How to Work a Job and Still Attain Your Life’s Goals and Dreams

Lately I have been thinking a lot about my job and how it seems to get in the way of the work I need to do to achieve my life’s goals. However, I need the job as it pays my rent and supports some of my hobbies. So how do you work a job while still trying to attain your goals in life?

How to work a job and still attain your goals in life

Music star, professional athlete, novel writer, home owner… everyone has a dream or a goal that they want to attain in this life. Here are some tips to help you work towards that goal while still working a day job.

1. Sleep when you are dead

“I never sleep cos sleep is the cousin of death…” – Nas

One of the hardest lessons to learn is that if you really want to attain a goal in life while working another job you need more hours in the day. This is probably going to mean that you will sleep less and work harder but getting up early is something that has to be done.

The above quote is one of my favorite quotes of all time and it comes from New York rapper Nas. It is a very profound quote and shows us the link between sleep and death. We have one life to do something meaningful. One precious opportunity. What waste it sleeping?

You can sleep when you are dead.

2. Write down your dreams
When you write down a dream that you have you turn into a goal. You make it something concrete and achievable. A dream is something that is a little bit far out and unreachable but a goal is something that you can actually get to.

If you feel like your work is getting in the way of your goals then write them down. Having something visual in front of you will help you get all those thoughts out of your head and let you calm down and assess the situation. Write down your dreams so you know exactly what you are trying to achieve.

3. Give your goals a time line
The next thing that you need to do to turn those dreams into concrete goals is give them a time line. When you affix a date to some dream you turn it into a goal that is now becoming a reality.

For example, if you say that you want to be able to play the guitar by the time you are 30 you have a much more specific goal than if you just said you’d love to be a good guitar player. By saying that you want to do it by 30 you now have to do the work that is required to do it in time. It is a lot like working towards exams in November – you know they are coming so you do the work.

4. Break them down
One problem I have is that I stress about everything way too much. I think about work and tax and staying fit and then on top of that I stress about when I am going to find time to achieve my dreams and goals. However, I have found that if you write them down, give them a time line and then break them down into smaller chunks the stress really dissipates.

When you think about your goals you usually think about them in macro terms. You think “I have to be a professional writer” and that sounds really daunting. However, if you break it down into smaller chunks you have more room in your head to sort it all out. You might break “becoming a writer” down to something like “finish first chapter of demo novel by September”. Now you have a new goal to work with and it is much more manageable.

5. Prepare in your free time

Creative Commons License photo credit: Laure Wayaffe

Let’s say you work nine til five, Monday to Friday. On the weekends you might have four hours free to work towards your goals. You might spend a quarter of that time getting ready to do some work and then that four hours turns into three hours. It’s inefficient.

However, if you used some of those weekend hours to prepare for the rest of the week you might be able to scrounge a few more hours out of yourself. Prepare on the weekend so that you can do an hour before work and an hour after work. Now you have 10 extra hours per week plus the weekends. Things are starting to look better!

This preparation could be anything. It could be cleaning your desk, setting up your writing area, lining up freelance writing resources, getting all the books from the library that you need… whatever. Do whatever preparations that need to be done so that you can work individual hours here and there. Preparation is fantastic because it means you can just go and sit down and work at the drop of a hat.

6. Find a lasting motivation
Sometimes when you have been at work all day and aren’t feeling 100% healthy you lose inspiration. You put off the work until tomorrow and then when tomorrow comes you find another reason to put it off. This is because you do not have a lasting motivation.

A lasting motivation is one that will help you even when you are feeling lazy, tired, stress, sick, etc. It is something extremely powerful and when you find it you will know. I talk about this in the Enlightening Stress Relief eBook.

In Buddhism every action, meditation or thought is supposed to be motivated by something called “Bodhicitta”. Bodhicitta is known as the mind of enlightenment and it is the motivation that everything that you do is for the benefit of all living beings. When you go to work you do it in order to benefit beings. When you go for a run it is for the benefits of others. Everything.

A motivation that is focussed on helping others is really the most powerful reason to work hard. It takes your own ego out of the equation and allows you to focus on your goals and dreams because you truly want to help other people. A solid motivation is essential.

7. Start now

Creative Commons License photo credit: yoppy

Life takes you in so many different directions. You don’t know where you are going to be in a year, a month or even next week. For this reason it is important that you start working towards your goals right now. Do not put it off for another second. You might live to regret it.


If you feel like work is taking over then try a few of these steps and see how you go. Breaking it down into smaller chunks is a good starting point for those of us who feel overwhelmed. At the very least you should get started somehow. It doesn’t matter how – just get started.

15 thoughts on “How to Work a Job and Still Attain Your Life’s Goals and Dreams

  1. I definitely agree that preparation can be a huge time-suck. It’s important to focus on the “meat” of any given task, and minimize the prep tasks as much as possible. What I do is try to have lots of drafts started, so I can dive into writing when I’ve got the time.

    I’ve gotta disagree on sleep; without it, I’m lost. In order for me to stay fully engaged during awake hours, rest is vital. Zzzzzz….

  2. Sara – You are right about the sleep. I guess what I was trying to say is that I think people sleep too much. If you sleep in when you don’t need to then you are wasting valuable “goal” time. Don’t you think?


  3. I stumbled this post because I think it is something that a lot of people really need to read about. It helped me a lot. Thank you. – – – Annie

  4. Great post! Got your ebook too – friggen love it. Some of the tips really make sense to me. Please keep up the good work this site is my first stop of the day now!


  5. I totally agree that writing down goals is a calming experience. It’s been such a method of stress relief for me.

  6. Re the sleep issue and Nas quote which if probably my favourite ever, another I like is by a lyricist called Wordsworth
    “life, no interlude, seconds to sleep
    But I don’t I refuse, I’ll get rest when deceased”

    I really like the photo of the desk, I think you mentioned keeping your desk clear in an earlier post and I like it, cleared my desk and it makes your thought clearer I think.

  7. You’re quoting a rapper for insipration?? Please. Why not point to a succesful drug dealer? Any drug lords you find inspiring? And don’t give me any crap about how rap ain’t so bad or it’s just music. Words have an influence. How about Stalin? Is he a good inspirational figure? I’ll bet you can get some good quotes from him since you have no problem stripping the words from the person w/o considering their actual contribution or how they gained prominance.

    Also, sleep deprivation is not something to take pride in. It’s a short term fix. Long term, you’re just bringing on the long sleep that much faster as you burn your body out.

  8. Hi Ted.

    Thanks for your comment.

    I find inspiration from this particular rapper. I am not saying that all rap is good, it isn’t. But this particular rapper inspires me to become a better person. Like you say, words have an influence and these particular words are powerful.

    What about Public Enemy? This is a rap band that has been voted the most influencial band of all time for trying to unite black and white races. Is that rap bad? What about the old school rapper who wrote rhymes because he was speaking out against opression and racism? Is that rap bad?

    To say that all rappers are like drug dealers is very narrow and not very helpful. Its like me saying that I’m not going to quote Christians because they are all kiddy fiddlers or Muslims because they are all terrorists. Its just not true. There are some bad apples but there are also a lot of good ones.

    But – I’ll agree with you that most rap isn’t that fantastic.


  9. I think we have to be careful about claming that someone is sleeping too much. Not everybody has the same sleeping needs, even people of same age may require a differente amount of sleeping time.

    I do agree there are some obvious cases of way-too-much-sleeping, say ten or eleven hours. But I hear people claiming to be able to live sleeping only four hours or even less, and I can’t help to think I wouldn’t be able to do that for a long time.

    Besides, if you skip sleeping now to do it when you are dead… you will be probably sleeping sooner than you expected 🙂

    Probably the “Sharpen your axe” parable applies here.


  10. I agree with you Drake. My point was simply that when we are on our death bed we will look back and regret wasting our time sleeping and lazing around. My hope is that we use that time towards meainingful things instead.


  11. Great article excepr for bad advice in the number one. Yes, we do have similar saying in Russia (“I will make up for my lost sleep after I die”), but really… Sleep deprivation is 1. Extremely dangerous. Loss of just one and half hours sleep can result in a 32% reduction in daytime alertness. Like with alcohol consumption, it is not obvious to sleep-deprived people who believe they perform at normal level. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates conservatively that, during an average year, “drowsy driving” causes 100,000 automobile wrecks, 71,000 injuries and 1,550 fatalities. 20% of all drivers have dozed off at least once behind the wheel. Drowsy driving accidents are often more serious than other wrecks because they often occur on high speed highways (because the driver is maintaining the same speed for a long period of time), there is no attempt to avoid the crash since the driver’s eyes are closed and the driver is usually alone with no one to alert him or her. Adding to these alarming statistics is the fact that long-haul truck drivers tend to sleep only two to four hours per night.
    2. Impares cognitive ability.
    3. Decreases your creativity.
    4. Makes you irritable.
    5. Reduces emotional intelligence.
    6. Impares immune system.
    7. Increases risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and often leads to obesity.
    Besides, often people who “sleep too much” and ‘lazing around” are ill or have depression.

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