How To Love Your Life Even if You Hate Your Job

Do you hate your job? Almost everyone works a job they hate at some point. Click through for 5 tips that will keep that bad job from infecting the rest of your life. >>

This fantastic guest post comes via the very cool Amanda Lee whose site is now totally defunct and off the air. But credit where credit is due!

So you hate your job. Welcome to the club.

I started work this week. And by “work,” I mean “the job I’m doing to pay my school tuition, but that I by no means enjoy in the slightest.” And I’m apparently not alone at all in employment dispassion.

I have a friend who’s been steadily searching for a job for the last eleven months. Still others are waiting tables and letting their bachelor’s degrees gather dust. And some are beyond depressed at being grossly underemployed in jobs where their creativity is left to stagnate. Their work is rote, rudimentary, and unvarying from day to day.

The situation is pretty universally bad. In fact, I’d say that less than ten percent of my friends are actually content with their employment situations. For the rest of us, working is a daily exercise in learning to cope.
Luckily, we’re learning. And learning well. And it’s making us better and more focused on Getting Excited and Making Stuff. I’m terribly lucky to be close to some of the most driven and creative people ever. I’m picking up some of their habits to help me get through work every day.

Here are 5 ways to cope if you hate your job (like I do)

Remember why you’re there

Maybe your benefits rock. Maybe your tuition will be reimbursed, or your meals are free. Or maybe your pay scale leaves a ton to be desired, but you’re learning a new programming language or adding a handful of amazing projects to your portfolio. Or maybe you’re just glad to pay rent without much strain.
Whatever it is that brought you to that job in the first place, keep it in mind whenever you start telling yourself how much you dislike it.

Don’t let work be your absolute foremost priority

Yes, I know. You have a habit of eating, and you don’t want to stop doing it. Your job is what allows you to continue eating. I understand. But if you hate your job, it doesn’t make any sense to allow it to take up the biggest chunk of your time, effort, and headspace.
Don’t bring it home with you. Don’t allow your job to eat into whatever you’re doing, thinking, or consuming outside your obligatory forty hours a week. Remember that your job is a means to an end [see above], not the end itself.

Find a way to do what you want to do outside of work hours

Even if it’s not paid or prestigious, stay in the habit of being creative. It can be so easy to let your piano gather dust every night, or not to open the novel you’re working on for weeks on end. You put off finishing that poster design project.
Because if you do, before long you’re going to be lying when you call yourself a designer or a musician or a writer.

Seize control of wasted time during the workday, and use it to do what you want

This is my favorite thing ever. Between answering phones and writing up reports at warp speed, I’m sketching fashion figures in the margins of my TPS Reports. I’m knitting under my desk and wandering the neighborhood during my lunch hour to shoot pictures. I’m writing out blog posts in longhand.
One of my best friends spends his downtime at a web design firm learning the rudiments of 3-D modeling so he can use them in his video installation projects. He’s writing letters to galleries where he hopes to have shows. Do this. Do this every day.

Give yourself a deadline for moving on and make it happen

This means being an adult about your finances and making sure that you have savings to weather whatever downtime you might have between gigs. It means staying in and working on your portfolio at night instead of going out with your coworkers.
It means not getting sidetracked by any guilt-based or fear-based reasons you might want to stay just a little bit longer. It means promoting yourself and your creative work. It means taking your career seriously, not just being a dilettante with a tedious habit you half-ass your way through.
Stop making excuses and just do it. If your job is unfulfilling, you’re never going to grow to like it. Share on X So why don’t you do something you love instead?

Do you guys like your jobs? If not, how are you handling it?

P.S. How to quit one job without another one lined up

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

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  1. Brooke

    OMG ~ I needed that.

    My horrible job has been eating my creativity for 7 months. I have been actively seeking other employment for 7 months… BUT not keeping up with my creative endeavors OR remembering why I ever started working in this godforsaken place.

    The benefits ARE phenomenal. I have two kids and a husband and a mortgage. All of those things are well provided for, because of my job. I DO, however, really miss being creative. I will work to utilize some of my downtime for creative things, instead of looking for more work, being more productive and more miserable in a job I cannot succeed/advance in.
    Good call. (Don't worry, not to the point of losing this awful job until I have a new one ~ but just enough.)

    Thanks, Amandalee for the reminder!

  2. Brittany

    I decided last August that I was going to quit the job I'm at now. I am a well-paid receptionist with good benefits, but this job does not help my soul in any way, shape, or form. It makes me yell, "IDIOT!" Sadly, this happens multiple times daily.

    The plan is for me to go back to Alaska (where I'm from) for five months to work my tail off at the wonderful coffee shop I left to move to Portland to live with my wonderful boyfriend. I am going to miss him like crazy for those five months, but we both know it will be good for the both of us. He's never lived alone and this will be his chance to do it for five months. I am missing playing outside in Alaska and doing all the "Alaska-ey" things I used to do.

    It feels weird knowing that I will be quitting my "good" job in three months and that this has been planned since last summer. But I can't take some of the soul-sucking people at this job. The head lady's unsaid plan is to make sure people do everything her way and she micro-manages things like she invented the idea. Her goal is to bring people down. People wonder why in the past ten years that I have been the receptionist there the longest, which is only two years! That's saying something.

    Sorry for my rant. This post just strikes such a chord with me because leaving this job is something I have been thinking about every single day for the past year and it's only since August that I've had a plan on leaving it. Having the support of my boyfriend makes me know it's the right thing to do, but leaving him for five months will be hard (although we started out in a long distance relationship).

    Ending this now before I keep typing. :o)

  3. beautybets

    Where were you when I entered the rat race?! 10 years and countless "learning moments" later, I can completely vouch for every word of A's wisdom. The biggest mistake I ever made was to let work define me to the point of despair if it didn't make me jump out of bed each morning. I missed out a lot of fun in my LIFE because I was panicking about my JOB not being perfect. Never again! I love my work most days, but when it gets tough I try to turn my attention to the things I can control, the things I'm grateful for, and the things I can do to make small yet meaningful changes.

    Such a great post – thank you for all the spot-on reminders!

  4. Mary

    I only planned on staying at my job for about a year, but then the economy took a major nosedive, and I got stuck. I felt like my life had been hijacked by the evil duo of the economy and my boss. I've been here for nearly 4 years now, and at 28, I'm the most senior employee and have won employee of the year, which includes a paid trip to Hawaii. I still don't love the work, but I've decided to embrace it for the lessons it's giving me. I am much more business savvy now than I was 4 years ago for one thing, and I'm using this job to pay for my yoga teacher training so that as the economy recovers, I'll be fully equipped to build the career I really want!

  5. Ellie Di

    I've been very lucky with my job in that it's at home, online, and hour-manageable. When I'm not connected with a customer, I can surf the web, write, and plot other things. I choose to look at those times as getting paid to do what I want, even if it's only $6 an hour.

    And yet…I'm finding that I chafe under the work these days. The only reason I have a job at the moment is to pay down my school debt – every single cent of my $800 a month pays into loans. I'm at the point right now where I've decided I want to start working on my own business, which is being blocked by the need for paying down said debt. But I'm staying focused on the idea that the more I work, the less time I'll have to work. Once the debt is paid, I can quit. (Granted, that's $80,000 away yet, but I'm being optimistic!)

    Thank you so much for writing this for people like me and Brooke and Brittany. We all should be reminded once in a while that work isn't life!

  6. m.

    Like Mary, I only ever planned to be at my current job for a year. Then the economy tanked. Next month will mark the 3rd year. I by no means like this job—coming to work is work. I'd much rather dive head first into other projects or be off wandering the city. Pursuing the things that make me happy.

    This past July I decided to actively look for other work. To find the work I'm passionate about and finally use my B.A.

    A few months passed and I didn't have much luck so instead, I've committed to going back to school. I started at the 1st of the year and am now fulfilling some prerequisites I need for grad school.

    I'm still working for the time being because the benefits and the paycheck are something I cannot do without but within the year I hope to be finished with prerequisites and enrolled full time at grad school.

    This post couldn't have come at a better time! It's reassuring to hear I'm not the only one and to have a small reminder that my job is not my life!

  7. Rachel

    Brittany–I'm in that situation, too!

    I'm so lucky to have my job, I really am. I moved across the country with no job prospects, no contacts, no nothing. And I found an amazing job after 2 months, a job that pays me well and gives me weekends and evenings off and allows me to take art classes for free.

    But…I am so bored. I sit and stare at a screen for 8 hours a day, until any motivation I had to do anything drains out of me.

    This summer I'm moving back home to Wisconsin for 1 or 2 months, to hopefully intern at a portrait studio, and take week long trips to my aunt's sheep farm in Northern Wisconsin.

    My family and friends think I'm crazy for leaving a steady job in the midst of widespread unemployment, but I would rather work part time and live in a tiny studio and take pictures all the time than stare at a screen all day and buy a sweater from LOFT on the weekends.

    Thanks for this post.

    • Brittany

      YAAAAS Rachel this is so me! The boredom is debilitating! Staring at a screen is the surest way to unhappiness. In the mornings at work , I think of all the things I want to get done at home, but by the time I make it home at 6pm, I’m exhausted and can barely make dinner.

      I completely agree with working part-time instead. Plus, I find LOFT sweaters all the time at thrift stores lol so it’s all GOOD!

      Have the time of your life in Wisconsin this summer-I do not think you are crazy at all. I think society is crazy for not wanting to enjoy life more.

  8. amy anne

    This post is right on time. My job is mind-numbing and I can't stand spending nearly my whole day behind a desk, staring at a computer. It's very frustrating, but these are great things to keep in mind. It's just a means to an end, a stepping stone. I started my blog as a creative outlet, and it's made the workday much more manageable.

  9. stephanie

    i really needed to read this – i'm feeling SO unappreciated & taken advantage of at my day job. and i feel stuck – it's been 6.5 freaking years! i never thought i would work here for this long…a year or two tops. awful awful awful.

  10. caribbean princess

    I love my job as I have a lot of flexibility (I am doing specialist medical training in public health). however there is a lot of reorganisation of the health service in the UK and so everything is in disarray and organisations are being disbanded. there is also no money in the kitty in the universities as well so many people are being made redundant. basically jobs are few and far between.

    However I am thankful as I have managed to get funding to do a PhD so I shall make the most of the rocky times ahead and hope when I come through things have improved and I can get a job. til then I shall focus on the fact that I am lucky to have a salary coming in and try to enjoy it.

    thanks for the article. I will come back and read it when I feel glum!

  11. Rachael

    My job is another one that just pays the bills, but that isn't the worst job in the world. I wrote recently about needing an attitude adjustment, and this post sure helped!

  12. Pak

    The link to her blog is not working.

    My problem is a bit different. I'm a teacher and I adore it, I love my kids and feel so good about what I do, but half the people working at my school are mean, cruel and somehow evil 🙁
    So this post works for me too! Thanks so much! Love this blog!!!

  13. Emily |Jane

    This is a really great post! I recently read something about one of the biggest reasons for work dissatisfaction being the enormous amount of "fake work" we all do to appear busy but actually has no real meaning in our lives or the grand scheme of things. Yet we do them more than we do anything else in our days. It's time to either find something that makes you passionate, or learn to squeeze in little things that make it that much more enjoyable, and stop stagnating and doing nothing about it. Great post!

  14. Alli

    Well, I'm not in the "workforce" yet. Currently I'm planning on teaching which seems to be a pretty good combination of awesome all things considered. Although…. teaching jobs are just jumping up and rearing their heads. I wish you the best with your new pays-for-school job. Thanks for the tips. I think it can be difficult to leave work at work but it's definitely something that shouldn't control every area of our lives.

  15. Sarah D

    What an excellent post! I especially agree with the move-on paragraph!

    A year and a half ago I was laid-off from the most soul-sucking, boring, time wasting job I've ever had the displeasure of being hired for – err, I mean a career which had great benefits and gave me a comfortable life.

    The truth is I had been miserable for the two years I worked there, had wanted to quit, but never had the guts, especially with the economy going down the gutter.

    But you know what? Now I am broke, working two jobs (waitress and cafe barista), and going back to school for a degree in fine arts! I've never been so unsure of what the next day will bring, but never so happy either!

    NEVER be afraid to step off the beaten path and go your own way. I know I'll never let fear overcome my need to do what is right for myself ever again 😀

  16. April in Autumn

    I got my job because I thought it would be interesting and it would give me great experience. It's been both of those things, but I've been feeling ready to move on mostly because setting up the life I want to isn't feasible where I'm at.

    I do have the opportunity to take time to write blog posts or write in my notebook and I find on days I do that I am way more productive and creative in my actual work, too. If I am ever in a management position that allows me to, I'm giving my employees an hour of creative time a day.

  17. Kew

    Majority of the people in the world are in this situation and this certainly help us to get through some of the absolute worst of days…

  18. Mackenzie

    oh mylanta, this was just what i needed today! i work at carnival games (CARNIVAL GAMES!) at a theme park. for 8 hours. every day. and it tires me out so much and keeps me from my etsy business, but what's the use in that? thank you so so so much for this. now for plan: stop being a carnie 2011 is GO!

  19. Melanie

    It makes me feel a little better to know I'm not alone.

    I hate my field, my workplace, my coworkers, EVERYTHING about my job of 1.5 years. I already quit once but went back after seven months since the dismal economy is being particularly unkind to the young and educated but inexperienced.

    I've been actively seeking something else, ANYTHING else, for almost the entire time I've worked here (as well as the in between time). It's just so draining and disheartening.

    This post does renew my hope though. I need to keep up my efforts, leave work at work, and make time for LIFE.

  20. Ines

    Reading all the comments, I realized how good I have it. I'm a reporter by training and in my heart, and I have been waiting tables for a year. And I love it. I love going to work, I love learning every day about food and wine, I love never looking at a computer screen unless I want to. I love that I move all day and that I connect with people every single minute and provide them with memorable experiences.

    I love that I spend days in the kitchen learning from amazing chefs and cooks, I love that I get to take home expensive wines to try, I love that I'm pushed every day to do every thing perfectly, even when I can't and I don't.

    It doesn't hurt that my take-home pay is more than decent and that I get to take two or three long trips a year, but well… I'm not doing what I was trained to do, and that's ok.

    So, what I'm trying to say is… sometimes it's easier to find joy in what you ARE doing, than to reflect only on the bad things.

  21. Khadijah

    Well, first, I don't really hate my job. But its sort of unhip these days to not hate a 9-5 desk job. Its far from "fun", its a serious job and I'm doing something good for the environment and society.

    However, its not my passion. Which is really performing arts and the sciences. I spend the time outside of my job taking acting lessons (which I can afford thanks to my job), playing the ukulele, and reading a lot of books and writing articles.

    Thanks to my communication skills in performance and writing, I am able to bring those to my day-job, putting presentations for clients and my team.

    People think they would be happy elsewhere, doing something else. Truth is, if you're truly passionate and good at something, you can apply that to everything in your life, even if you have a desk job.

    I've found a lot of interesting stuff about my coworkers who are mostly engineers (stereotypical bland job), but they have hobbies like ballroom dancing, wrestling, interior design, photography, one of them DJs at weddings.

    If you have passion to begin with, the passion will follow you.

  22. nicole

    As an amateur photographer whose job at a law firm pays for my expensive hobby, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this post.

  23. Anastasia

    I so needed to hear this right now! Thanks. I wish her site was up.

  24. First Gen American

    When I was a waitress in college, I loved my job even though my boss was a jerk. It was so social and all my regular customers know me by name and vice versa. I think what made it tolerable was the hope that I was just working towards something better.

    The other thing I'd add is jobs seem less bad when you're learning something new. If you are bored, maybe ask to volunteer to build a website for your company or something above and beyond. That's often just what folks need to get out of the funk.

    I still like my job but now I get down about the time it takes away from the family. I should really heed the tips about using time during the day to do things that are good for the soul.

    This is a fab article. I will be sure to put it in my next roundup.

  25. nicole

    Thank you so much for this — I really needed it today (Monday!)!

  26. Nat

    i've been randomly browsing this blog for a while now, and i couldn't think of a more appropriate post to read today. i work in a pharmacy, dealing with customers all day long; some neutral, a few really nice and many who are plain rude. aside from giving these customers useful advice about their medicines and health, even though they just want to pay and leave asap, i'm expected to sell them a load of useless junk(which i simply won't do, even if it means getting paid less). the opening hours are crappy and there are too few of us in the staff, which results in a poor schedule and working alone in the evenings (not safe when you handle narcotics AND money). i never wanted to "work with people", that's certainly not why i spent 5 years at uni. frankly, i'm dying to find what most people would consider a boring office job: doing paper work for a pharmaceutical company or maybe try working as a freelance translator of pharmaceutical and medical documents. i say to myself several times a day that i need to find another job, and i probably will make a serious attempt within a year. but right now the timing is just terrible, so i will just have to hang in there a little longer. my salary is decent and a motivator of sorts i guess. when i do leave i will have funds to keep me going for a long while in case i have problems finding a new position.

  27. Caroline

    Well, this was exactly what I needed today. For the first time in my life, this year I found a job in which I can put to use my college degree. The problem is: my degree is in History and the only paying jobs for this degree is high school teaching and in my country that means trying to teach history to 30 snobby teengars who don't want to be taught and they spend the class yelling, saying mean thing and moving around the classroom. I can't tolerate disrespect and if you try to tell their parents, they end up firing you because "the parents have the money" (private school). Public schools are even worse because kids come with drugs and guns.
    On top of that, there are a lot of History Teacher, so I only get jobs teaching "Citizenship" (I don't know if that exists in USA) and it's even more boring for the kids than History and it's so boring for me… sometimes I'll be standing in front of the blackboard and have a flashing thought "Did seriously 5 years of hard studying only got me to a position where I get less respect from my "clients" that if I were a prostitute?
    Anyway: the paying is not good but I get to work less than 40 hours a week and I get free evening and weekends. I only have to learnt to disconnect from work during those free hours.

    • Carolina

      Excuse my English, I'm not a native speaker.

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