Kid Charlemagne used to make drugs for a living...
July 21, 2011 5:35 AM   Subscribe

So I just got word that I'm getting laid off at the end of the month. Work has been getting more and more insane for the past few years, and I'm getting a pretty good severance package so I can't say I'm exactly mournful about this. You know that guy who loses his job and spend the next several months never putting on pants and only answering to the name of his level ninety night elf. Help me not be that guy!

So my corporate masters have pretty much reached the point where their only response to stimulus is to lay a bunch of people off. I suspect they'll soon be laying off the entire human race every day! On Monday it was my turn.

For a while now, as often as not, I've gotten home from work and only had the mental energy to play around on the computer, eat something and go to bed. I'm feeling my enthusiasm for a lot of things rushing back to me, so I'm really looking forward in taking some time to get my wits about me and pour some maintenance into the neglected aspects of my life. I own a fixer upper that still needs a lot of fixing up. I have a bunch of hobbies which have sat fallow for the past few years. There are some technical issues about the thing I used to do that I've mostly worked out that I'd like to properly model and try to publish (rather than roughly approximate and meet another damn project deadline), I would like to loose some weight. There are also a mess of things I've wanted to do but never had the time (like bicycle from here to Clinton MO, get a drink and turn around). Here's my chance.

So, I have a bunch of things that I want to do. What should I be doing to get these high personal satisfaction, high life-value things accomplished? What reasonably low cost but awesome life experience type things should I try to squeeze into the coming year that I might not have considered?

I already know what Henry Rollins would do if he was here.
posted by Kid Charlemagne to Work & Money (20 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
the smart money is on prepping for and completing the bike trip, because that would address your desire to lose some weight and at the same time would give you energy for other projects and keep you from sinking into a too-much-unstructured-time funk. eat great and ride the bicycle at ton! that's my vote.
posted by facetious at 5:48 AM on July 21, 2011

Take the time to work out on a regular schedule every week. Take an early morning walk every day (you don't want to get in the habit of sleeping in). Cooking your own meals is healthier and will help keep you productive.

I know someone who, just before he goes to bed, makes a habit of writing down five things he wants to accomplish the next day. That might be a good habit to get into to stay on task.
posted by litnerd at 5:48 AM on July 21, 2011

Not low cost, but I'd consider spending a bit of time travelling. You won't get a chance to do much of it when you start up work again. A flight to Southeast Asia won't be cheap, but you can spend a long time traveling there for fairly cheap.

I also tend to lose a fair bit of weight when I travel, despite eating non-stop.
posted by backwards guitar at 5:52 AM on July 21, 2011

2nding making a schedule.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:01 AM on July 21, 2011

I am in your shoes as well, KC, and my exit date is next month.

So I'm preparing by making a spreadsheet full of the tasks I intend to accomplish in the sixty days before I start looking again in earnest.

Some of the things on my list:

-throw away/donate/sell everything I haven't used in the last six months
-spend at least four hours a day at the gym getting back in biking shape
-get back in the habit of cooking meals
-catch up on practicing the flute
-reorganize my personal website to look good when I start job hunting
-post every couple of days to my LinkedIn profile
-research some of the places I want to work, possibly do some informational interviews
-visit Brookgreen Gardens
-learn to bake bread

The reason I make it in a spreadsheet is that I can make a little checkbox so when I've done something on my list I can check it off and feel all virtuous. Having a list of accomplished tasks really helps with motivation for me.
posted by winna at 6:13 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Get a new job first, because that's going to take months anyway. You don't want to start looking six months from now and get a surprise.

After you get the new job, you can take some time before you start.
posted by tel3path at 6:20 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

You already have momentum. Keep it going, and don't let it slip.
When I went through a layoff I read the excellent book:
Losing Your Job-Reclaiming Your Soul

One gentleman in the book did exactly as you are thinking - he made a list of things to repair and worked on it daily. I agree with the comments to maintain a schedule. Also, if you belong to professional societies start or continue to go to their meetings to network.

As a side note - I lost my job in North Carolina. At the time North Carolina was not taxing severance packages. I did my own taxes. TurboTax did not catch this! I found this out through a friend who was using Microsoft Money (this was quite some time ago). I had to file an amended return. I now use a trusted CPA in my new state. My point - if you can, plan for taxes accordingly.

Good luck to you.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 6:24 AM on July 21, 2011

I'm going to say something that sounds counterintuitive at first, but hear me out --

Go ahead and give into the urge to be a blob of inactivity when you want to, but only for a few days. The fact that you are coming home from work and collapsing straight away is a sign that you need some kind of a break. You're mentally rubbing your hands together with excitement and saying "woo! I can do all this cool stuff!", but physically you're also tired, it sounds like, and if you try jumping in to all of your own projects without addressing that, you could burn out on them too and get discouraged.

What everyone else is saying is true -- keeping some kind of schedule, making sure you get a job hunt going ASAP -- but it may be a good idea to give yourself a couple days' grace period to catch your breath a bit.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:25 AM on July 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'd do something that in your normal work life you wouldn't have the time to do, a long bike ride or long backpacking trip are perfect examples.

see if you can find a local social club ( to hang out with.

oh, and yeah, you probably should pump up the resume and look for work, at least you then have something waiting for you.
posted by zombieApoc at 6:28 AM on July 21, 2011

there are even some D&D groups on you could join up with and get working on your Drow assassin
posted by zombieApoc at 6:30 AM on July 21, 2011

Switch to WoW. It only goes to level 85.
posted by bricoleur at 6:37 AM on July 21, 2011

Switch to WoW. It only goes to level 85.

...when you enter the cripplingly addictive world of endgame. Don't go there.
posted by litnerd at 6:41 AM on July 21, 2011

Give yourself skip days. You're not really going to do 'X' every single day and that's ok - how about 5 days a week?

On the other hand, go outside every day. Leave your house if only for a walk around the block.

Limit your computer time. Know why you are sitting down at the computer, know how long you will be there, and get up when that purpose or time is over. Even if it's "I want to watch a half hour show on HULU and spend 10 minutes checking e-mail."

If possible, do something to sharpen your professional saw. Read a relevant book, practice a relevant skill, offer to do something pro bono for a local group.

Make being social a habit.
posted by jander03 at 6:45 AM on July 21, 2011

Bike trip! You may not have another opportunity to take an extended trip like that. You could also rent out your house and go on a long trip to some cheap place (Asia?). With the wonders of modern technology, you could continue your job search from there.
posted by yarly at 7:06 AM on July 21, 2011

Response by poster: Something I only alluded to in my question but bears directly on looking for work is that I'm good enough at the thing I do that a director in my group told me she thought I was probably one of the ten most knowledgeable people in the world in terms of my little niche!!!

You can replace those exclamation points with a period once you realize that something like 99.999% of the world has never heard of my little niche and of the remaining 50,000 or so people who have, most think of it as being some other department's job or think that they've got a pretty good handle on things since the guy from the FDA didn't literally try to kick them in the groin during their last audit.

Right now I'm planning on following NPR's lead and doing Science Friday on my blog and writing something about the hows and whys of my specific focus once a week. Besides not forgetting how to do basic math and what an antibody is, the idea is that:

A) I can convert this knowledge into some kind of consulting career, a journal article or two or a supplement to my resume.

B) Someone in my field will find it and realize I'm just the guy to solve their problems for them.

C) Someone not exactly in my field will say, "Hey, here's a guy who likes to figure out complex systems and we have a complex system that we need to figure out! Hmmmm."

D) I'll find a job in some other field and this will just be a sort of venture philanthropy kind of move. I have no problem putting knowledge out on a card table with a sign saying, "Free Knowledge!" if it keeps some drug company from doing something seriously unpleasant* or clues the FDA, EMEA et al in when someone is totally off base.

*Remember this? When that happened one of the theories was that it was related to the class of impurities I work on. It wasn't but the danger is conceivably there.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:17 AM on July 21, 2011

Make commitments to other people, like volunteering at a daycare once per week--will probably need to have a background check, but you get the idea.

Having a check list of individual pursuits would not motivate me much. I need to remain engaged socially, and with wide open time, I actualy need to be somewhat obligated socially.
posted by vitabellosi at 7:19 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Make a list of friends and family members you've meant to visit or hang out with but haven't had time to. Visit or hang out with them.
posted by limeonaire at 7:33 AM on July 21, 2011

Whatever time you used to get up for work? Keep doing that. You can sleep in on weekends. Shower and get dressed immediately after you get up. Don't turn on the computer until you have showered, dressed, eaten breakfast, taken the dogs for a walk, and run the dishwasher/clothes washer. I am serious. If you do not have momentum to your day, you will spend it glued to the screen.

Do as I say, not as I do.
posted by desjardins at 8:24 AM on July 21, 2011

I am in that unemployed boat and yeah, the day can get away from you. Which isn't always a tragedy. My recommendations:

Up and out every morning. One of my brothers mentioned once that a co-worker 'biked his age' and at 60 was doing a sixty mile bike trip. I figured that to be a worthy endeavor so I started at 48. I try to do at least 10 miles a day and in the summer heat I wake up and get on a bike early. If I plan a longer ride, I'll bring something to eat for breakfast at a park 15 miles from home. Or plan a long distance ride and work towards it.

Do something each day towards your career. I work on resumes some days, read up on stuff other days.

Volunteer. There is always need for an able-bodied person. Shlep food for the food pantry. Sort books for the local library book sale. The nicest people you will ever meet will be working along side you.

Are there family members or friends that can use a hand? If you are normally not available now is the time to lend a hand; rides to doctor appointments, help with moving heavy stuff or even just baby sitting to give someone a break. People are sometimes too shy to ask, so make your availability known.
posted by readery at 9:14 AM on July 21, 2011

Schedule job hunting into your time. Maybe spend all day Monday on the job search and doing the unemployment paperwork. If there's something you always wanted to learn, now's the time. Take up the accordion, write your novel, become really great at badminton. Do the tasks around the house that have been waiting for this opportunity, like cleaning out closets and painting the bathroom. Explore your town and area; visit obscure historic sites. I'd treat about 1/2 as work/task time and 1/2 vacation. Have fun.
posted by theora55 at 2:31 PM on July 21, 2011

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