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Dealing with a new job isn’t always a quick-solve problem. Sure, you can meditate, talk it out with other people, sleep well and practice other relaxation techniques, but if you’re at the point where you’ve tried a lot and nothing seems to be working, you may be in need of a bigger solution.
My main issue, three months into my apprenticeship, was that I didn’t even know I was stressed or fatigued. Despite having those early instincts that something wasn’t quite working, I had been telling myself it was the natural adjustment to a new environment. Consequently, I fell into a sleep deficit and my productivity, organisation and proactivity had never been worse. What was happening!? I let logic take over my feelings, so I ended up suppressing instead of addressing.
For context, I started an apprenticeship at a company that I hands down thought was amazing (and still do!). It requires about 3hr 30mins of commuting—compared to the 30 minutes I was used to—and a brand new corp. environment; for this opportunity I was genuinely ready to do anything. I also worked every other weekend at Costa, near where I lived. Don’t get me wrong, I was expecting this adjustment to be hard, but what can I say? I liked the idea of staying busy.
The first thing I managed to realise was that I didn’t like this loop I was stuck in: commute, work, sleep, repeat. Since I had started, I hadn’t had any time for hobbies (even on weekends) because I was too busy trying to catch up on sleep while I adjusted to my commute and extra energy expenditure. I discovered I needed to add something into my week that made me feel happy, and as though I was achieving. This, for me, was deciding to go to the gym (please don’t ask me where that came from, I’ve hated exercise since I was in primary school).
Having something else to work towards alleviated my mind from my apprenticeship, essentially giving myself a well-needed time-out. The only remaining issue was that it became difficult to fit the gym after work.
Solution? Let’s wake up at 4am and fit a session in before work.
Now, you would think this would be the biggest problem of all. That this wasn’t going to last longer than a couple of weeks, seeing as I still had a full day ahead that I just admitted was already difficult for me. And no, I don’t blame you for calling me crazy, but I actually found I liked my morning gym sessions, so wasn’t bothered by the time I went. Added bonus: I had a full gym to myself.
To stop myself from going into a sleep deficit again, I also had to adjust the time I went to bed. Brace yourselves… this meant going to bed a 8:00pm. Now would be a good time to mention that I have never followed a routine like this, and going to bed early actually took more effort than I was prepared for. I, for some stupid reason, had this negative stigma around going to bed early, as though it suddenly made me fragile. Going to bed late was what I was used to, what my brother was used to and what my dad was used to—both would go to bed after 3:00 am, even with work the next day. If my Dad can handle the rigorous sleep pattern, I could too. Except I couldn’t, frankly.
It took a lot for me to give in and accept that both myself and my circumstances had changed. If I wanted this new lifestyle to work, I needed to start getting some sleep and trust in this routine that was tailored to me, by me.
Admittedly, to execute all this wasn’t easy and it took me about 3 months of being in a not-so-great place. I had to be strict with myself. No more finishing films in one sitting or reading that little while longer during the week.
I wasn’t used to routine, especially maintaining it over the weekend, but I knew that it was the routine I needed to keep afloat, so I gave into it. I trusted it. And I swear, I have never been as productive as I have been since I decided to stick to it.
This is the routine that Talia has found works for her - remember, this isn't a one size fits all situation and there's no one perfect solution! It's all about finding the schedule that fits your lifestyle and identifying the compromises that you're prepared to make. You'll need to keep experimenting until you've got a routine that makes you feel happy, healthy and productive.