Tasks to finish before starting a difficult job?
August 16, 2016 12:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm starting a demanding, wearing job in a little less than three weeks. What household and personal chores should I do now, to help make adjusting to my duties more manageable?

I'm meaningfully excited about this position and familiar with intense workplaces. I've set up a reading list and a series of conversations so that I can start learning how to handle the job itself.

But, I know there are more basic tasks I should take care of now, while I still have enough free time to easily do them.

When you started a difficult job, what did you only later realize you should have gotten out of the way or prepared in advance? What financial, food, health, social, household, etc., issues did you wish you'd dealt with? Any suggestions for supplies to gather, chores to complete, or habits to start to put into place?

Thanks in advance for any help.
posted by newtonstreet to Work & Money (21 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Get all your dry cleaning done now - and be sure to pick it up!
posted by NoraCharles at 12:12 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Finance - put everything on autopilot if your budget allows.
Food -pull together a list of things that nourishing but easy to make/pick up, and things that you're likely to be interested in eating even if you feel too wiped out to eat. The two might not overlap, and that's ok.
Personal - make a list of the smallest things you can think of that boost your mood/give you energy/help you sleep when you're stressed. (As an example, I watch a video of a baby turtle eating a raspberry to boost my mood, and I unapologetically love youtube videos of cbeebies bedtime stories to relax me when I'm stressed).
posted by okayokayigive at 12:16 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Get an Amazon Prime membership, if you don't already have one. This way, you can order every, single thing you need and have it at your home in two days. I don't love that I have to live this way but Amazon has saved me so many times (also, see if they have Prime Now available in your area, so you can even have your groceries delivered.)
posted by nubianinthedesert at 12:17 PM on August 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

Figure out your meal situation. If your workload is going to be super intense, the first thing to go is eating balanced, timely, nutritious meals. Make a meal plan, figure out what you will do on those days when there is no time to eat, decide if you will make meals ahead of time on weekends/the morning of/the night before. Decide what day of the week you will get groceries. Budget for if and when you will allow yourself to eat meals out. I work across the street from a coffee shop--it has been both a lifesaver on tired days and a huge detriment to my finances.
posted by houseofleaves at 12:17 PM on August 16, 2016 [6 favorites]

Get your annual doctor / dentist / car appointments out of the way if they are due anytime soon, or if not, schedule a few on the same day in a few months when you can take a day off. Relatedly, make sure your upcoming deadlines are on the calendar (car inspection, membership renewals, etc).

Make and freeze a few meals you can heat up if you're in a bind. Both dinners (like a pan of lasagna) and lunches (like individual servings of chili).

If you spend too much time figuring out what to wear every morning, assemble a capsule wardrobe and limit what's in your closet to avoid decision fatigue.
posted by beyond_pink at 12:22 PM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Do a deep-clean of your house/apartment. Wash all the linens, including the curtains if they're washable. Clean the windows and screens, if applicable. Clean the oven, the rangetop, all the corners of the counters (pull out the fridge and clean behind it and under it). Clean out all the cabinets. Clean out all the closets. Wash down the baseboards and the vents. Deep clean the bathrooms. Carpet? Steam clean it. Vacuum any upholstered furniture. Got any little chores or fix-its that have been languishing on your to-do list? Do them now!
posted by cooker girl at 12:22 PM on August 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Hire a cleaning service.
posted by slateyness at 12:39 PM on August 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

Hire someone to do most of the stuff on cooker girl's list, and have them come back monthly.
If it's not already a habit, establish a place that you without fail put keys/wallet/other things you can't leave house without.
Establish a schedule of household tasks (Monday laundry, Tuesday floors, Wednesday bathrooms, etc) and give yourself permission to ignore anything not on the day's task list.
Automate all bill paying that isn't already automated.
Congrats on the new job!
posted by donnagirl at 12:42 PM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Here's a list of all of the things I can think of that you might try, I'm by no means saying you have to do all of them!

1.) Set up any and all recurring purchases for things you might need in advance. Amazon is amazing for this. Toilet paper, shampoo, razors, trash bags, paper towels, etc. Don't forget things for your pets! If you have cats, you can recurring buy kitty litter and cat food. If your animals need prescriptions, get a copy of the scrip or see if your vet can regular order and have it mailed to you.

2.) Create a regular shopping list using gtasks. Check the items off as you shop and then uncheck them as you unpack them.

3.) Anything you can set up to autopay, set up to autopay!

4.) Do you have any annualized things coming up? Is your car registration going to be coming up soon? Is all of your insurance up to date, are you happy with it all? What about your passport? Your anti-virus software?

5.) Consider hiring a cleaner. Also look around for local fluff and fold to try.

6.) Are all of your devices running the latest OS? Sometimes a required OS update can happen that takes devices you rely on down when you really don't have the time for it. Consider updating everything and making sure everything works now.

7.) Have you been to the doctor lately? If you're waiting on health insurance, do you have a doctor to call? You can do some research in advance if not. Have you had all of your checkups, been to the dentist lately?

8.) Have you got an oil change coming up? You can get your oil changed and your car detailed and your tires rotated now if you won't have time later. Have you done research on a good local mechanic? If there's a small problem with your car, it would be good to know in advance someone near work that is trustworthy that you can call.

9.) How are you on your beauty supplies and toiletries? A backup of your must-have makeup items is not a bad idea. An extra tube of your favorite lipstick, a backup of mascara or eyeliner -- can be a lifesaver.

10.) Are you a gym-goer? If you might need to change your routine to the morning, consider switching before you start to make sure you're used to it.

11.) Fill your freezer up now with quick easy meals.

12.) Consider signing up for a food delivery service. I use Blue Apron, I love it, but it's kind of involved, there are others that are easier. There are also others that are just shopping list/meal planners. Do a little research and see if there's something there!


13.) Cancel any and all newspaper and magazine subscriptions you might not have time to read now. They'll just pile up and make you crazy!

14.) Put a recycling bin by your door to drop junk mail into, if you don't have one already.

15.) Nthing having a regular place for car keys/phone/wallet.
posted by pazazygeek at 12:55 PM on August 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You need to settle the complex parts of taking care of yourself, so that you can do it without thinking about it later. This will help you be more effective, sharper, kinder, and happier.

Figure out a way to exercise regularly -- preferably without involving driving somewhere, which takes extra time and makes you feel guilty -- and start now, so that by the time your stressful job begins you'll have it down to a routine and you'll be past the "I'm so exhausted" part and into the "I'm starting to have a lot of energy" part. Come up with some alternate plans in case the timing of your day changes.

Figure out a way to connect with your friends regularly, in person. Maybe a lunch date, maybe having dinners together, maybe a shared activity.

Figure out what you can give up -- maybe a lunch date, maybe having dinners together _every night_ -- so that you can use that time for study, sleep, exercise, or just being alone.

Figure out some vacation time. Plan it now, tentatively, even if it's six months from now or next year. Plan to make those plans firm at a certain date in the future (maybe 6 weeks into your job).
posted by amtho at 1:04 PM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you'll be traveling a lot, register for TSA pre check.

Deep clean the fridge.

Buy a bunch of birthday cards and stamps so when you remember a birthday you can address it and drop it in the mail immediately.

Schedule or reschedule medical and dental appointments if needed.

Will the weather be changing soon where you are? Take a look at the clothes you have stored away for a different season, not just the ones you'll be wearing the first few weeks.

Go see any movies or read any books you've been wanting to get to.

Change up your bedtime and wake time a week or so before you need to.

Practice your commute during rush hour both ways and see where you can optimize.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 1:07 PM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

+1million to food prep, both freezer and pantry staples.

Also figuring out a head of time what the 'healthier' take out options are near home AND near work and figuring out orders that are delicious and not as bad as bbq or delicious wonderful piles of dumplings. I did this recently, and favorited the orders on seamless, and now when I'm working late, and need food, I have 5 healthy meals I choose from, (+1 double order of fried dumplings because sometimes you need those) and if it's getting late the decision making is already done. Much easier to eat grilled chicken over salad if it's already been selected for you by not tired and grumpy past you.

This works out even more awesomely if work ends up funding meals if you stay late.

+1 to figuring out a way to work decompression into your commute home; be it walking through a park, or listening to a good playlist, or something. Start the 'work is done' process as soon as you leave the building. Also, figure out all the routes of your commute, and optimize your commute now, and not when you're tired about everything.
posted by larthegreat at 1:22 PM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

If it is financially possible and you have the storage space, buy enough of your household goods (toilet paper, detergent, razors, soap, shampoo, etc.) to last 6 months or a year.
posted by mcduff at 1:33 PM on August 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

Make sure your shoes are polished and in good repair. Get polish in the right colors. Shoes make a big impression.

Get on Amazon for a copy of Stephanie Culp's short and concise Streamlining Your Life. Do what it says. It's great.
posted by jgirl at 1:51 PM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Buy a roomba. No really do it.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:34 PM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Closet audit!! Everything out and onto the bed. Try on everything. Only put back in the closet those items which fit you right and are ready to be worn to work (or wherever you regularly go) as is. Any socks without mates get thrown out. Any shoes that hurt get disposed of. Anything that needs repairs, get repaired. Anything that doesn't fit gets boxed up or donated. Anything that you don't really like gets disposed of/donated. Anything that can't be made into an outfit easily gets donated. If something is fine except it needs a belt, buy a belt. Don't put anything back in the closet until it is 100% ready to wear comfortably.

It is AWESOME to know that whatever you pull out of the closet is READY TO GO. It makes mornings 100x easier.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:58 PM on August 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

If you're not naturally clothes savvy, figure out all of the work-appropriate outfits you own and write them down or take photos of them all. (And purchase additional pieces to fill in if necessary). This will help you out on a busy morning, especially when you've already worn your favorites and are down to the dregs.
posted by metasarah at 3:12 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you have children (or other co-habitants) of appropriate age and mental faculty, now would be a good time to train them to cook or do any other household things that you specialize in.
posted by amtho at 5:09 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Get a list together of all your commitments outside work for the next three months, put them in your calendar, and do everything you can do in advance of those commitments. Going to a wedding in November? Get an outfit together, book the flights and accomodation, sort out a present for the happy couple.
posted by girlgenius at 5:48 PM on August 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

If your hours are flexible, spend some time on Google Maps figuring out the shortest times of day to do your commute - and the absolute worst times. Long days that could be shorter if I'd only paid attention to how I structured my day w/r/t rush hour are the worst.

Also figure out podcasts for said commute or something. Eff commutes, basically.
posted by deludingmyself at 7:37 PM on August 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These suggestions were hugely helpful. They helped make the first six months of my new job more manageable.

Of course, no matter how carefully you plan, there's comes a point when you've used up your advance supplies: when you to make more freezer food, go to the doctor, deal with new holiday plans, etc. But, for me, that point has only come now, after I've had six months to learn new routines and adapt to my new workload. Now, it's not as daunting to plan a trip to see my family as well as keeping up at work.

Suggestions that especially helped me:

Freezer food: Having healthy food that just needed to be defrosted has made it possible for me to pack my lunch everyday. This saved my budget and helped me to avoid eating potato chips daily and nightly.

A morning exercise routine: I'm able to go into work at 9:30am or 10am, so I don't have to push myself to jog at a ridiculous hour. (I know few busy people have that flexibility.) But, since I do: the benefits have included more focus and less stress. My tired body can't muster the same tense, bodily experience of stress that my fresh body can, which makes it easier to sit and actually work.

Relaxing commute rituals: When possible, I bike. I have to drive during work, so I often leave my car at work overnight. Listening to music and pedaling helps me bookend the workday, so that it doesn't taint my evenings and weekends more than necessary. deludingmyself is correct: commutes are bad. But, biking can be soothing.

Advance relationship maintenance: I planned out holiday presents and travel before I started working. I also scheduled times to talk with my friends on the phone in advance. I sometimes dreaded or wanted to skip those conversations/events. But, having those social interactions built in, so that I had to opt out of them, helped me stay closer to people I care about during busy times.

Genre fiction to retreat into: I got a long list of recommendations from people whose opinions I respect. I check 2-3 of the recommendations out from the library and try to always have them around, so that I have something predictable and simple (but not idiotic, alcoholic, or TV) that I can retreat into.

Accept certain expenses and bad habits: I choose not to worry about library fines or expensive groceries. I choose to go to a bar 1-3 times a week. I could be saving all kinds of money by planning my meals more carefully, but it's not worth it to me. I put my energy into avoiding eating out, living in a cheap place, and biking (to save on gas money) and then I stop thinking about it. Accepting those bad habits has relieved me of the pressure to optimize every damn thing (which is a shift I intentionally had to make, after having been an unemployed person).

Life planning: I took a lot of the other advice that people here offered. I wrote a draft of my will. I completed my dentist and physical check ups. I purchased a huge stash of toilet paper, toothpaste, floss, sunscreen, etc. I bought extra underwear (since that's usually what I run out of in inopportune moments, when I can't make time for laundry). I reorganized my kitchen. I bought some drawing and sewing supplies (so that I at least theoretically could have healthy, stress-relieving projects to work on). I wrote long lists of cafes I could visit, hikes I might try, and other affordable treats, so that I wouldn't get an anxious sense of too many choices when I need to find something enjoyable to do. I read "Getting Things Done" and am reading "Disciplined Minds," both of which have helped me avoid internalizing the franticness (and pride in that franticness) that busy workplaces can impress on their employees.

Feeling of having done my best: One of the biggest benefits that this advance planning gave me was the sense that I had done my best. As I started my job, I was able to tell myself that when I get overwhelmed or frazzled, it's because I'm in stressful circumstances, not because my past-self was careless or did nothing to prepare. That made me feel better.

Thank you for your help. I appreciate it. I took it seriously.
posted by newtonstreet at 1:39 PM on April 2, 2017 [11 favorites]

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