Flexibility, learning, creativity – my career break one month in

It’s now one month since my last day in corporate world – a day on which my erstwhile work laptop unceremoniously, and perhaps significantly, gave up the ghost at 5pm.

I’m using this mini milestone as a chance to reflect on everything this past month has thrown at me – what’s been wonderful, what’s been tough, and what’s been unexpected.

What I’m finding wonderful

The greatest gift of my new way of living is flexibility. I’m able to work in a way that suits me.

I work to my strengths

I’m not a morning person, as anyone who’s tried inviting me to a meeting before 9am knows. I now ease myself into my working day with a quick email/social media check at 8am before breakfast; then get into full-on work mode at around 9.30am.

I’m not a slave to the 9-5 routine

I’m putting in around 45 hours a week between this website and my volunteer work, but I work the hours when I’m at my best. I’m a bit of a night owl, so I’ll work then if I’ve not got evening social plans. Equally, if I feel like having a coffee with a friend on a mid-week afternoon, I will. Being able to say, “yes” to weekday social invitations is extremely liberating. It doesn’t matter if I draft an article at 10am or 11pm, so long as it gets published on time.

The benefits of this type of flexibility is something employers are starting to cotton on to, as this blog post from Virgin’s Richard Branson testifies. New UK legislation effective from the end of June 2014 gives employees the right to request (but not necessarily be granted) flexible working.

I’ve learnt more than I thought I would

I’ve learnt more in the last three months than I have in the last three years. I cried when I had that moment of realisation – nothing has reinforced my career break choice more positively.

I’ve built web pages, got to grips with book-keeping, been on courses for search engine optimisation and social media, and lapped up the learning-from-each-other posts on bloggers’ forums.

I can work where I want

my outside office - my career break one month in

My office. With mostly-alive plants.

My office is my back yard. Sometimes – but not often – all the plants are alive :-).

Working outside means I now have a sun tanned glow – something I’d not appreciated until my mum asked me: “Are your legs really that colour?” Perhaps she thought it was dirt?

A few times a week I work for a couple of hours in one of York’s many independent coffee shops. The change of scenery and lively atmosphere gets my creative juices flowing. One unexpected benefit is that I’m discovering loads more of these places. I’m now making it my mission to try out somewhere new at least once a week.

When it comes to my future travel plans, coffee shops and accommodation with wi-fi will be my new best friends.

What I thought I’d find difficult, but haven’t

Not working with others

A lack of social interaction was what I feared most about my career change. I love the buzz of a social environment and the ability to easily run ideas past people.

I’ve had to adapt how I work to make sure I still have the opportunity for interaction. I sound ideas out with friends and family instead of colleagues. I volunteer a couple of mornings a week. I spend time surrounded by the buzz of coffee-drinkers.

What I expect will be tricky in the future

The UK weather

avoiding snow - my career break one month in

When the UK weather looks like this – I’ll be somewhere warm 🙂

Working outside is great in the warmth of July; it’s not going to be so rosy in a damp November. Fortunately I’ll know ALL the cool coffee hangouts by then. And I’m heading to Miami, Nicaragua & Colombia when it’s 5 below.

Not getting paid for a while – and maybe longer

Although I’ve budgeted for a few months sans income, this is still a toughie for me. If I’m honest, I’m a bit funny about money. Not about spending it, but about the prospect of not being financially independent – ever. I’m making spending adjustments now so I get used to spending less.

Gym membership? Gone. It’s summer, I can go for a run.

Hair cut every five weeks. Really? Every FIVE weeks? Make it every nine.

Shoe shopping. Nope. I don’t need shoes for the office … because I’m not working in an office. “But they’re so beautiful,” says my inner voice. I fear this is the one I may lapse on.

What I’ve found really tough so far

Having enough time

I know that sounds ridiculous, given that I quit my job. But there’s sooooooo much I want to do. My mind has been freed from routine, so it’s racing ahead in its creativeness: future websites, e-books, marketing campaigns and a whole lot more. Sometimes I need to remind myself to take a proverbial “chill pill,” put down the computer, and realise I can’t do everything. At least not yet.

Walking away from a charitable organisation

I’ve been volunteering at home in the UK. Whilst the work with Marie Curie Cancer Care has been brilliant, sadly I didn’t have the same positive experience with another charity.

This really cut me up, particularly as their cause was one I was personally passionate about. I churned over options with friends and former colleagues for weeks, before politely explaining I’d no longer be able to work with them.

Their response? Complete silence. That told me I’d made the right choice, but it was still a sad one to have to make.

Some of the techie stuff

It’s HARD. Fortunately this doesn’t apply to everything technology-related, but it does in the battle of Julie vs CSS code (which makes my website work). I’m celebrating every small success. My next Julie vs CSS code battle will be working out how to make my comments “reply” text appear in white rather than black.

To wrap up

no shoe shopping on my career break

Sigh

So far, I’d sum up this first month as 90% positive. Not bad, eh? Flexibility – and the enhanced creativity that’s brought me; and the myriad of learning opportunities are by far outweighing any (hopefully temporary) loss of income.

As to that pesky CSS code? Well, I might have to buy shoes when I figure it out.

What have you found to be wonderful / tough / unexpected when you’ve taken time away from work? Would you have done anything differently? Share your experiences below.

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