Regaining Routine…But With Some Changes!

Yesterday my wife and I put away all the Christmas decorations; no small chore in the Mitchell household. As much as we both love to decorate for the holidays we both throw ourselves into getting our house back to what we refer to as ‘normal’ with great enthusiasm. When we are done, we both appreciate how much more space we have to move around in; no large tree in the living room, no more hanging ornaments from the light fixtures, and the flow of movement is improved with the furniture back where it belongs.

It occurs to me that what we are really doing with our house is similar to what most of us want with for ourselves; a return to routine. December is such an unusual month doing things we typically only do in that one month of the 12. We shop and buy more, eat more, visit more. We write and mail Christmas cards and for many people it’s the only time we post anything anymore with the convenience of texting and the internet. Make no mistake, we want the relative familiarity of routine because it brings us a sense of calm; things are as they should be.

Okay but we might have made the decision to change a few things in 2017 too. We’d love to incorporate some of these changes into our routines without disrupting too much of what we’ve come to know and value. Maybe it was getting more active, losing weight, getting our money under control, finding a better job, getting out and about socially more often or even learning to say yes or no more often depending on the circumstances.

The key seems to be not just initiating change but sustaining it. On the way into work I heard a fitness expert state that only 20% of those who make fitness a goal at the start of the year will be successful come March. For some of us we might be thrilled to make it that far as I’m sure some of us have already cheated here and there and it’s only January 3rd!

So let’s look at employment and your goals for 2017. Are you looking for a job, perhaps a better job or are you looking for a secondary job; something you could do in addition to your current role in order to bring in more income? Do you have a plan to bring this goal of yours to light or are you rather hoping it will happen kind of on its own? That’s probably not going to work and you and I both know it; if it was, it would have worked by now. No, to bring about real change, you’re going to need some new routines, new everyday practices that you can commit to and achieve and all of them part of a strategic plan.

Get out a sheet of paper and write a few things down. First and foremost, write down your long-term goal be it getting a new job, a better job or a secondary job. Next write down why you want this. Don’t be flippant about the reason why. Take a little while and really think about why you want this job-related goal. Is it money, prestige, a new challenge, to stay active, re-connect with the world, save up for something you want to purchase? Consider this; when you find that finding work is stressful and fraught with disappointment and rejection, you’re going to ask yourself, “Why am I putting myself through this?” Notice the question started with the word, “Why”.

Now instead of quickly running to some job board and seeing what’s there, take an inventory of your strengths. What are you good at? Write down your experience, education, courses you’ve taken, preferences and values. Are you up for part-time, full-time, contract, seasonal, commission, shift work, nights, weekends etc.? What’s your preference? What kind of environment do you thrive in best? Outdoors, indoors, steady or fast-paced? Do you work best alone or in groups? Are you a thinker or a doer? A designer or a worker? Do you work best with people, things, managing information or ideas? Are you creative and an innovator or do you perform best when the job is the same each day?

Now you need to devote some time in your new routine to actually job search. Many people believe that job searching is a full-time job itself. If you have the time at present due to a lack of employment then it should be. If however you already work full-time and are seeking a change, it’s unreasonable to expect yourself to find another 35 hours a week to look for another job. On the other hand, you won’t meet with success if you only dabble an hour here or there.

A plan is what you need. Something that will work for you personally. Look at your schedule and determine where you’re going to schedule the time to job search. Unless you live alone, you’ll generally be more successful too if you set aside a location as your personal space to job search from too.

Good ideas? Read up on job search strategies or book some time with a Job Coach – even a single meeting or two to get you going and possibly arrange for a check in later on. Libraries and book stores have great resources.

2017; your year for success!


Be Aware Of Your Routine

The last couple of weeks had me off on vacation. I suspect that if you are like me, when you have your own time away from work, your normal bedtime and getting up times change. I also found that my eating times changed – less rigid quite frankly. With a return to work, the routine of when to go to bed, rise, eat etc. have once again changed.

Now routine can be good or bad depending on how you perceive the routine in which you find yourself. I will admit that when my brain first engages in the morning and I shift between sleep and consciousness, there is part of me that knows the reason to get out of bed and commence the day at 5:00 a.m. is because it’s a work day. But really, I don’t begrudge that time to rise. It’s a quiet time from 5:00 a.m. – 6:00 a.m. which is when I start really getting ready to depart at 6:30 a.m. for work. Writing my blog during this hour and having a cup of tea is a routine that I look forward to almost every morning.

At work, there is a necessity to affix a block of time referred to as, ‘the lunch hour’. While at home, there is no need to eat at a rigid 12 noon or 1 p.m., but at work, where one’s schedule impacts on clients and co-workers alike, having a set and known hour for eating is not only a good idea, it’s mandatory. So  while I’ll eat at home when I’m hungry, I eat at work when the clock says it’s time.

It is routine that many who retire mention in their goodbye speeches that they are looking forward to breaking away from; doing things on their own schedules. It’s also routine that some refer to as being greatly missed by some spouses who have theirs changed with the retirement of their significant other. “Since Harold retired and is around the house all the time, my whole routine has changed.” The next thing you know, Harold’s wife is telling Harold to get a hobby; get a new routine!”

Now routine also has an adverse affect on many who find themselves out of work involuntarily. Whether it’s a layoff, termination or quitting, having one’s daily routine disrupted can be frustrating and annoying. To go from a work routine to no accountability whatsoever sounds great to some, but many aren’t prepared for the responsibility that comes with all this, ‘free time.’

Generally there are two different kinds of behaviour most people engage in when they find themselves out of work involuntarily. Either a person gets immediately into a new job search routine, or they give themselves a short break – a week or two at the most, to mentally adjust and process the change, and then get into a job search routine. There is an inherent danger I must caution you about a third alternative; not job searching seriously beyond 1-2 weeks, as you’re developing a routine whether you realize it or not no matter what you do, and if you put off really looking for work seriously, you may just not get into the routine that is required to be successful.

It may sneak up on you gradually, but months later, you could find you’ve developed a routine of sleeping late, breakfasting late, watching television, playing a video game or reading a book, lunching late, more television and then having dinner. Where did the day go? The discipline that went hand-in-hand with your work routine could well be lost as your home routine doesn’t seem to require it. Job searching when you are unemployed however does require self-discipline and a routine in order to stay motivated and ultimately be successful in getting your next job.

So just like at work, it’s not a bad idea to create your job search zone. It might be an office in your home or just a desk with a phone, computer, paper, pens, calendar and away from distractions like the television. When you go to this area, it’s like going to work; this is where you apply yourself with discipline. Save the couch and the living room for your ‘breaks’, and the kitchen for your eating area.

Here’s an image all too well-known to some; the job seeker who goes about looking for work from home while still in their pyjamas. Believe it or not, you’ll probably be more successful sooner if you don’t do this, and maintain the routine of getting dressed shortly after you rise. Everything you do will be done just a little better if you look and act the part. A phone interview in your pyjamas might cause you to actually take it more casually then you would if you were dressed and your hair brushed, teeth cleaned etc.

If you recognize that your routine is doing you more harm than good, it might be time to make a resolution now to change your routine. It is very empowering to take control of your situation even when you are out of work. Shaking off a poor routine and replacing it with a determined attitude and a designated schedule is a great start to finding your next job. The shift that goes on between your ears as you mentally refocus yourself is one benefit you’ll immediately realize as you change your routine for the better.

Build reward time into your routine, but only after applying yourself to the task at hand.





The Seduction Of A Warm Bed

My brain shifts from a world of dreams to wakefulness. It’s completely black outside my eyelids; I can tell without opening either of them’ Knowing I’m on my left side, it would require more than opening them quickly to see the time on the clock. It would require a 180 degree change of direction, and the energy to do that and then opening my eyes to see whatever the time is will make the escaping possibility of returning to sleep impossible.

The warmth of the comforter and the radiating heat from my body at rest makes the lure of remaining in status quo most desirable. However, with the brain now engaged, thoughts of the day ahead mixed with the events of the night before, sleep is slipping fast. As the time can’t be known for sure without breaking the darkness, I roll over and look to see the time; 4:50 a.m. Ten minutes to make the transition to full consciousness complete with covers thrown off, feet on the floor and the body upright instead of reclined.

I have found a contrast in how my body responds both to periods of employment and unemployment. When employed as is the case now, my routine is usually to start writing a blog at 5:00a.m., surf the net at 5:45a.m., shower at 6:00a.m. and out the door at 6:30a.m. for the 1 hour drive to work. That schedule gives me 1/2 hour of ‘me’ time at work before I officially start at 8:00a.m, or is useful in the event of detours, accidents, unforeseen delays of some manner.

At times in my life when I was unemployed, my brain must have had less of a reason to prompt the body to rise, for I remember waking up closer to 8:00 on a regular basis. I haven’t slept until 8:00a.m. for at least 15 years – not even on a weekend or day off.

Should you  be currently unemployed, do you find by chance that while your body may be at rest in bed, in what otherwise might be an entirely blissful existence, your brain in full consciousness can disrupt that harmonious state? You know, your thoughts unprompted turn within seconds to what you know you should do but probably won’t to look for work and so the second thing that arrives are feelings of guilt leading to lower self-esteem? And you’ve only been awake for 15 seconds? And it’s early in the morning when you’ve got every right to be slumbering and dozing; time which should be yours to enjoy guilt-free?

Worry and stress can do this to a person. You can find your sleeping patterns thrown off significantly if you are waking up way too early, and then without any real reason for staying awake, turning to sleep during the day to slip back into a deep guiltless sleep where their conscious thought gets turned off, and the stress of unemployment is lost for a time.

Of course sleep mid-afternoon or even prolonged periods of inaction can throw a routine of solid, deep sleep in which you get energy for the entire day ahead out the window. And therefore you might experience night after night of fitful sleeping; then taking a bath at 2:30a.m. to try to soothe your body to sleep, or pills to chemically shut down the brain, alcohol to dull clear thought and sleep.

Problem is that pills, booze – even the bath provide short-term solutions and you soon return to wakefulness and the stress of unemployment, now coupled of course with the guilt of turning to these things to try to escape.

It is routine that can possible help you combat the lack of quality sleep, lessen the guilt of unemployment and give you cause to feel good again about yourself. Working people do have routine; they get up at a set time, shower, dress, eat, pack lunches, do dishes, make beds, listen to the news and get out the door.

So if you are unemployed, you can wake at a set time, shower, dress, eat, do your dishes, make the bed so you don’t fall back in it, get your take on the news. Then you can get out the door if your day demands it, or you can scour the internet for jobs, update your resume, get your references, go to a computer class, check your email. If indeed job searching is a full-time job, don’t do this job in your pyjamas. Treat your job search like your full-time job and tackle it head on.

Maybe put on some lively music just as you step into the shower so as you exit, you’ve got something to keep you moving. No sad songs mind about losing some boy or girl, regretting the one you lost. Dare I suggest it, even disco at 7:00a.m. would be preferably so your mind is active, not starting the day mournfully singing a hurting song.

Scheduling your day before it dawns is a good strategy so your brain upon waking switches to what’s on the menu for the day instead of guilt over another day of the unknown and open calendar.

If you engage yourself, make the job search a project as one of my peers suggests, you’ll find at day’s end your brain has been occupied and the little grey cells firing. Then you’ll find perhaps that the seduction of a warm bed and guilt-free sleep is blissfully anticipated indeed.





A Routine Day

There’s a song by a Canadian band called Klaatu called, “A Routine Day”, that starts off with the line, “It started off a routine day, I got through the morning in the usual way”. There’s a lot of good advice for the Job Seeker in those simple 15 words.

Routine. Routine is defined as doing things that one usually does, which collectively creates a pattern of consistant behaviour. Hmmm…. and when you are out of work, isn’t it a sense of routine that you lack? Or more correctly put, isn’t it the abrupt CHANGE in routine that shocks you? You might find yourself wondering, “What will I do today?” or “If I was working, right now I’d be at my desk doing etc. etc.”

When things change in your life, some good advice is to maintain as much normalacy and control over the things you DO have the power to control. Routine is one of them. Oh sure, you can’t go to the office and just hang around when you don’t work there anymore! Obviously. However, you can still get out of bed at the same time, shower, shave, do your make up, get into clothing somewhere between your business and weekend attire, have your breakfast etc. and then dive into your day. Get on with reading papers, research the net for jobs and information on employers, stay up with training by looking into community colleges and universities.

Imagine the future question you’e going to be asked at your next interview that could go like this: “So, I see you left your last position 7 months ago. What have you been doing since then?” Telling the interviewer you’ve been playing your XBOX and catching up on some much needed nappy time in the middle of the day isn’t going to impress anybody. However, maintaining your daily routine, upgrading your skills, assessing your attributes, and seriously plotting your future direction which has resulted in you sitting across from the interviewer today will. Network, forge connections, learn more about Social Media Networking, take a computer class, work on your physical health if you need to.

Routine is not humdrum status quo activity, and it’s not about doing what you’ve always done and nothing new. You’ve got about 7 or 8 more hours everyday; 35 – 40 per week that you never had before. What a gift if you choose to see it that way. Find meaning in your new found free time. Working people don’t have the luxury that you now have. What a waste however, if you fall out of routine, and develop unproductive, destructive habits and these become your new routine over time.

And the best time to start a new routine? The day you ceased working at your last job. The 2nd best time to start a new routine? RIGHT NOW.

All the best.