The Career

How To: ‘Nine to Five and Have a Life’

Learn how to be a "nine-to-thriver".

If you ask a successful person what they think they lack most, many will admit ‘time’. It’s hard to disagree – many of us who work full-time work weeks but strive to do or have it all can confess to sometimes having no idea how to fit everything in.

If we break a week down numerically, we come up with these numbers:

There are 168 hours in a week.

Assuming you get 8 hours of sleep a night, 56 hours a week are spent sleeping, which leaves you with 112 hours.

Now, assuming you work a 40-hour work week, but potentially factor in another 2 hours a day for commute leaves you with 62 hours.

Obviously there may be other daily activities that take up a lot of time in your day/week, but those you can factor in and you’ll probably still be left with 40 hours or so a week that are truly your own free time. Now, the ideal way life works is that you have a list of priorities in your life, and you can arrange them into your free time as you wish. The secret to having it all when you’re working full-time is proper organization. I believe everyone should start with having a calendar or a planner, whichever works best for you. If you’re always on your phone, use that as your planner. If you carry a bag on you all the time, have a physical copy of a planner. If you work from home or are a homebody, perhaps buy a pin-up calendar or desk calendar where you can jot down what you’d like to get done that day.

Every Sunday, I plan my week. I take out my planner and jot down a loose layout of what I want to get done each day, and often times things get changed around throughout the week, but it still gives my brain a base to work with. Without at least a rough itinerary, my week will end and I’ll realize I’ve done nothing for myself.

The first thing to do is write out the things you’re less flexible about, in other words the ones you can’t change – appointments, your work hours, commitments. Then, make a list of your weekly priorities.

Gym / Working Out

3-8 hours a week.

If going to the gym and working out is one of your priorities, place that in your planner next. If there are specific times you have to go to the gym (Yoga classes, personal training, etc.) then put those in right away. If not, take a look at the days you have less on the go, or space them out so that you have rest days. Figure out what works best for you – could you wake up an hour earlier to hit the gym and get it out of the way, and feel fresh walking into work? Would you prefer going after work to stretch after a long day sitting down at a desk? You can even alternate.

I personally go to the gym as more of a chore than a hobby, so I prefer to go to the gym on weekdays when I’m on a roll and spend the weekends with loved ones and relaxing. But it’s up to you, so you need to figure out how many times a week you’d like to go (3 is about standard) and space them out in your week.

Friends / Social Activities

3-12 hours a week.

After university, friends and social activities definitely take more effort in order to plan. But for the most part, many will have similar work schedules and similar holidays. At the beginning of the week, reach out to friends and see how you can work your schedules together, and try your best to do activities. You spend most of your week in a routine, sometimes it’s fun to step out of your comfort zone! And friends are the people to do it with. You can also plan to get away with your friends for long weekends and national holidays. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!

Also, this can apply to whoever is important in your life outside of friends, which includes but is not limited to: making time for family, loved ones, significant others, children.

Meal Prepping / Grocery

2-4 hours a week.

A fundamental part of a successful week is a successful diet! I do my groceries on Sundays, which can be annoying because of the crowds, but frankly I’m too tired on weekdays to be alert and patient. I also meal prep on Sundays, which includes cooking the meat I’ll be eating that week, cooking and separating ingredients for my salads and pre-making my breakfast for the week, which is usually refrigerated oatmeal with cinnamon, bananas and dark chocolate chips. This way, all I have to do the night before work is throw together ingredients into my salad and voila. Takes 5 minutes every night. Another thing to keep in mind is to try and include foods that are natural energy-boosters throughout the workweek, so that you stay animated the whole day, thus keeping you more productive and not groggy and tired. Things like eggs, leafy greens, apples, oatmeal, water, etc..


1-14 hour(s) a week.

Last but certainly not least: your hobby. The thing you think about that gets you all excited and fantasizing. Are you in a band? Play tennis on Thursday nights? A calculated gambler?

Make time for your hobbies! They often get overlooked when your week is spent working hard and overusing your brain. But your hobby can be a cushion, therapy and fuel for your soul. Don’t neglect the things that make you happy, the things that are solely for yourself. And maybe you want to learn something new – you can learn Spanish for 5 minutes a day, self-teach yourself guitar for an hour a week, teach yourself how to code. If you do a little every day or every week, you’d be surprised in a year how far you’ll have come.

So when you’re feeling discouraged that there just aren’t enough hours in a day, remember: you have enough time for whatever is important to you. You make time. Take control of your life, don’t let it control you.

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