How to Make Your Day Job Work For You

It’s a paycheck AND an opportunity to live more intentionally

It pays you enough to live on, and then some.

I once had a job at a vegan cafe, and I loved everything about it but the paycheck: two weeks of pretty much full-time work didn’t even cover my rent. On-shift lunches were included, but I couldn’t take much advantage of free food otherwise because it was all so delicious there was almost never any left over except for a few bagels. I still had to worry about money, which did no favors for my creativity. Though I learned a lot from that job and I adored my co-workers, it made no sense for me to keep it.

You don’t have to think about it after five o’clock.

This is the most important criterion: do you retain enough bandwidth for your real work? During the day, I go through the motions (restock coffee stations, process mail, answer phone) that support a team of fundraisers, and I get my real work done in the early mornings and on evenings and weekends. At five o’clock I promptly stop thinking about which printers in the office will need a new cartridge soon. When I worked at a yarn store, a man I was dating remarked, “You have a master’s degree. Why are you working in a shop?” Because the shop doesn’t follow me home. (And yes, that was a snobby thing to say, and I didn’t hesitate to tell him so.)

My morning commute along the Emerald Necklace—still beautiful in November, if not so green!

Your commute is (relatively) enjoyable.

This is where I really hit the jackpot, because my entire hourlong walk (or 20-minute bike ride) from my boyfriend’s apartment takes me through a string of Boston parks known as the Emerald Necklace. I arrive at the office feeling invigorated and inspired, jotting down notes for my next book project before I start my morning tasks. Truth be told, when I’m writing full time I invariably make coffee and go back to bed with my laptop for a few hours, which is terrible for my back, whereas I now get enough exercise every weekday. While such a dream commute may not be possible for you, look for ways to make your trip to and from work as pleasurable as it possibly can be, even when you’re smushed into a subway car nose to elbow. An audiobook or podcast—carefully chosen for research and/or inspiration—will save your sanity in bumper-to-bumper traffic, too.

You’d be friends with your co-workers (if you had the time!)

One of my ongoing tasks is assembling welcome binders for new employees with all the organizational background and tech how-tos they need to get acclimated. This means that I spend a couple weeks with someone’s name and new job title, wondering who they are and what they’re like before I actually get to meet them. I’ve become especially friendly with one of these new colleagues, who emailed me the other day: We need more Camilles in the world. (I receive happy feedback like this to the point that you might even say my new co-workers appreciate me more than most folks I’ve worked with in the publishing industry ever have. Funny, that.) These little sunshine-in-my-heart moments tell me that this office is where I belong, for the time being anyway—and I get to practice and refine my guiding principles much more so than if I were working alone at the library every day (see items #2 and #5).

…And even the not-so-nice ones offer opportunities for character study and self reflection.

Those folks who treat me like a robot who validates their parking tickets are showing me just how important it is to put those guiding principles into consistent practice.

Authoress: LIFE WITHOUT ENVY (“a self-help book that’s actually helpful”) and assorted fantasy novels.

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