The harsh reality of worklife: the 8-5 grind truly is a rat race…

man in a rat race
Working from 8-5 can be a painful, endless existence, here's how to make it work

Getting a job is the dream for a ton of graduates, because, well…employment = money. And having money is a good thing right? But here’s what you never think about, once you have an 8 to 5 job, your life ceases to be your own.  Congratulations, you’ve now joined the rat race (it has no finish line by the way!) Nobody sat me down and really explained this to me, but I’m telling you so that you’re prepared. It quite literally feels as if that’s all there is to life, which really sucks.

PS: Knowing this theoretically, and fully understanding it in practice are totally different.

So here’s what your life will be like…

You wake up in the morning, go to work, spend the whole day at your workplace (you don’t control your time there by the way), and then you go back home. Travelling home eats up a good bit of your precious time, because the traffic is atrocious. You are dying to get home but when you do, you realize that the day is over, and you only have a few hours until the grind starts all over again. So you have dinner, spend a bit of time with your family, then you go to bed.

You may have other things you want to do before bed, but you’re tired from working all day and want some shut-eye.  If you sleep late, waking up in the morning becomes doubly painful, and you run the risk of falling asleep at work, and/or under performing. Then you either get fired or never get promoted. And that, fellow 20-somethings, is the rat race.

Then how do you cope?

You start living for the weekend. And if you work Saturdays too, you’re living for Saturday evenings and Sundays. It’s a tedious, monotonous existence. It really is. The weekend speeds by, and is over before you know it. You can only pack so many things in the space of two days…a great deal of things will be left undone. Work takes over by virtue of having almost all the daylight hours dedicated to it.

In other words, you spend the bulk of your time working to deepen someone else’s pocket. And that is the crux of the matter. The biggest motivation for most us, the reason we stay, is the money. You want the salary you receive at the end of the month. In most instances, you need it. So you stay, and you grind even as this existence slowly eats away at your soul. Oh, and often the salary is not that great, but it’s better than nothing.

It hits you that you spent all those years in school, just for this? You’ll feel robbed and cheated. It’s incredibly disappointing.
Without putting in conscious effort, you could exist in this state for years on end. This begs the question, “What’s the point of even living then?”

 Now how do you save your soul from this dreadful fate?

There are ways, obviously. Ways to pursue your dreams, but still keep your job (of course this is assuming you’re not pursuing your vision during your 8-5.) It requires conscious, deliberate decision-making, discipline, sacrifices, and smart time usage.

1. Be very, very frugal with your time.

Carefully note how you use your time and do not waste it. You’ll see its value now more than ever. With careful planning and conscious effort you can put multiple snippets of time to good use during your work day. You can carve out about 30-45 minutes in the morning before you go to work ,to do something of personal value to yourself. But this requires you to wake up a little earlier, and time everything carefully. No more hitting the snooze button, and snuggling deeper into your blankets. And definitely no moving around on autopilot.

Be innovative and  use the time taken up by commuting (especially if you’re a passenger) to and from work productively, instead of gazing at the back of someone else’s head the entire time, listening to music. Tea time, lunch breaks…be conscious of how exactly you’re using that time. Remember, Beyoncé, Zuckerberg, Serena Williams, Trump, me and you all have the same 24 hours in a day.

2. Your weekend is a precious minefield of time…

…therefore guard it zealously, and jealously. You don’t have a great deal of extra time, so do not use the little that you have on sh*t that doesn’t matter. I put this point separately because the weekend is a whole block of time, different from snippets threaded together. It’s pretty short, remember that, and only comes about after every 5 days. That’s a long way to wait. But there’s so much you can do in that short span, as soon as you understand the magic of not giving a f*ck , as Sara Knight put it in her TEDx talk. Watch it, it’s enlightening. My conclusion…

“if it doesn’t make you money, better or happy, then don’t waste time on it.”

Well except for some family obligations…unfortunately I can’t help you out of those ones.

3. Strategic, flexible planning

You need a strategy. A plausible plan, that you make with your feet rooted firmly in the ground, otherwise you run the risk of wasting precious time pursuing a dream for nothing, like I did. Assess where you are, your work environment, the economy and the political climate continuously. This will help you make smart, enlightened decisions. Take a page from the mice in Dr Spencer Johnson’s book ‘Who Moved My Cheese’ and always be alert.

Things change, so you need to be able to adapt, in order to thrive. It’s okay to be confused, and not know what to do, but there will be things you’re clear about. Do those things, and make a decision about what you’re confused about. Not making a decision is making a decision.

For the unconventional persons and big dreamers like me, guard your soul with a vision. It’ll you help see you through the night, when the last thought before you sleep is, “Is this all there will be to my life?”.

4. Pursue that vision aggressively

You’ve made a plan, now execute it. Do the thing, don’t just think about it. You’re earning money now, you could even start a side hustle if you can find the time. Now use those funds to support your goals. Always remember what your priorities are and stick to them. If you’re still reading this it means you intend that your current situation only be temporary. You could get comfortable with that 8-5, like some people you are acquainted with have done, and never change a thing. Do not forget your vision. Working without a purpose you actually give a damn about (aside from the money) will drain you quickly.

And finally…

5. Milk that 8-5 for all it’s worth

Yes, waking up every morning to do a job that is almost completely unrelated with what you want sucks…but (yes there is a but)…you can make the most of it. Enjoy the good bits, and try really really hard to ignore the bad ones. There will always be something new to be learnt  from a fresh environment and the people around you. Make new acquaintances, network, make your environment enjoyable and grow where you can. Don’t waste that time focusing solely on how much you hate the grind, after all you’re living it. Give the best of you. And because you’re earning an income, treat yourself once in while, it’s important.

Hopefully you and I will be able to realize our dreams, because the 8-5 grind is a harsh existence and I have no intention of doing it for the rest of my life until retirement age, neither do you, I suspect.

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By Yvonne Feresu

Hi, I'm on a mission to be the best darn blogger south of the Sahara...and yes I know "best" is relative but you get my drift. So far I've won a national award for this blog, and earn my living professional as a writer, that's pretty cool, isn't it?


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