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Are You Having Trouble Making Ends Meet?

Try these simple exercises when struggling with a job search.

Are you having a hard time making ends meet?

If so, you might want to examine how you are you are spending your time. If you are a boomer, like most of Marin County residents, you are spending less time than you did three years ago — before the current economic crisis — volunteering, reading newspapers, reading for pleasure, listening to the radio, being with spouse, and watching TV.

What you're doing more of is spending time on your computer. If you are a young, outgoing boomer (ages 45-54), according to Lori Bitter, you are most likely social networking with a variety of groups in your social orbit, including family members, political organizations, hobby or interest groups, religious organizations, social groups, neighbors, co-workers, former co-workers, and business contacts. 

Taking a look at how you are spending your time can help reinvigorate the job search process and help you move towards a better career. Does all that social networking really help pay the bills? Here are two exercises and job search process that can help you make the best use of your time to make ends meet.

Check Your Time

First try Dan Pink's exercise, called "Check Your Time." First, make a short list of what is most important to you: the people, the activities, and the values. Pare the list to 10 or fewer items. Next, take your iPhone, your day planner, or the free calendar you got from the insurance guy, and examine how you've spent your time in the past week or month. How many hours can you assign to each of the life priorities you identified? Where have you successfully aligned your values with your time? Where do you find gaps between what you preach and what you practice?

For more information on how you spend your time, listen to Dan Pink interview.

Walking the Tightrope

If you are having a hard time making ends meet, examine how you are spending your time in the present. Are you worrying about the future (future fears - how am I going to make ends meet?) or looking back upon the past (past regrets - if only I had...)?  If so, here is an exercise to keep you focused on the present. Imagine that you are a tightrope artist balancing on the high wire.  Think of a problem (i.e., how am I going to pay the rent or save for my retirement?).  Then walk across the floor along an imaginary tightrope.  When you walked the tightrope,  did you forget about your fear because you were concentrating on not falling off the tightrope? If you do this exercise regularly, you might learn to enjoy the experience of (life) balancing.  

Tightrope Artist Model 

Now look at what's needed in Marin County. For example, Marin has the highest percentage of individuals over 64 in the state. How might you apply your experience, values, and skills to serve this rapidly expanding population? Marin also is a great place to visit and has one of the best climates for agriculture. You might look into applying your values, experience, and skills to the agritourism business.

To make the best use of your time for job search and career decision-making, focus on people you like to be with (target population), what you like to do (your favorite activities, motivated skills, and interests), and what's important to you (your preferred values). Talk with people who are doing the kind of work you'd like to do (field research), set an intention, and develop an action plan. Don't be afraid to change plans if life intervenes (i.e., if you plan to go into real estate, but the market collapses, or if you plan work that involves travel but family caregiving needs take precedence). Look on every life event as an opportunity to contribute your skills, values, and interests.

By evaluating the time you are spending on the things you consider important, you can re-evaluate if your current career or job search meets your life needs. If it is not, consider what you need to do to balance on that tightrope. A good place to look for help in balancing is right in your own back yard.

The two exercises and the model can keep you focused on making the best use of your time in order to best work to make ends meet.

For more information on what to do when you are having a hard time making ends meet and looking for jobs, contact Dr. Sally Gelardin,  415.312.4294, or email Sally @AskDrSal.com.

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