From Uni to The Office: how to make the most of your time
A GRADUATE’S EXPERIMENT ABOUT HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF THE 9-5 WORKING DAY
The transition from student life to full time work can be a daunting experience. Giving up the glorious flexibility of missing a lecture or two (or three), for having a job where you are required, and most certainly expected, to turn up daily, can make for a difficult transition. The student lifestyle, although crammed with deadlines, affords a level of freedom that allows many to bypass a well thought out daily structure or routine. So as graduation day comes around and the world of 9-5 jobs await, a student’s future lifestyle can cause panic or uncertainty.
For myself the early morning factor of a 9-5 job hadn’t been a concern. I was a competitive figure skater for over 10 years where the average training took place between 5am-8am with a 45-minute commute either end, followed by a 9am school day after training finished. However, as the start of my career in the working world began, I became aware of the worry I had of keeping up such a demanding daily schedule while still having time to do anything other than work throughout the week. My schedule looked a bit like this:
6am – Alarm
6.30am - (Actually get up)
7.15am - Train to Edinburgh (I live in Glasgow)
8.15am - Arrive in the office
5.30pm - Leave office
7pm - Arrive home, dinner, bed
This routine was established a few weeks into starting my graduate scheme at Eden Scott. I was finding the days flew in - the amount of variety myself and the other graduates were being exposed to on our weekly rotations across all the departments made every day feel productive and quick. My routine outside work, however, was lacking the diversity that my work day was providing me with. Ultimately, I did not feel like I was utilising my time in the best way.
As I frantically thought of ways to avoid becoming someone who only counted down the days to the weekend, I embarked on a small experiment. It started after watching a TEDx talk, where the speaker had explained his remarkable experience of waking up at 4am every day for a month. I feel this is where I may lose a lot of the student readers and anyone who completely disregards the idea of doing unless the destination following the alarm is the airport. However, the idea of gaining an extra 2-3 hours a day was something I was excited to try out. The speaker’s reasoning was along the lines of;
– His productivity increased: he eventually became more energetic throughout the day and his body clock began to naturally adapt to this new rhythm.
– He permanently increased the time he gave himself on a daily basis. He also stated that various CEOs of global companies, including Tim Cook of Apple, boasted alarms between 3.30am- 5am.
As a graduate recruitment consultant my to-do listlooks nothing like that of Tim Cook’s, however the main concept behind why individuals choose to follow this path seems to follow similar reasoning; regaining time to themselves, increased productivity, and one I personally enjoyed, never being late for work! How could you be? You have to be up for literally four hours before you even have to be there.
My new morning schedule for the month looked like this;
4am – Wake up
4.15am – Gym/make lunch for work/odd jobs/tidy/organise the day
6am – Start getting ready for work
6.30am- Walk to the station (I used to get another train)
7.15am - Train to Edinburgh
And so on.
Although the additional hours don’t look like much, or overly life changing, the change that I felt in my daily routine was huge. Instead of hammering the snooze button on my 6am alarm, I made myself get up at 4am and then, as I was awake, I was forced to make something of my time. It wasn’t every morning that I got up and went to the gym, organised my flat, or made lunch for that day. Some days I just made a coffee and caught up with a TV programme. However, as mundane that sounds, it gave me the time I felt I’d lost through starting my new full-time job, and the personal time that came with it. Simply put, I had gained a few hours that were entirely my own and, importantly, they were at a time where I didn’t need to reply to any emails or think about starting work yet.
To be honest, I quickly regretted starting this experiment, butI was too stubborn to give up so early. The 4am alarm was a shock on day one, but once I was up I found myself looking for jobs to complete as I had nowhere to be for at least two and a half hours. As the days and weeks went on I found myself becoming accustomed to the alarm. My to-do list that seemed impossible at first was completed within the first week, and despite initial concerns I wasn’t crashing at my desk mid-morning. If anything, I felt like I’d already had some time to myself to do whatever I wanted, which made my working day much more enjoyable. As well as this, my sleeping pattern shifted slightly, meaning I was usually asleep by 9 or 10pm. The main change was that I was now falling asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow! It works out that getting up one hour earlier than you do now for a year would regain the equivalent to half a month of free time for yourself. Hopefully I’m starting to intrigue you enough to maybe give this a go
As I was writing this I began to investigate other methods of time management and time optimisation. I came across an article that listed things ways to optimise the time you have throughout your day. I felt almost all of them could be achieved by simply setting aside some time for yourself prior to starting your working day. They consisted of,
Not getting distracted - which is vague advice, however at 4am no one is awake so texting your friends is usually off the cards.
Get quality sleep – my experience most certainly had this.
Do the things you hate doing first – well… you’ve gotten up at 4am so that’s definitely a start.
Other articles claimed that the only way to best utilise your time would be through organiser apps or having a planner to document your hourly schedule to ensure you stick to a plan. However, these require extra time to complete. If you gain a few extra hours in the morning, sticking to that minute by minute diary isn’t as absolutely crucial as before. You previously would have been asleep, so ultimately whatever you achieve in this early window is a bonus, and these bonuses add up quickly. If going to the gym or reading a book allows you to feel like you have regained some time, then surely it must be worth consideration.
The importance of achieving a good work-life balance is the subject of music discussion, and my experiment showed how it can be achievable with a little work. While getting up at 4am every day for the rest of your life may not be fully practical, the idea of gaining at least an hour back before work is something I would urge everyone to try. As a new graduate, and an even newer recruitment consultant, I feel that becoming accustomed to the 9-5 working day is essential. Adapting and creating your own method to reduce your resentment to its inflexibility is vital to your professional success. Luckily, flexible working hours and the option of working from home are increasing in most sectors. It’s important to acknowledge that not all industries will be able to accommodate such a pattern, however.
Accepting the 9-5 work pattern into my life, and moulding it to my needs, has allowed me to adapt much better than I ever though possible. So for everyone entering the world of professional work - find a system that works for you and stick to it as best you can. Soon, missing the odd lecture will be a distant memory.