5 ways to focus while you're still in your day job

You may be finding your current work a big challenge right now but there are lots of opportunities to use this time to position yourself best for when you do leave. Not only is it a great way to feel better about the current situation which may be driving you crazy, but learning to think in this way, viewing where you are now as an opportunity rather than a problem, will stand you in good stead once you make the leap from your current work to your new life. 

1. Learn

When I started my last job, I had very little experience of my role and no industry knowledge so I was learning all the time. The knowledge I’ve acquired, even in an unrelated industry, has been invaluable in learning how business works. The analytical skills I developed during my law degree allowed me to distinguish the useable aspects of that knowledge. Even if you’ve been in an industry for years and you’re technically good at your job, assess or get feedback on your weak spots and start there. Learn all you can about marketing, managing people, digital business or tax whilst the pressure is off: being well-rounded and knowing even a little about things will ensure you don’t feel as though your groping about in the dark (even if you're planning to outsource elements - one might say, especially so).

2. Read 

In line with the above, take every opportunity to expand your mind through reading. My daily commute across London meant I could take the opportunity to get through a new book every few days. Actually it worked better with some of the books to read them over and over again, to make sure the new ideas I’d come across actually stayed with me. (To ensure you don’t counteract number 3 below, an e-reader is a way to buy books without the challenge of physical storage!) 

3. Sort out your stuff (get rid of a lot)

If you’re planning a big change in your life, being streamlined and clearing out your clutter is a really good way to make the change as smooth as possible. If you’re planning to move abroad like I did, a big clear out is likely to be at the top of your to-do list. This process is a challenge sometimes because of the emotions we attach to our ’things’. We start off really keen, then get down memory lane, start to worry if we’ll someday ‘need’ those trousers or that drill and end up stalling. Separating our emotional attachment from the actual item can make it easier to pass it on. 

Two days before I left the country with two suitcases, shifting the rest of my stuff was my main focus. I was making daily trips to the post office to send off parcels for bits and pieces that I’d sold on eBay and to charity shops for the stuff I couldn’t find homes for. I had a lot more possessions than I thought. I got it done and offloaded even more when I arrived in Italy but I wish I started earlier. It's freeing, if a little scary!

And did I throw away anything I should have kept? Yes, a couple, but I can always buy back one day.

4. Get your first clients. 

Preferably paying clients. Again, depending on what industry you’re in, the kind of work you do and the contract you’re working under, depends on how easy this will be, but getting the income from a different source will help change your thinking to business owner rather than employee, whilst you’re still in the job. 

5. Connect with people you admire

People who are doing what you want to do, people who are making lots of money, whoever it is. Establishing and developing a relationship whilst you’re still in your job, rather than when you're out on your own can be a lot less intimidating and will serve you well. I got to know a group of self-employed people whilst I was still employed, which allowed me to connect into a like-minded community and counsel I could seek when I left my job. 

If taking someone out for lunch isn’t a viable option, following them on twitter or signing up to their newsletter is a great start. Write them an email if you know them a little, follow up with a phone call. Be creative and be brave about this, it may take some guts!

Do you have any other suggestions for focusing efforts whilst still in the job? Please share in the comments below!