After college, you have fewer people telling you what to do. There are no professors assigning homework, no floormates dragging you along to Zumba, no parents begging you to turn off the TV (unless you moved back home). Time not spent at work is entirely your own. Without the structure you’ve become accustomed to, it’s easy to squander the hours away catching up on House of Cards, but this can quickly become monotonous. Here are five tips for livening up your days and staying focused on your passions as a graduette.
1. Define your goals
You’ve got the degree – now, what do you want to do with it? It’s important to put together a planand actually follow it. Take the time to write it out and periodically check in on your own progress. Apply for jobs that will set you on the career path you’ve always wanted, even if the first one you accept isn’t your dream gig. Network with professionals in your chosen field to find out how they got to where you want to be, and revise your plan accordingly. Talking to people who were once in your shoes and hearing about their triumphs will recharge your batteries and remind you why this particular profession appealed to you in the first place.
2. Establish a fresh routine
Finding the motivation to get out of bed every morning can be especially tough if you aren’t currently working, volunteering or attending grad school—no one is counting on you to be up and dressed by 9 a.m., so why should you be? The novelty of sleeping until noon every day can wear off pretty quickly, however.
“When I first graduated from college, what made me feel most stuck was a lack of routine. I had trouble putting my mind to anything, despite having more time than I had had in a while,” says Emily Brower, a 2014 Union College grad. “So I started finding part time work that not only gave me a regular schedule, but also engaged my interests. Once I was back into a routine, I was able to set aside time each day to apply for jobs, write and spend time with my family.”
3. Get by with a little help from your friends
Even if you have the perfect plan and a consistent routine, actually making yourself pursue your goals—even those not related to your professional life—is the hardest part. Ask others to help keep you on task. Have you always wanted to write the great American novel? Set up a writing schedule with a former professor or fellow English major and send them pages for feedback when promised. Are you trying to get in shape? Sign up for a race with your friends and train together. Do you keep meaning to check out your company’s volunteer programs but never get around to doing it? Get a co-worker to take on a community service project on with you. If you have someone to answer to, you’ll be more likely to follow through with your commitments.
4. Minimize distractions
You could update your blog, or you could scroll through Instagram again. With so much at our fingertips, it’s not uncommon to plan on simply sending a quick text before getting to work but find that, hours later, you've taken thirty-seven quizzes instead. Oops!
“I quit Facebook and social media for several months,” says Brower. “It helped me to focus on what I wanted and what I was interested in, rather than comparing my post-graduation progress to that of my peers.”
Reducing or cutting out time spent on social media allows you to actually live your life rather than watch others do it. Put down your phone and power down your computer when you can so that you can focus on the people and things that really matter to you.
5. Mix it up
Perhaps your routine is feeling a little too routine. If you’re finding that your job, living situation or social life is feeling too dull, do what you can to shake things up.
“If possible, move to a new place!” says Colleen Murray, a 2014 Siena College graduate. “Not only is it exciting and an adventure, but it’ll also give you a new perspective and time to grow as an individual while following your own routine instead of doing the same old stuff over and over again.”
While such a big move isn’t always an option, you can seek out smaller changes that will still refresh you. If your job really isn’t working for you (and has no chance of helping you get to where you want to be professionally), start searching for a new one, or at least connect with people who can help you figure out your next step. If you’re stuck in a tiny, inconveniently located apartment, think about where you’d like to be when your lease is up and begin browsing for places that meet your requirements. If your co-workers aren’t cutting it as real world besties, seek out new friends wherever you can, maybe by tagging along on your college friend’s after-work happy hour or introducing yourself to people after yoga. Essentially, if some aspect of your life makes you feel stuck or bored, remember only you have the power to change it!
This is the first time you are completely in charge of determining how you spend your days, which is both exciting and daunting. Don’t let yourself feel so overwhelmed that you end up in a rut.
“I think feeling stuck is inevitable. The important thing to remember is that nobody has it as quite together as you might think,” says Kelly Pfleging, Siena College ’14. “Find the silver lining. Embrace the uncertainties and the endless possibilities.” Amen!