I’m not going to sugarcoat it…It’s been hard coming back to the 9-5 routine after a four-month hiatus. Don’t get me wrong, the new social media role is engaging, challenging, and making me learn new things almost daily. It’s everything I could’ve hoped for in this new job. But during my time off earlier this year, I got a taste of the flexibility freelancing offers, and the cubicle life just isn’t the same anymore. The commute, the traffic, the meetings, and the lack of personal time sometimes make me feel stuck in the corporate life. I catch myself wishing there were more hours in the day so I can dedicate more time to blogging, exercising, gardening, and just living…
However, this is the life I’ve intentionally chosen to embrace again and without it, I couldn’t possibly write a blog called Cubicle Chic, could I?
So, to continually find energy, motivation, and intentions in my day-to-day and not feel stuck in the corporate life, I’ve developed a series of healthy habits, or, should I say, rituals. Here are six things you could do every day to prevent feeling stuck in the corporate life:
1. Meditate with an app like Headspace
It’s 2017, and even corporations are embracing meditation as a productivity hack. Some even consider it a team sport. But truthfully, I’ve tried and failed to get into meditation countless times. But it doesn’t stop me from trying to acquire the habit of doing it, only because I’ve gotten a glimpse of the kind of ZEN your mind could enjoy if you learn to put your mind at ease voluntarily. With meditation, you can calm the thoughts that haunt your mind, and focus on the things that you want it to focus on.
The ever-so-popular app Headspace makes the practice of meditation so much more manageable and accessible. In one of the first sessions, Andy Puddicombe talks about being “present” in an unpleasant activity. Take sitting in traffic for example. What this means is, instead of wishing I was somewhere else and NOT in traffic, I choose to be present when I AM stuck in traffic. Whether I choose to spend the time in quietness, listen to my favorite podcasts/tunes, or talk to a friend on the phone, I don’t resist the fact that I am in traffic. I just accept it and stay present in it.
A lot of times, it’s the act of resisting your condition that amplifies the unpleasantness of it.
If we learn the art of accepting a less-than-perfect condition, stay in control, and choose how we want to feel, then we can dictate how uncomfortable or comfortable we are.
2. Start your day by doing something you love
This is a proven method a lot of entrepreneurs and business leaders do to increase their productivity.
Imagine if you had one extra hour every day to do what you love to do, and something you always wished you had more time to do. Be it exercising, reading, walking your dog, watching your favorite TV show, tending to your garden, drawing, painting, or cleaning. Now set your alarm clock one hour earlier, and voila, you have your magical, extra hour in the day!
Of course, if you want to maintain the same level of sleep, you would need to go to bed one hour early. The practice here is to make sure you get to do what you love doing every day, within the first hour of the day.
Since you already dedicated an hour to what you love doing, you won’t go on with your day thinking about what you wish you were doing…because you already did it!
3. Develop a ritual that lifts you up
For me, this is watering my plants in the office and checking on them every day. Seeing how they are doing every day makes me look forward to the start of the day more. For others, it could be brewing a pot of the exotic coffee you got last month, or brewing your favorite tea at the moment, or bringing in donuts one day of the week to share with your coworkers, or tearing off one page of the funny cat daily calendar…you get the point.
Find these little moments that give you a small dosage of joyfulness that makes you look forward to being in the office.
After all, a ton of research points toward the fact that it’s the small things that make us happy.
4. Remind yourself why you work
It’s okay if your primary motivation to work is to make money. It’s a lot of people’s number-one reason. Just know that #4 on this list doesn’t work that well for you if money is why you work.
I’ve had the luxury of taking a substantial break from working. What I discovered during those four months was that I have options. I can choose not to work. I can choose who I want to work for. I can choose what I want to do. So, when I came back to work, I had a strong conviction that marketing is what I want to do as a profession. I knew that my motivation is fueled by always learning new things, teaching people how to improve, and seeing positive results from marketing activities.
Whenever I question why I decided to spend eight hours at work and two hours in traffic every day, which trust me, I do… I remind myself that it was my decision to come back to work, and this is exactly where I want to be.
5. Remember your friends (contact old friends or make new friends)
Friends make work more fun, period. So many articles have been written and research done to show the importance of developing strong friendships at work. Here’s a quick list by Business Insider of things you can do with coworkers to make the office environment more enjoyable with friends.
Also, finding time to craft a well-thought-out email to tell an old friend you miss them, and that you miss the good ol’ days, is also a good way to bring in a sense of camaraderie or community into your immediate surroundings.
6. Reframe the problem of “feeling stuck”
Last, but definitely not least, is shifting your frame of mind when it comes to feeling stuck in the corporate life. This is a new concept I’ve learned from a book I am reading now called Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life. In the book, the authors Bill Burnett & Dave Evans talk about the issue of fixating on “gravity problems.” The example they gave is people feeling stuck on things that they have no power to change — the building they work out of, their manager’s temperament, their salary (to an extent), etc. Instead, if we accept things like we accept gravity, we can shift our focus onto other things that we CAN improve.
Another thing the authors recommend people do is to keep a Good Time Journal (download their free worksheet and try it yourself). By doing so, you are consciously monitoring what activities engage you and put you in the zone, and what activities drain your energy. If you can intentionally manage your day knowing how to fuel your energy tank with the right kind of activities, and organize your day around things that engage you, you can avoid that numb, frazzled, and exhausted feeling that we all feel too often past 5 PM.
Jessica is the writer behind personal style blog Cubicle Chic. In her early twenties, she has contemplated many career paths, such as a novelist, a physician assistant, a research scientist, a court translator (English to Mandarin Chinese), and a clinical research specialist. Eventually, she found her passion in marketing communications for life science companies. She continues to cultivate her interest and skills in many other fields, such as writing, career development, and self-improvement, and hopes to help others do the same.
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