How to keep yourself productive while jobless

Self development is a lifelong process. You need not be enrolled in school to acquire new knowledge and skills. You just need to be mindful of how you make use of your time and other resources at hand.

Leaving a job and switching careers, while probably the most difficult thing a professional can do, can also be the most rewarding phase of one’s life.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, it’s a chance, a very rare chance, that you get to do a personal strategic planning. And because doing so takes time, it can be boring and frustrating at times. So how can you keep your sanity while in this phase? Assuming that, like me, you have also already started decluttering and simplifying your life, what next? Besides making the most of your indefinite vacation to rest, recharge, and bond with family and friends, here are some things you can do.

1. Learn

There are a lot of free online courses that you can enrol in. By taking one or several courses, you get to improve or update knowledge and skills that you already have, or acquire new ones – at no cost and at your own pace. Best of all, you don’t have to worry about tough assignments, costly projects, or failing the course! I’ve only tried Open to Study but there are a lot of interesting international learning sites that offer a myriad of likewise interesting courses. I’ve also tried a government agency-sponsored course via the TESDA, which reminds me I have yet to finish my cooking course there hehe.

You can also line up books to read and audios/videos to listen to/watch. Opt for those tackling personal development and core competencies improvement. If you are a development worker, you might want materials on development effectiveness, social impact, NGO management, and the likes. If you are planning to start a business, read up on business startups, basic accounting, digital marketing, etc. If you want to improve your literary writing skills, reading novels and other literary works are the ones for you. Whatever your field of interest is, don’t miss on improving yourself – your communications skills, stress management skills, financial management skills, and of course your physical health and overall wellbeing.

2. Apply for jobs and scholarships

Whether or not you still want to be an employee or be your own boss, looking up and applying for jobs keeps you updated of the professional world. Reading the job descriptions and qualifications, you get to see what skills are in demand out there that you might want to also acquire, even the technologies and systems that industries are now making use of. Applying for jobs also exposes you to the application process where you have to really think from customizing your CV and cover letter to answer exam questions in writing, ans verbally if you reach the interview stage, thus improving your communication, self-marketing, negotiation and dressing-up… yes! dressing-up skills.

The same goes with applying for scholarships. Whether you’re decided or otherwise on being a student one again, the process is a very intellectually challenging and stimulating one. You have to read and comprehend every detail from the moment you consider a scholarship program, and squeeze your brain out to answer application questions. It gets more exciting when you are longlisted and asked to take a psychometric exam to be shortlisted.

If you think these are for you, do take it very seriously, be highly optomistic, but at the same time, be ready to accept rejection and failure. The processes alone are already learning curves.

3. Keep simplifying

Minimalism and zero-waste living is not a one-off activity. Rather, it’s a process, a lifelong commitment that you consciously put into practice every single minute. You buy something, you think about how it may re-clutter your home. You eat something, you think about how it can possibly pollute your body. You ignore a call to action, say in favor of indienous peoples’ claim on their ancestral domain, you reflect on how it will impact the people and the environment. Ooops, the last one may already sound too big an issue to touch upon. But hey, isn’t that what minimalism and zero-waste living about? Letting go of material things so that we can focus on things that really matter? Reusing, recycling, and above all refusing waste so that we can save our one and only mother earth?

4. Grow some herbs or vegetables

My mom has a container garden on our roofdeck. It’s nice to water the plants and even nice to harvest them for food or as a natural remedy. I discovered, however, that planting them and seeing them grow is a lot nicer. It’s so amazing to see calamansi seeds germinate on a wet paper towel after a week or two, or a whole bunch of tomato seeds germinate after forgetting to take them out of the water for several days; or kangkong, calamansi, lemongrass and ampalaya growing after having composting them. For me it’s like… Wow, if I had a farmlot I can literally just throw seeds and vegetable scraps and I will have food on my table and extras to sell to neighbors! It also reconnects me to God seeing how generous He is that way.

5. Ecobrick

As I shared in my previous post, ecobricking is a meditative process. Everytime I consume or use something that has plastic, I immediately cut them into inches and stuff them into a mineral water bottle (during which I incessantly sing Sia’s “I push it down, I push it do-o-own…Aaaam gonna swiiiing from the chandelieeeeeer, from the chandelieeeeer). Besides reaffirming environmentalism in me each time I do it, ecobricking moments are also those when a lot of thoughts, ideas, and reflections come to me.

6. Blog

Thoughts, ideas and reflections offer you a better future if you put them in writing and share with others, friends and strangers alike, for some feedback.

Writing alone helps you reflect further, systematize your thoughts, and cement your ideas. Moreover, it is a very good exercise for sharpening your writing skills and widening your vocabulary.

Putting it out there can affirm, reinforce or correct your thinking. It doesn’t matter if you have a huge following or not. Remember that the purpose is not to be popular but to get your thoughts out there, brainstorm with other people, and see things from different perspectives. It also connects you to new people who might be of help (or in need of your help) or become your friends for life!

7. Go out

Well, I don’t mean go out to merely have fun, though I’m not against that either. But the kind of going out that people rarely think about is immersing in communities to discover their purpose in life and give back to humanity. True, life is already stressful enough, but seeing how depressed communities need people like you, and how you can help even when you don’t have that much can be unbelievably, overwhelmingly fulfilling and life-changing. An important note though: charity is good, but solidarity is better. That is, helping is a good start but is not enough. Solidarity – empowering people and being one with them so that they can stand on their own and fight the root causes of their poverty is more transformative is what poor people really need.

The latest community visit I did was to a couple of farming communities identified as partner-beneficiaries of an organic farming project. According to the project proponent, they aim to help these communities start a communal organic farm. They are in the production and technical assistance phase. My commitment is to help with marketing the products, a capacity that they lack and need help with. They told me that farmers often lament that, after engaging in labor-intensive organic farming, they have no market acceas at the end of the day 😧

What do you think of these? Any suggestions? Are they your cup of tea? If not, what do you do to keep yourself productive during jobless periods or any other lull moments of your life?

Lifestyle change: towards minimalism and zero-waste living

Because personal strategic planning can take some time, it’s very helpful to be doing productive things along the way. It not only saves you from boredom, it also helps you reflect on things, visualize the future you want, or even try things out to know which ones you want to keep doing long term. You get to do just anything and somewhere along the way ask yourself, “am I enjoying it? Why and for how long? Is this something I want to be doing for the rest of my life? If not, then what do I really want?”

But again, answers to those questions don’t come quick, especially for someone like me who has a wide variety of interests.

One thing, though, that is helping me towards that is consciously simplifying my life – which, well, also takes time.

Going minimal and striving for a zero-waste life; and ensuring that every little thing I do is productive and in line with that.

How do you go minimal? Here’s what I do:

Stop.

First of all, stop. Before hitting the mall, stop and take a close look at what you already have. “Which of these do I use and how often?” You will be surprised to learn that, unless you’re a fashionista (or a wannabe), you only have a few favorites, a few that you often use. Separate these and think about what best to do with the ones you don’t use often, if at all. Think about the dust and molds they’ve collected, the space they consume, the time and effort you need to move them around when cleaning, the feeling of not having to worry about keeping them in good condition while stored for long periods, how much you would earn if you sell them, or how happy someone would be if you give it to them. Letting go can be hard to do especially if those things have sentimental values, are expensive or rare, and are beautiful and still in good condition. That is where you see the beauty of minimalism. It challenges you to overcome your attachment to material things so that you can focus on non-material ones: relationships, productivity, life. It challenges you to have control and power over things, instead of letting those things control and exercise power over you.

Care and dispose off properly

Once you’ve stopped and figured out what must stay, know how to care for them properly, dispose off (properly too!) those that need to go, and stop buying things you don’t need.

“Need” can be very tricky a term though, because companies are very adept at making people believe they need this and that much. That’s why it’s very important to be critical of product/service endorsements and really resist the habit of rationalizing the act of buying mere wants, not needs. Instead of “my phone takes a lot of time to recharge, i need a new one”, why not say, “my phone is still working I will use it until it crashes, meanwhile I will allocate money on savings or something more important.” If my 5-year old Nokia C6 was returned to me when I lost it a couple of years ago, it would surely still be my phone up to now. It fell so many times, had keypad problems (which miraculuously self-healed after a year!) but I stuck to it til the end (aww I miss it).

I am not yet done with decluttering (for the nth round), but I sure have long stopped buying things I don’t need.

One good outcome of not accumulating stuff is that it makes your space a more relaxing place to stay and easier to manage.

Refuse.

To maintain or even improve this atmosphere, refuse waste. This requires being mindful of the needs you buy, e.g. buying only stuff that have minimal, eco-friendly packaging, refusing single-use plastic each time you buy your groceries, etc. For example, when buying biscuits, I pick the one in boxes and make sure that its contents are not individually wrapped. If there’s none like that, I pass on it, after all, it’s not a matter of life and death.

Segregate and recycle.

A further step is segregating and recycling. When I learned about composting, I noticed that we didn’t have to throw bagfuls of garbage every single day. All the more when I learned about and started to make ecobricks (plastic bottles stuffed with plastic for use in construction of houses, etc.). These are made a lot easier by waste segregation. Before, I had to scavenge for those that can be ecobricked from our bin full of all sorts of garbage (yikes). Because words aren’t enough to keep family from mixing them all together, I put labels of what to put where. And that works, somehow.

But minimalism and zero-waste living are only easy when you live on your own. With other people such as family who do not share the same values and are so comfy with the dominant consumerist, throw-away lifestyle, it is very challenging. You have to be very patient and also assertive and persistent in raising their consciousness. That’s another blog entry.

Meanwhile, these decluttering and simplification measures are very meditative. As I practice them, I get to know and strengthen my values. I realize that, apart from being involved in the societal level (mass actions and campaigns, e.g. for the environment), I can internalize my environmentalist spirit, for one, at a very deeply personal level, every second of every day.

Finally! Simple yet great resources for personal strategic planning

I’ve been looking up resources online for several weeks now and yet I still have not had that eureka moment until I came across Bryan Tracy’s videos. Unlike other videos and articles, his’ are very concise and easy to follow. Add to that his gentle tone and humble aura, which made me feel like getting life tips and advice from a grandpa best friend haha.

His “How to craft a 5-year plan” instantly lit a bulb in my head and made me want to check out another of his video, “How to create an action plan”, which I likewise enjoyed. I appreciate these two a lot that I immediately decided to write this blog entry and will click the subscribe button in a few second.

I am just very happy because, for some reason, despite being confident that I can make a personal strategic plan because I’ve made (with colleagues) yearly and 5-year plans at work, I’ve been having difficulties crafting my own; I’ve referred to various materials already, I appreciate them all, but this one just gave me that ‘aha!’ moment. I think my plan will have more shape and details beginning today. Yey!

Here’s the link to one of the videos, and from there, go ahead subscribe to his channel!

www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCHgUp89qRM

Decluttering for a fresh beginning… and for a cause

I don’t really own a lot, except for clothes, bags and shoes from second-hand shops and from my sister who lllloves dressing up. Still, I always feel the need to declutter.

My closet used to be overflowing with stuff that I didn’t wear the same clothes within the same month (and spent an hour or so mix-and-matching them up. Eventually, I totally stopped buying and just made do with my sister’s hand-me-downs. With my sister (who owns tons of clothes) quite regularly giving me those that she dint like or dint fit her anymore, the urge to have new ones disappeared and was replaced by the itch to give away stuff, i.e. declutter.

Indeed, I’ve given away stuff many times before. Yet, what may be little to normal people still seems a lot to me. The desire to declutter is even stronger these days as I am about to start a new year, a new chapter of my life.

Decluttering one’s space is very relieving to the mind and body. It helps me think clearly. And not having to deal with a lot of material things gives me more time to think about and do more important things like learning, interacting with people, etc.

This time, I am decluttering to further simplify my life, enable me to focus on my personal strategic planning, and finally, to help a friend in need – I, together with a couple of friends, will sell our stuff to raise funds to help with the hospitalization expenses of her mother, currently battling stage 4 breast cancer.

We initially thought of selling online – simply by taking photos and asking friends who might be interested to buy or just help. Luckily, there’s this Facebook group called reDress that organizes monthly flea markets in line with its advocacy to minimize waste from the fashion industry. After weeks of waiting, there we were selling our stuff making buyers happy for such cheap goodies.

Oh, that souvenir green sling bag from a Nepali colleague still gives me heartaches. Oh well, the pain of letting go. I regret it still so I will just remind myself that it suits the fashion sense of the person who bought it, and that it’s in good hands and will be used instead of kept in the closet.

Entering the 30s jobless and loveless? Fret not. Here’s what to do.

I grew up in a place where people dont like the idea of getting old; where people are flattered and always like to be mistaken to be younger than they actually are.

Thanks to a friend of mine – for whatever reason, she states her age right away when asked. I saw how people reacted with “rrreally? You dont look like it!” That was way back 2013.

That made me do the same thing. I realized since then that’s better than asking people to guess your age as many people here do (because they love to find out if people think they’re young) or avoiding the question altogether. (Luckily, I get the same “i thought you were only blah blah!” Hehe. After all, who does not want to be perceived young?)

Growing a year older is not something to dread or fear or be ashamed of. Yes, even if your age is nowhere to be found in the calendar, even if you happen to be jobless or loveless or both on the day you turn 30 something. It will happen no matter what.

So what are the best things to do when you’re turning 30 (or any age), jobless and loveless? Here’s what I do.

5. Take a break. Especially if you’ve worked like there’s no tomorrow, take a break. Go on vacation, sleep all day, do nothing or anything (harmless) that you enjoy or find interesting for a few days to a couple of weeks. In my case, I stayed home, took online courses and did whatever productive thing I could think of. Not fun, yes, but it satisfied the cravings of my mind. Doing just anything I could think of lets me know myself better.

4. Declutter. As soon as you get tired of doing nothing or just anything, go over your stuff and get rid of those that you almost never use. Besides helping you overcome your attachment to material things, the process allows for some reflection. You need not do it in one sitting and only once in your life.

3. Reflect. Think about your past. Br careful not to dwell on reliving tit, especially the painful and ugly memories in your head. Instead, focus on the lessons it taught you. Write these lessons down as these will help you with the next best thing to do.

2. Do a personal strategic planning. Keeping the lessons learned in mind, visualize who you want to be or what kind of life you want to live in the next five years. Make that vision very clear and write them down. They these two- visuization and writing down- are very important and are actually keys to achieving what your mind conceives. I didnt know that when I first wrote down my midterm and longterm plans back in college (14 years ago) but I find that it’s always nice to have something to look back to see if you were able to achieve what you intended to do way back when. So there, visualize and write down your life goals!

1. Say ‘thank you’. Being jobless and loveless in your thirties is no reason to fret growing another year older. It’s another yearlong chance to strive to get what your heart desires! 😍 So be grateful and say thank you to your Creator, to the people around you, to yourself or to whoever. Just feel grateful and you will feel great.