It’s 8:30, I’m showered, coffee-d up, and have lunch packed for another exciting day of staring at the same two screens surrounded by eggshell white walls and coworkers who seem to have taken vows of silence.
Welcome to the office.
I’ve never been invited to the water cooler, but I think that’s because I’m socially awkward and typically do better with the other awkward folks because we joke about awkwardness.
There’s something about working a 9-5 in a stereotypical office that kind of eats my soul. As I drive my beautiful mustang to work I have to remind myself it’s temporary, and has been for the last year that I’ve worked here.
I remember in school and even at church (the few years I went) they often talked about how in the real world we need to be prepared to spend long days bored in an office. We were supposed to be building our strengths in sitting still and focussing on one task at a time while we willed away the hours praying for lunch, 5:30, and Friday.
I never was very good at that, and would spend my time doodling, daydreaming, or just getting up and leaving.
I swore that I’d never end up in an office job. I chose a degree in journalism anticipating that at the peak of my life I’d be in the Ukraine or Afghanistan writing beautiful pieces about human rights while mortar shells went off overhead. I figured my life would be spent chasing leads, writing compelling prose, and enjoying the constant movement of a real journalist.
I’m only 22, so it’s not like that opportunity has flew the coup, it’s just been on hold while I find a position that would take me on and while I get the rest of my shit together.
Making it through 8 hours of work has always seemed easy to me when I was working sales or when I managed a minor stint as a landscaper. But sitting in an office requires a new level of dedication to your paycheck that I’m unaccustomed to.
I rely on great audiobooks, podcasts, and playlists, a deep understanding of when my brain is most likely to work best, and the constant maintenance of an eating and movement schedule so I can ensure the best health possible in a job best known for causing heart and obesity problems.
And it is for these reasons that I believe there needs to be a comprehensive Office Survival Guide.
So this is:
The Millennial’s Office Survival Guide
Now many of you (and by many of you I mean one, because we all know how many people are gonna see this) are probably asking how the fuck I ended up here. Someone who obviously can’t handle sitting still and who tried to design their life to avoid this exact mess?
Well, it’s actually a decently interesting story.
I made it here by chance. Before I started this job I was working for Kay Jewelers and had been for coming on 8 months.
For the most part I loved working at Kay’s. I started in Flagstaff, Arizona and loved my boss, my coworkers, even many of the customers. The problems came about when I transfered stores so I could move back in with my family in Utah, the new store didn’t fit me and I didn’t fit it.
I came in at a time when there was insane tension between coworkers, the manager, and even customers at that point. We can call it a difference in work ethics. But when you get down to the dirty, I dislike people who steal, cheat, and lie. And that was a major problem throughout the store.
So I decided a change in current career path was essential to promoting my further happiness. I began applying to literally every job available, I seriously prayed for the “dog babysitter” position for a family who bred purebreds and needed someone to constantly watch the pups.
But I was called into the office of my current position (which will remain unnamed) I had actually applied to a data analysis position. It would have been strictly numbers and analysis, which would have SUCKED, but at least I’d have a solid schedule and little to no work drama.
The man who interviewed me, we’ll call him YK, read on my resume that I had a degree in journalism and asked me about my writing. When I lit up and talked about how much I loved writing, he suggested I be a copywriter instead.
The second interview was basically to introduce me to my team. I started 1 day after officially leaving Kays.
I fell into this position on accident, but it really was a happy accident.
There are days where I hate working here, but when I think about what I could potentially have to do, I’m thankful. The problem arises with handling those many failed hours of forced creativity and eggshell white walls.
Not unlike what they explain in books, movies, and tv shows, office jobs are a task to survive through. Ignore anyone who says otherwise, they’re obviously psychotic.
There are people who can make it in an office, and there are people who cannot. And the people who can survive most times aren’t as boring as you think, they’re just as dynamic as the American hippies chilling in Zimbabwe. They’ve figured out the necessities to get through every single day, and produce some amazing results.
My boss is one of those people who can plow through hours upon hours of work with little to no break. He also goes home and does the exact same work for his own company. He is a #BOSS. He’s also a rocket scientist. . . so. . .
I personally do better if I have several different types of projects to occupy my week, if I have 4-6 articles due on completely different topics and requiring different voice’s I am in bliss. I can do that forever.
But most of the time my work is on one to two projects a week and they’re basically the same except a few words.
This means I have to have stuff throughout the day to break up my work. Whether it’s exercising every 2 hours, bringing enough snacks to fill me up, or making sure to work enough on my own projects. I find a way to get through the day and to optimize my own productivity.
Schedule Work Around Your Brain.
One thing that it seems no one talks about in school or office productivity blog posts is how your brain and body work in different times of the day. This is an issue that I had to figure out myself in the first few months here.
Working can be frustrating at the best of times, and downright boring at the worst. And while many grown (35+) adults have managed to break their mind to handle the endless barrage of work. I don’t feel alone saying that I cannot handle staring at the same screen, doing the same kind of work 8 hours a day for 5 days a week.
If you can make it through 8 hours of nearly solid coding like my rocket scientist boss, you’re impressive. Gold sticker for you. But more than likely you’re closer to me. You have to find those optimal times for specific brain functions to work.
I am the kind of person who wants to feel engaged throughout my day. And if that makes me a child, please, bring snacks and a blanky. I’ll be glad to bring back naptime.
When you’re good at a job it becomes easier and easier to get a lot of work done quickly so deadlines are met with quality work. I am a content writer, so I maintain blogs, write articles, and build pages to sell supplements. My topics are usually health, diet, or fitness related and I’m actually pretty good at it. Which of course, means that I can get through it quickly with the right set up.
The way you want to build your day should take into consideration how your mental state moves throughout the day and what your priorities are. If I’m way behind on a written piece I might take a whole day and pound it out so it’s done, the next day I’ll take a break and write a blog post, edit an older article, and code something simple.
But then there are days where I spend the day balancing my budget, writing my blog, applying for other jobs, or working on my instagram engagement. It’s hard for me to spend 8 hours a day trying to write different versions of the same content over and over again.
The first thing I do after I know what needs to be done is to decide what time works best for me to handle each project. There is only one thing that I have to do in the mornings. The rest of it I can schedule for specific times.
If I have coding, or anything really, that doesn’t depend on my ability to formulate sentences I’ll save it for right after lunch. Usually my brain is not in the “writing mode” after I eat, and doing something that allows me to work mindlessly will give me time to wake back up and then get some real work done.
If I have creative things, like writing or editing, that works really well at the start and finish of my days (when I’m most tired and unwilling to handle my own bullshit).
Do 15 Minute Workouts
This is the biggest tip the internet has to offer, and seriously, it works.
Every two hours I get up and do several sets of stairs. If I’m in heels that day, I take them off and do the stair barefoot. This isn’t always an option for everyone, but doing something consistently that gets your blood pumping will not only improve your health but will help you refocus on work.
I think it’s because as we stare at screens, sit in meetings, or whatever our blood vessels in our brains slowly shrink. You know those days where it feels like you’re losing brain cells just working? Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about here.
So the best thing you can do is boost your blood flow and release endorphins and dopamine. That will help resettle your brain and make it ready to get to work.
That is why coffee works so well in the morning! It wakes up your brain and gets blood pumping.
In contrast to many blogs that say you should just drink water or tea, and try to keep it to 3-6 meals a day. I say bring enough food to handle yourself when you get hungry.
Snacks are vital. I should be able to end it here.
But there is also the problem of people bringing the wrong snacks, getting fat, and fucking up their glucose response in the hours following. And this is why there is so much advice out there saying not to bring snacks to work. So I’m going to make this super simple.
Don’t bring donuts to work. Easy peasy.
Do you know the difference between a Mars Bar and a Protein Bar? About 6 hours of energy. That’s right. Carbs are more likely to send you into a spiraling crash about 3 hours after eating them, depending on how many and the type. But it’s true of apples, bananas, and donuts.
I save carbs for meals, like breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My protein needs are fulfilled in my snacks and at dinner (after my nighttime workout for muscle rebuilding purposes. GAINZZZ yo’)
Snacks schedule my day, my mindset, and my hunger. I can get through 2 hours of straight writing as long as I know I get a delicious chocolatey treat afterwards.
When it all comes down to it, there are people who will survive the office, and people who will not. Some days it feels like you’re constantly being chased by hippos, and others where you wish that that was happening.
It’s important to take care of yourself and your health first and foremost, and any good employer (like mine) will appreciate and expect it.
Good Luck Out There Millennials!