This is a guest post contributed by Joyce Akiko. To submit your guest post to the blog, please review our contributor guidelines here.
I used to have thick, heavy nightmares that churned with images of my desk, my boss, and the anxiety triggered by both. Regrettably, waking up wasn’t the answer. I’d quickly realize that the real-life version of my dreams now awaited, and I would become immediately exhausted. It felt like I never not worked.
After months of a steady downward slide, I realized I was hitting rock bottom for my professional well being.
One day I took stock of my career: I was in a field I enjoyed, one I had worked hard to break into after getting a degree I later realized I didn’t want. The job itself? Less than ideal. I was overworked and underpaid, my boss was a micromanager, and I had no opportunities for growth. Instead of coming home every day with a sense of accomplishment, I came home feeling wiped. Limp and useless, I would become a shell of a person flicking through Netflix and drinking boxed wine.
I wanted out.
But what could I do? My resume was weak. I scanned it with a critical eye honed by a short stint in recruiting. The professional experience section was spotty, my education unrelated. With this kind of resume, I was going to end up in another soul-sucking job. Life, I thought, is too short to be unhappy 40+ hours a week.
I knew I had work to do, and in order to do that work, I had to find the time to do it.
I Became A Powerhouse of Productivity
It was time to make a massive effort in a new direction. It was time to maximize my capacity and make the most out of every single day so I could collect as much free time as possible. That free time, I thought, could be spent on actionable steps that would propel my career forward.
I gained several hours each week by doing 3 things:
1. I optimized the small stuff. After months of hating my job, I had grown sluggish and slow, especially with grunt work. What could have taken minutes was instead dragged out for half an hour. I did a quick audit of my day-to-day activities and identified the tasks that were taking too long, and I committed to getting those things done as soon as possible instead.
2. I stopped taking work home with me. I wasn’t getting paid extra to work extra and I wasn’t appreciated for it either, so I decided to just stop. This one step freed up tons of time outside of the 9-5 (my 9-5 was more like a 9-9 before I made this change).
3. I made a productivity schedule where my work day was blocked out in 2 hour increments each day. Every week I allotted my tasks to these slots. This cleared out a lot of space in my head because I knew exactly what I was doing and when. I was even able to reduce the amount of time I spent thinking about work when I wasn’t at work!
Increasing My Productivity Got Me Huge Results
Because I got so serious about increasing my productivity at work, I began to notice effects outside of work as well. Where previously I spent entire weekends bingeing on Netflix and chips, I found volunteering opportunities that beefed up my resume. Instead of moping at home every night, I got out and networked with influencers.
I also systematically built an online personal brand that established my voice in my field. I leveraged this brand to develop my expertise and showcase it to the world, with great success. In fact it was this personal brand, in conjunction with the network I had built, that became my greatest professional asset. I was able to leave my job and get an amazing new one, in a field where I had no degree, less than two months later.
Today, just over a year since hitting rock bottom for my professional well being… I can look back at that time and breath a huge sigh of relief.
Where I am now is a far, far better place.