I am absolutely loving my internship this summer; the people are so smart and kind and fun, and the work that I’ve been doing is interesting and challenging. I am happy with almost every aspect of it, but I have discovered that the 9-5 schedule is not exactly my cup of tea. At school, I’m used to spreading out my work throughout the day, with classes and coffee breaks giving me a solid amount of time to relax and rest. My brain gets a longer break every two or three hours, and my work time is broken up into chunks that occur throughout my entire day. The 9-5 schedule does not exactly encourage this lifestyle, however, and I’ve discovered that although it probably amounts to the same amount of working hours, schedule and timing is really important in determining how productive I am.
Having to try to be productive for 8 hours straight with just one, short interruption for lunch and maybe a couple of 10 minute walks has been rough. And, the challenging part is not simply that I have to motivate myself to work efficiently for a longer period of time, but that this means that I am sitting down for a longer period of time as well. I never knew one could get so tired from an absence of physical activity. Around 2 pm I’ve found that I hit a real slump. Like clockwork, as soon as that two appears in the bottom right hand screen of my computer, I can feel that signature eye droop start to kick in, and my hands start to waver at my keyboard.
This is obviously a pretty big problem that needed to be remedied, and luckily I’ve been able to find a few strategies that have proven to be effective at combating this mid-afternoon crisis. The first one is moving locations. My office has a few empty offices and conference rooms that no one uses during the day, and moving to a different desk and a different room kind of mimics the changes of scene I would experience during my breaks at school. Additionally, the desks in these offices can be raised to become standing desks, and transitioning from sitting to standing definitely works to stop the head jerking and eye drooping.
There is another intern working on the same project that I am, and we’ve gotten into a routine of moving to one of the small conference rooms after lunch to continue working. This allows us to discuss the project and collaborate on our work more efficiently, and the talking also helps keep me motivated and productive. He also goes to Duke and is in the same year as me, and it’s been a great experience getting to know him and work with him. Using these techniques, I think I have managed to get a handle on the 9-5 beast and have adapted to the schedule change.
This experience has made me wonder whether or not a job in an office such as this one is right for me. Although I love the work I do here and find it incredibly fascinating, I really don’t enjoy sitting down for such long periods of time, and find that I really struggle to maintain motivation and work rate. I have to put effort into making sure I continue doing productive work, and that takes away from some of my focus on my actual job. I never thought that something as seemingly mundane and unimportant as a work schedule should factor into my career/job decision, but this summer has made me realize it is something that needs consideration.