Planning, Reflections

Busy ≠ Productive

It’s been a busy few weeks. Extremely busy. 

It’s funny to think about being overly scheduled or busy during a time when we’re all still sheltering in place, but if anyone can do it, it’s me. 

However, despite working on a lot of things, I haven’t necessarily felt productive.

Now, I am being a little unfair to myself. I’ve accomplished a lot — kept up with my weekly YouTube videos and blog posts, applied and interviewed for jobs, worked on a small interior design project, refreshed my LinkedIn and resume, started rehearsals for a new play. All while helping take care of a teething 6-month-old.

But, although I’ve completed a lot of tasks or projects, I’m not feeling like I’ve made progress … or at least, not the type of progress I was expecting to make.

For example, while I have successfully stuck to my schedule of releasing a new YouTube video every Monday, I haven’t made the progress I hoped I would towards making the video creation process more efficient and quicker each week. In fact, this week’s video was probably one of the longest and most arduous processes I’ve dealt with.

I guess it feels like I’ve been running in circles rather than a straight line. Productive in that I’ve been running. But unproductive in that I didn’t get myself anywhere but where I started.

This defeated feeling also stems from the fact that I haven’t worked towards any of my major goals lately. 

A few weeks ago, my friend and I decided that we would be each other’s accountability buddies while creating and working toward some major goals. We started by separately brainstorming our individual goals and then we talked over our list together, identifying our top priority goals and how we would measure success.

My top goals:

  • Get my home clean and organized
  • Lose weight and get in shape
  • Generate income from acting
  • Generate income from podcasting

The next step was to separately work on identifying the milestones and tasks that would get us to our respective goals. Then we would meet again to discuss our plan and create some initial timelines.

But … I still haven’t gotten around to creating my list of tasks. Nor have I worked on any of those goals. Instead I’ve filled my time with projects that, for the most part, do not service any one of those goals.

Ah ha! Now it’s clear. I have a prioritization problem.

So, I’m going to take some time to reset, reflect and reorganize. This week, I want to:

  • Confirm my top priority goals. Is there a reason I didn’t work on any projects that were related to my top goals? Are they really the paths I want to focus on?
  • Scale back on my current commitments. Maybe I’ll focus on shorter YouTube videos and/or blog posts so that I can keep up with the frequency but reduce the time needed to complete them.
  • Question every new project I take on. Do I really have time for this? Is it a time-sensitive opportunity? Does it help get me toward one of my top-priority goals?
  • Identify what progress looks like. What exactly do I want to accomplish and by when?
Planning

Update: Shelter in Place Routine

Last week, I wrote about needing to make a change in my routine to jumpstart my productivity. I shifted away from my modus operandi of working through to-do lists and instead created daily schedules, with time allotments for each activity.

The idea was that I would perform as much of an activity in the scheduled time slot as I could and then move on to the next activity. There was no pressure to finish any given task. And having the schedule meant I knew what I should be doing at any point in the day.

So, the big question: Did it work?

Well, yes and no. Yes, this new routine did help increase my productivity. But no, I didn’t ultimately follow the schedules.

Here’s a recap of how the week went and some learnings.

Identifying tasks

Before I could start scheduling out my days, I needed to list the various tasks, activities and projects I was interested in taking on. Yes, this sounds like making a to-do list. However, this was NOT a list of everything I wanted to accomplish that week; it was simply a list of activities I could choose from to populate my schedule.

Making my list of activities also helped me identify those few tasks that would have to be done to completion and couldn’t just be dropped when the time slot ran out (e.g. grocery shopping).

These were the housework projects. I also had activities for career, creative and personal development.

Creating the schedule

With my list of tasks complete, I set about creating my schedule for the first day. I decided to create my schedules day-by-day — rather than for a whole week — because I didn’t know how much of any given project I’d get through that day, and if it was a high-priority task that didn’t get finished, I wanted to be able to slot it into the following day’s schedule.

I started with activities that were time-sensitive (e.g. grocery shopping), high-priority (e.g. job hunting) or a big interest to me (e.g. Hawaiian language practice).

I also wanted to test out different approaches to scheduling activities and breaks. There are various recommendations regarding how often you should take breaks and for how long. For this first day, I tried the 25-minute working & 5-minute break routine.

Following the schedule & learnings

The first day, I was able to follow the schedule pretty closely, though I had to do a little rearranging, as I found my meals took longer than I had allotted, when factoring in the food prep. I also found that I personally didn’t like the short work/break time chunks. For the other days, I scheduled longer periods of working with longer breaks.

Learning 1: Longer breaks work better for me, even if that means a longer day.

Because grocery shopping was an activity that I needed to do to completion, I scheduled a generous time slot for that task. Even with the commute, shopping and putting all the groceries away, I didn’t end up needing the full two hours. Now, I could have just taken a break for the remainder of the time slot, but instead I used the extra time to return to a task I hadn’t completed earlier in the day. And I’m glad I did — it kept my energy up and I felt satisfaction from getting more done.

Learning 2: If I finish a task in less time than allotted, I should use the extra time to take on an unfinished project.

I purposely created daily schedules that included a mix of housework, career-focused tasks, creative activities and personal development projects. There was also a balance of physical and mental work. I found that this helped prevent burn out and kept my energy and focus up.

Learning 3: Including a variety of tasks helps keep me interested and energized throughout the day.

For the most part, the idea of the schedule was to do as much of an activity as I could get through in a given time slot and then move on to the next task when the time was up. However, for some projects, especially creative ones, I found that I didn’t want to move on because inspiration had hit. 

Learning 4: It’s ok to adjust the schedule to take advantage of creative inspiration or mental focus on a task.

Thoughts

By the end of the week, I was no longer following a strict schedule, but I did have fully productive days.

It seems that for me, working with the schedule method was a good way to reinvigorate my productivity. But once I got into the habit of a full “work day” of sorts, I no longer needed to craft specific schedules; instead, I could use my intuition to know when to move on to a different activity.

Moving forward, I’m going to do a hybrid version of the to-do list and schedule method. That is, I’ll have an idea of the top projects I want to work on every day and when it would be best to work on each activity (e.g. for me, mental tasks are better in the morning vs. the afternoon). And I’ll be mindful of trying to switch between mental and physical tasks, as well as allowing myself to have decent breaks.

And if I ever feel like I’m starting to get lackadaisical with my productivity again, I know I can always go back to a strict schedule to get me back on track.

Planning

Finding a Shelter in Place Routine

I have been trying to stay busy since we started sheltering in place last month. This was partly motivated by my fear of losing momentum and partly as a desire just to make the time going by more quickly. And really, I had no excuse — aside from the loss of theater activities, the shelter-in-place situation was not all that different from my normal sabbatical/stay-at-home mom arrangement.

I started out strong. I got my resume together and started applying to jobs. I ramped up community engagement activities for the podcast, using this quarantine to try some new things on our social media. I cooked a lot more! And I started getting inspired to revisit creative projects I had been meaning to take on during this sabbatical.

But week after week, I’ve felt my energy — and, in turn, my productivity — diminishing. It’s hard not to feel like I’m doing less and less as this shelter-in-pace continues. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with this, and it’s not even surprising. There have been article after article about how it’s okay not to be productive during what is essentially a traumatic experience.

But what if you want to be productive? Not become you feel pressure to keep up with others’ productivity but because it generally eases your mind, helps distract you from the news and does indeed make the time go by more quickly.

For me, the desire is there, but I’ve been feeling like I need to find a new method to keep me on track.

Trying a schedule vs. a checklist

I am the queen of to-do lists. I get such satisfaction checking things off my list. And this is the way I’ve worked for ages.

Of course, there are issues with the to-do list method. While I try to be mindful of not overloading my daily checklists of activities, sometimes things take longer than I anticipated, so I still end up not completing my list. This can result in a feeling of failure and being overwhelmed at the number of things still left to do.

So, this week, I’m going to try a different method: creating and following a schedule with time slots for each activity. I’ll get done as much as I can during each time slot and then stop and move on to the next activity.

Of course there are drawbacks to this method, as well. I may end up with a lot of unfinished projects. Or I may get to a time slot for say, a creative pursuit, and find that I’m in the right mindset to tackle the activity.

So, I think there will have to be some flexibility. For example, some activities — going grocery shopping or doing the laundry — can’t just be dropped once the time period ends if you go over the allotted time. So, when those types of activities are on the schedule, I’ll be sure to both pad the period with extra time and follow it up on the schedule with an activity that could easily be moved.

And, of course, having a baby at home is another huge curveball that can totally kill productivity. But that’s actually why the schedule method may work better for me during this time. I’ll get as much done of a certain activity in a time slot as I am able (even if it’s hindered by attending to a crying baby). There’s no pressure to complete the task.

Figuring out the schedule

Today, I’m going to work on putting together the schedule for the rest of the week. I know I want my daily schedule to be a mix of career-focused tasks, housework and personal development activities.

And I think I’ll start with typical work hours, leaving myself the evening to unwind and relax (which will be equally as hard, actually). I also want to attempt some other work-from-home tips:

  • Maintaining a “getting ready” morning routine and actually getting dressed
  • Not watching T.V. while working 
  • Scheduling breaks

I’m not sure if this method will help my productivity any more than the to-do list routine, but I figure change is the best way to possibly reenergize me. I hope to give this a try for at least a week or two and then assess how well it works for me.

Planning

Job Hunting During Coronavirus

My plan is to return to work at some point this year. For the past few months, I’ve been trying to decide what that will look like. Will I work part-time or full-time? Do I want a permanent job or contract/project-based work? How far am I willing to commute for work? Do I return to my former field or dive into a new industry?

And, of course, this novel coronavirus pandemic and subsequent shelter-in-place order has had a huge impact on my job-hunting plans. I had just decided to give video and commercial acting work a try before pursuing more traditional office jobs; and then the outbreak in the Bay Area escalated and we were ordered to shelter in place.

Now, my focus is on pursuing roles that can accommodate employees working remotely. It doesn’t necessarily mean I need to return to my previous industry of digital marketing and advertising. But it does limit the new fields I can consider. Some of the careers on my sabbatical list are really a no-go right now — interior design, real estate, theater. But there are some roles that function just fine in remote settings.

But it also has me wondering — how are the pandemic and quarantine measures going to affect hiring? I set out to do some research.

Are companies still hiring?

In short, some are and some aren’t. While certain industries have been hit hard and forced to majorly downsize their workforce, other industries are not as affected by (or are even growing during) this pandemic.

According to Forbes, unsurprisingly, there is a huge demand for health-care related workers. There is also a lot of growth in other industries that are booming as a result of the shelter-in-place mandates, such as video conferencing, online teaching, delivery services, video game companies and grocery stores, to name a few. Tech giants, whose work can often be done remotely and whose huge cash reserves help weather economic impacts, are also continuing to hire.

How should I adapt my job search?

With many people experiencing layoffs and other loss of work, we may see the job market flooded with candidates. Now, more than ever, it’s important to make sure LinkedIn profiles and resumes are up-to-date and compelling.

For the type of work I would pursue, I would almost certainly start the role working from home. According to Fast Company, it’s good to highlight your experience with remote work, to prove you can be productive outside of an office setting.

How should I prepare for interviews?

The biggest change in the interview process during the pandemic is that most interviews will happen over the phone or video conferencing. According to CNBC, you can set yourself up for success for a video interview by testing your tech and remembering to still dress appropriately (at least on the top!).

For me, personally, I will also need to create my narrative around my sabbatical. Why did I take so much time off of work? What did I do and learn? What skills did I gain? What are my career goals now?

What else can I do?

Fast Company offers a few tips outside of actually applying for positions that can help with one’s job search, including nurturing your online network and focusing on professional development.

For me, I think this can be particularly useful to boost my visibility in some of these industries I’m new to. For example, I plan to repost my blogs about the podcast as articles on my LinkedIn profiles to highlight my experience there.

I will also explore online courses that can help me develop or improve skills.


My job search may be more prolonged than it has been in the past, which is why it’s good for me to start early. I will likely apply to many different industries and types of positions, which will mean a lot of work creating different resumes. And ultimately, I’ll have to decide on the best set-up for me to work remotely, while also considering how I’d like to work at the company once normal operations resume.

Planning

A Quarantined Sabbatical

Well, I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say: it’s been a week.

It goes without saying that this coronavirus has turned the world upside-down. People ordered to work from home. Public gatherings cancelled — which in my theater world means play after play (including my own) cancelled or postponed. The loss of work for many of my friends who rely on performing gigs or who are in the service industry. People encouraged to limit in-person contact with others. Ridiculous hoarding of toilet paper!

In the short term, not much has changed in my own life. I already wasn’t working. And taking care of Artie, a lot of my time was already spent at home. Now, with Ryan working from home, I just have more company. Though I did lose my one big activity that gave me a break from my mommy duties — theater.

As for my sabbatical? Well, not much has changed in the immediate future. As I’ve written about in my last few blogs, my sabbatical has already been in flux in the wake of becoming a mother. It became clear that I would likely need to go back to work at some point this year. But I’ve been debating which path I’d follow upon my return to the workforce.

A couple weeks ago, I did some exploring on The Mom Project to see what opportunities were open in my previous industry; and there were a few roles that interested me. However, I’ve also been thinking about some of the paths I set out to explore in this sabbatical and if I should pursue those instead of returning to my old field of work. Ultimately, I decided that there was one area — commercial acting — that I wanted to explore before going back to a typical 9-5 job. I committed to pursuing paid video and commercial work for the next few months.

And it’s a good thing I didn’t decide to immediately go back to a marketing job or some other office job. With most companies mandating remote work and with the economy being so shaky, it’s almost certain that there is a hiring freeze for most of the roles I saw on The Mom Project. I just can’t imagine a company being willing to hire someone at this time and trust the new employee to work from home.

However, it may be longer than we expect before things go back to normal. I had given myself a deadline of mid-June to explore commercial work before applying for office jobs. But now, it doesn’t seem certain that things will have changed by then. What if I get to the point when I’m ready to pursue office jobs but companies still have a freeze on hiring?

These are the anxious thoughts that have been plaguing me lately. But there is really nothing I can do about it. So, it’s time for me to outline the things I do have control over.

Knowing that for the coming weeks (or months), we are all going to be encouraged to stay inside and limit contact with others, I wanted to brainstorm sabbatical-related projects that I could take on:

  • Practice audio editing (per last week’s blog!)
  • Set up my acting website
  • Test out new forms of content creation like videos or new podcasts
  • Write more scripts and/or stories
  • Get more social media management practice through the BYOM podcast channels
  • Test out remote recording for the podcast 
  • Try live-streaming
  • Revisit web development

I have a feeling this whole ordeal is going to change the landscape of employment in the future, where more and more employers are going to look for remote employees (just think of the overhead they’ll save!). So, I’ve really been focused on opportunities and other types of work that can be done remotely. 

It’s interesting that the majority of the ideas I brainstormed centered around content creation. It seems to be a perfect intersection of a career path that I’m drawn to and an industry that lends itself well to remote work.

And this is the perfect time to focus on creation. A few articles have been circulating among my theater network about how Shakespeare wrote some of his strongest plays during outbreaks of the plague. It will be interesting to see the amazing creativity that blossoms out of this period of social distancing and quarantine.

It’s a time of uncertainty, and it’s impossible to make long-term plans. All I can do is wake up each morning and ask myself: “What can I create? What can I explore? How can I grow today?”

Planning

The Mom Project

I was talking to a friend about the fact that I am thinking of returning to work some time this year, and she suggested checking out The Mom Project, a website that helps job seekers find “opportunities with family-friendly employers that respect and support work + life integration.” In short, this is a job search website with open roles from companies that support factors like life/work balance, schedule flexibility, etc., which parents of young children often require. 

I decided to set up a profile this past week to see what type of opportunities were available. The process is pretty quick and easy for most; though I did find some steps difficult since I’ve been considering switching fields. 

Setting up a profile

Career Story

After some initial questions gathering basic information (contact info, location, current employment status), in the next step, you fill out your career history. And I immediately found myself stuck on the first question:

The question is very much geared toward candidates who are looking for opportunities in their current field or an industry they have worked in previously. So, this is clearly not aimed at people who are looking to enter a new field. 

Now, I am on the fence about whether or not I am going to return to my previous field or if I want to get a role in one of the new fields I’ve been exploring. For The Mom Project, I decided to set up my profile and career background for the former goal.

However, I was still unsure how to answer this first question because my previous jobs covered multiple areas listed, particularly: Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service. Luckily when you click on each “superpower”, it drills down to more specific skills:

Marketing

Sales

Customer Service

Based on these more specific skills and what I would be most interested in doing if I do return to work in a previous industry, I selected Marketing as my “superpower”, with Digital Marketing, Editorial and Content Management, and Social Media Management as my three capabilities.

This section also asks for the specific industries you’ve worked in (for me that was non-profit, arts, and tech) and your experience level (junior, mid-level, or senior).

Flex Factors

This section of the profile set-up is where The Mom Project really sets itself apart from other job search sites. Here, you are asked your preferences on things like:

  • Freelancing vs. permanent employment
  • How many hours a week do you want to work
  • Remote vs. in-office

To my suprise, when I got to this section, I realized I didn’t know a lot of my preferences in these areas. I’m not sure if I want to be full-time or only part time. I’m also not sure if I prefer freelance (where I wouldn’t feel tied down to something) vs. permanent employment (for stability). 

Interestingly, I was pretty set on location, and it’s different than my preference pre-baby. When I think of going back to work, I really just want to be in an office and not remote. Mostly, that is because there is no way I could be productive if I’m home with the baby. And if I think about the alternative, where I take the baby to daycare, well at that point, since I’m already out of the house, I might as well just commute to the office. On top of that, having been off of work for almost a year and a half, I really miss just being around people and the social aspect of working in an office.

Fleshing out the profile

After answering the questions above, your profile set-up is done. However, there is some additional information you can enter in order to make your profile 100% complete.

The biggest thing is filling out your work history. This is where I wish there was a LinkedIn integration, where you could import the information. Unfortunately, you have to enter everything manually instead. Similarly, there is a section to list your education background.

There are also questions around how much travel you can accommodate and how much control you need to have over your own work days and hours. Here is another section where my preferences have changed. I used to love to travel for work and — as long as I didn’t have local theater commitments — would take advantage of work trip opportunities as much as possible. However, now with the baby, it would be difficult to travel much.

Finally, there is an open-ended “About Me” section that can also act as a cover letter, talking about your past experiences, as well as what you are looking for in your next job.

Searching for Opportunities

In the “Marketplace” section of the site, you can look for open roles. Here, you can click the “Possible Matches” filter, which I assume generates a list opportunities that align with the preferences you selected when setting up and completing your profile. Alternatively, you can manually set your filters and search preferences.

What I like most about the search results is that every opportunity lists the compensation. This is particularly important for me because I have to weigh the compensation against the cost of daycare.

When you click the Learn More button for an open role, you get the job description, of course, but also information about start date, travel requirements, remote work options and number of hours a week.

The majority of my “possible matches” were categorized as projects, as opposed to permanent positions. However, some of those projects were year-long contracts, which often are positions where your contract just gets renewed every year, so it’s practically a permanent position. For example, when I worked as Facebook, a number of people on my team were contractors, so they technically worked for a vendor company (and therefore had to get their contract renewed every year), but were pretty much permanent members of the team, as they had been there for years. 

Thoughts

Again, setting up a profile on The Mom Project was pretty quick and easy, especially if you are looking for opportunities in your existing or previous career field. The flex factors section is particularly useful for parents of young children.

I wouldn’t say I was super passionate about the available opportunities. However, there were a number of open roles that I could see myself being satisfied/content doing, and while they did not seem particularly energy-inducing, they also did not seem energy-draining.

I’m still in the early phases of deciding when and how I want to return to work, but I find that searching through job sites like The Mom Project:

  • Gives me an idea of what opportunities are out there;
  • Prompts me to start thinking about my preferences around hours, remote work options, etc.;
  • Acts as a good litmus test of what type of work and roles are appealing to me after a year and a half of career exploration and personal development.
Planning

On the Horizon

I know it’s cliché, but time really flies. It’s been 2.5 months since Artie came into our lives, and five weeks since Ryan returned to work. I feel like we’re all finally finding our groove, which means that I’ve had a lot more time to dedicate to myself and think about what’s on the horizon for my sabbatical and other personal projects.

Diet & Fitness

This doesn’t have anything to do with my career exploration, but this was the first postpartum personal project (read: non-baby pursuit) that I took on. Throughout my pregnancy and in the weeks following childbirth, I felt like my body wasn’t my own. This was a frustrating and constraining feeling after enjoying months of a sabbatical that was centered around reclaiming myself, my passions and my pursuits.

I’ve been watching and tracking what I eat, and I’ve incorporated strength training and cardio workouts. Aside from the health benefits, it’s also been a great way to ease back into the practice of goal-setting, planning and tracking progress.

Acting

Even if it never ends up being a profession, theater and acting will always be my passion. And I wasted no time getting back on stage. Last week, I started rehearsals for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Bay Area Stage Productions in Vallejo. It’s been nice having regular, built-in time for artistic development.

I’ve also gotten back into the swing of auditioning, in an attempt to line up shows for later in the year. The big question I’m still mulling over is how much I’m going to explore professional acting pathways this year.

Podcast

The Bring Your Own Movie podcast had to go on a brief hiatus, as everyone involved got really busy. But we will be back very soon! In fact, the team just got together today to produce live Oscars commentary on the podcast’s social media channels. It was a nice, lightweight way to reintroduce ourselves to our fans and start producing content again.

We also discussed recording plans for this year’s episodes and other podcast-related projects we might want to pursue. It feels good to be putting on my producer hat again.

What Else?

Well, as I have mentioned in some of my recent posts, I really am considering returning to work some time this year, even before I’ve settled on that next career path. That might be returning to my old industry for a few years or maybe entering one of these new fields.

Here are some to-dos around this topic I’d like to accomplish in the next few weeks:

  • Meet up with a friend to hear about a position open at her company
  • Research day care options for Artie to understand the costs
  • Make a list of my must-haves for going back to work (minimum salary, benefits/perks, location, schedule, etc.)

It’s been a bit of a relief to finally be able to think about future plans again. There’s a lot for me to research, consider, and figure out … and I can’t wait to share it all with you when I do!

Planning

Baby Steps

Well, it’s my first post of 2020, and as it’s the beginning of the year, I expected this entry to focus on my resolutions for this sabbatical in the next 12 months. But I find myself at a loss.

Right now, it’s hard to picture what I will be doing next week, let alone months from now. It’s hard to even decide what I want to focus on. And by now, we all know the reason for this: BABY.

Ryan returns to work tomorrow, and it’s going to take at least a week or two to figure out what our weekday routine will look like now that it’s just me and Arthur at home during the day. How fussy will Artie be? How regular of a routine can we implement? This will all affect how much time (and predictable hours) I will have to dedicate to my career exploration.

So, what will this sabbatical look like in 2020? The answer is: to be determined. Before I can create some career exploration plans, I need to figure out the baby schedule. This year, I’m going to need to accept that things are going to go slowly. It will figuratively (and eventually, literally) be a year of baby steps.

Last year’s resolutions

In drafting this week’s blog, I looked back at my new year’s resolutions post from last year. This was actually the first time I reviewed these resolutions since I originally wrote them. And it’s nice to see that I actually fulfilled (or at least touched on) most of them:

Interview people in my fields of interest

I didn’t end up doing this as much as I thought I would, but I did interview a few people. As you might remember, I sat down with Tasi Alabastro to talk about his work as a content creator. And I also talked to my husband, Ryan Lee Short, about making major career shifts.

Additionally, I had the chance to informally pick the brains of people in the interior design field through my studies, internship and part-time job.

One of the biggest things I learned from the few interviews I did is that this format isn’t actually the best way to get a feel for the field, as everyone’s experience is so personal and individual. Instead, it’s important to interview many people in the field to get multiple perspectives and a more holistic picture of the industry.

However, I did encounter an unexpected learning: my blog readers really like the interview format. I may continue these throughout this upcoming year for that reason alone!

Create a circle of like-minded people

This is the one resolution I didn’t pursue at all — to find other people taking sabbaticals or planning a major career change and meet up with them regularly. Essentially, starting a sabbatical support group.

I would require a lot of time to take the lead on something like this, which is probably why I never did it. But this year, I might be interested in revisiting the idea.

When I was pregnant, I was (and still am) part of a Facebook Group for women who were also having November 2019 babies. It was comforting to hear from other people who were going through the same thing. It helped ease a lot of anxiety and made me feel not so alone.

Explore part-time work

Well, this is something I achieved! I did my home staging internship over the summer, and started as a part-time interior design assistant in the fall.

And I discovered that this is one of the best ways to get a feel for a new career field, especially understanding what the day-to-day is like.

I do want to continue working, but right now it’s hard to know when I’ll be able to return. Again, I’ll just need to be patient and let myself first focus on figuring out the baby routine.

Make time for non-career focus areas

Specifically, there were four things I wanted to dedicate time to:

  • Health and getting into shape
  • Staying more connected with my friends and family
  • Getting my home organized and decluttered
  • Exploring new artistic outlets

I achieved some of these. At the beginning of 2019, I lost a lot of weight, completed a fitness challenge and started a regular exercise routine. Of course, some of that petered out once I got pregnant, but I’ve restarted my efforts again for this new year.

The pregnancy got in the way of that second focus area of staying more connected with friends and family. However, I’d say the impending baby really drove my work in the third area — getting my home organized

As for exploring new artistic outlets — I’d say I did that a little, but not as much as I planned. On the performing side, I did sketch comedy for the first time. I also made my directorial debut with the staged reading this past November. But I didn’t do as many new projects with film/video or writing than I expected.

2020

Again, I’m not going to create any sabbatical resolutions for this year. I think this year, more than any other before, I actually need to be comfortable with the fact that I really can’t make concrete plans, that things are going to be pretty unpredictable, and that I’m just going to have to take baby steps.

Planning, Reflections

The Future of This Sabbatical

For the last two weeks, I’ve shared with you my insights and reflections on this past year off of work. I looked at how I’ve explored the nine careers on my list and my updated thoughts on those potential paths. I also reviewed the various methods I used to explore these new fields and how effective I found them.

Well, enough of looking back. Let’s take a glimpse into the future!

And yes, there is a future for this sabbatical. As I’ve mentioned in many of my previous posts, the baby news immediately changed my plans. What was originally going to be just a year off to dedicate the majority of time, energy and focus to exploring new careers will now be an even longer period of time where I’ll need to balance this exploration with … oh, you know, keeping a tiny human being alive.

So, I’ll get something straight now: this post is not going to outline a strict and specific plan and schedule for the future of my sabbatical. That would be impossible! 

It’s hard to know how the baby is going to affect my time, energy and mental capacity for career exploration. I may be able to balance the two easily. Or I may find that — for a while at least — I need to pause my exploration entirely to focus on the baby. And yes, I may even discover that for financial reasons, I have to put my sabbatical on hold to go back to work full-time for a little bit.

For now, I want to use this post to lay out the things I’d like to focus on in the upcoming months, but with the awareness that all of this could drastically change once the little guy comes into my life.

Revisiting the List

Since January, the majority of my career exploration time has been dedicated to interior design, with content creation being a close second. In fact, as I discussed two weeks ago, I’ve really only touched about half of the careers on my list.

Well, I think it’s time to move on and start exploring some of these other fields. The two I want to focus on are both related: theater administration and acting.

Theater Administration

I figure that starting with at least some theater administration experience is a good way to be exposed to the role of a Theater Executive or Managing Director. Whether it be paid or volunteer, the work would likely need to be part-time only and flexible with hours and location.

I could see myself easily being able to take on part-time marketing and fundraising work immediately, given my past jobs. Eventually, I would want to also get experience on the operations side of things (contracts, budgeting, etc.).

I’ll keep my eyes open for part-time and volunteer opportunities at my local theater companies.

Acting

As I’ve written about before, I continue to act for fun. But it’s time to really start treating this as a business. Some things I want to achieve in the upcoming year:

  • Getting new headshots and finally building my acting website
  • Talking to peers who have ‘gone Equity’ or regularly get commercial and other paid work
  • Exploring resources and workshops on the business side of being an actor
  • Researching the advantages and process of getting an agent
  • Dedicating some of my audition and training time to paid work rather than just passion projects

Adding to the List

There may be some new careers I want to look into. Yes, that’s right. Despite the fact that I already have nine careers that I planned to explore, I may be adding to that list! To be fair, I’ve already all but eliminated some of the original nine.

And the thing with this type of exploration is that you never know what you might discover. It can open your eyes to paths you never thought of (such as podcasting) or it can uncover opportunities you forgot you had once considered.

Public Speaking Coaching

One career, in particular, that had once piqued my interest but that I had forgotten about was public speaking coaching.

When I worked at Facebook, I had the opportunity to attend a free, all-day workshop hosted by Own the Room, a company that provides communication and presentation training. I really enjoyed the workshop and remember thinking throughout the day that the coaches leading the training must have a really enjoyable job.

But, of course, this was at a time when I still had those pesky demons like Doubt and Pessimism whispering in my ear. I immediately talked myself out of pursuing this type of work with excuses like how the job would likely require a lot of out-of-town travel and thus conflict with my theater activities.

Now, in retrospect, it’s so silly that I didn’t pursue this type of work more. In my past jobs, when asked to list the elements of my role that I most enjoyed, I consistently identified presenting and training/teaching as the top tasks.

So, I’m adding this one to the list. I think I’ll start by researching companies that focus on this type of work and exploring their qualifications for being a coach. Then, it might be a matter of starting a conversation with people in the field.

The Road Ahead

As I look to the year ahead and possibly many years ahead, I need to remind myself of something that I said at the very beginning of this sabbatical: The plan will change.

Little did I know then how very true that statement would be. And I think having that mindset allowed me to be so flexible this past year with my exploration. I’m determined to keep this same mentality. I need to remember my destination — finding a professional path I’m passionate about — but know that the road (or roads) getting there will be winding and unpredictable.

Photo by Craig Adderley from Pexels
Interior Designer, Planning, Theater Executive Director

Part-Time Work

This week, I’ve been working on something I haven’t done in quite a while: applying for jobs!

Wait, Laura, are you done with your sabbatical?!

No, not at all. But I have been getting a bit antsy not working. Sure, I’ve been keeping busy. Quite busy, in fact. I’ve had classes, my internship, work on the podcast and a lot of projects around the apartment as we prepare for the baby. But there’s something about actually getting paid for the work you’re doing that is much more satisfying.

And from a more practical standpoint, it would also be good to make a little extra money. While we’re very excited about expanding our family, it wasn’t something I was expecting to happen during my sabbatical. And as I’ve written about before, this new development will likely push back my timeline on going back to work full-time and may draw out my career exploration process, as I’ll need to fit in caring for a baby! So, my thought is that if I start working part time now, I won’t feel as much pressure to rush back to full-time work.

What are my requirements?

Related to my career exploration

A while back, I wrote about pursuing different ways of making some extra cash — everything from selling old clothes online to being a mock patient for medical students. The goal was just to make money.

This time around, I want to be more focused, taking on opportunities that are in some way related to one of the careers on my sabbatical list.

Part-time only

In addition to the job, I would still be taking classes and working on non-paid projects that relate to my sabbatical career exploration — not to mention taking care of a newborn very soon!

By limiting my work to just part-time, I’ll give myself the time and mental space to still work on my other ventures. And most importantly, by not committing to a full-time job in one specific area, I hope to prevent tunnel vision and keep my mind open to all of the possible careers on my list.

Flexible schedule and (ideally) location

Again, outside of work, I’ll have a lot of other things that fill up my schedule: classes, the podcast, theater projects, house projects, and doctor’s appointments, to name a few. Having some flexibility in a work schedule would allow me to better accommodate these other projects.

As for location, it would be great to find a job that is either close to home or allows for some remote work, both for my own comfort as I get farther along in my pregnancy and from a logistical perspective for when I’m taking care of the baby.

What opportunities are out there?

So far, I’ve pursued a couple of roles, both in different areas of my career exploration.

Theater Administration & Management

I’ve applied to and have an interview for a part-time fundraising position with a local theater company. I, obviously, have extensive experience in fundraising and a background in online advertising for theaters; however, I’ve never worked in-house at a theater company.

Being an Executive or Managing Director for a theater company is one of the careers on my list, so I figure this would be good exposure to the inside workings of theater management and administration.

Photo credit: Richard Mayer

Interior Design

I’ve also just applied to be a part-time design assistant for an interior designer, located right here in Oakland. 

This summer, I’ve done my internship with the home staging company and really have learned a lot about that area of design. My next goal was to intern with an interior designer (or firm) in order to get hands on experience with that process. To find a paid position would be even better!


We’ll see how these two opportunities pan out and what else comes up. It will be important for me to stay steadfast in my requirements. While it would be nice to make some extra money, I can’t let it derail me in my ultimate goal of exploring new careers and finding the path I’m passionate about.