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the juggle

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Juggling Work With Passion: Leaving Work at 6 PM Sharp

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For the past few months, I’ve had trouble leaving work early. My hours are 9-6, and I used to be able to hop merrily home 6 on the dot, but now it’s usually 9-7 or 9-8. And on very stressful days, 9-9. Add another 80 minutes of commute time on top of that and you have a zombie Aina.

I have friends who keep much more frightening hours (9-11 whaaaat?) and I’m still demoralized by the fact that I had to leave work late. I can’t imagine how my friends feel.

But because the month of November has been a super special kind of hell, I was forced to reconsider how I work and when I should send in my resignation letter (Just kidding! Or maybe not...) Here are my thoughts on work:

 

1) It’s hard to juggle work and passion when you feel like you need to prioritize work.

It’s work that pays my bills. It’s work that pays Narrativity’s bills. (Running this blog has some overhead!)

I wish I could care less about work, like I can shrug it off by 6 pm, but it’s not possible. Narrativity may make me happy, but work has the potential to make my life absolutely stinking miserable (if I neglect it). So when it’s like that, it’s hard to not to feel like I should prioritize work more.

For example: Sudden strike of inspiration, feeling like I want to stay up until 3-4 am to write and design and etc.

  • Inspired me: Yes! Let’s do this all night long!
  • Work me: Don’t be crazy (aka stupid). Sleep now or you won’t meet your deadlines tomorrow.

It’s hard to know which voice to listen to, you know? Of course I want to focus on Narrativity, because it's really my passion.

BUT, I owe it to my job to give it my best. My employers pay me a salary every month. (Narrativity pays me nowhere enough. Yet.)

So when I’m thinking like this, it’s hard to pack up my stuff when the clock turns 6. I keep seeing the things in my in-tray and I’m thinking:

If I don’t do this today, I’m gonna rush like crazy tomorrow. Let’s do just a little bit more so that tomorrow is less hellish. I’ll go back an hour, two hours later so that I can get this done. It’s just one/two hours.

But guess what? IT’S THE SAME THING THE NEXT DAY. Which brings me to my next point...

 

2) Work never ends and you can count on this fact.

Most of my colleagues have been at the company I work at for years. So when they see me still at my desk at 6:

Them: Aina, kenapa tak balik lagi?

Me: Ada banyak lagi tak siap nanti esok rushing.

Them: Balik la Aina. Nak tunggu kerja habis, memang takkan habis.

I used to think, easy for you to say! You’re not the one feeling MY stress! (Then I start getting bitter about the amount of work I’m getting...)

But you know what, they’re RIGHT and I’m WRONG. Work never ends.

If it does end, then I won’t have a job anymore because I won’t be doing anything. I have a job BECAUSE there’s work to do. Count on the fact that work never ends. Yes, there will be busy seasons and chill seasons — but again, work never ends. There’s ALWAYS something you can do at work. (Or there’s always something your boss will tell you to do)

So in that case — what am I waiting for?

  • WHY am I putting my life, my passion on hold for the day when there’s no work to do?
  • WHY am I postponing things that will make me feel fulfilled for the time when my tray is empty?
  • WHY THE HECK do I put in 1-2 extra hours when I could use those extra hours to work on my passion? I can’t even claim overtime!

It’s like those cartoons when the character is trying to empty a boat full of holes in the middle of the sea but the water just keeps pouring in. Work will just keep pouring in. It’s you who has to plug the holes and go on to live your life.

 

3) Work doesn’t need more time, work needs better strategies.

A big part of my motivation to do overtime is I hate getting phone calls from colleagues chasing deadlines.

  • “Aina, bila boleh dapat ... eh?”
  • “Aina, saya punya ... dah siap?”
  • “Aina, nak tanya pasal ...”
  • “Aina, next meeting ... haribulan tau, kena siap before that tau”

I can’t even go to the pantry without bumping into one of the deadline-chasers. I started feeling more and more harrassed that I willingly put in overtime just so that I could give them what they want and stop feeling harrassed. But that’s not solving the REAL problem.

There will always be urgent work. The next urgent thing. I can’t control that. What I can control is how I manage the urgent work. Here's some of the skills that I plan to build up so that it's not so nightmarish:

A) Negotiate for more reasonable deadlines and expectations. Not every deadline people give or ask for is set in stone. There's room for negotiation, if you ask.

B) Priorize deadlines according to actual importance. Not everything is urgent, despite all those 'URGENT' sticky notes.

C) Shrug off the frustration fast eventhough people are rude and things keep going wrong. I can't control other people, I can't control how things have happened. I can only control my blood pressure.

D) Stand up for yourself and take initiative to improve processes to make it more convenient for YOU. No matter how junior you are, if you have ideas on how things can be improved at your workplace, execute those ideas. Start with yourself, then start proposing them to other people.

I used to be one of those people that won't read on career tips. I'll be like, nahh. I don't plan to work at a company for too long. I want my own business!

But if I'm gonna be spending a lot of time at work anyway, and I'm constantly getting stress-related health problems, I have to make this thing work. I'm still no corporate lady, but it's getting a tiny bit more bearable.

 

4) Commit one small act of rebellion every day.

When it’s JUST work, the days blend together. I was trying to list down my weekly expenses the other day and I got confused about what I did or ate. It's like every day is the same shitty day. LOL.

And it's such a shame when this happens. I want my days to count, but they're all one big mushy pile of blahblahblah. Tedium. Routine.

That's what I think it's so important to rebel against the routine every day. Even if you do it on a small scale.

For me, my small act of rebellion is bringing my laptop to work and working on my e-guide for one hour before work starts. (From 7.30-8.30 am)

The difference that hour makes is amazing. It's just one hour, but it helps me feel like the day is already great. Whenever a problem crops up, my mind goes, NOT TODAAAAY, [expletive].

And I manage to get over that problem quickly instead of marinating in the stress. Because I'm a REBEL!

If you're like me and you've been feeling grey and blahblahblah, I encourage you to rebel. Create something eventhough it sucks. Plan for that Youtube video you've been wanting to film. Outline your blog post. Post your artwork on Instagram.

You have more than just work, you have your passion with you!

 

How do you juggle between work and passion? Agree/disagree on anything I wrote? Leave a comment below. You know I'd love to hear from you.

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A Day In The Life: How I Juggle My Job & Blog

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Before I begin, I wanna start off by giving you a little background info about, well, me!

I'm a 25 year old who works as a legal executive at a company in the financial services sector (like a bank), located in KL. I live in Shah Alam, so I commute to work by taking the KTM.

I live with my parents and little brother. Another brother is in Japan, doing his degree. (Side note: It's my lifelong dream to travel to Japan) 

A perfect day out for me is watching a really epic sci-fi or fantasy movie at the cinema (and all the trailers because I love trailers) and then reading a book at a cafe somewhere while eating dessert. I love getting lost in stories. I don't know why I'm telling you this particular fact... But maybe I should a take a day to do this. It's been a while.

Anyway, what I wanted to talk about in this post is juggling a job with a business, a blog, or a passion.

All jobs are stressful in their own ways. There's no escaping stress. But I'm sure a lot of people think, even for just a minute, about how good it would feel to be their own boss and run their own business. Selling or doing something they really LOVE.

Most times the main motivation is not even money. The true goal is getting the freedom to do what you want, when you want.

I'm no stranger to that. I want to be my own boss too. So what I'm doing now is juggling my job with my blog by dedicating time to both. This way, I don't have to sacrifice my dreams for financial stability.

So I came up with a routine to make the best of my limited time. I know I'm not the first to do it, nor is my routine unique. But I'd thought it'd be nice to share it with you. I'm gonna share in the context of my blog, but you can definitely apply it to your business or passion. 🙂

 

My routine changes up depending on what 'season' I'm in: ON or OFF.

What my 'On' Season looks like

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My ON seasons are basically days when I feel extremely -- extremely -- motivated to work on my blog. It's those days when physical and mental exhaustion don't affect my motivation to just DO. 

Someone pissed me off at work? Psshhh, who cares. I'm just brimming with ideas.  

Here's a breakdown of what my ON day looks like: 

  • 6.30 am - Wake up & get ready for work
  • 7.35 am - Leave house to go to the KTM station
  • 7.55 am - Browse my favourite websites while waiting for KTM
  • 8.05 am - Get on KTM and write (if I get a seat or manage to lean on a wall). If I have to hang on to the handheld thingy for dear life, I just read blog posts or ebooks on business
  • 9.00 am - Work
  • 1.00 pm - Write on my phone, office computer or notebook*
  • 2.00 pm - Work
  • 7.00 pm - Wait for KTM and write on my phone
  • 7.15 pm - Get on KTM and write again (see 8.05 am)
  • 8.05 pm - Drive home and discuss certain blog post / newsletter points with myself out loud**
  • 8.20 pm - Reach home and rest, and spend time with family
  • 10.30 pm - Cross off tasks on my to-do list that require a computer (e.g. Designing blog post headers, formatting blog post). If I finish early, I spend more time with family
  • 12.30 am - Sleep

As is normal with any office slave (haha), I only have short windows of time during the day. So I try to do the bulk of my writing during those short windows. My brain is fried by the time I get home, so, yeah.

* To save time, I buy 2 packs of the same food for breakfast AND lunch. Or I'll eat lunch that my mum has packed for me. (Thanks Mama!) This saves about 15-30 minutes that I would have spent if I went out to buy food.

** Yes, I talk to myself a lot. Rather than get the hated writer's block in front of the laptop, I discuss the points out loud as if I'm talking to a friend. It helps me clarify my thoughts and write more naturally. (I explained more about it here)

 

What my 'off' Season looks like 

OFF days are days when life doesn't feel so good. I may have woken up late, my stomach may be hurting, work may be extra stressful, or I'm just generally BLERH.

On these kind of days, my principle is to not force it. I won't beat myself up for 'not being productive'. After all, tomorrow's a new day. It's OK to take it easy today. :) 

Here's what it looks like:

  • 6.50 am - Wake up & get ready for work (Yes, I know how late that is)
  • 7.35 am - Leave house to go to the KTM station
  • 7.55 am - Browse my favourite websites while waiting for KTM
  • 8.05 am - Get on KTM and SLEEP (if I get a seat). If not, I cry internally and browse Reddit on my phone
  • 9.00 am - Work
  • 1.00 pm - Buy food at the cafeteria and watch Netflix (digging the Outlander series right now)
  • 2.00 pm - Work
  • 7.00 pm - Wait for KTM and browse Internet
  • 7.15 pm - Get on KTM and SLEEP. If not too tired, I watch Youtube or read fiction
  • 8.05 pm - Drive home while karaoke-ing my favourite songs
  • 8.20 pm - Reach home and rest, and spend time with family
  • 10.30 pm - Watch Youtube
  • 11.30 pm - Sleep
 

How to juggle without going crazy

It's easy to burn yourself out by juggling if you're not careful. And burning out means you'll dread your job and dread your blog / business / passion. Here's 4 tips to keep in mind to prevent burn out:

1. It's normal to have ON and OFF days.

I used to think that I had to be productive every single day. Or HUSTLE, as they say.

But mentally, I'm not equipped to be ON every day, and I shouldn't! Getting that mental rest on OFF days allows me to make my ON days more productive. And I don't sacrifice my job performance too. 

Despite sticking to this lax and unpredictable schedule (sometimes I think I'm getting too much sleep) , I've managed to cross off a few things on my list:

My results are just peanuts compared to other bloggers. But I'm proud of them because I didn't sacrifice family time, my job and my hobbies. 

Don't feel too bad if you find yourself relaxing after a long day instead of tending to your business or blog. That's your OFF day. Enjoy it guilt-free, and then be productive the next day!

You might want to experiment to see what combo of ON and OFF days works best for you.  

  • Maybe like me, you can alternate 1 day ON and 1 day OFF. E.g. Monday is ON, but Tuesday is OFF. 
  • 1 day ON and 2 days OFF
  • 2 days ON and 1 day OFF
  • Or even 1 day ON and 6 days OFF (meaning you only do stuff 1x a week)

 It's the quality, not the quantity (yeah yeah, cliche). 

2. Focus on doing, not learning.

OK, this is the kind of tip that goes AGAINST what a lot of people are saying.

The usual advice is:  

Learn as much as you can.  

What I'm advising is: 

Do as much as you can. (And learn) 

Too much learning can be a bad thing. I can read cookbooks, watch MasterChef and Youtube videos on cooking (Buzzfeed's Tasty mostly)... But is that enough to make me an expert on cooking?

 I may 'know' about cooking, but I won't be an 'expert' on cooking. Experts are doers. They don't just observe.

So if you're passionate about something, be it cooking, fitness, make up, nothing beats getting your hands dirty.

You have limited time. Use that time to pick up that brush / pen / spatula / chosen tool and you'll find yourself satisfied with your progress. 

3. Make a short to-do list instead of a long one.

How many tasks do you usually put on your to-do list?  (Not chores, but stuff related to your blog / business / passion)

I sometimes go way overboard and list up to 10 things daily that I just supposedly HAVE to do. 

  1. Write new blog post on blog post promotion. 
  2. Outline Friday's newsletter. 
  3. Fix typos in email course.
  4. Make new sign up form. 
  5. Design header for newsletter. 
  6. ... 

You get the picture. 

And at the end of each night, when I'm so ready to pass out, I'll HATE myself for not completing all the tasks. Not to mention the-morning-after regret too. 

It's such a toxic, icky cycle where I constantly feel bad and guilty. 

My CURRENT daily to-do lists have a maximum of ONE task on them.

One task that has the most impact to my blog and business. It's something that'll allow me to say, "At least I've done X today so I'm satisfied."

This cuts down so much UNNECESSARY tasks that you give to yourself. When you have limited time and energy, ask yourself-

What is the most important and meaningful task for my blog / passion / business? 

And then do that task. I swear you'll feel more relaxed. 

4. Practice doing stuff in less than ideal conditions. (AKA, the perfect setup is NOT a necessity) 

Writing on my phone is really... annoying. It's not as nice as writing on a laptop, or an iMac. (Oh, one can only dream...)

But if I wait until I reach home to write on my laptop, I'm never gonna get much practice.

If you wait for your surroundings to be perfect before you start practicing, you won't get much practice. And the less practice you get, the slower you'll become an expert.

Investing in quality tools or making your surroundings picture-perfect is good. But in the end, your skill is IN YOU. Not in the tools or surroundings.

So if you only have a hand-mixer instead of the Kitchen-Aid mixer, it's OK. Do what you can with what you have. Your skills will still be sharpened! 😉

 

 

So that's how I juggle. My routine's not perfect, and there are times when I have more OFF days than ON days. But I'll keep juggling. I know that if I stick to it and focus on the right things, I'll get my freedom soon enough.

What's your juggling routine? Leave a comment down below!

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How Your Passion Makes You A Better Employee & Vice Versa

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Do you?

I did. And I expect I will, again. 

You know that I've been juggling work and Narrativity for a solid year now. 

By day, I'm a legal executive in the financial services sector. By night (and lunchtime), I'm a blogger who blogs about blogging and personal branding.

That's what it says on my Instagram bio anyway. Like, Woooo, right?

I talk a big game.

While the company culture is the kind that doesn't take work home, it's still a high-stress environment. And the last thing I want to do when I get home is open my laptop and write.

There are "seasons" when I'm so physically and mentally gone that I'll reach home at 8pm and go to bed at 9pm, after taking care of basic hygiene. And dinner. (I never skip dinner)

Even during my "productive seasons", it takes a huge effort to write anything.

That's why sometimes you'll get my newsletter at 11pm, 12am... Because I just finished writing it then. 

But you know what? I really, really appreciate this period of my life.

 

How your dayjob will help your future business explode with awesomeness

If your dayjob sucks, it sucks. I'm not arguing with you on that. 

But the stars started aligning, meteors started showering when I started to think of my employer as a business.

The company = BUSINESS.

WAIT A MINUTE. WHAT CAN I LEARN FROM THIS BUSINESS?

  • If the company that you're working for is successful, what can you learn about running a successful company?
  • If the company that you're working for is doing badly, what lessons can you take from its mistakes?

Even if your passion / future business is in a whole different industry, there's a lot to learn.

For example, I discovered how important Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are to a business and how to create them.

Even a small-timer like me needs to have an established routine for doing things (like for sending this newsletter) so that I don't waste time jumping from one step to another

If you're planning to fly solo rather than set up a big company later on, you can always scale the strategies down so that they make sense for you to put into action.

 

How your passion makes you a more kick-ass employee

This newsletter is my 100th newsletter. HECK YEAH!!! (I'm saying this in my best bro voice)

After writing 100 newsletter and many other things, you betcha I got me some skills.

  • I know how to explain my points clearly so that readers can understand them easily
  • I know how to use words and phrases that gets readers to pay attention
  • I know how to relate to readers rather than being (too) syok sendiri.

All these 'know-hows' DEFINITELY help me do a better job. I send emails to anyone and everyone during office hours and you bet I have to know how to communicate stuff.

My point is, skills are transferable. Skills are versatile. You can apply them in different situations, in different industries.

If you've been freelancing on the side and have experience dealing with difficult customers, that's gonna help you deal with co-workers. Bosses. The company's customers.

Who can say No to shining a lil' brighter at the workplace? 

Ohohohohoho. Don't get me wrong.

Juggling work and passion can still be a pain in the butt (and other body parts. Like my back. My back always hurts).

But you are NOT wasting your time. You're always learning learning learning, and that's always awesome.

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How To Juggle Your Full Time Job and Your Passion!

 
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Why are you juggling work and passion?

Before anything else, you have to acknowledge the reason why you're doing this in the first place. You don't need to do this. You can go to work, come back home and chill.

But you're choosing a different path. A passion is not like a hobby. Hobbies are for pleasure, passion is for personal fulfillment. You submit to your passion because inexplicably, you feel hot and bothered by the thought of not doing it. And when you do it, what fills your mind is the need to do BETTER. To do MORE.

It's not exactly happiness. Most times it's even constant frustration and pain. But you can't stop. Despite bringing more pain to yourself or as the Malay phrase goes, "sendiri cari masalah", you actually prefer it this way because it gives you purpose.

Everyone wants to be able to pursue their passion full-time and do it professionally. But if circumstances require you to have a nice, full-time job with a decent salary, don't kill off your passion just yet. It's time to juggle. Let's look at how you can do it without burning out on both ends.

 

1. Treat your passion like a second job.

Malaysians are told to have #2Kerja, but funnily enough, that has to happen for your passion to thrive.

 
 

Your full-time job is security. You don't have the freedom of developing your passion if you're constantly worried about money. So if your full-time job is the job you need, then your passion is the job you choose. Create your own regular office hours, and obey them as strictly as if you have your boss watching you punch in and punch out.

You don't have to work on your passion every day, but once a week is the absolute minimum. If you go lower than that (say, once a month), the momentum will die out. You might even forget what you practiced from last time.
 
Choose a time when you can concentrate on your passion wholeheartedly. Quality time is much more important than spending hours multitasking your passion with other things.

 

2. Make time, not find time.

You know you have to spend more time on your passion, but how? There's barely enough time to spare after you count out R&R, family time, running errands, etc etc.

 
 

You can do it by making time. You know how in TV or movies where the big shots always say to their secretary through the phone, "Cancel all my meetings for today"?

That's what you have to do. Cancel all the time-wasters. Look hard enough and you'll find them. Maybe TV has to go. Maybe you have to uninstall Candy Crush from your phone. Maybe you need to sign out from all social media. Maybe reading horror stories on Reddit NoSleep isn't the best use of your time (that one's for us).

Time with friends and family aren't time-wasters, but if you're just doing your own thing in the same room then maybe you can excuse yourself for a while. Explain how important your passion is to you and why you need to work on it. They'll understand if you make the effort to spend quality time with them on other days. 

 

3. Focus on the things that matter.

Your limited time must be used wisely. As much as you want to explore all the nuances of your passion, you have to focus on things that will satisfy you in the long run. When you're faced with two things you can do, ask yourself these questions:

  • Will this matter 1 month, 6 months, 1 year from now?
  • Is this for short-term gain or long-term gain?
  • Which choice has the most impact?
  • Which choice will serve my goals better?
  • Am I doing this because it's necessary or because it looks cool?
  • Can I do this now but postpone that to later?
 
 

Doing everything related to your passion is nice, but not when you spread yourself too thin. We want that work-life-passion balance, right? By separating the 'core' from the 'add-ons', you get to go further and feel better about how you're spending your time.

 

4. Plan your progress.

Imagine if you had one night off that you could spend on your passion, and discovered that you're not sure where to start. This is dangerous, because it might be that you won't start at all.

Because our passion matter so much to us, it's easy to get caught up in visions of perfection. We say we won't start until we have the perfect conditions or tools, we say we want to 'do it right'. But the reality is, we're too scared to find out that we might not be good at it after all. This is what's stopping us from starting.

 
 

Force yourself out of the self-doubt. Plan out things to do weeks, months or even a year in advance. Set yourself challenges and deadlines. Prepare your own 'syllabus' by referring to existing classes in the market or take the advice of professionals. When you do this, it will feel less like blind effort and more like steady improvement.

Real progress requires you to actually do and do and do. It doesn't matter that you get it wrong. Mistakes are better than endlessly 'collecting inspiration'. 

 
 

 

If it was too easy, it wouldn't be as fulfilling. Juggling a full-time job and a passion can go for quite a while. You might even feel wistful for the leisurely time before you discovered your passion. But you know what's worse than the juggle? It's waking up one day and realizing that if you had started this very day, you would've been able to stop juggling already. You would've been able to do the thing you love full-time. So start juggling today. 

What's your passion that you're juggling right now?

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