St. Paul, MN — Managing your time five days a week for eight hours a day is one thing. But figuring out how to take care of yourself and enjoy your life outside of work is another.
I’ve spent my whole first year on the job just getting used to my workflow and figuring out how to structure my day. Before working full time, I never really had to consider all the ways I would be using my brain power and how much I would need to recharge myself.
Take the weekends. Early on, all I ever wanted to do on the weekends was lay in bed, watch trash TV, and scroll TikTok without realizing that I was experiencing burnout for the first time. “Living for the weekends” was a joke. Just like that, those 48 hours would go by as quickly as they came, and I would be back Monday morning feeling like I didn’t do anything all weekend.
The same was true weekday evenings. I only made time to make dinner, watch something and that was it.
This continued for a while and I noticed I was becoming antisocial and low-key depressed. I didn’t realize how equally important my life was in AND outside of the job. And that it was going to take more than sleeping in or staying up late to watch my favorite movie to feel rejuvenated both physically and spiritually.
While it is absolutely okay to take a weekend or night after work to relax and do nothing, I’m learning that the key to living a fulfilling life while also building a career is to find the things, routines and moments that bring me joy.
Having “a life” outside of work is going to look different for everyone. But here are some things I do to recharge my mind, replenish my spirit, move my body and spend time with myself over the weekend or in the evenings:
Journal. Even for five minutes before I take my Saturday nap, I’ve found journaling on the weekend to be freeing. I usually end up writing longer than I plan to because I don’t have a meeting or deadline to meet. It’s also a great way to reflect on the past week and see how things could have gone better.
Close the laptop. Imagine, most of us are looking at our screens all day. Literally. When do we ever give our eyes a break? On weekends I try to avoid using my laptop, typing, and really try not to sit in a four-legged chair. If that isn’t possible, I at least give myself a moment or two after I wake up without any screens.
Cook a favorite dish (or buy it). Some weeks I struggle to make food for myself and resort to take-out. Or vice versa. Cooking is a way I treat myself and actually savor a meal, something that’s hard during work when I’m sprinting to get everything done by 5 pm.
Go outside. I mean it. I literally step foot outside. That alone is progress. I’m not a big fan of exercise, but I spend most of my time at a co-working space and my apartment during the week, and when I get off, the sun usually has set. The fresh air and my commute helps me transition. And on the weekends, being out on a sunny day makes me feel normal again.
On a good weekend, I might journal, go outside, and even cook with a friend in addition to sleeping in, which is KEY.
I’ll be honest I haven’t figured out how to do all these things during the week, but I’m trying to find at least one thing that I can do consistently that makes me feel good.
While all this sounds easy in theory, it’s not. So you gotta start somewhere. For me, it meant actually taking time to sit and think about what it is I like to do. But for someone else, it might be sitting down and actually making a list. Either way, it’s about finding routines or rituals or practices or ways of being to balance your work and personal life.