Day Job Basics #5: The Real Reason to Have a Day Job

So in Parts 1 through 4 I went through what makes a Day Job different from a Real Job, the philosophies involved with working that Day Job, and how to find which Day Job best fits your current goals.  I talked about money, time, and handling your energy, but there’s one really, really important thing left.

Working a Day Job serves absolutely no purpose if you’re not also working toward your creative goals.

This might seem obvious, but it’s something a lot of people forget in the daily grind.  How many people do you know who say they’re working on something bigger but aren’t, or who are making such slow progress that their current plan clearly isn’t working?  (Or is this person you???)

It’s easy to devote too much energy to your Day Job because most Day Jobs require completing clear, immediate tasks with a clear level of urgency: you have to do a certain thing in a certain place and be there at a certain time to do it, or you can watch your paychecks disappear.

We naturally prioritize our jobs over other things because if we screw them up, there’ll be real consequences.  Call it the fight-or-flight mechanism that kicks in if you’ve ever, say, cut your finger on a really sharp knife: you forget whatever the hell else you were doing and find a way to stop the bleeding (which in my case involved a lot of band-aids and an old but clean sock).

This is a dangerous trap to get caught in, because if you spend your whole life dealing with cut fingers, you’re not going to have energy left to work on your novel, your drawings, your music, restoring your classic car, or whatever other goals you’ve set for yourself.  The same is true if you devote too much energy to your Day Job, or other things that are less important in the long term .

Your creative goals have to be your focus.  They have to drive you, and you have to make them drive you, and everything else has to contribute to that focus, not distract you from it.

Organize your life so you can harness the time, energy, and resources you need to make your goals a reality.  Day Jobs are only there as a pathway to help you do that, just like washing dishes—they should never be your focus.

Remember: You work a Day Job because you need it to support something more important.

I’ll say it again: You work a Day Job because you need it to support something more important.

You got it?

Good.  Let’s do this.