This week was all about learning the value of a pre-work morning ritual.

This internship has been my first proper taste of 9 ‘till 5, 5 days a week office work. I have been blessed in the past with either shift work or, as in my previous job, flexible hours where I could decide when and where to do my hours every week. But this is normal, adult, corporate work where not going into work will mean letting someone else down and taking a day off today means having twice the amount of work to do tomorrow. Granted, I’ve never been one to take days off often, but I definitely underappreciated the value of knowing the option was always there with little consequence.

I have been dealing surprisingly well with this new schedule energy-wise (admittedly the office Nespresso machine has played a small role in this…), however staying focused and motivated to work for an entire day, for 5 days straight has proved a bit more of a challenge. We all have those days when you wake up and honestly do not feel like doing anything and even the smallest feats; cooking food, making the bed, getting out of your pyjamas, all seem like mini marathons. Unfortunately, when you wake up feeling like this on a work morning, you can’t exactly call up and say you’re not coming in because “you don’t feel like it”. What happens instead? Well, in my case, I try and put myself together as best I can, put on my best happy face and have a generally unproductive, unrewarding day of work, gradually getting more and more frustrated at my inability to focus for more than two seconds, hence continuing the cycle of this negative mindset. A couple of times this week I found myself in this situation. I had a list of things I knew I needed to do but I found myself looking for any way to procrastinate my way around them, staring at the screen hoping the work might magically do itself. Whenever I feel like this when I’m studying at home I’ll go for a walk or jog or do some yoga to clear my head and refocus, but there’s only so many times you can take a walk outside the office and I can just imagine the strange looks I would get from my colleagues if they found me in a downward dog behind my desk (especially in my work attire…). So what’s the solution? I’m not 100% sure yet, but I’m working towards figuring it out and I have a few ideas that I’ll be trying out over the coming weeks.

One thing I am quite certain has made a big impact on my ability to have a focused day at work is a good pre-work morning ritual. Whenever I get up late and have to rush to get ready to work on time, the rest of my day is a mess- mentally and literally. On these days I forget to put on deodorant, go the wrong direction on the train or leave my purse and keys at home (yes…these have all happened in the last couple of weeks…possibly more than once). So in order to guarantee I start my day right I need the following things:

1. Exercise

I am actually really lucky to have the Happy Valley Racecourse just a short walk from my apartment where there’s a running track and sport fields in the centre of the track for public use. This week I went down there one morning for a quick workout and a stretch and I felt great for the rest of the day (and very sore for the rest of the week…). It’s no secret that exercise gets all the right chemicals flowing in your brain and I certainly find it clears my head and helps me be more focused and positive.

2. A good breakfast

It’s well known amongst my family and friends that I am somewhat of a self-proclaimed “breakfast queen”. I believe it’s the most important meal of the day and because I find cooking quite relaxing and enjoyable in itself, whipping up a nice healthy breakfast in the morning is really rewarding for me. I also don’t like to rush eating my brekkie and the standard accompanying cup of tea. I’m trying to get in the habit of reading something useful and educational rather than scrolling through my social media feeds but either way, I like to brood. Who says a lazy morning breakfast is reserved for the weekend?

3. A calm commute

This is the area I’m struggling with the most at the moment. For anyone familiar with Causeway Bay (where I’m currently living), they will know that the area isn’t exactly calm and quiet and the morning rush is naturally no exception.

Back in Australia I had become the master of making it everywhere I needed to be just in the nick of time. I knew it was 7 minutes to drop off mum to work, 35 to uni with morning traffic and 15 to Kmart (very important). In theory, it should be easier to predict how long it will take to get places in Hong Kong because you almost always take the metro and the metro is never late or affected by traffic- the only variable is how long it will take to walk to and from the station at either end. Granted, this can vary given foot traffic is incredibly dense, but this is usually just an excuse I tell myself when I’m running late (“If that one man had just moved to the right of the escalator so I could get past I definitely wouldn’t have been 10 minutes late!”).

This last week I have been trialling out different ways to work- by train and tram, by train getting off at a different stop, by tram and accidently getting off one stop too early, walking through the office buildings (and getting lost on several occasions), walking outside and around the buildings… There are so many variables that in hindsight I should’ve been a bit more pragmatic with my approach and put my Year 8 science practical skills to good use because I still haven’t come to a clear conclusion about the most efficient and most enjoyable route. All I know for now is that if I’m running late, literally running is the only sure way to make sure I cut down my travel time, even if it does mean arriving to work quite sweaty and dishevelled. All of this said, I think I’ve made my point pretty clear that in order to arrive at work with a cool head and (relatively) cool body, a commute that is efficient and requires minimal effort is going to be vital. I certainly hope that by the end of my fourth week I will have this ritual pretty well figured out so I can put my best foot forward every day at the office.

I guess these are some of the unexpected lessons I am learning from this experience- that how I live my life outside the office can have such a huge impact on how things go during the work day. Every time I spend just a little too long brooding over my breakfast and have to do my morning jog on the way to work I remind myself that I’m working towards a habit of morning yoga, quality breakfasts and calm commutes that will keep me happy for many years to come. I’ll let you know when I actually manage to achieve all three and get to work on time and in one piece.

In other news, this week my good mate and fellow NCP scholar Josh joined QBE for his 2 month internship so the crew has expanded. Another local summer intern, Charlotte also started the week before which was a welcome surprise (I love the boys but nothing can replace a good girl chat…). Having good people around at work definitely makes a huge difference to how motivated I feel about coming to work on those flat days and it’s safe to say I am pretty lucky to have these people around to complain with on dozy Monday mornings and to go and try out all the different lunch spots (or should I say the different salads in the same lunch spot…).

Until next week,

Gemma

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