Ways to stay productive when life puts us on hold.


What do we do when life puts the pause key on? One of the hardest things to do is to stay productive when we don’t have a clear vision of where we are going and what we want to do. Times of confusion leave us in the dark fumbling around looking for some hope of finding direction. We may be going through a career or life transition and simply feel unsure about what is going on. It’s hard to make clear plans and stay active when we aren’t sure where this is all leading.

Perhaps we can’t find the answers that we want. We are trying to drum up a mentor, read books and blog posts, visit organizations and colleges, or anything that will give us some idea of what should come next. Once we find that direction we will start wrapping stuff up. Ending a job, putting a house up for sale, saying goodbye to friends and family, ending a college career, or a relationship. Those wrapping stuff up periods of life can be mind numbing for planners. We want clear direction and dark grey fuzzy stuff can send us over the edge.

Perhaps the one that sends us over the edge is the crappy job. In 2015, I left the job I loved of seven years to start a career transition. My goal was to increase my income and place myself in a position to move upwards. The job I loved had no opportunity for upward mobility financially or physically. It was time to leave. For the past three years I have found myself in three entry level positions where I am underutilized, unchallenged, and unimpressed with the opportunities open to people shifting to new industries in a career transition.  I am striving to find my new normal and so many things seems to be on hold. It’s easy to become unproductive.

It’s easy to become unfocused and unproductive during times of waiting, but times of waiting are times when we need to get ready for what is coming next. Even though we might not have all the details of what is coming we usually have a general idea and can do things to move in that direction. If you really don’t have a clue then just pick some areas of interest for a career, or in your life, and try stuff. Action will provide clarity.

I spent six months meeting with professionals that I respected, visiting colleges, and doing research on colleges and career transitions. This helped me stay active and learn as much as I could about the job market. I also started taking continuing learning classes at a local university to explore my creative side and new subjects. Times of waiting are a great time to start a new hobby, side project, or side hustle. Why not try your hand at being an entrepreneur? Perhaps what you need to move ahead is something you haven’t discovered yet.

As a new employee in a new industry, or organization we may not think much of all the prep work that we are doing. In those beginning days we are making connections, establishing credibility, proving our worth, and completing required training. All these steps are preparation for what is ahead. I got through a rough week of statistics class just to come to work and complete some more boring training. I thought to myself how I couldn’t take this job anymore. I watch everyone do all the big stuff and I sit here and am proving myself. Completing projects as they come along, but doing a lot of waiting and meaningless training. One day I am suddenly asked to be a part of a project where I need everything I have learned in my stats class and on the job training. It was at that moment I became very grateful for every ounce of preparation I had to get ready to complete this project.

While you wait for clear direction and for life to move forward do some of the following:

  • Journal. Write down what is going on and refer to it from time to time to gauge progress.
  • Start a new hobby. Hobbies inspire creativity and may just help you find your next big thing.
  • Take some classes. Any class. Classes get us in touch with other lifelong learners, can spark ideas, and can help us learn new skills that we can use later.
  • Go back to college. Why not? Maybe it’s time to get that degree, certification, go for the Master’s, or delve into an entirely new subject.
  • Meet with people. Just randomly meet with people who have done things you admire. They can give you some personal how-to’s on making life great at all stages.
  • Read like there is no tomorrow. Fill your brain with meaty ideas, stories, and facts. It’s better to fill your mind intentionally than to let it wonder aimlessly.
  • Learn to love the simple things. Sometimes it’s good just to relax. Times of wait are good times to reassess life and identify priorities. When the pace picks back up you aren’t going to get time to do this. So figure it out now and be thankful you have the time.
  • Do things better. There is probably a bunch of great stuff in your life right now. I know that one situation might suck, but what about the rest. We half ass so much of our life. What if we take some time to do things better. When our kids started leaving home I started cooking meals that required more preparation and unique ingredients. I had more time and didn’t need to hurry to feed our family of six. So we take our time. Decide what we want to eat and can make it a better experience. What can you improve on?

Times of waiting can be excruciating. They make me want to hop into a Dodge Barracuda, drive 100 mph drinking shots of Whiskey just to get the edge off and to burn out my frustration, but that’ not healthy, or legal. So instead I ride my bike as far and hard as I can, focus on staying productive, and pour myself into preparing for tomorrow because one way or the other I am moving forward. One way, or the other you are too. So let’s get ready! We are going somewhere.

Marcy Pedersen



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