Leaving your 9 to 5

There are a couple of ways of extrapolating yourself from the daily grind. The first is the direct method. You wake up one day and something inside of you feels different. You just know it’s the right time to make a change. So you march into the office defiantly and announce “here’s my two weeks’ notice.” Leaving your 9 to 5 like ripping off a bandaid.

The other is a more softly, softly approach. Putting the feelers out, doing your market research, trying to take on a few clients, giving yourself a safety net.

Leaving Your 9 to 5 Gradually

There are problems with both and benefits, too. I spent more than twelve months trying to leave my last job. For anyone who knows what it’s like working in a place you don’t want to be (two thirds of US workers) you’ll know how hard that is.

But I wanted to make sure I had enough work, or at least almost enough to not go completely cold turkey. The problem with this approach is that it’s never enough. And in the process, you end up working yourself to the bone.

Eight hours in your 9-5 (which let’s be honest, is one of the biggest misnomers of all time, like, who actually works just eight hours, these days?), plus all the extra time spent in the morning, evenings and weekends trying to jump start your project. It’s exhausting, demoralizing even.

You may even find that your mind is so busy that you dream about work in your sleep–if you get any. Working all the hours there are is not conducive to a healthy life, and you end up not giving your best to anyone. Not your main gig, not your side hustle and definitely not your family. YOLO, right? Stop spending every waking moment hunched over the keyboard.

It’s a veritable situation of chicken and egg. Especially in the face your ever worrying mom, asking if it’s really such a good idea and your dad who thinks you’ve lost your mind and should keep making payments towards your pension.

Then there’s the internal voice. That nagging, pesky demon that resides inside your head, “I’m going to fail,” “No one will ever buy my (insert your product here)”.

Nope, just upping and leaving your 9 to 5 at once has the great advantage that you liberate yourself mentally and physically from the big, fat obstacle keeping you from realizing your own projects.

But it doesn’t pay the bills.

Before you commit to the how of leaving your 9-5, there’s a few simple exercises you can do first. They won’t steal every moment of your free time and might just give you a little clarity.

Assess Your Personality

Ask yourself this: what kind of person are you? According to many sources, there are no less than 16 types of personalities. What kind of temperament you have will affect the way you go about making the leap.

Are you a strategic thinking “architect” who likes to have a plan for everything? Or a bold, imaginative “commander”, who always finds their own way? Would you be comfortable steering your own course, plunging into the deep water and seeing how well you swim? Or would you rather know how many meters there are between you and the shore?

Examine Your Commitments

Student loans to pay? Kids to feed? Friday night meetups at the bar? Whatever level of responsibility you have in your life will influence your decision. But, be careful not to exaggerate the size of your commitments, or hide behind them as an excuse for not leaving your 9 to 5.

Before I had my first child, I thought I was the busiest person in the world. I was so busy in fact that I didn’t have time to dedicate to my own projects or look for clients away from my main job. Then I had a baby.

There’s nothing like a major personal event to make you realize all that stuff you were busy with before could easily be worked around. Being constantly busy stops you from seeing the bigger picture. It clutters your mind and impairs your creativity.

Your wakeup call may not be an offspring. Perhaps it comes in the shape of a sick relative, natural disaster or reshuffle at work. You suddenly realize that all those commitments keeping you busy weren’t so important after all.

Grow Your Network

If you’re one of those people who’s too smug to get on social, you’d do well to start dipping in your toes into the pond. And if you’re an avid poster and oversharer, it’s about time you cleaned up your act.

Start expanding your network. Update your LinkedIn profile (if you can do that without getting noticed by your existing employer). Send out invites, grow your following, go to events, join Facebook groups, revisit old friends, meet people.

Nothing good happened in a vacuum. You’ll need all the support you can get when you’re out there on your own. And while you’re at it, make sure your profiles are clean. You may find the President-elect quite simply abhorrent, but it’s best to keep your ranting off your Twitter account.

Visualize Yourself Where You Want to Be

Ever since The Secret came out, it’s no secret that visualization is a powerful tool. Creative visualization is a solid mental technique which requires applying your imagination to make projections. Picture yourself exactly where you want to be and be as specific as possible.

If you want to be working from a penthouse, think about the furnishings, the view and what your desk looks like. Do it every day. The more you start seeing your future success, the more you’ll believe in it.

Scout Out The Competition

You can do this on an internet break at work or on the subway during your commute. Want to make jewelry? Check out what others are doing. Thinking about launching an app? Find out what else is out there. Not only will you get an idea of who you have to beat and what you have to go up against, but you’ll also identify their failings and figure out how you can do it better.

When you’re finally ready for leaving your 9 to 5, start making a solid plan. Get your credentials in check and start crunching the numbers. Whether you do it from the comfort of your employer’s facilities or you decide to rip the bandaid off first, get ready for the ride!

Christina is a copywriter, MBA, marketer, columnist and general life enthusiast with a love/hate relationship with monkeys.

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