Meme: 101 Ways to Improve Your Life When You Can't Find a Job

While the economy is still performing CPR on itself, you may find yourself without a job. Worse still, if you are like me, you may not be able to find another one. In the meantime, here are 101 ways to improve your life (and take up some extra time) when you can't find a job no matter how hard you pound the pavement.

Here's my edited version of their list along with some of my annotations. Those activities I've done, or do, are noted with a red asterix.

  1. *Catch up on all those books you've ever wanted to read through the local library. :: I go to the library nearly every day, thanks to MY READERS' efforts to help me save the NYPL from dramatic budget cuts!
  2. Spend more time with your family. :: No family.
  3. *Exercise. :: Chasing buses is a form of exercise, right?
  4. *Check out the free and/or low-cost museums and art galleries in your area. :: I wouldn't have survived without the Met (and they do let people in for free when they are broke).
  5. If you can get financial aid or scholarships, it's a great time to go back to school. :: OMG, I WISH! I don't earn enough money to qualify for financial aid and they only award scholarships to people who are in school.
  6. *Learn a new language. :: Working on learning Finnish, although now it appears that I need to learn German instead.
  7. Become a part of local community programs and youth programs.
  8. Volunteer more at your local church. :: The churches in my area are not so desperate as to accept anything from an atheist -- except the one thing I don't have: money, of course.
  9. Become politically active and help a local candidate with their needs.
  10. Learn to play an instrument. :: I would love to learn to play the piano, but alas; no piano, and no money for rental and lessons.
  11. Catch up on your social networking; if you're lucky, it could turn into employment networking, too. :: Social networking costs money, and as a long-time unemployed person, I HAVE NO MONEY. Geez.
  12. *Write a book. :: Working on this, too.
  13. *Start a blog. :: *cough*
  14. *Take up photography. :: I am lucky on this one: thanks to my readers, I've been able to return to one of my hobbies: photography, after a long hiatus.
  15. *Return to an old hobby. :: I am lucky on this one: thanks to my readers, I've been able to return to one of my hobbies: photography, after a long hiatus.
  16. Become an expert online gamer. :: I am quite good at online games, but to become a true online gaming expert requires consistent wireless access, which costs money, and you know how this comment will end, don't you?
  17. Study philosophy; what IS the meaning of life? :: 42
  18. *Take MIT's free online courses. :: I have been taking free online courses through Barnes & Noble's online college. Unfortunately, I do have to buy books for those courses, which cost money, but I read the online discussions for these classes and learn a lot from those.
  19. Begin correspondence (online and/or offline) with old friends and family. :: I stay in touch with friends via email, Skype and Twitter -- if you can think of such activities as staying in touch.
  20. Become a Big Brother/Big Sister to a kid in need. :: My Big Sister application been rejected several times.
  21. Plant a garden. :: Not possible in my neighborhood.
  22. Take up roller skating. :: Without health insurance? Are you serious?
  23. Volunteer at your local library.
  24. Volunteer at an animal shelter.
  25. Volunteer for the Red Cross. :: My application was rejected, although I cannot recall the reason.
  26. Join the Peace Corps. :: My application was rejected, although I cannot recall the reason.
  27. Play board games with your significant other, friends or children. :: I need long arms for this one.
  28. Visit old friends. :: My old friends are all in Seattle, 3000 miles away.
  29. *Spend more time with your pet(s). :: And indeed, I do.
  30. Keep your lawn immaculately maintained. :: No lawn.
  31. Clean out your car. :: No car.
  32. Re-organize your closets. :: No closets.
  33. Learn new things from TV channels like Discovery and PBS. :: No TV.
  34. Contact old professors and see if they'll let you sit in on their classes. :: I WISH! But they are all in Seattle, 3000 miles away.
  35. Learn meditation techniques.
  36. Make peace with those you have a grudge against. :: I don't hold grudges.
  37. Become a part of local theatrical productions.
  38. *Explore somewhere new each day. :: With my camera in-hand!
  39. Cooking through the items in your pantry and trying new things. :: There are only so many edible things I can make with just lentils and rice and nothing else.
  40. Join a choir or other musical group.
  41. Do lots of free reading/people watching at the bookstore. :: I love bookstores, but I cannot afford them, alas!
  42. Research your family genealogy at the library.
  43. Spend lots of time with your pooch at the local dog parks. :: No dog.
  44. Start a band.
  45. Go on mission trips with your church. :: As an atheist, I wouldn't consider this even if I was thoroughly brainwashed first.
  46. Look up an old flame and see how they're doing.
  47. Learn to play tennis.
  48. Learn to paint.
  49. Begin scrapbooking.
  50. *While not quite as productive, you can watch a whole lot of Youtube.
  51. Join a book club, on or offline.
  52. *Start a Web site. :: I have a huge website, but I prefer my blog.
  53. Create videos and put them up on Youtube.
  54. Visit your alma mater and see all of your favorite professors. :: I WISH! But it costs money to return to Seattle.
  55. Visit your parents.
  56. Go bowling. :: Costs money.
  57. Take dancing lessons. :: Costs money.
  58. Practice swimming.
  59. Go window shopping as an extra incentive to land some work.
  60. Become a history expert.
  61. Take up bike riding throughout the town.
  62. Take up jogging/running.
  63. Embrace your inner child and take up skateboarding.
  64. Check to see if any local theatre productions could use an extra.
  65. Keep a journal of what you do each day.
  66. *Learn about the history of art. :: This is a hobby of mine.
  67. Learn about the history of music.
  68. *Deliberately go back to the hard books you never finished and read them cover to cover.
  69. Help your friends who are at-home parents take care of their children. :: No friends, and none of the people I know in NYC have kids.
  70. Become really great at chess. :: This is worth exploring.
  71. Hone your concentration by putting models together. :: I love building models, but can't afford this hobby.
  72. *Become really good at a variety of puzzles, such as Sudoku.
  73. *Recycle.
  74. *Challenge yourself to learn one new thing a day. :: Does learning a new language qualify?
  75. Map out goals for the next week, month, and year, to give yourself some free-time guidance. :: I've always done this all of my life, but after I became unemployed, doing this made me depressed beyond words. As a result, I've merged all goals together: keep myself from living on the streets.
  76. *Clean up the house.
  77. Have a potluck cook out with some friends.
  78. Re-arrange your home furniture to be more to your liking. :: Haha, I don't have any furniture!
  79. *Polish your resume until it is perfect. :: I and all of my colleagues who still acknowledge my existence have done that, but the results remain unchanged.
  80. *Organize your music collection. :: Been there, done that.
  81. *It's never too late or early to spring clean your computer, deleting files and organizing them as needed. :: Done that, too.
  82. Mow your lawn. :: No lawn. No yard, either.
  83. *Catalogue what you liked and disliked about your previous job, and use that in your search for a new job. :: Did that, but seriously, when you are in my position, you are more interested in earning a living wage than being happy with your job, so this is kind of silly.
  84. *Attend local lectures around your community. :: Only when they are free, but if so, you'll find me there.
  85. Enjoy the season -- sit on the porch in spring and by the fire in winter, and just enjoy the moment.
  86. Have movie marathons with friends and family.
  87. If you've never been good at cooking, there's no better time to learn. :: I am an excellent cook, but alas, I cannot afford gas for my oven, nor food ingredients, so instead, I rely on my microwave, the grocer's daily rejects, and my own inventiveness.
  88. *Write editorials to your local paper to become more involved in the community.
  89. *Take the time to go paperless -- enroll in electronic billing wherever possible.
  90. Take the time to talk to your parents every day.
  91. *Take public transit wherever possible; it's good for your wallet and good for the environment. :: I am lucky: NYC has the finest public transit in the nation, and I rely on public transit for all my transportation needs every day.
  92. Take the time to get to know your neighbors. :: This is NYC: I wouldn't dream of it.
  93. *Begin a dream journal and figure out what your mind is telling you.
  94. Attend your local bingo night.
  95. Hold a garage sale to help clean the house out and get some pocket money.
  96. Play with your kids or your nieces and nephews.
  97. Take the time to become closer to your spouse.
  98. Dust off that telescope and practice your astronomy. :: I wish I had a telescope, but alas, even if I did, NYC is not the place for this, bummer!
  99. *Volunteer for activities that have the potential to blossom into career opportunities. :: I have always volunteered (even when I had a job) and still do this but have never ever ever found even a part-time temporary paying position in this way. Maybe this is the reason that volunteers are unpaid?
  100. Go treasure hunting by renting a metal detector. You never know what you'll find. :: How about a dead body?
  101. Whatever you do, have fun.

Link for the Original list that was sent to me.

More like this

Construction management, eh? It is very interesting reading your comments, because I think they apply to most unemployed people. So who is the smarmy, self-righteous church-goer who came up with this list?! Rent a metal detector? Hel-lo?

I'm not unemployed (and am grateful for it on a regular basis) but have been thinking I should read some James Joyce finally...

The Peace Corps is notoriously difficult to make past screening but the Big Sister program? They can't find a kid to match you? (But you're peerless.) Well, I'm still hoping dearly you get to Antarctica earlier rather than later. But if not, local community politics might be a good way to waste time as well. ;-)

Social networking could include free sites such as Facebook, say. It might not lead to a job, but it might help you reconnect with old friends or make new ones.

This is a nice list. As someone who has only recently gone from unemployed to barely employed it certainly gives me something to think about.

Thank you for putting up this article on your blog.I have been unemployed for a while and all I have been doing is sleeping and watching movie after movie. This list gives me some incentive to get back and live life while looking for a job.
On a differnt note I was wondering that if you found it hard to get a job of your interest, I think you should give a shot in a different area. I am in pretty similar situation, as in no jobs in my field of interest and education, so I am picking up new stuff and making a change. Either way keep up the good work.
Best of luck

I've been out of work for a while, too, and there are lots of interesting suggestions there. (Some I've already done, many I haven't.) Thanks for posting this!


By Roadtripper (not verified) on 02 Aug 2009 #permalink

I've gone thru several layoffs in my life, and the first thing I do is make a list of all the things I've wanted to do but never had the time for. Many of those things are on this list.

But many line items reek of having been written by someone who has never actually been unemployed -- or was, but had a princely amount socked away to live on -- or was only unemployed for about 10 minutes. When, like I and many I know, you've been unemployed for nearly a year with zero prospects, no nest egg remaining, and unemployment benefits exhausted, you really don't have to think too long about whether to spend $500 on dancing lessons.

And as you pointed out, when you can't afford health insurance, skateboarding and even bowling are out of the question.

I want to see a list like this written by someone who is truly unemployed, someone who has to choose between paying a credit card bill or rent at the end of the month. That person is not going to be spending her afternoons at Whole Foods picking out endive for the evening's recipe experiment. You're more likely to find her dumpster diving.


I agree, you're right to pick up on this. As a consultant I get "gaps" between contracts, which you have no way of knowing how long they are going to last. Many "gaps" go on for months and in that sense, I've been out of income. (I've also been unemployed years ago in the more usual sense but that was some years ago.) My current work is supported by a cash reserve, my own savings from a good contract some time ago. It's painful to watch it erode in between contracts, but it's not the same as having no cash. The flip side is that with the uncertainty of the job, you wind up being very frugal even when you are earning as you know there will be another "gap" later and that might last a while.

By way of example, I rarely rarely buy books (and never at full price), only get DVDs out on $1/weekly, only buy the paper twice a week (the edition with the free TV guide & the Saturday edition with the job adverts; I've toyed with dispensing with this), etc.


Just missed out on some (short-term) research funding owing to a departmental accounting screw-up (of all things) which is leaving me without an income, at least in the short term, so perhaps I should be looking at this list...!!

Anyway, some quick thoughts. Not sure if they'll cheer you up any, but here's hoping.

Catch up on all those books you've ever wanted to read It's weird but I haven't time even though I have, if you get my meaning. More important things to do like re-training in some areas I'm a bit behind in, reading the literature (trying to motivate to write a few review papers as leads for future research grant applications), etc.

The churches in my area are not so desperate as to accept anything from an atheist -- except the one thing I don't have: money, of course. Well, yes, they would look at it that way! :-) You could spend time trying to convince people to question religions :-) I wonder why that wasn't on the list... I personally have a bit of thing against theology departments at universities. (It's a long story and I'll spare readers it...)

Write a book One I keep meaning to do myself. Good to hear that you are! You're doing better than me!!

Start a blog Been meaning to do that for too long, too. You're doing better than me on that, too...

Take up photography Used to be a photographer myself. Have a professional in the family, so I grew up with it. Hmm... you're doing better than me on that too. Getting to be a bit of a theme here...

Study philosophy; what IS the meaning of life? Something I personally think that people should avoid if they feel inclined to be depressed about their position in life. With that in mind I have to disagree with this suggestion. Better that people work on living life than mulling over it IMO. (This strikes me as a suggestion that a religious person might write for that matter.)

Take MIT's free online courses I tend to re-train on my own initiative, but I suppose night classes would be the equivalent (except that they cost money). Personally if I'm going to do a course, I like the personal contact with the people teaching, etc., otherwise I just read around myself.

Join the Peace Corps Join the club. I once applied to VSA and they didn't so much reject me as simply "forgot" about me!! So much for that.

Explore somewhere new each day One reason why sometimes I think I need to move to another town: I know almost every little by-way here. I'm an explorer by nature, so it's a bit dreary when you get to this point, even if it is a great place.

Become really good at a variety of puzzles, such as Sudoku Personally, I prefer Code Cracker. I can always use the excuse that all that playing with words shouldâin theoryâhelp my intended-to-happen-one-day writing :-) One excuse is good as another and all that...

I've always done this all of my life, but after I became unemployed, doing this made me depressed beyond words. Setting long-term goals is hard when things fall to pieces. I tend to sketch them out roughly, then worry about the short-term bit to avoid fretting on the longer-term aspects.

It's never too late or early to spring clean your computer Oh, please don't remind me of this! (Or cleaning up my old printed files.)

One thing I am taking up, out of need, is gardening. Just moved into a new place with a very nice garden and I haven't the faintest idea what I'm doing...!! :-)

One other thing I've wanted to doâdon't laughâis gold panning. Not so much for the gold (although that would be very nice, admittedly), but as a target to exploring odd corners of the country. (I like the idea of "goals" for travel/exploration that are really there as something to focus the travel, not really as something to achieve per se.) I also like the objective to be little unorthodox or original. You need transport and time (and hence money) for that, obviously.

By DeafScientist (not verified) on 08 Aug 2009 #permalink

i am planning to write my own list of what to do to improve your life when you find yourself unemployed, since i seem to be quite the expert in this area. i am sure several of you can also help me so we can come up with a realistic list of things for unemployed people to do that don't require spending a pile of cash, and assume they have lots of free time when in fact, they probably don't.

it will take me a little time to do this, though, since i am somewhat busy at the moment (no offense, i think about my readers nearly all the time, but my wireless situation -- and time -- leaves something to be desired at the moment). but i will let you all know why this is so soon enough.