bored/unemployed/broke - what would you do?
March 23, 2011 4:14 AM   Subscribe

how do you/have you structured your day as an unemployed person who is not necessarily looking for work?

due to a variety of exceptional and stressful circumstances I will no longer be studying this semester and have no job, and will be unoccupied until mid-july of this year.
money is not really an issue as the government is providing for my living expenses, though things will be tight - I won't be able to take up any expensive new hobbies or go out to do things that cost often.
the situation is exacerbated by the fact that recently my city was gutted by a natural disaster - I don't know how I could help out with volunteering stuff as it seems as though a lot of the rest of the city has this mostly taken care of, and all of the things I enjoy doing usually are out of the question now, especially as the weather gets colder here.
I've been working/studying non-stop since I left high school so I don't feel particularly bothered about the idea of just kind of doing nothing for a few months - I have heaps of movies I want to get around to watching, and a bookshelf full of books I haven't read.
I'm worried that the novelty of being housebound and reading all day with the occasional excursion to the supermarket or to go for a run around the local park will wear off quickly though.
the job market in my area is not good at the moment so I won't really have the option of easily walking into any sort of employment should I get bored of it, especially since I'll just be quitting any job I get come July.
what I'd like is some ideas and strategies people reading this have used to stop themselves going crazy during periods of unemployment?
anecdotes of how you spent your day and things you did to keep yourself occupied would be good, even if you just slept until lunchtime and read until bedtime everyday, as long as doing this didn't make you feel like crap!
posted by sartre08 to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
In your exact situation, I devoted my free time to attempting to procure as much free food as possible, by studying my campus calendar, checking all the posters in every lounge, etc. This was very entertaining. Sometimes I would find an invitation to a really interesting club I had never heard of before, and sometimes I would find myself in a really weird political group I totally disagreed with, and would enjoy myself watching their machinations as I ate their food. If no food could be obtained I would experiment in cooking, and watch a Syfy Original Movie while ingesting the results. After that I would read.

I mean, you can always take up a hobby, learn how to box or dance or whatever, but I'm terrible at that and I had an excellent march-july doing pretty much nothing but those things.
posted by shii at 4:23 AM on March 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I was between jobs once for about three months and it was pretty darn nice. I joined a cheap local gym and went around 10am, when there was hardly anyone in there. I cooked a lot, stews that simmer for 3 hours and the sort of stuff I never normally have time for. I read a bunch of books and watched a LOT of movies. I messed around on the internet even more than normal. I probably drank too much wine. I started and completed an art project (and I'm not artistic, at all!). I helped clean out and take care of an old family home. I did take a 2 week trip overseas, which was great and broke up the monotony a bit, plus I was staying with friends or family the whole time so it wasn't too expensive. I stayed up late and slept in late (ish). I never got bored or felt depressed. I think the key is to make sure you're still interacting with people and not just holed up by yourself all the time. I still made plans with to hang out with my friends in the evenings and weekends a couple times a week, and I played in an indoor a soccer league once a week. I also took the time to prepare myself for my next job by doing some background reading relating to the field. Good luck and enjoy your time off!
posted by emd3737 at 4:30 AM on March 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

'the government is providing for my living expenses'
'my city was gutted by a natural disaster'
'I have heaps of movies I want to get around to watching'

Maybe you could use this time for introspection.
posted by InkaLomax at 4:33 AM on March 23, 2011 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: @InkaLomax ... fair call, I will be looking for a job, but like I said, opportunities for employment don't look plentiful here and I don't know where to start volunteering for things at this point in time. I realise this question probably sounds whiny and silly considering the circumstances some people around me are in, but when it comes down to it I do have to get up every day and figure out what to do with myself.
posted by sartre08 at 4:37 AM on March 23, 2011

Best answer: This is what I did; of course it may not be applicable to you.

I gave myself a couple of weeks for recovery and then I made sure that my bed was made by 9am and that after that I couldn't get back in it. I took long walks - probably 5-6 miles a day - and got to know my camera by taking pictures. I made a list of places in the city where I'd always wanted to go and went there. I went to the library and found the books I'd not had time to read before and read them. I started going running with a group three days a week. And finally, I started volunteering.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:59 AM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here to second the Volunteering suggestion.

In fact, if you are physically able to work, and your city is paying for you to live for a few months, I'd say it's pretty much your duty to give something back to your city.

So give your time and your skills, to the homeless, the sick, the lonely - they're all part of your city too and you have an amazing opportunity to help them out here.
posted by greenish at 5:01 AM on March 23, 2011

Volunteering - read to small children, pick up trash in a park, reading to blind people, visiting elderly, hospice visits, making phone calls to ask for donations, sorting piles of donated goods, passing out water or meals to other volunteers
Photograph your city, blog it while respecting the privacy of any people you capture on 'film'
Similarly, record conversations with people to capture their memories of this event. Again, being respectful.
Write letters.
Read at the library - where the books and atmosphere are free.
posted by bilabial at 5:08 AM on March 23, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the suggestions so far.
I probably should have thought more before I wrote this question out, I realise now that the way I put it has made it seem as if helping out wasn't something I was seriously considering but really I have put in a fair amount of work and have been feeling burnt out, and will certainly keep up with the volunteering I have been doing in the very near future.
I shouldn't have included as much info about my circumstances as I did - I want to keep the tone of the answers light, and relevant to anybody facing a period of time where they have trouble occupying themselves when they aren't necessarily used to that...just reading that other people face periods of inactivity like this without winding themselves up and over thinking their situation is helpful.
posted by sartre08 at 5:29 AM on March 23, 2011

I freelance, which means sometimes I get some downtime with no work. I wind up doing a lot of the same stuff as emd3737 up there, and on about the same schedule!

Get up to get the family off to school by 8, catch up on email/RSS, hit the gym (and listen to some podcasts there), shower. That gets me to about 11am.

Then I'll spend a few hours on personal projects -- novel-writing, blogging, whatever I'm working on at the moment. When I run out of steam or if I'm feeling especially burned out, I'll catch up on games for a while as breaks, or instead. (What? I work in games, it's *research!* ~_^ )

Starting from around 4pm, I transition into family-time. I cook dinner a lot more often/healthier/fancier than usual, spend more time playing with my kids, take walks outside. After kiddie bedtimes I'll read, or catch up on movies or TV with my husband.

Some days I'll skip the gym and spend the day in the city meeting with friends and colleagues for coffees, lunches, dinners.

It's a good life. ^_^ Except for the whole non-income-bearing part, of course.
posted by Andrhia at 6:26 AM on March 23, 2011

I had a year off back in 2004, since we were living in a place where I had no work permit, and I wasn't able to start my degree for another year. I picked up a language course in a language I had wanted to learn, and that was pretty intensive. I also sang in a choir that met twice a week for rehearsal - that got me out of the house. Then I went to the gym most days (three times a week minimum, but more often five times or so). Most afternoons I went for a long walk. I read all the books I had been meaning to get around to reading. I took on full responsibility for all the household chores.

It was relaxing, and never got boring. Stuff has a habit of expanding to fill the time available.
posted by lollusc at 7:52 AM on March 23, 2011

Before there was a World Wide Web, I took some time off. I traveled with my Mom, and spent time with Mom and my brother when my brother was hospitalized. Probably the most meaningful time I spent with Mom. Spent time learning to cook and to make bread. Homemade bread is fantastic, easy and cheap. Read a lot, exercised, didn't watch a lot of extra teevee. Used the library and my bike a lot.

If you have any projects, like selling stuff on ebay or Craigslist, that require a lot of time, you could possibly make some money on the side. I end up giving stuff away because it's too time-consuming to sell.

If there are books you've always meant to read or an instrument you want to learn to play, now's a good time.

If you just need time to recover, that's a reasonable use of your time. Life doesn't have to always be busy-busy-busy
posted by theora55 at 8:06 AM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had some time off between jobs about a year ago, and I used that time to plan my wedding, score a bunch of choral music for my choir in their preferred keys and voicings, and start movement on a longer-term project that came to fruition about 8 months later.

And cook, go to the pool and swim, walk up to the grocery store instead of drive, etc.
posted by LN at 8:27 AM on March 23, 2011

I freelance from home and like Andrhia, I have down time. Sometimes for a fortnight or a month of random bits of work, then a rush of busy-ness.

Probably the best thing I've done since working from home is to host Couchsurfers. I show people around my city for a few days a month [you could do it more often]. I started a language course and the Couchsurfing experience really helps me with that when French people come to stay. It's been a really good way of keeping my outlook positive. Most Couchsurfers are on a tight budget, so it is great to find simple and cheap/free things to do around the place - which works for me too. Like art exhibitions, a free tour from a local/ indigenous guide around native lands, a water heritage trail walk, a public art/graffiti walk, a surf, an afternoon of frisbee or sandcastle building, visiting with friends who have new puppies etc. They usually cook a meal for us and we have great chats, a few drinks, a travel slideshow, laughter etc. It is a way of giving, but it is a great way to receive as well.
posted by honey-barbara at 9:02 AM on March 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd recommend Philip Greenspun's essay on how to deal with early retirement - not because you are but because he touches on some issues which are applicable to anybody with more time than average on their hands: how to select your interests and how to manage your time for example.
posted by rongorongo at 9:34 AM on March 23, 2011

I seriously would recommend volunteering with some of your time, not out of moral obligation (it's up to your personal ethics how you feel on that count), but because it will make you feel useful and connected to your community and other people, and this is indispensable to remaining happy. I don't know where you live, but I'd be extremely skeptical that everyone else "has this mostly taken care of." Few places have zero needs in good times, let alone after being decimated by a natural disaster.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 9:40 AM on March 23, 2011

Might you be interested in some volunteering totally unrelated to natural disasters? Possibly WWOOFing or something that will pay your accommodation and food while you're there, so all you'd have to find would be the travel money to get there - spend a few weeks in a new place, with new people, and take some of those books/movies with you.

If you're staying at home - make sure you leave the house every day. Decide whether or not large quantities of rain count as a good enough excuse not to do so. Do at least one thing, every day, that needs doing and won't need doing again the next day (cleaning bookshelves one shelf at a time totally counts, but of course if you're in temporary accommodation this may not necessarily apply).
posted by Lebannen at 12:34 PM on March 23, 2011

Before I saw Lebannen's post I was going to suggest any kind of volunteering - yes, the disaster has happened and it's bad (are you in Christchurch?) and you don't know what to do about it, but I bet that many of the people who volunteered in other ways before the disaster are now doing disaster volunteering, leaving many tasks that still need to be done.

In my town there is a volunteers' centre which puts organisations that need volunteers in touch with people who have free time - perhaps there is something similar near you. You can even just do a little bit, giving you some structure and places you need to be, while still allowing enough time for reading, films etc.
posted by altolinguistic at 5:50 AM on March 24, 2011

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