How to Use Your Day Job to Increase Your Productivity
Photo courtesy of 'marya'.

How to Use Your Day Job to Increase Your Productivity

Written by Emilie

Topics: Productivity

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Lori Stalter.

There’s a scene in Star Wars V where Yoda, looking at Luke Skywalker, says to Obi-Wan Kenobi:

“All his life has he looked away … to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was … what he was doing.”

I’ve lived most of my life that way.

At work, I used to think about what I’d rather be doing. My mind whirred with exciting plans, projects, and vacation ideas. I thought about anything but that the task at hand.

I imagine many employees find themselves distracted and daydreaming from time to time, but multipotentialites are likely to have much more difficulty stopping their minds wandering while they’re at work.

It’s a Catch-22

Employed multipotentialites need to focus on their day jobs to support themselves, but they also need free time to pursue their interests. If we don’t allow ourselves to spend time on our personal projects, we’re likely to become distracted and perform badly at work. But if we devote too much time to our personal projects and neglect our jobs, we risk losing our income.

What we need is a way to balance our day jobs and our personal projects.

But I believe we can go one step further. I believe we can leverage our day jobs to help us with our personal projects. I believe we can use our jobs to increase our productivity when we’re not at work.

How to Use Your Day Job to Increase Your Productivity

1) Pay attention to what you do

In order to make conscious decisions about how you spend your time and what you do, you need to come off auto-pilot, and notice how you spend your time. You need to understand your current situation in order to change it.

2) See your job as an enabler

Instead of resenting your job for keeping you from your hobbies, see it as your ally – the thing that makes your lifestyle and passions possible. View it as transitional, temporary, and as something which is helping you on your way to your next great adventure.

3) Create non-negotiable schedules and routines

Most of us need to do certain tasks every day if we want to make meaningful progress with our projects. Schedules and routines are the keys to making consistent progress.

But, beyond calling in sick, scheduling vacation days, or getting approval to rearrange your hours, if you have a traditional job, your working hours are likely to be fairly non-negotiable. However, I found that my restrictive schedule actually proved useful.

I do my best writing at around 10am, but I’m at work at that time, so I experimented with my free time, and discovered that I write almost as well at noon. Rather than waiting until the evening to write, I decided that noon would be my writing time.

As much as your schedule and personal circumstances allow, experiment to find the best routine for you.

4) Focus on what you’re working on

I struck a deal with myself. Instead of resisting my job, and treating it as the enemy by tinkering with my personal interests while at work, I decided to ask myself the following questions whenever I feel my attention or intention stray:

  • Is this what I should be working on right now?
  • Am I giving this task my best effort?
  • If I’m not giving my all, what can I change so that I am giving my all?

I also decided I would do nothing on my work computer that wasn’t work related.

5) Make time for your projects

In exchange for creating such a strict environment for myself while at work, I compromised by committing to leaving the office for lunch.

During my lunch break, I began driving to a nearby park, and embracing this time as my own. After some experimentation,  the following routine emerged:

  • Eat lunch while reading for about twenty minutes
  • Write 500 to 800 words
  • Take a quick walk around the park

This is my hour for giving my mind and my body exactly what they need, either by working on my interests or by taking a break.

The 80/20 rule proves true

After implementing these changes, it didn’t take long to notice some interesting side effects from my new attitude, behavior and routine.

At work:

  • My performance has improved
  • I make fewer mistakes
  • I no longer have to rush to meet deadlines
  • I feel happier and more content

During my lunch hour:

  • I retain more of what I read because I’m not hurried or distracted
  • I discover new ideas more often
  • My writing has improved
  • I get more done in this one hour of full concentration than I did when I squeezed these activities in during my work day

Instead of feeling stuck and resenting my day job, by seeing it as my ally, I have been able to improve my performance not only in my personal projects, but also at work.

Your Turn

How can you leverage your day job to improve your productivity?

loriBy day, Lori Stalter is a senior drafter and designer in an engineering department for a manufacturing company. Her other interests include healthy eating, exercise, and mindfulness, which she covers at loristalter.com. Lori also has an online resource for people interested in building their very first website at How to Start a Website 2.0.

8 Comments

  1. Cayelin says:

    Great piece! Day jobs were always great for my productivity .. Never analyzed it, but it always worked out that way. Sounds funny but I really miss my day job, and maybe I’m happier with one. The loneliness and pressure of the alternative is not creative and productive for everyone.

    • Lori Stalter says:

      Thanks, Cayelin! I think finding ways to keep social interaction is extremely important, even if it means online options like Skype or hangouts. Until I became a team leader, I didn’t have a lot of interaction with other employees so even at work I tended to feel lonely. I like interaction a lot more!

    • Sarah says:

      I have had several entrepreneurs tell me that working from home did not work for them. You are not alone. One got around it by doing his work from a cafe every day. He said that just having people around helped him feel like he was not locked up all day. The other partnered with a group of other entrepreneurs to offer more complete services to their clients, and they had a shared office. However, neither of these help take the pressure off – they just help with the social aspect.

  2. Milena says:

    Thank you for this lovely post. It resonates so much with me! I have realized that I am very productive with a day job, strict schedule and good focus. I am sure many people can relate to that! And it is a challenge to stay productive as a mulitipod! :)

  3. Lori Stalter says:

    I agree 100% on the strict schedule, Milena. When I take vacation to work on my own stuff, I’m never as productive as I am when trying to do things around a work schedule.

    I’m glad you liked the post!

  4. Lori Stalter says:

    Emilie,

    Thank you for allowing me to share with the Puttlike community!

    You and the Puttytribe have given so much to me and helped me out in so many ways. I enjoyed having a chance to give back a little bit.

  5. Vincent Imbat says:

    This is one of the best posts I’ve read here so far. It offers a quite different perspective and it definitely shed light to the possibility of leveraging the day job as a tool for productivity. Wow. It made me think about things. Thanks Lori! :)

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