[notice]A new, monthly column by Vivienne Solomons who is a legal consultant who passionately believes that God wants His people to make a difference right where they are and to stand up for what is true and just. She is also passionate about encouraging young women to walk victoriously with God and she is engaged in a challenging faith journey as a parent of a child with special needs.[/notice]
I’d thought long and hard about it, leaving my well-paid job of more than six years to pursue other interests and priorities. While I enjoyed the work I did, the time had come to bid farewell to my colleagues and take the proverbial ‘leap of faith’ into the unknown. I did so for a number of reasons that made sense for where my family is right now, but mostly because I needed greater flexibility in my working hours in order to be available for my son in the afternoons. Although this was not an easy decision, it felt ‘right’. However, after almost three decades of formal employment, I would have to say that it was one of the scariest decisions I have made in my adult life. Ultimately, it was an act of faith and trust in God, and I was full of hope that new opportunities would present themselves at the appropriate time. A few months down the line, I am convinced that I made the right decision. This is what I’ve learned in my journey so far:
- Believe in yourself and see yourself as a ‘brand’ worth investing in
I started working when I was seventeen and worked my way through both an undergraduate and a postgraduate degree at university. After working for almost three decades it was to be expected that I would doubt my decision. I had doubts after I handed in my resignation, and thereafter for the first few weeks at home. But this is normal; the grass always appears greener on the other side – until you get there! I not only doubted my decision; I doubted myself – my skills and my abilities. However, I just kept reminding myself of why I was doing what I was doing and made a decision to stand by my decision. Now I need to work on my brand – how I present who I am and what I do to the outside world. This will include pursuing further studies, attending seminars and/or conferences and improving my skills and abilities informally, as well as networking with like-minded people.
- Keep the vision before you and set goals accordingly
There is a saying that if you don’t have a vision for your life, someone will give you theirs. If you are used to an employer setting the agenda and goals for the day and week ahead, it can be difficult to suddenly take up the reigns of your ‘working’ life. But think of it this way: You have a blank canvas with which to work, and you get to choose both the composition and its constituent colours. If, however, you struggle to make decisions or in crystallising your thoughts, it may be a good idea to meet with a coach/mentor who will assist you not only in navigating unfamiliar territory but also in giving substance to your many ideas.
- Plan your day, your week, your month and your year
Time management is key for a productive day. But it all starts with a plan. In the words of the modern day proverb: “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. Planning helps us get to our ‘destination’ in the most efficient way possible. While planning does take precious time out of our day, it inevitably saves us time (and often money and frustration) in the long run. However, it is also important to prepare for the unpredictability of a new venture – Flexibility and unpredictability are two sides of the same coin; we cannot have the one without the other. Some days will be unpredictable, particularly in the beginning but if you have a plan, any time available will be maximised.
- Keep reasonable work/office hours
When you work from home, the lines between work and family time can quickly become blurred. It helps to draw boundary lines around work and family responsibilities to avoid the benefit of being at home quickly becoming a burden to you and/or your family. Conversely, you may need to make it known that when you are working, you should not be disturbed, unless there is an important matter that needs your urgent attention or in the case of an emergency.
- Be willing to ask for expert assistance
Starting out on your own can feel like being thrown in the deep end of the pool but it doesn’t have to remain that way – if you are willing to call on family and friends to share their know-how and/or the benefit of their experience with you. Be willing to pay for their time and assistance and you might be pleasantly surprised when they gift you instead.
- “Cut your coat according to your cloth” and keep accurate financial records
It goes without saying that leaving the relative security of employment brings with it certain financial realities that are sometimes ‘hard to swallow’. However, if you are willing to make sacrifices in the short term, your frugality will be rewarded. Keeping accurate records will help you monitor your income and expenditure and, come time to fill in your tax return, your task will be mostly completed.
- Schedule regular down-time
As the proverb goes: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. Time off work is important no, essential, not only for physical health and general wellbeing but also for optimal productivity at work. It is not possible to sustain a lack of sleep in the long run. Nor is it possible to continually ‘run on empty’ – we are relational and spiritual beings who need to give time to activities which nurture us, as well as inspire us to continue pursuing our dream.
I believe these lessons have application whether you are a stay at home wife/mom/dad, consultant, entrepreneur, freelance artist or a writer. Looking back, I have no regrets, and I look forward to what lies ahead with great expectation. I have learned that it is never too late to pursue your dream, whatever it may be.