Starting a full-time job, especially for the first time, can be a difficult adjustment.
I, for one, did not handle that adjustment well, and it nearly led to me losing my mind. I do NOT want that for you.
Let me give you a brief overview of what life looked like for me before and after I started my first full-time job. You might be able to relate.
The job, which is the job I still have, is an administrative secretary position. I was offered the job right out of college because I had experience in the position due to my student job during college.
My full-time job started the day after I graduated from college with my undergraduate degree. On my first day of work, I woke up at 6:30am to get ready. I remember thinking to myself, “Am I really going to commit to waking up at this time every day in order to work from 8:00am to 5:00pm?”.
The answer: yes. Why? Money.
If it were up to me, I would have chosen to stay home, not work, and be a writer. Unfortunately, that doesn’t pay off student loan bills, which I had a ton of.
So, I started going to work from 8:00am – 5:00pm every day.
Although my first paycheck excited me because it was the first time I was making “adult money”, I still had a hard time being at work all day. It felt like all my free time was gone, and I was exhausted by the time I got home.
In college, I would be busy 12 straight hours during the day and I was always on the move and interacting with classmates and professors. My full-time job is completely sedentary and located in one office. The dynamic shocked me.
Needless to say, I started getting depressed. My boss was actually the one who brought it to my attention. I knew I was in a “funk”, but I didn’t realize how serious it got until someone on the outside had to sit me down and tell me.
After that conversation, I took a serious look at my life. Guess what? It was not something to be proud of. Basically, my life was this:
- I stopped working out and gained roughly 20 pounds
- No longer made time for friends
- I didn’t make plans on the weekends
- Tons of money was spent eating out because I wasn’t packing a lunch
- I stayed on my office during my lunch break, which meant I did not leave my office for 9 hours straight every day
- I was depressed
This was not okay.
Some days, I even cried in the bathroom. Yeah, it got that bad.
I was completely unprepared to start a full-time job, especially a job that did not have anything to do with the area I just spent 4 years studying.
Now, fast forward 5 years, my attitude is entirely different. While I did take time to adjust over the years, I made some significant changes so that I could survive working full-time.
Now, I am happy, I run two businesses, I went back to school for a master’s degree, and I’m surviving all. the. things.
Here are 18 tips on how to NOT lose your mind when you start a full-time job!
1. Don’t fall into a slump
By slump, I mean something like this: work, eat, sleep, repeat.
I was definitely in a slump within the first few months of working my full-time job. I would basically go to work all day, come home for dinner, then go to bed. Not good.
My slump happened because I let my full-time job consume my life. But, the truth is that there is still so much time to utilize after work is over. At the time, that was just difficult to see.
Slumps are also bad because they affect everyone around you. People definitely notice when you are in a slump, and sometimes they will start to avoid you because of this.
Sometimes it is inevitable to fall into the slump of work, eat, sleep, repeat. The key is to not let yourself stay there.
2. Be friendly to your co-workers
If you’re working a job you don’t want to be at, it can be easy to act snooty and mean towards your co-workers.
Instead of having a bad attitude at work, be friendly. While you might not mean it at first, you’ll be surprised at how your whole demeanor towards work can change if you just smile and speak to your co-workers.
Besides, it doesn’t hurt to make some friends, especially if you are going to be around these people for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.
3. Stay organized
You’ll likely have many meetings, assignments, and due dates. Stay organized with all your work so that you don’t add another stressor to your day.
I like to write out my month of meetings and assignments on a monthly calendar that hangs above my desk. I like using this method because it is easy to add information and it is somewhere I can quickly glance at if I am typing an email or on a phone call.
Another important reason to stay organized is that people who are in a disorganized environment tend to be less productive and see it as not professional. Don’t be that person. Keep organized!
4. Keep your personal and business emails separate
When I first started working full-time, I linked my job email to my personal email. Do you know what happened?
I was at home at 8:00pm replying to work emails. Don’t do that!
After about a month of feeling bombarded with emails all the time, I finally unlinked the two emails. It was such a freeing thing.
Now, I don’t worry about work emails when I’m not in the office. They can wait!
5. Leave work in the office
Just like with your emails, office work should not be taken home with you. Unless you are getting paid to do work on projects at home, leave your work at work!
Don’t turn into a work-a-holic who can’t ever stop working. Unless you run your own business, there is no need to carry work into your home life. That is extremely unhealthy for you and your family.
If you feel guilty for not finishing a project, or you are overwhelmed with your workload, talk to your boss to see what you can do. Unless they want to pay you to do some work from home, that can be an exception. If not, then leave it in the office. It can wait until the morning.
6. Be a good employee
If you don’t like your job, or you are unhappy with your situation, don’t let that affect your quality as an employee.
We all have our good days and our bad days, but employers don’t like to see your bad days. It’s extremely unprofessional to complain about your job, other employees, or your workload. Keep all of that to yourself.
Also, when things get slow around the office, don’t wait until they give you another assignment, find something to work on. Keeping busy will make a good impression for your boss and can lead to raises and promotions.
7. Take your earned sick and vacation pay
It is your legal right to take your sick and vacation pay. Many people forget this.
The average American loses out of $604 per year because they fail to use their vacation days. These are the days you earned! Take them!
Don’t let guilt or your boss make you feel bad about not taking the days off that you worked hard for. And don’t get so caught up that you forget to take time for yourself.
8. Meal prep
Remember earlier when I said I only used to eat out for lunch? Don’t be like me. I gained weight because of that and wasted tons of money.
Instead, meal prep.
Yes, meal prep takes time. No, I don’t enjoy cooking.
What I do enjoy is saving money and (trying) to eat healthy. The only way I can do this is if I meal prep on Sunday’s for the entire work week.
For breakfast, I typically do a green smoothie (often made the night before work). My smoothies consist of either spinach or kale, strawberries, banana, mango, and chia seeds.
For lunch, I don’t get very creative. I either go with baked salmon and broccoli, pasta and broccoli, or chicken and broccoli. If I’m feeling fancy, I throw in carrots or cauliflower.
The point is, find what you enjoy eating (something preferably on the healthy side) and meal prep that.
9. Keep a snack drawer
Don’t let your belly or brain get hungry. That will drain your energy and have you constantly thinking about what you will eat for dinner. Instead, get some healthy, energy-boosting snacks. These will help with your mood and focus.
I personally have an entire drawer in my desk that is dedicated to just snacks (most of which are healthy). I used to have a drawer full of Cheetos and Doritos, but a few years ago I made a change to healthy snacks only.
Also, drink water! Water is an incredible resource for the body that helps it run at its best.
10. Eat breakfast
Last thing about food, I promise.
We have all heard the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Personally, I don’t like eating early in the morning. I tend to eat 2-3 hours after waking up.
However, I do still eat. I typically drink a green smoothie for breakfast and have some fruit and tea along with it. Tea is extremely good for you and is a quick fix to hungry and healthy snacking. For more on the benefits of tea, check out this post: Tea’s Amino Acid for Overall Wellness.
I notice that my body is way less energized when I don’t eat breakfast.
If you feel like you have no energy and are dragging through the day, try eating breakfast to see if it helps.
11. Set your clothes out the night before
This quick habit can save you so much time in the morning. All you have to do is check the weather the night before and set your clothes out accordingly.
This makes getting dressed in the morning a no-brainer. Since you already know what you are going to wear, you don’t have to waste time on multiple outfits or searching for the right shoes or jacket.
Also, if you’re like me and you usually leave the house running, setting your clothes out the night before helps you save time.
12. Have some form of exercise
Whether it’s going to the gym, taking a spin class, doing pilates, or doing yoga, give your body something.
A full-time job likely means you are sitting for a lot of time. When I first started working full-time, I cut out all exercise and practically sat down for a year until I decided to do something about it.
Also, exercising is good for your body in general. Being good to your body should always be a priority in your life.
- Stay Fit at Work | Turn Your Workspace Into a Workout Space
- 7 Ways to Keep Your Body Healthy and In Shape While Working a Desk Job
- 10 Ways to Lose Weight While Working a Full-Time Job
13. Find an outlet
Working a full-time job takes up a lot of time, that’s why it can be so easy to fall into a routine of work, eat, sleep, repeat.
A great way to combat this is it find an outlet that makes you happy, allows you to de-stress, and takes your mind off of work.
My number one outlet is taking a bath. I love unplugging from life and just relaxing in a hot bath. My other forms of outlets include spending time in nature, having dinner with friends, and taking little weekend getaways.
Find something that helps you completely unplug from work and force yourself to spend time engaged in your chosen outlet.
14. Be picky about your free time
Your free time is YOUR free time. You shouldn’t feel guilty about how you choose to use it.
Sometimes free time means just sleeping in or staying home. Other times it means hanging out with friends and having a good time. Many times the people around us can make us feel guilty about how we use our time when we aren’t at work. Since you are working full-time, free time is not something that comes often, so it’s totally acceptable to be picky about your free time.
Regardless of how you use your free time, remember, it’s okay to be a little selfish with how you use your time.
15. Schedule time with friends and family
Kind of along the lines with free time, our friends and family can get neglected when you work a full-time job. To help with this, schedule time to spend with friends and family.
Now, this doesn’t mean to make an “appointment” with your loved ones. Instead, it’s setting a block of time aside in your free time calendar so that you don’t make other plans.
Since I’m so busy with my job and businesses, I purposely set aside blocks of time that I know I want to fill with hanging out with friends or family. This has worked really well for me and it doesn’t feel like I’m making appointments to see my loved ones.
16. Get your sleep
Sleep is vital. If we don’t get enough of it, not only are we cranky zombies, our bodies can’t function as intended. I can always tell when my body hasn’t had enough sleep. My skin breaks out, my hair gets brittle, I get headaches, and my stomach bloats.
Studies say that adults should get between 6-7 hours of sleep each night. I find I do better with 7 hours. When I’m rested, my mind is clear to focus on my busy schedule and my body is good to me.
Try and wind down enough before bed so that you can fall asleep right away. That way getting a full 7 hours is easier.
17. Spend your money wisely (you work hard for it)
Saving money might not seem exciting, especially since you worked 40 hours a week for your paycheck. Why not just go and spend all your money on partying and shopping?
Well, have you ever taken the time to figure out your worth? Here’s what I mean.
Let’s say you make $15.00 an hour and go out with friends and spend $120.00. That’s 8 hours of work.
Is it worth it?
Not always. If you wanted to buy an item of clothing that costs $45.00, that’s three hours of work.
Is it worth it?
You’re not just going to work to get a paycheck. You are giving up your time. Time is valuable and is something you can’t get back. That’s why you need to know your worth.
If you spend a day’s paycheck within a few hours, chances are you aren’t valuing your time. Instead, if you really want to save money for the future, invest it in something that will make a positive impact on your life. A few drinks with friends and some expensive clothes aren’t worth what you could get from saving that money for your future.
18. Continue to work towards your goal
If the full-time job you have isn’t what you have planned for your future, don’t give up working towards your dreams.
Just because you have a full-time job doesn’t mean you have to give up your hopes and dreams.
My biggest downfall in the first few years of working my full-time job was my lack of focus on my life goals. After I graduated from college with my undergraduate degree, my dream was to become a screenwriter. That all took a backseat because I was so distracted by working full-time.
It took me way to long to remember that I have my own goals and dreams in my life and that I shouldn’t settle.
If your full-time job isn’t in your dream career, don’t give up working toward your dreams. Use the money you make in your day job to do what you need to get to where you want to be.