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Working 9-5 Feels Impossible After College

I’ve been working at my full time job for a bit over year (I was promoted so really it’s only been six months in my current position). I’ve sometimes felt like I can’t stay focused at work all the time. Or more accurately, like there are huge chunks where I can’t seem to get anything accomplished. Working 9-5 feels impossible. But then, when I’m at home, relaxing on the couch with my husband while our 1.5 year old sleeps I’ll get the urge to just go crazy on work projects. My mind can’t get off of them and I can’t relax. I can’t fall asleep and when I wake up, half the time the thought is clouded or forgotten entirely. 

I’m Not Lazy, Honest!

You might be reading this with an initial reaction of “she’s just lazy.” Which was actually my initial thought too. It never made sense to me that my work ethic just completely dropped off to nothing once I started getting paid. That is the opposite of logical. Also,just so you don’t think I’m a complete lazy piece of poop, here’s how I was in college. I was 1. A full time engineering student 2. A research assistant (my part time job that also landed me awesome industry experience) 3. In an Enterprise – an engineering group based around a specific industry 4). On two organization executive boards and 5). Involved in my sorority Delta Phi Epsilon. This was more work than a full time job. And I really did have to be extremely careful and kill my time management to get everything I needed to do done. So why didn’t I have time management at work?

I Was Never Programmed for Working 9-5

In highschool, I didn’t have to work hard for my grades. This sounds beyond conceited, I’m aware, but it is the truth. I barely studied, did my homework while in other classes (sorry teachers I literally never paid attention), studied a little, and got all A’s. So during this time I never really had to deal with time management for free time. Then college began, and engineering classes hit me like a train. Life went from easy “busywork” to suddenly working hard with every spare moment. But that was the key: “Every spare moment.” My days were scheduled around my classes, which had weird breaks, and meetings with teams in the evenings. My day would begin early and end late, and I was go-go-go, but I always got my stuff done and usually felt pretty accomplished. At work now I feel like I’m spinning my wheels. Why? Scheduled breaks.

I had regular chunks of scheduled breaks where I could completely focus on something not (school)work related. Whether that was going to choir, taking a nap, going to work. There was so much variation within my schedule, location included,  that my mind was beginning to work in different chunks. And the thing was, this was completely normal. Basically everyone else had to do the same thing, especially when it came to classes and schoolwork. If you had a two hour break between classes, you could do a different homework session, or eat a meal, or take a nap. That didn’t mean that you wouldn’t get your work done. It just meant you’d have to do it later. Professors wouldn’t question when or where you would work on your assignments. You just made sure that they were completed and were done well.

Norms in College are not Norms in the Workplace

At work, there is the saying of “ working 9-5,” meaning that those are the hours that you are expected to be at work. As I said above, my job is from 7-3:30, but the idea is the same. It is an expectation that you will be there for eight hours straight, and work for eight hours straight. I can honestly say I don’t think my brain can work that way for right now. In time this might change, but for now I’m really struggling. The other difference is that when working in teams, you have to coordinate meeting times. I have meetings at work that I have to be at. In school, it wasn’t weird for a meeting to happen at 8pm. But in the work force, that is “after work,” and meant to be completely separated. Unless it was a true emergency, people in my group wouldn’t want to meet.

Of course another layer to this is family and other relationships. Since like most dual-income households, my husband and I work for separate companies. If he worked his 9-5, and I decided to work from 9-noon and then 6-10pm, our relationship would suffer. We wouldn’t have the quality time together that a marriage needs. Not to mention how would we spend time as a whole family? Our daughter would see us at separate times, and it would be a mess. For that reason, I understand the benefits of the set schedule. That doesn’t make it easier to adjust though, it just makes it logical. I’m also not trying to say I can’t do this, I’m saying that naturally I’m not efficient at this. Yet. I’ll get there, and when I do I’ll let you know how.


What have you done to adjust your working from college to working 9-5?



2 thoughts on “Working 9-5 Feels Impossible After College”

  • This is very relevant to me now. I graduated a year ago and then traveled for a year afterwards. Now I’m finding the idea of a 9-5 completely mind numbing. I understand it’s something that makes more sense when you have children or certain kinds of careers. But I want to do something I am passionate about, and my best work typically spills out at night. So now I am trying to think of a career or business I can start that I can thrive in.

    Great read by the way! So relatable.

    • It definitely can feel mind numbing! I think that some companies are doing better about “flex hours” but near me nothign is. If you are flexible with location that might be something worth looking into. Glad you enjoyed it!

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