Two weeks between jobs — what would you do?

During the busy years of building a career and raising a family, free time can feel scarce. So when we do get a big chunk of it, we’d like to use it well.

But what does that mean?

That was the question a reader was facing when she wrote me recently. She had arranged for two weeks off after she ended her current position, and before she started a new job. Her kids would continue with their usual school and childcare arrangements. This meant that, during business hours, she was more or less free.

She had identified some writing projects she wanted to do, and she was looking for either a class or a coach to keep her accountable. I thought this was smart, but I also thought it was an interesting question to consider more broadly.

If you had two weeks off in this situation, what would you do with it?

Travel is a possibility, though taking two weeks away solo would require some negotiations with other people when kids are involved. Most likely, for most of us, this would be more like a 2-week staycation, except that when you’re in your same home environment, it’s easy to do what you always do. Next thing you know a school day disappears into a grocery shopping trip, returning a sweater at the mall, and sorting the mail pile. I understand the desire to do “nothing,” but often, “nothing” means a lot of cleaning the house. These days of open time slip away without much to show for them. The house will just get dirty again.

I suspect many of us would want some sort of doable project — which would deliver the satisfaction of accomplishing something we wouldn’t normally do, but wouldn’t be too taxing. After all, the new job might deliver its own stresses soon enough. And in general, I think it’s a good idea to map out a plan for the two weeks, so some good stuff happens. Anchor events are good for weekends, and they’re good for longer periods of time off too. When there is stuff to look forward to, time feels better in general.

So what would you do?

Photo: I might take some day trips to the beach…

19 thoughts on “Two weeks between jobs — what would you do?

  1. I just had this conversation with my mom (also a follower of your time management teachings after you gave a talk at her law firm). She recently starting working part time as a transition to retirement. She noted that she needs to do a better job of planning her non-work days to have a bit more structure, with an anchor or two. Otherwise, she realizes it is 5 p.m. and all she has done is wipe down the counters a few times and straighten the furniture (and how much mess can 2 adults make in 24 hours anyway!). Even if her plan for the day is to finish the novel she is reading, it gives her a clear idea of how she is planning to spend her time that day and what she will accomplish before the days is over. I think putting more structure into her days off has actually made her look forward to full retirement more.

    1. @Gillian – I am in total agreement here. Free time is so easy to waste, and a little bit of structure can make it feel more fulfilling than just wiping down the counters.

    2. Gillian: Your mom and I could be twins! I am also a female lawyer who also started working part-time in order to transition into retirement. I’m going through the exact same thing-some days, I feel very productive, while others seem to fly by without much to show for my usage of time. I have had two main hurdles: (i) I don’t have set hours, so I still feel like I have to be available to my clients every day; (ii) the pandemic threw a huge monkey wrench into my plans. I semi-retired in March of last year (timing is everything!) with 5 trips booked for 2020 and 2021, as well as a long list of big and little adventures (cheap AMC movies on Tuesdays, monthly trips to Philadelphia and/or New York to explore different neighborhoods, among others). The trips and most of the adventures fell by the wayside during the pandemic. As things start opening up, I am planning on reviewing my original fun list and adding some of them to my week. In the past 6 months, I have also started taking online Zoom classes for adults over 50. They have been great anchors to my day-they typically run an hour or two. I put “No calls” in those time frames on my calendar. I find that the structure of having a class really helps. They are not terribly expensive, are offered at many schools around the country, and don’t require alumni status. I’m currently taking classes on flash memoir writing, Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musicals, cutting the cable cord, and the challenges faced by Black professionals during their careers. Some of them are recorded, so I can review at night if I can’t make a particular class, They are offered via the Osher Living Learning Institute. Here is a list: https://nrc.sps.northwestern.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/A-Directory-of-Lifelong-Learning-Institutes.pdf. Thanks for posting about your mom-it is good to know that I am not alone.

  2. I know exactly what I’d like to do! I have this notion of engineering a rotating train lift for my nephew’s wooden train track. Something like the Falkirk Wheel (worth a Google if you like cool machines) on a smaller scale.
    Two weeks would give me plenty of time to square off a little workshop corner in my flat and make a good start on the project, rather than trying to squeeze it into Saturday afternoons at the kitchen table.
    But really, any kind of creative project that is 100% out of my usual routine would be awesome. At christmas time I started an embroidery piece, and now I’m on my third one of those and it’s wonderful!

    1. @Katie – this sounds like a really cool project! My little guy is starting to enjoy our Thomas the Train table and set and I can see some elaborate train projects in our future…

  3. a couple of short overnight trips within driving distance
    a long lingering hike with a fancy picnic
    visit local attractions
    schedule lunches with friends
    schedule a coffee or two to network (community/professionally)
    spa day/salon services

    a rule that to only do errands/cleaning to a half day each week

    1. @Cassie -that is an excellent rule to batch the “stuff” to half a day. Otherwise, you feel like you always have something you should be doing. A designated time means anytime you think of those errands, you can tell yourself that there is a time…and it is not now!

  4. Being totally honest- I’d love to spend a week away relaxing and reading and then … I’d also truly LOVE a week to declutter and systematically reorganize the house!!! 😂😛

    1. @SHU – a week away would be nice and then house projects – it would still need to be systematic though. Like, seeing progress!

  5. I had 4 (paid weeks!) off between jobs 7 years ago and wow was that wonderful (was due to a non-compete, which is very common in my industry). But this was pre-kids and pre-marriage and I knew I’d be moving back across the country. So I wanted to make the most of my last weeks in Charlotte, NC – I did a ton of hiking which were all day trips, but some with drives of around 1.5-2 hours. But if I had time off like that in my current state of life (married with 2 kids), I would probably tackle some sort of organizational project in our house because those are more enjoyable (for me) when I can do then uninterrupted and don’t have to fit them into short periods of time or after the kids are in bed. And then I’d do a lot of trips to local state parks and anything else that I’d want to do sans kids like museums or things like that. But I am an upholder, so I don’t need accountability, besides writing it in my planner. If I needed accountability, I’d try to find an adventure buddy (or buddies) who had the flexibility to join me for a state park hike.

  6. This is a wonderful problem to have! I would suggest breaking the two weeks up into chunks.

    Assuming it’s two calendar weeks, could she squeeze in a long weekend away and allow the kids to miss a day of school? Perhaps even extend the trip for herself for one more day, and let her partner head back with the kids? A weeknight away seems short, but I’ve done it before by leaving after kids bedtime on day 1, then heading back in the late morning day 3 so I’m home when they get home from school. This isn’t a huge lift on the coparent as they really only have one weekday evening and morning to manage.

    For the other “chunks” I would think of projects you can’t do when kids/partners are around, or ones that take a while. I’ve been dying to paint an old dresser for example but I’d really want two consecutive focused days to do this.

    Other chicks might be an errand day, self care day, cleaning day, yard work day, or day to meet up with friends and family that you don’t see often.

    Another idea is to make longer day trips you can’t typically swing. Maybe there’s an outlet mall 40 minutes away, or a park you want to hike, or cousin you could meet for dinner.

    Enjoy the time!!!

  7. Sleep as much as I want
    Exercise every day
    Catch up on drs appointments, haircuts, general maintenance
    Maybe visit my parents or a friend
    Read one book

    That’s my usual vacation list, come to think of it. Sometimes I get to travel, but often I do not.

  8. Thanks for mentioning the Cousins Lobster Roll truck! I live outside of Philadelphia, and I discovered that they have a truck parked at a Shoprite in my town on Saturdays. My partial list:
    1. Five-day trip to the Outer Banks for a stay at my sister and BIL’s beach house. Have not seen them in almost a year due to Covid.
    2. A three-week swing through the Finger Lakes and Western PA. to see pretty scenery, visit some wineries, hit the Ithaca Farmer’s market and Moosewood, and visit some museums. (Eastman in Rochester and Corning Glass are already on the list). The PA. portion will involve stays at a historic hotel and a historic lodge. I am also dragging my husband to the I Love Lucy Museum, since it is “only” an hour out of the way when we transit from our hotel on Keuka Lake to the Lodge at Glendorn in PA.
    3. Grab a lobster roll from the Cousins truck at least once.
    4. Do a bike trip along the Delaware and Raritan Canal.
    5. Do a walk/hike through Estell Manor Park in Atlantic County, NJ.
    6. Do a walk/hike through the Lumberton (NJ) Nature Trail.
    7. Make plans to meet up with friends for lunch or a beach day twice a month-first one is booked for next week.
    8. Go to a movie (if any come out that I want to see in person).
    9. Get to the beach at least once every other week, weather permitting.
    10. Make a dent in my ever-growing TBR pile on the nightstand.
    11. Read the large pile of Atlantic Monthly museums that have accumulated. I have over a year’s worth-it will be an interesting historic exercise given the year that we have just had.
    12.. Buy a new mattress-not exactly a fun pursuit, but ours is very saggy, so my future self will thank me.
    13. Visit each of our favorite local ice cream spots at least once: Evergreen Dairy Bar, Maple Shade Custard, Daddy-O’s, Springer’s in Stone Harbor.
    14. Go back to in-person dining in South Jersey and Philadelphia.

  9. I think I’d do some things I’ve been wanting to do but usually don’t take off a day to do it. There are two botanical gardens an hour away that I’ve been wanting to visit; I want to do a research day at the Library of Virginia and one at the Library of Congress for a couple of writing projects; I want to do a 2 day trip to do some genealogy work in cemeteries and record offices where you have to be there (nothing online), and a trip to Montpelier which is less than an hour away but I never seem to make the time. If I scheduled a few half days to work on a writing or study project and then took a couple of trips a week, I would feel like I used the time well and would finally have checked off some things I really want to do but never make the time for.

  10. I am thinking about this question too, as I am currently on pre-birth maternity leave (it’s a generous thing where I live). The problem is, though, that so short before the birth, I am not as robust as I used to be so if I, say, go to a museum one day, that’s pretty much all I manage in the day. I agree that it is very easy to spend the time just doing housework (my partner says I never vacuum this much when I work). I made a calendar overview of the weeks left and try to schedule some anchor activities but as much preparation is still needed, it’s often not the most exciting leisure things but more like bureaucracy..

  11. I have literally just finished up at one job on Friday, and started another job two days later on the Monday. For me, that was not enough time to properly wind down from my last position, and prepare for my new position!
    If I had been able to have two weeks off in between, I would have loved to take a few days right away to just rest and relax, and would have done some journaling about how I felt. I would have set aside some time to look more closely at information for the new job, and would have done a couple of trial runs to test the commute, and get familiar with the area.
    I would have done a few projects at home that I just did not have the energy for before, like tidying up, some budget planning and meal planning, etc.
    And I would have done a few weekday excursions, knowing I likely wouldn’t have a day off in a while, like going to my city’s museum and art gallery, and to a morning movie, maybe had a haircut, and probably seen my therapist too!
    I think it’s great to have an idea for what you’d do with a gift of time like this, and there are certainly some great ideas in other comments here.

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