When do you think of self-care what comes to mind? A spa day? Jazz and hot tea? Cozying up with your favourite blanket and movies from your childhood? Some of these were on my list and they still are incredibly important. But, with my layoff in May 2020 due to “COVID budget constraints” came clarity.
I was in a job I loved. That said, I knew in my heart I did not want to work for anyone again if I left it. At 49 years old, the tradition ground into me as a Gen-Xer that we must work 9-5 (or 8-6 or even 7-7 and some weekends), wasn’t making sense to me anymore.
When I was laid off, I instantly felt “lighter” – I knew immediately (like within hours!) that I was internalizing a lot of stress. The massages, chamomile tea and watching Casablanca were temporary fixes.
A few weeks after my layoff and after taking time to deal with the unemployment system (when millions of others were too during the beginning of COVID), getting my healthcare insurance organized and finally being able to think about what I might want from life, a friend recommended Timothy Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek. And there it was laid out in the book. My holy grail: time.
And then, there it was in my head: my decision to start the journey to professional freedom. THIS would be the ultimate in self-care; a long-term solution to reducing stress and anxiety.
What do you need to reduce your stress? Or better put, what can you actively do to reduce your stress long-term?
If professional freedom is an answer, begin now. You don’t need a layoff to kickstart the process, just a shift in mindset. Here’s how you can get started with a few simple steps.
Step 1: Write down your skills
I am a very visual person. I started pen-to-paper listing all the things I knew I had as far as “skills.” This was everything from giving presentations, to managing budgets. 2-3 Words max.
You can use a dry-erase board, Post-it notes, anything that lets you see it all. For some, this might be typing onto a spreadsheet. Just make it easy for you.
Step 2: Make a list of what you love
Items on this list, 2-3 words max, could be a skill, an activity or even a “thing.” For example writing, reading, or historical fiction books. Another example: meeting new people, using technology, or YouTube.
See where I’m headed? If you really want professional freedom but need to earn income (which most of us will need to I am guessing), then doing what you love will play a role in not just the feeling but the reality of freedom.
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Step 3: Figure out your budget needs
Here is the epiphany: you may not need as much money as you think to live. I realized this quickly but I think we all got a taste of that during the pandemic. A lot was cut out of my life, expenses changed. Priorities changed.
Ferriss outlines how to do this in his book and the final budget will depend on your priorities- some people need more income than others, but you’ll be surprised how little you really need to live on.
Sit down and make a list of monthly expenses that are vital (such as rent/mortgage, health insurance, car payment, etc.) and expenses. Figure out flexible expenses (such as a gym membership, cable TV or groceries/food). Then go back to your “vital” list and figure out your worst-case scenario. Is anything there flexible? For example, can you downsize your car? (and therefore your payment?), reduce your rent?
Once you know the minimum amount you need, you can determine a budget on the rest and set aside how much money to invest in this new lifestyle. My Budget Matters blog post goes into more detail.
Step 4: Research on how to make money
Go back and take what you have recorded from steps 1 and 2 and keep them easily accessible. This is where you learn how you can take the skills you have, match them up to all that you love, and determine an approach to earning income.
How to do the research
- Talk to people. One of the first things I did was connect with others. People who know me well, people whose lifestyle and life decisions I respected, and others that may have been recommended along the way.
- Google it (of course)! But seriously, once you start searching for ideas, you’ll get ads for free courses on the topic- take advantage of them. Most may have a paid offering at the end of the session, so track the “teachers” that you gel with and record their offers and websites for later. You may never have thought of creating an online course on “how-to” one of your skills or even about writing an e-book!
- Join Facebook groups. I’ve joined multiple groups for bloggers and online entrepreneurs. Some are extremely active and informative, others I have dropped or just don’t check often. But this is your community. Your inspiration. Your connection to all things related to your interest. You’ll end up with links to great articles, get tips and feedback from those that are a few steps ahead of you and simply be better off for the effort.
- Read blogs or books, listen to podcasts: in short, go down relevant rabbit holes.
Step 5: Take action
Build your toolkit. I talk about this in detail in my Frazzled But Hopeful blog post, but in essence, organize your research and the tools you’ve red-flagged along the way so everyone and everything is at your fingertips, one keyboard-stroke away.
Tim Ferriss (and many others) feel that the holy grail is passive income. This means creating a system of getting paid without actively working on it, consistently anyways. I do not disagree and hope that I can make that happen eventually. But let’s be realistic, there is work to be done to get there. Ideally, you will want multiple income streams, and Ferriss goes into that in more detail in the book.
In the meantime, you may, depending on the results in Step 3, need to bring something in. So creating a roadmap is helpful. Do not spread yourself too thin with your goals. Make sure one income stream leads to another or is part of the same big picture. For example, your “umbrella” can be a blog and the income streams can be affiliate marketing, a product or a course to sell (passively as a “set it and forget it” income).
Use the findings in Step 4 to move forward. If you’ve decided on a specific path, actually fill your toolkit. Buy, schedule or download the tools you need, whether it is technology, a course or coach, software or platforms (I got the lifetime Platinum level for Groovefunnels) to set myself up for multiple income streams.
One thing I absolutely have learned: work on one idea and get laser-focused. Very recently, I have narrowed it to my blog.
So what is the verdict? Have I determined doing what I “love” can sustain a lifestyle? From what I’m seeing, YES. I don’t know where I will land on income fully yet. But that is ok. I have achieved the knowledge that professional freedom will happen.
Even if I have to pivot here and there, I will get to live life on my terms, starting now, in my 50th year. I may be working more hours for less (NO) money yet, but I am on the way and feeling healthier than ever! #FreeAt50
Daphne Reznik is currently a resident of Michigan’s capital city, Lansing, where she has resided since graduating from East Lansing’s Michigan State University in 1992. Travel and exploring a region’s culture through food and history has always been a passion for her. You can find her at FreeAt50.