Make your life and career change in stages.

A new career is a new life. The change from the past can be quite disorienting. You're moving away from an established routine, known paths, and a range of people you may have been working with for a long time.

You're quite possibly also moving away from a lot of things you don't like.

That may not sound like much of a loss, but stress creates mental patterns. People actually get habituated to things they don't like, and create defensive mechanisms that can cause problems later.

There are essentially two parts of starting a new career. One is mental, and the other is physical. Both can be difficult, and both can affect each other.

These changes need to be made in stages.

The idea is to give yourself a chance to acclimatize. Because of the tendency of human beings to develop reflexive work routines, the change can be quite strange.

Mental change in starting a new career

Before starting your new career, take a break.

A period of separation will make the changes easier.

A holiday, or just spending some time tidying things up and getting ready for the new career, will reduce the general weirdness of the new environment. Mental preparation can save a lot of worry in the startup phase.

It's fun exploring a new way of life, sure, but this is also work.

If you've been working in an office for decades, and suddenly find yourself working at home, the change might be welcome, but you have to learn your new routines and work habits.

Most people have reflex-based work routines. They know where everything is, where everyone is, how to do all their normal work related things almost effortlessly. Even staying in a new hotel room involves finding things, navigation, just knowing where things you need are.

If you remember your first day at work, it's not quite that bad. But it still involves getting yourself settled in and functional.

There's the delicate art of where you want to put everything, to start with.

Then there's the normal discovery of everything you should have, and don't seem to have bought, yet.

These are physical situations, but the mental applications are really about getting your head focused. The new environment is a distraction, and that can cause problems.

When focused, people can work at great speeds, and get a lot done. When unfocused, they have difficulty getting anything done, and there's a lot of trial and error. Mistakes are much more common. Mistakes create stress, stress creates more problems.

Your new career doesn't need problems.

Physical change in starting your new career

The best way to get used to your new situation is to do some constructive criticism before you start.

Set yourself up, then figure out what's wrong with your setup.

When you're doing business, you'll find that anything underfoot will drive you up the wall. Delays, things needing to be found, record keeping, basic business practices, there's always something. You may once have had other people doing these things for you, and be finding that doing it yourself requires some adaption.

If you're just now learning how to do things, you need time to practice, and become efficient. The real thing doesn't allow for mistakes, so do some rehearsals of your new routines.

Can you do your cash book, pay the bills, make all the phone calls, do the emails, the shopping, and whatever else the day has thrown at you, and get the work done?

You could do all that easily in the old work routine. You knew exactly how to put things together, how long they'd take, and didn't even need to think about them.

This is where physical changes really hit. The physical environment is a lot more subtle than it looks. It creates stresses when you bump into it. The advantage of a new career is you can now start arranging the physical environment. You'll need to do that, too, because the new career has to have time and space.

The stages of physical change are easy to identify:

  1. Work routines: the actual way you organize your work.
  2. External routines: Everything outside the workspace.
  3. Domestic routines. Home life.

Work routines

This is the critical part of your new career. Depending on what you do, you'll have a pretty good idea of your ideal work setup. Try it, see if it works, and if not, what's wrong with it.

Now- Imagine having to do that sort of reorganization while actually working, and you'll see why we say make these changes in stages.

This does require thought. You'll probably find you have a lot of new ideas, too, things you couldn't do before, and you'll finally be able to do all those things.

External routines

The rest of the world hasn't gone away. Everything else still needs doing, but now you have to manage a whole new career as well. If you're finding your time being consumed by your work, these things have to kept under control.

Business contacts, family, onsite work, just being alive, you name it, there's plenty to keep you occupied externally. The risk is that you can find yourself with steadily less time to work with. Reducing your ability to work to schedule isn't a good result.

This is partly time management, and partly pure organization. Make sure you have some time not scheduled for anything during the day, if you can. That way you can give yourself to time to patch up any holes in your work routines.

It's self defence. The less time you have to commit to externals, the more you can get done.

IMPORTANT: Don't let external things make your commitments of time for you.

Stay in control of your times, and life will be a lot easier. That will greatly reduce stresses on your work and domestic routines.

Domestic routines

Home is your fortress. It's also a work in progress, and you'll find that like any other work, if you let things back up on you, a big backlog soon appears.

The idea is a new career as a new life, not as an obstacle to a new life. The three routines need to harmonize. That takes a bit of doing, even when you're not starting a whole new career.

The answer is planning. Try to make sure that your routines don't get in each other's way. The new career is the wild card. If necessary, write down your appointments, etc.

But- Do the domestic routines first.

They're the ones underpinning real life, the ones that can't be avoided.

Externals can be rescheduled. With work routines, you have a lot of direct control over them, and can call the shots.

Family, and the other critically important domestic things, are difficult to schedule. You can do it to a point, but the more you can organize, the less the degree of difficulty. Even if you're working at home, things can happen at short notice, and you have to revise other things.

If you can create time for yourself in your new daily routines, none of them will cause much disturbance. You'll be able to work through the various situations pretty easily.

This is one of the great advantages of having your own career. You can plan. You can organize. There aren't people rearranging your schedule every five minutes. Keep it that way.

Making the changes

Do a trial run of the work routine, and see if you're up to your own standards. If you've got a project on hand, try it out.

Did the work, external, and domestic routines work?

What's missing?

Did something just happen and prevent you from doing the work, or something else?

This isn't an academic exercise. The sure bet about any new environment is that there will be things which aren't up to scratch, something which got tangled up in itself.

And for some reason things keep getting lost somewhere.

It's mainly because you haven't created your new reflexes yet. You'll find that you pick up speed pretty quickly, when you've got yourself organized.

Try setting up your new career in stages, so you can also see how they interact.