm. You’ve worked hard for your career. For the benefits. You’ve only just bought a flat. Or gained the right to a decent maternity package. Would it be wise to leave it? The bridges may be burned. You might lose your place in the hierarchy, slip down the ladder…

                      or scared you might really like it?

You might widen your network in surprising ways. You might be spurred into action to set up that thing of your own you’ve always dreamt of. You might spend time with totally different people, who’ll alter your way of thinking about your life for the better.

I tend to think, if you really want to go back after a rest, you’ll find a way to make it happen, you just won’t reach the finish line so quickly as other sprinters. It’s only worth running if you’re sure it’s the right race.

You can’t afford to stop work, and you’re not pregnant, but you still need some thinking space

You could consider:

  • Using AirBnB to rent out part of your living area or cover your mortgage while you have a ponder (Does a friend have a holiday place that needs a housekeeper while someone else pays the bank for you?)
  • Selling the crap in your house (We made £500 at two car boot sales. It would have to be quite good crap, or in quite large quantities, to keep you going for long though!)
  • Taking a trip for a while to somewhere where the cost of living is cheap (Thailand?) or the wages high (Abu Dhabi?)
  • Starting a passive income stream a la Tim Ferriss, and setting an escape deadline from your job
  • Jiggling your finances/hours so you can work just part of the week
  • Whether your partner could support you for a set period of time (you could offer the same in return)
  • Living on less. How much would you need, minimum, to take a couple of months out?
  • Making more of your assets. Tom Hodgkinson, author of How to be Free, editor of The Idler and founder of The Idler Academy, rented out their London flat and moved his family to a cheaper rented place in Devon to fund their lifestyle change.

I’m just saying. I’m not saying it’s easy to just stop work. But if you want to get creative, there are ways and means.

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Has the burn-your-bridges-and-flee approach worked for you? Or what other creative solutions have you found? Take a sabbatical? Switch jobs and go travelling in between? Murder a rich aunt? Get permission to work remotely? Or to work a flexible week? And how did you spend your time out/maternity leave/holiday of a lifetime? I’d love to hear from you. Click on the pale grey plus sign under the blogpost to open the comments section.

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