Outside the Normal

Recently I took a part time job (about 5 hours a week) working in a grant-funded program for high school juniors taking courses through a local community college. It is a really neat program where an adjunct professor comes to the high school twice a week to teach RI-100, which is basically a freshman survey type of class. My job is to go to the school the other 3 days a week and coach the students, help them with the work, present lessons and keep them generally occupied. It’s very much like teaching only I don’t write lesson plans or have to grade anything.

Freelancing is an awesome way to earn a living. There is freedom to choose for whom you will work, when you will work, how you will be dressed while working and on and on.  Having control of your own fate is pretty nice, too. Like any other job, though, it can get to be a little stale.

One of the reasons I took the part time job was  to prevent myself from looking for another 9-5 when my unemployment benefits stop. (Unfortunately, taking the job caused that cessation even though the salary is only half the amount of the weekly benefit, which in itself was half of my old salary! Time to get to marketing!)

Another, and equally important reason, for taking the part time job was to get out of my normal routine and thought patterns. I think about newsletters for hours everyday. Sometimes templates even show up in my dreams. But for those 5 hours or so a week that I am in the classroom, I’m not thinking about newsletters at all. Instead I am talking to a group of people who are still excited about life and the possibilities available.

No matter what you are doing, whether it is a “regular” job, freelancing work, taking care of a home or some combination of activities, it can get to be a grind. All sorts of stuff has been written about doing something you love so that it doesn’t feel like work. The truth is, no matter what you do it will feel like work at least sometimes.

If you can add something totally out of the ordinary for you, it reminds you how much you like the ordinary routine. When I was a teacher, this part time job wouldn’t have been half as much fun as it is now, but a side project writing would have been fabulous.

Being stuck in a job or position that feels stifling and makes you unhappy is totally different, but oddly enough, the cure is the same. Find something interesting and fun, and start doing it. You can work as a volunteer or take an hour or two a week to pursue a hobby. Just adding something a little different to the day in, day out stuff can really help.

Besides reminding me how much I enjoy writing and giving me some much needed time around kids, the part time job also stimulates creativity. Taking that mental break three times a week helps me be more focused when I sit down to write. On the days I teach in the morning, I’m more productive in the afternoon.

How do you keep yourself interested in your day to day work? Do you find that you are more creative or attuned or ready to work if you add some unrelated activity to your weekly routine?

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