Summertime...and the Living is Easy...or is it?
“The trouble with being in the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”
Lily Tomlin

We are in the midst of those “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.” But for some, crazy is indeed a good way to describe their job. And at this time of year many are keenly reminded that they want a change in lifestyle.

You might actually like the work you do, but find the environment and the demands of clients in these environments stressful and exhausting. As companies continue to operate lean and mean, people are often performing two jobs. There are too few resources to get the job done. The result is increased stress. And what we know about stress is that over long periods of time, relentless stress can have negative effects on health and general well-being.

One of the questions I am often asked by clients is how they can have the intellectual stimulation they need to be fulfilled, make the money they want to make, and also have the lifestyle that they desire. For example, for many people, working for a consulting firm is a good fit. The work is often stimulating and the money is generally good. But consulting firms often require regular travel, and time away from family and friends. When you have overnight travel, you are not available to take classes, be involved in community activities or run errands during the week. So chores and fun are packed into two days on the weekend. And if the necessities of laundry, errands and household chores take precedent, there is no time to be lazy.

The first step is to identify what you need in your work.

  1. What are the skills you want to use and develop? Do you want a leadership position? Do you enjoy managing and developing employees? Do you like building a department? For many, using a variety of skills and abilities adds to their fulfillment. But there may be some keys skills that are critical. Do you enjoy data analysis, writing, computer skills, teaching, selling or business development? Do you like project work? Are you an excellent mediator or litigator?

  2. What are the things that are not negotiable for you? Perhaps you do not want to work weekends, except during an occasional crunch time. Some careers, such as those in broadcast journalism, require work outside of the 9-5 weekday work schedule. Some people in these jobs long for a regular schedule where they can see friends on the weekends. Working mothers (and Dad’s) often want time with their children and spouses. Maybe you want to leave early occasionally to watch a child’s soccer game. Or you need to leave work by a certain time to pick up your child at day care, take classes to finish that MBA you started five years ago, or to make the regular Thursday night tennis match.

  3. How much money do you need to make? This is different from how much money you would like to make. Most of us want to make as much as possible. But when developing our career, or transitioning into a job that allows for greater flexibility or balance, we can start by making what we need, and what is fair for the position. Then we can figure out how to increase our income.

  4. What about two part-time jobs, or one part-time job supplemented by free-lance work? With enough hours, a part-time job often includes benefits. The greater hourly wage with free-lance or contract work can add the much needed additional income. One of the ways to have some control over your time is to have part of your income come from work that you can do on your own schedule.

  5. Do you want the option to work from home? Telecommuting is especially popular today and can be time efficient when there is no commuting time and rush hour traffic to add to an already long and stressful work day.

  6. What about an “Interim Job?”

    An “interim job” is defined as a job in your field with regular hours and less stress.

    You might want to consider an “interim job” if:

    • The job you have is too stressful and exhausting, or the hours are too long for you to work on your goals. If you are burned out, getting an interim job with regular hours gives you time and space to rest and rejuvenate. You should take care of yourself first. The downside is that you might coast when the stress of the former job is not there, and there is no longer a sense of urgency.

    • You are unemployed and need some money coming in soon. In this situation contract work or other part-time employment will put the much needed structure in your life and also provide some income.

    • For whatever reason, you need to “buy some time” to figure out want you really want to do with you life.
I have worked with many clients who have adjusted their careers, either by taking time off or reducing their work load. For these people, living the benefits of this less stressful lifestyle convinced them never to go back to work and an environment that is toxic for them. It is during this time that they became the most creative and were able to reconstructive lives based on their priorities, and an honest appraisal of what they need to be well

At home my cat and dog follow the sun as it moves from the front to the back of the house, so that for much of the day they can nap with the sun on their faces. For them, life is simple, and they savor every moment. But for many of us, the hecticness of life precludes us living in the moment and enjoying simple pleasures. And because we are always trying to do more, we become less effective at the things we do accomplish. So take time this summer to enjoy simple pleasures, and feel the warmth of the sun on your face. Have a wonderful summer!