The Joy of Work
April 4, 2011 8:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm starting a new job. What are the weird little things you do on a daily, or weekly basis to a) get up to speed in a new workplace, or b) 'get your game on' to be worky/professional at your job, or c) quite literally, not go crazy from work-stress?

I need to "Suit up!".
I've been unemployed for awhile, and burned out at my previous job due to depression, anxiety (& adhd behaviour). I was putting in longer and longer hours, getting less and less done, so insecure I was charging out even less, and finally, so anxious I couldn't even walk in the door of the office. I'm healthy now, and despite a steep initial learning curve, the new job seems like a healthy work environment, so I'm really wanting to get off on a good foot, and take action to keep my stress levels out of the danger zone.

So, what keeps you going day-to-day? What are the normal or even 'silly' little things do you do (or don't do), at or outside of work, that keep you functional at work?

I am especially trying to come up with concrete suggestions of the sort I can put in a checklist, to keep it more manageable - and give things a decent go.

4 things I am planning:
* I bought a journal, to quickly record things I need to learn at work, and keep a basic to-do list - further suggestions welcomed.
* Sticking to a good hours at work - getting there a little early, and leaving on time.
* Going to yoga at least once a week after work - stretchy de-stressy exercise!
* I'm hiring someone to come help me clean my house for 2 hours on the weekend, to take some pressure off.

I am very nervous and excited about this position, and the chance of a fresh start - Thank you MeFi for your help in this!
posted by Elysum to Work & Money (12 answers total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Bookend your week. Block off the first 60-90 minutes of Monday to look ahead at your calendar, adjust for any conflicts or back-to-back meetings if you can, and plan out how you're going to attack prep for each day. And block off the last 2-3 hours on Friday for filing, answering those emails that have been sitting all week in your inbox at a low priority level, and cleaning and straightening your office space. There's nothing like knowing you have built in the time to get organized and stay organized. No matter how you're pressured, don't give up this time. Those few hours are what can enable you stay ahead, prepared, and looking smooth all the rest of the week, week in and week out.
posted by Miko at 8:50 PM on April 4, 2011 [25 favorites]

Um, what job is this? Lots of things are industry specific, you don't want a bunch of nerd tips if you're an art teacher.
posted by Brian Puccio at 8:59 PM on April 4, 2011

Best answer: I teach, so some of this may not be applicable to you, and most of them are stress-related.

I go to the gym every day.

I avoid associating too closely with office shit-talkers. I'm not sure how prevalent these people are in other professions or offices, but the ones where I work try to suck new people in. So please be careful.

I listen to podcasts whenever I have to do something repetitive or monotonous, like grading or maintaining my classroom.

I do a good job maintaining professional relationships with the people I rely on. This means going out of my way to find them for small talk regularly, in situations where I'm NOT asking them for something work-related, and doing favors if I see the opportunity. (This even includes some of the aforementioned shit-talkers.)

I hit up the piano in my school's auditorium at the end of the day every week or two for an extended session.
posted by alphanerd at 9:16 PM on April 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: IT helpdesk for some new to me tools. But, I'm less worried about the IT specifics, and the more with the general issue of... working. Doing the 8 to 5 without having it take over my brain, or getting really unproductive.

And it seems like it's the supposedly individual little quirks that keep people going, irrespective of career - rewards and things people do to make downtime 'downtime'. Huh, I never tried that. ;P
Thanks guys. I really need this stuff.
posted by Elysum at 9:31 PM on April 4, 2011

Best answer: I have a problem with procrastination. Especially when a task is difficult and something I don't enjoy, I tend to stop and start or allow myself to take lots of mini breaks which turn into an hour of reading stuff on the internet. So, if this sounds like you, my advice is to basically not allow yourself these little breaks, but then in turn have time allotted for a more rewarding break where you have planned to do something that will actually refresh you. Depending on the flexibility of your workplace, this may be something you have to tack onto your lunchhour, but if possible, carve out one or two daily fifteen minute breaks where you ideally leave your desk and go do something else.
This could be: go drink something and read a magazine article or short story, walk(run?) up and down a bunch of stairs for awhile or make laps around the hallways, or even better, go outside and walk for 15 minutes. If you have your own office with a door, or can find some sort of low traffic area, I've read lots of tidbits over the years about short stretching/yoga/body-weight-bearing exercise sequences for the workplace.

Also, it's good to keep your energy up during the day without snacking on office junk food, so have things like nuts or cut up veggies and fruits or rice crackers readily available (already portioned out if you're an overachiever like that) because nothing wrecked my productivity like caving into hunger/boredom at work by eating donuts and drinking sugary coffee, getting all hyped up and then crashing. Maybe that's just me! Also, plenty of water to drink, or if you hate water make iced tea or cut up lemons at home. Or buy liters of fizzy water and keep in the work fridge.
posted by dahliachewswell at 11:45 PM on April 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: * Going to yoga at least once a week after work - stretchy de-stressy exercise!

Consider going to this at lunchtime, unless you're planning on using it to force you to leave the office. It's often too easy to skip end-of-the-day exercise if it's been a long day/week/whatever, and the kick from exercise in the middle of the day can be good value for helping through the afternoon stretch.

Sticking to a good hours at work - getting there a little early, and leaving on time.

I also like to do two things to help with my hours: set an ironclad "Unless the company is going to go bust from this disaster, I'm leaving for home" event in my evening (in my case "dinner with my family") that forces me to exit to be home for it. If I need to do some extra non-emergency work I do it in the evening, after I've had dinner and a bit of a break.

The other is that I find the start of the week very productive and the end a drag, so I work slightly longer hours at the start of the week and slightly shorter ones at the end. That's dependent on felixible workinging being OK in my environment, YMMV.
posted by rodgerd at 12:07 AM on April 5, 2011

Best answer: You set the rules for your expected behavior on your first day at the company. This helps people schedule their plans with you more easily. For example, one of our DBAs at my work takes a 30-45 minute walk every day for her lunch. It's just what she does, and it's something she started doing right from the start, so nobody even questions it. Whereas I usually work through lunch and try and push my mid-day break as far into the day as possible because that just means when I get back I have less time before leaving for the day. Because that's the expectation that I set early on.

Also, one of the best skills you can pick up is good projected time estimation. It doesn't matter if you do everything right if it's always late. Like above, people need to be able to plan their own lives around each other. The more they can do this consistently with you, the less likely they'll want to be to disrupt that by losing you.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:48 AM on April 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I just started a new job last week, and here's what I have decided to implement in this one that I didn't do in the last:

- I stop at the gym for 30 minutes on the way to work. If I get around to exercising again later in the day then cool, but if I don't I feel like it doesn't matter too much. And it provides a good time for me to think about the day ahead and plan things out.

- I take tea breaks at 10:30 and 3:30 religiously. With other people. Outside the office.

- I leave the office at lunch time. No more lunches at my desk. This might just mean eating my sandwich sitting on the steps of the building in the sun, or it might mean going for a half hour walk.

- I work at the office, and I don't work outside it. This might not be possible for you, but it is for some people. If I am at my desk, I am not surfing metafilter or the rest of the internet: I am working. This is way hard, but it helps that my new office is a space as yet unsullied by procrastination, so certain environmental triggers aren't there. I haven't even installed anything that isn't work related (e.g. no adblock, since the sites I use for work don't have ads anyway); nor bookmarked any non-work-related sites.

It's hard to keep concentration on work for hours on end, which is why the teabreaks are important. Also planning the day in advance. It helps to make a list of tiny tasks that you can do when braindead for a bit of a break. I also have printed out a stack of work-related reading that is sitting next to an armchair in the corner of my office, and when I start to feel a internet-surfing urge coming on, I remove myself from the computer and move to the armchair.
posted by lollusc at 2:58 AM on April 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Ask and remember everyone's name. Say hello to everyone you meet and find out what their big hobby is ASAP. Ask them about it when you see them and appear genuinely interested in their golf scores and neon tetras. This will make them like you. Then when you don't know how to do something you're able to ask any of them about it and they'll help out. Never try to fake your way through anything, people would much rather tell you how to do something properly before you screw it up than tidy up your mess afterwards. People like showing off their expertise - so long as you don't ask them twice because you weren't listening the first time. Bring in some doughnuts for everyone on Fridays and you'll be so popular you'll barely have to do any work at all. Remember everyone in the office isn't thinking about you and what you're doing all the time, they're thinking about themselves and what they have to do. I've had hundreds of jobs lasting weeks at a time and this strategy has never failed me.
posted by joannemullen at 4:12 AM on April 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: * Set aside "you" time at the beginning and the end of day. You need to set aside time to get your head above the weeds to see the beginning of your day clearly to allocated resources including time and energy. This is also the time to catch conflicts in your schedule or projects and to set a game plan to deal with them at the beginning.

An an hour before use that time to have the routine of tidying up your desk for the next day; schedule something informative and relaxing like a podcast or getting through a lesson on to advance your skillset. Heck, decide to read a wikipedia star article; you get the idea. This is the time to cultivate and balance yourself;

* keep a daily work journal. I especially recommend this so patterns can be noted for later review such as, stressful behaviors from yourself or other co-workers. It also helps if you are trying to stay healthy by noting your meals;

* Get a routine down on how you gather and absorb your information. This includes having an efficient reader; feeds or online reading. You want to curate your information load during the day carefully so you do not suffer too much noise to signal.

* Oh yeah, get out of your chair.
posted by jadepearl at 6:25 AM on April 5, 2011

Gah, typos galore. 2nd paragraph is about the end of your day. Ignore the grammar errors.
posted by jadepearl at 6:27 AM on April 5, 2011

Best answer: Draw a seat-map of the office - sketch the floorplan and write in everyone's names on where their desks are. Helps me a lot with remembering names, which are important in your first few days. (I don't know how new you are at this point, but thought it was worth throwing that in.)

I find it helpful to make a point of taking my lunchbreak outside the office. It mean you get some time to yourself in the middle of the day to recharge for the afternoon, and it sets expectations with your colleagues that you're not available during this time so you don't get drawn into work stuff while you're trying to eat. It can also help if you're feeling overwhelmed by the idea of an entire day in the office - you can think of it as two "shifts" with an hour (or whatever your lunchbreak allocation is) in between that's your own.

Keep work and play separate - don't login to your personal email or any social networking sites from your work PC, unless it's during your lunchbreak or after you've finished for the day. Get into this discipline and stick to it. It will make you more efficient in using your 8 hours, so you don't have to work late, and will also build your credibility with co-workers and managers if they see that you're not wasting time.

Don't be afraid to leave on time if you've finished your work for the day. Of course be prepared to work late, but only if there's actually something that needs doing and can't be put back til tomorrow.

Remember that new-job anxieties (and indeed periods of high pressure) are totally temporary. In a few weeks, the way you see this workplace will be totally transformed and you'll be much more comfortable.

Keep that journal to hand, and read back what you've written when you're at home, calmly. You'll be able to see things piecing together and it'll help you get a wider understanding of the company culture as a whole, rather than just living things moment to moment.

Good luck and enjoy your new job.
posted by Franny26 at 3:52 AM on April 17, 2011

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