I started my first full time job out of college at a full-service digital agency a year ago. While I love my job and my coworkers, I did have a difficult time in the first few months. I screwed up like crazy, had trouble sitting still at a desk for 3473947 hours a day, and had to work much faster than I was used to in college. I started questioning my entire life during those first six months, wondering if I could really do it, if I was cut out for my job. As it turns out, I am. But, I didn’t get there without first implementing some strategies to get better at what I do, keep my stress under control, and believe that I was capable of handling it all. Here are a few of those tricks that have helped me along the way.
1. Treat staying up-to-date on industry happenings like a test that’s every day.
Working in social media, it is imperative that I stay in-the-know of the latest developments in the social sphere. But, whether you’re in technology, marketing or HR, there are always going to be changes and developments within your industry. Keeping up with those changes in your sector will help keep you ahead of the game. Bookmark some websites, subscribe to newsletters, and follow thought leaders on LinkedIn. It will help you feel more educated in your role, especially in the beginning. It’s a good habit to start early, so get on it!
2. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made (and the ones coming).
You’re going to screw up, and you’re going to screw up a lot. If you haven’t yet, don’t worry; it’s coming. And this doesn’t mean you’re bad at your job, going to get fired and live in a box for the rest of your life. These are lessons for you to take along the way.
My first couple of weeks on the job, I beat myself up like crazy for the plethora of screw-ups I made. But here’s the thing: nobody expects you to be perfect and know everything immediately. So when you start getting down on yourself, reframe that mindset from “I suck” to “I feel uncomfortable, but I’m learning so much. I can wait to implement these lessons later.”
3. Dress up a little.
Even if your office has a casual dress code, try and dress up a little more. The days when I put on a nicer outfit, as superficial as it sounds, actually helped me stand up a bit straighter and made me feel more ready to take on the day. I approached things with more confidence knowing I was taking pride in myself, and that pride transferred over to the work I was doing, too.
4. Make your exercise a priority.
If you have a 9-5 desk job like I do, chances are you’ve noticed a few extra pounds that come with your newfound sedentary lifestyle. Pretty frustrating, right? But more important than your jeans fitting more snugly than you’d like, a sedentary lifestyle is not good. If you can, every hour, try and stand up and take a quick walk. After (or before) work, try and hit the gym every now and then. Exercise not only helps with a healthy weight maintenance, it can contribute to your overall sense of wellbeing and help with concentration. Personally, I enjoy working out in the morning. The days when I go first thing, I notice my work is a lot easier to accomplish, and I feel less antsy.
5. Talk to your coworkers!
40 hours is a big time commitment, and you’re going to be spending a ton of time with these people you call your coworkers. Take the time to get to know them. Ask them about their work, but also get to know them a little deeper, too. Find out about what they do outside of work, or if they have any kickass side hustles going on. Just talk to them! It’ll make work far more enjoyable.
6. Transform lazy Sundays into a prep day.
Sure, you could spend the day watching the entire season of Stranger Things and no one would judge you, but the notion of Lazy Sunday needs to be retired, because it’s the absolute ideal day to get your shit together for the week. Use the time to meal prep, exercise, look over your calendar for the week, etc. Monday will feel a lot less daunting once you’ve prepped yourself for it. This is a trick I only implemented recently (read: last Sunday), but I can tell you that I will be doing it every Sunday from now on. It made me feel far more in control of the week ahead, even if it was only making healthy dinners for a few days and cleaning my apartment. I now can’t wait for next Sunday to do it again. It’s addicting.
7. Organize yourself, dammit!
I am probably the most disorganized person ever, but that doesn’t make me exempt from at least trying to bring order to my life. Keep a planner, sync your phone up with the Google Calendar app (trust me, it’s my savior), use folders if you have to, and stay on top of your shit. It’ll make your life so much easier and less stressful, and it’ll make you look good to your boss.
8. Pack a healthy lunch.
You’ll save money, keep healthy, and probably find it easier to concentrate while spending those long hours in front of a screen. Yes, office lunches are tempting, especially if you have kick ass coworkers to eat them with. But frankly, $10 on a sandwich here and there adds up quickly. I noticed my money was constantly dwindling in the beginning, and when I finally started to look at where it was going, it was to those damn office lunches. Plus, when I started packing healthy lunches, I noticed feeling more energized and started seeing the pounds come off. It’s a win-win.
9. At least once a week, get up an hour earlier than you usually would.
Use the extra time to read the news, workout, or do whatever it is you wish you had more time to do during the day. You may even find yourself looking forward to that day where you get a little more “me” time, even with the earlier alarm. I know I do. It will make your morning feel far less rushed, and help you feel less stressed when you walk into the office. You may even find yourself planning more days like this.
10. Don’t be afraid to stay later.
It’s easy as soon as the clock hits 5 PM to say “Deuces!” to your desk and retreat to the sweet smell of freedom. However, every now and then, stay put and try and get a little ahead of the game. Answer the emails that have been sitting neglected in your inbox, get your files in order, or start that project you’ve been ignoring. You’ll feel far more ready to relax when you do get home because those unfinished tasks won’t be as nagging. I know it’s helped me feel more organized and less stressed. Hopefully it helps you, too.
Molly is an assistant digital strategist by day and a writer by night. She drinks way too much coffee and can be found on Twitter here.
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