A cheery new advice book for the unemployed offers useful tips on making the most of the gift of time. Thinking like a jobless person, it turns out, might do us all some good.
In the uneasy and unpredictable world of joblessness, it’s not surprising that many souls put having a good time on the back burner. Nevertheless, a period of unemployment does present an opportunity to do some things that you couldn’t or wouldn’t do while holding a full-time job.
Some are simply enjoyable activities that might not have occurred to you while you were working. Others are things you might have been meaning to get around to for years. What’s important is that you should strive at all times to be the master of your today, your tomorrow, and the tomorrow after that.
1. Start your day as early as possible.
The human brain tends to be more focused and alert earlier in the day, and more tired and distracted later on. Simply put: Always take full advantage of the finite hours of daylight.
2. Keep your learning curve perpetually greased.
Further your education any way you can. If there are courses or workshops available at nearby colleges, attend them when the subject matter interests you. Would an advanced degree in your field, or a degree in another discipline entirely, benefit your job search or, perhaps, inspire a future career? Look into the possibilities, including degree programs that can be completed entirely online.
3. Cavort with genuinely successful people.
Not rich people, necessarily. People who neatly blend the best qualities of humanity, people who are good to the core. You can learn from them.
4. Learn to cook.
5. Practice yoga.
6. Nurture your family tree.
While you’re job-hunting, you might want to allocate some time for genealogical research or piecing together your family history. Get in touch with relatives for missing pieces of the puzzle. (One of these people may even hold the key that unlocks the door to your next job or career.)
7. Paint your living quarters.
Get in touch with your inner Bob Vila or Martha Stewart. There is no better time to tackle the challenge of getting your house in order—literally. Besides, physical order goes hand in hand with psychological and emotional order.
8. Balance your checkbook.
9. Play smart.
There are all kinds of games you can play with your friends, and many more you can play when you are all alone. Why not opt for the ones that will make you smarter, or at least exercise your brain as much as possible? Play games like Scrabble and chess with others. When you’re all by your lonesome, pull out a Rubik’s Cube or do the daily crossword in your newspaper.
10. Sample bizarre foods.
Take a prompt from chef Andrew Zimmern’s popular program on the Travel Channel, Bizarre Foods. Zimmern travels the planet to sample local foods that most of us might deem a wee bit strange, like barbecued cow scrotum and still-beating frog hearts. Since you have to eat lunch anyway, why not broaden your horizons by trying some foods that you never considered before? You don’t have to go to the fantastic lengths of Zimmern. Maybe ordering shish kebab from a street vendor is bizarre for you.
11. Witness a sunrise.
12. Go hiking.
No matter where you call home—a thriving metropolis, a bedroom community in suburbia, or a sleepy small town—there are more than likely locations nearby with circuitous trails through woodlands or indig-enous shrubbery. Visit Local-Hikes.com for ideas.
13. Go Dumpster diving.
Okay, so maybe you shouldn’t physically climb into any garbage Dumpsters. (No. 1: It could be dangerous. No. 2: It’s actually against the law in many places to be crawling around in other people’s refuse.) Nevertheless, Dumpster diving—and just plain old garbage picking—has a long and vaunted tradition.
The bottom line is that people toss out things of real value. Many garbage pickers find furniture that they refinish. Working lamps are regularly put out to the curb. Ditto perfectly good rugs. Traverse your neighborhood on garbage pickup dates and look for bits and pieces that you could take home and use, or, perhaps, sell on eBay or in a yard sale. Just be sure to wash your hands after any of your adventures.
14. Read a good book.
This recommendation is an old favorite. Read a book in lieu of excessive television viewing and aimless surfing on the Internet. Your overall psyche will benefit tremendously.
15. Fast for a day.
16. Contact a long-lost friend.
17. Keep a journal.
Spend some time each and every day documenting everything from the weather to your innermost feelings about all that’s transpiring during your unemployment odyssey. Journal writing serves as a psychological catharsis. It also improves your communication skills, which—by the way—are highly coveted in the workplace.
18. Become a shutterbug.
If you’ve got a camera—preferably a digital one (no photo development costs)—take it with you on both your job safari and leisure activities. Get a shot of the sunset. Take shots of neighborhood hot spots. Snap photos of family and friends.
19. Volunteer your time.
Volunteer at a local hospital, nursing home, school, or some other institution looking for help. Join a volunteer fire brigade. You can’t go wrong by giving something back to the community. In addition, volunteering your time while you are unemployed increases your visibility and your network. You now have more people invested in the ultimate success of your job search.
20. Make a video for YouTube.
21. Invent something
22. Go ‘green.’
Install low-flow showerheads. Attend to leaky faucets. Insulate your home.
23. Work at different jobs.
If you’re working part-time to plug the income gap until you find a permanent position, it certainly helps to experience new job challenges. Do things you’ve never done before. In the end, you’ll be smarter for it. For instance, working in a restaurant kitchen could teach you an awful lot, including some useful new skills. It may, in fact, teach you that you never want to go near one again. The larger point here is that working in different kinds of jobs with different kinds of people adds layers to your character and overall know-how.
24. Try new things all across the board.
The same benefits of working different jobs arise with just about any other experience that’s new to you. So work at tasks at which you’re not especially proficient. Instead of hiring a house painter, paint a room for yourself. Instead of calling in a geeky neighbor to install a new computer system for you, try following the instructions without a helping hand. And this new stuff applies in all parts of your day. Sample new foods while cooking at home. Patronize unusual shops. Travel to places you’ve never before seen.
Adapted from the book No Job? No Prob! by Nicholas Nigro. ©2008 by Nicholas Nigro. Used with permission of Skyhorse Publishing, New York, N.Y. All rights reserved.