Justin Jacoby Smith is an organizer, web geek, Buddhist, and poet.

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sometimes it's time to quit

Someone started a thread on /r/productivity today asking if she should quit her new job working graveyard shift at the coffee shop--after just 90 days it's making her miserable, she's losing time with her family and friends, and it's having an adverse impact on her health. She has two other job offers, she says, but she's concerned that it will look bad on her job history to leave a job so quickly. She asks for suggestions on how to handle her dillema. This was my advice. ---

Quit!* Listen--if you're at a gig that's disrupting the things that matter most to you, like quality time with your loved ones, and you have two other opportunities with (I presume) better hours, I would absolutely go with one of the other offers. As you say: you're young and a student, and you're not depending on any of these part-time options for your livelihood, so I see no reason you should stay.

No one looking at your resume when it comes time for Real Jobby Job interviews will notice or care that you were only at a coffee shop for a month if you have a job history that continues from there. Better yet, protip: don't put this gig on your resume, and start it with whatever job you pick up from here. Even if you're working on building up job history for future prospective employers, the trade-off of losing 90 days of that history in exchange for a job that allows you to maintain a healthy lifestyle and stable relationships with the people you care about is absolutely worth it, at least in my book.

That said, if you decide to stay (maybe you get paid more, or like the camraderie), here are some tips on staying healthy and productive while working graveyard, as I have:

  • Try to get your 6-8 hours of sleep in a room that's as dark as possible, maybe with a drone sound to drown out noise.
  • If you miss out on crucial sleep time, learn how to use naps effectively to regain energy during the day. A strategically timed coffee nap got me through lots of graveyard nights at hotel front desks.
  • Exercise for 20-30 minutes (even if it's just a brisk walk) soon after getting up. Start your day with a glass of milk, a few eggs, or one of those fancy-pants juices with 30g of protein--as long as you get a boost to jumpstart your body (and that doesn't have to be caffeine!), your whole day (ahem--night) will feel different.
  • Eat your pre-work meal 3-4 hours before your shift starts. That way your food will be fully digested and you'll be less likely to be fighting drowsiness at work.
  • If you can manage it time-wise, for the sake of relationship health it's great to be able to spend the morning with your significant other before they head out for the day. Maybe you can share a meal--steak and eggs works pretty well for breakfast or dinner, ya know. Everybody's happy.
  • Since it sounds important to you to be in touch with your family, try to make time to call them for chats between the time you wake up and when you head in to your shift. I try to call my parents each once a week, and I have a rotating schedule of friends I call once every few weeks as per Merlin Mann's advice to make sure I stay connected to people that are important to me.

Hope this helps in some way. Hope you let us know what you decide to do! ---

*(You can tell I've been listening to a lot of, uh, Quit!)

no, i don't know what the hell this is about

Let me make something clear here, if I can.

I don't know what I'm doing.

If I have any leg up at all, it's that I'm using this space to present ideas and approaches to work and fulfillment that I'm personally exploring and verifying, and that have already worked for me.

The reason for that is pretty straightforward. As much as I'm writing for anyone who might be helped by the thinking I do here, ultimately this space is about figuring out what works for me and my eccentricities. Me: an overcommiting, distractable, overgrown punk rat from the South that would forget to meet you across the room in 5 minutes if I didn't write it down.

Not all of this will be meaningful or useful to you. Maybe, as Merlin says, you don't need this. All the better for you, for lacking these peculiar faults of mine.

Still, I think maybe my troubles with attention and time are common. I think they're especially common among people of my own age group, and even moreso among people of my own level of activity: whether you spend your free time writing poetry or organizing your apartment building, if you've got 100 kinds of demands, new approaches can be fruitful. And I'd like to use this space to make some suggestions on new approaches.

Tips aren't my specialty. I don't have the cleverest macro for appending something to your to-do.txt list. But I hope I can get you thinking about whether that thing you're adding to your list is worth doing at all. I hope I can get you thinking about what kind of work aligns with the things that matter to you. And I hope you find this a useful place to consider these questions.

79 hours a week

There are 24 hours in a day. Over 7 days, that makes 168 hours.

Subtract the 40 hours you need to spend earning your paycheck, and the 49 you should be spending asleep.

Take 89 hours out of 168--that leaves you with 79 hours a week for The Rest of Your Life: creative passions, friendships, fun, love, activism, self-care. That's a lot of things to fit into 79 hours.

How are you spending them?

I'm not asking what specifically you're doing with your time--your priorities and the demands on your attention are probably different than mine. I'm asking if you're spending the time you have in ways that make sense given the things you tell everybody you care about. We all say we have values, we all have these ideas of who we are, and about the rightness of what we do--but what, daily, are you spending your time *doing*? Are the things you do every day moving you toward not just your visions of justice, but your visions of your own future? Or are you spending your time at a job that sucks so you can come home to Twitter and Tumblr and feel righteous about your choice of retweets?

79 hours is all you get, and the only person responsible for whether you spend those hours in a way that's fulfilling and meaningful to the pursuit of your goals--big or small--is you.


A minor edit--it's been pointed out that I didn't include 'commute time' in these calculations--for me, that alone takes up at least 21 hours of the 79 'free' hours a week.

I lumped those 21 hours in with the 79, though, because I've found that the commute is one of the best times to organize my work on my passion projects: review prior and upcoming commitments, draft e-mails, read items I've queued up. On top of my paid work, of course, I still do something like 12-16 hours of work a week doing hosting, sound engineering & booking for Voices of the 99%, and I have other mercifully smaller organizing commitments as well. Using my transit time to do some of this work means that the otherwise 'wasted' 15 hours on the train goes towards work on a project that I claim matters to me.

I have to use my commute time making progress on my passion projects, or I'd be lapsing on my promises regularly. I don't expect that's true of everyone, though, so it's fair to say that maybe rather than 79 hours, your time is even scarcer than mine: you only get 58 hours. Your hours are indeed fewer and more precious under this new math, but the question remains the same: are you being smart with your time, or not?

about that notecard--

Adopt the habits of intelligent work and the various rewards of intelligent work will tend to bend toward you--or at least they ought to. People deserve recognition, remuneration, and influence when they can manage competing demands on their attention effectively. If those rewards *don't* start bending towards you, if you aren't recognized for what you've proven yourself capable of accomplishing, maybe you should ask yourself if you're working in a place that's worth your time.