Most people see their day jobs as prisons to escape from; a ball and chain around your ankle you dream to one day break free from.
If you hate your day job, it’s probably far from anything you would consider an asset or a gift. But what if it could be a tool to help you create your freedom business? What if seeing your job as something to escape from was actually keeping you trapped?
It’s easy to see your job as a means to an end. It’s just something to keep you afloat while you work on your real dream. Just a grind you deal with so you can use the rest of your time doing what you really want to do.
I think this is a short-sighted approach. Your job doesn’t have to be just a cage you want to break free from. When you view it in that way, I think it actually keeps you stuck.
When I was working at my day job, I would often commiserate and complain about how much I loathed it and dreamed of the day when I could finally say goodbye to it for good. Even though I was doing work that I kind of enjoyed, there were many things that frustrated me immensely.
Just to name a few…
- I didn’t like being told what to do (I think all entrepreneurs have some amount of control issues).
- I didn’t like being constrained to a schedule not determined by me.
- I didn’t particularly enjoy working with some of the people at my job. (Okay, some of them I couldn’t stand.)
But guess what? Complaining about those things only made me more attached to what I didn’t want. The more I brooded about my predicament, the harder it was for me create what I really wanted: working for myself and being in control of how I spent my time.
The more I resisted my current situation, the harder it was for me to move away from it. Rather than pushing against it, I needed to be like water crashing against a rock, completely submitting and therefore penetrating it. By not resisting the rock, the water can transform it over time into sand.
I eventually realized that I needed to stop resisting and work with what was supposedly holding me back. I had to turn my adversary into an ally.
How I turned my greatest nemesis into my greatest ally
The first step — like most things — for me started with changing my mindset. Rather than seeing my job as evil and despising it every waking minute, I started to try viewing it in a more positive light.
After all, when I thought about it, it provided we with a lot of nice things. It helped give me a stable income while I worked toward building my own business. It allowed me to hone valuable skills that I would eventually use when publishing my first ebook — like learning how to use InDesign. It also helped me to be humble. I had to accept that while this wasn’t my dream job, it wasn’t that bad; there are a lot of other people that have it worse.
I had to remember, too, that while there was a huge gap between where I wanted to go and where I was now, the people I admired worked extremely hard to get there. It’s easy to be jealous when you see people skyrocket to success and fame over night. But rarely is it that simple or that glamorous. What you don’t see is the years of work that led up to the delicious fruits of their hard labor.
My day job also taught me how to be patient. When you’re working towards creating your own freedom, rarely do you see the yields of your efforts instantaneously. Building a business is more like farming than hunting. You till your beds, you plant your crops, and cultivate them for weeks or months before you ever reap the rewards.
Building a business while working for someone else taught me a lot about having patience and faith that this was all going to pay off eventually.
Starting to make the transition
Once I started seeing my job as a gift, I began to look for ways that it could help me achieve my ultimate goal of leaving it. I began to see it as a nest preparing me for flight and I looked for all the ways it could help me start training for the day I would finally spread my wings.
One of the greatest benefits of my job was how relaxed they were about “face time” and how much time you spent at your desk. Their main concern was that you got your work done and that it was done well. Because of that, I found ways to optimize and streamline my work to be able to finish it in about 60% of the time it was supposed to take.
A lot of the work I did was recurring and predictable which presented a lot of opportunities for optimization. Prior to my being there, there were little or no processes in place for most tasks, and the ones that were there were inefficient. By creating really clear steps for each task and set of tasks within various projects, I was able to cut out a lot of the fat from my work day.
I also found ways to automate certain parts of my work. One example was a part of my job that required printing of certificates after they were awarded to an employee. Normally these were all input by hand, but I found a way to create a database of all the employees, and through a quick search and select, had the program insert all the data into the certificate and print it automatically.
Little things like that might not seem like much, but over the course of weeks or months they start to add up.
Of course I was fueled by an urgent motivation. Any time I could save or optimize could be applied to the business I was working to build. And I wanted this, badly.
With any “free time” I had I would work on a blog post, network, or do something to improve my website. Sometimes that was at lunch, other days I would finish my day job work early and cram in as much work as I could on my legacy work before leaving for the day. Because my employer was concerned with performance and not churning, they were absolutely okay with me working on personal projects as long as my core work didn’t falter.
Each day working on my freedom business added up slowly and contributed to my ultimate goal of working for myself. Step by step, I got closer and closer to the summit.
Final preparations for the leap
While reframing my mindset and optimizing my work helped, I knew it could only bring me so far. If I really wanted to make this transformation happen, I had to get out of the nest and start stretching my wings.
In order to do that, I had to do two things:
- I needed to build a safety net of savings my wife and I could fall back on in case things went south after I quit my job.
- I needed to create more time for the business in order to really gain some serious momentum.
Because my wife and I had always lived within our means and were pretty frugal, our expenses were fairly low. We didn’t have a car payment or any debt at the time, and were able to live on about $2,000-$2,500 a month. We felt pretty good about having three months of expenses in savings before I took the leap, so we set a goal of $7,500 for our quitting fund.
Strangely, the more our savings grew, the more I found myself thankful for my job. It was literally funding my freedom. Without it, I couldn’t achieve my dreams.
As our savings grew, I began formulating a plan to modify my work schedule. Most people don’t think that their work is very flexible and that there’s no way they could work from home two days a week, or move from a 40 hour a week to a 20 or 30 hour a week schedule. I’ve asked a lot of these people if they’ve ever considered asking their employer to work from home or change their schedule and the answer is usually “No.”
I’m always surprised to hear this. I think we make way too many assumptions about how flexible our day jobs really are.
So, here’s an idea: Create a proposal talking about what exactly you want out of your work and how you want to customize it. That might mean working four instead of five days a week, or working from home more often. Whatever it is, craft a pitch to your boss and talk about all the reasons why this is going to benefit them.
That’s what I did. I talked to my boss about how they were going to save money with me only working four days a week and how I was going to be even more focused and effective when I was there.
And guess what? They were totally fine with it. I was nervous and thought it wouldn’t work, but it did.
Working only four days a week at my day job allowed me the time and focus I needed to really build momentum with my dream job the remaining three days of the week. It gave me the time I needed to launch my first product and create a job replacement income from my business.
You can use your day job as a springboard, too
If you’ve been hating your job and feel trapped by it, I get it. I really do. It’s not easy.
It’s not fun feeling like someone else is renting out your mind for 40-60 hours a week. It’s not easy when you can’t stand the people you didn’t choose to work with.
But, in the meantime, why not accept and even appreciate what you have now? It may not be where you ultimately want to be, but why not use it as a vehicle for helping you get there, rather than a ball and chain that’s keeping you stuck?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Have you ever felt trapped by your day job? What did you do to change how you felt about it?