Keeping Sane in a 9-5 job

I was recently down at my alma mater speaking on a panel around the topic of networking. The panel was dynamic and we found ourselves diving into an even broader topics such as internships, first jobs and adjusting to life after college.

A woman in the audience raised her hand and asked “what helps keep you sane at work?”.

Hold up. She hasn’t even graduated and there is already this fear of losing your mind when you start working. That breaks my heart!! It is that exact feeling that inspires me to do this work. I want to help those feeling like their morphing in to their desk chair with motivation and engagement no where in sight! 

I could go off on a year’s worth of blog posts just analyzing her question. Why is that we have to keep our sanity while working a 9-5 job? There is clearly something fundamentally wrong with sitting in a chair for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week if it is something that we causes us to figure out how to keep SANE while doing so. Anyway….

I know what she was really asking. It’s a big commitment, especially right after college, how do you stay grounded, motivated and engaged?

There have been periods of time in my post-college working life where it really did feel like there were actions I was taking throughout the day just to remain balanced and “sane”. There’s actually been two things that I’ve done - one at the office and one outside of the office - that have helped to keep me grounded.

1. At The Office: Build Relationships.

Call it networking, call it socializing, call it whatever you want to call it but the number one thing that’s gotten me through any hard time at work has been the building relationships while at work. I guess it technically did start out as “networking” when I first entered the real world. I would set up coffee or lunch dates with people I was working with as a way to get to know others and learn about different career paths at the company that I was at. From there, it kind of evolved into a weird work appropriate form of dating. If I hit it off with someone or felt like there was more I could learn from someone I had met with, I’d set up another meet up. As time went on, and more meetings occurred, I realized that I had been building a network of relationships instead of a network of contacts. I had gone from knowing no one to having a network of people who really cared about me as a whole person, and vice-versa.

Having trusted relationships, that acted as mentorships and friendships as well, would make all the difference when having another one of those “holy sh*t did that person really just do that?!” or “If one more person says three really big words, followed by 5 acronyms and then smiles at the VP like they are smart, I’m going to light my hair on fire!!” days, I knew I could rely on these people to help me grab my bootstraps and keep my feet moving forward.

 LOL - I just had to include this picture because it's from my first internship. I can't believe how much of a noob I was - but I will tell you this, building relationships with those around me was the smartest thing I did for myself and for my career. 

LOL - I just had to include this picture because it's from my first internship. I can't believe how much of a noob I was - but I will tell you this, building relationships with those around me was the smartest thing I did for myself and for my career. 

2. Outside of the Office: Running.

Alright seriously… it’s still hard for me to call myself a runner. I actually still feel like a novice and I’ve been running pretty consistently for about the last 5-6 years. Running was never really on my radar as something that I wanted to be doing, and when I first started out I was like a coin that landed perfectly on its edge instead of flat on the ground - half of me hated running, hated that I wasn’t naturally good at it, hated that it was hard and there was no “instant gratification” and half of me loved it, loved the challenge, loved how proud it made me feel.

Running always seemed to present itself when times were especially challenging at work. There was a guardian angel present when I decided to run two different races (and the training leading up to those races) a couple years ago. One, my longest race to this date, a 14K, occurred the summer I decided to take a job for more money, which ended up being the worst reason ever to take a job. The benefits didn’t last and I was miserable and “committed” to a new job that wasn’t where I wanted to be at all.

 Still can't believe I ran a 14K. It was literally uphill both ways (ok, not really). The pride of accomplishing that run helped carry me forward during challenging times at work. 

Still can't believe I ran a 14K. It was literally uphill both ways (ok, not really). The pride of accomplishing that run helped carry me forward during challenging times at work. 

The second race, a 10K, hit smack dab in the middle of what felt like the biggest sh*t storm of the entire company’s history. We were so short staffed (I think it was 6 FTE’s short) at year-end (which is one of the most important payout times of the year for financial advisors), days behind in work, mandatory overtime flying around like people had nothing better to do than work and our customers had .0000005% confidence in us to deliver. As a leader in the area, and as supervisor of one of the teams playing a critical role in year-end success, the pressure was on and the stress was palpable. Having a training run after work helped bring me back to earth and release the stress from the day. I really don’t know how I would have made it through my season without running…. And without the relationships I had built for that matter.

So, what keeps you sane at work? How do you remain balanced while dedicating so many of your weekly hours to being at the office?