The hardest part of moving to 8-5 from college is the timing. It wasn’t unusual for me to work more than 40 hours a week in college if you count my job, classes, homework, lab meetings, writing, and so on. It’s the inflexibility of this work that’s the problem. It’s sitting in a chair at a desk for 8 hours straight rather than varying work environments. It’s being unable to work around my own inclinations. If I’m feeling unproductive, I still go to work rather than doing something active or fun to improve my motivation.
It’s not like my college career was unstructured. Classes, work, and meetings were regularly scheduled, and I hung my other work on the limbs of that structure. I often scheduled times for myself to be at a certain place, doing certain work, and those times could be extremely productive. The difference here is that these schedules were on my terms, on my time. Somehow it’s much more easy for me to be motivated and productive when I choose the time and place for my work.
I understand that this freeform work schedule isn’t especially practical for the general office worker, and at this point, that includes me. I need to be at the beck and call of the various projects that need me. I need to be in the office to answer questions and calls from those involved in this project, and those calls come in between 8 and 5.
But I’m looking forward more and more to being in control of my own time again. This job, beyond the numerous lessons and skills I’ve learned, is also making me appreciate the flexibility of the academic’s schedule. Yes, I will be incredibly busy. Yes, there will be a large number of demands on my time. But they will be my demands and my time. It will never be perfect, but it will be mine.