The 10 Stages of a Typical Work Day

Basically, if it's not a Friday, life at work in an office is pretty typical. You have your routine, and you stick to it, dammit.

Stage #1: Not even awake yet

You’ve taken the train in, and let the gentle movements (or the jarring stops and starts) lull you into a sort of trance. As you exit the train, you walk the same path you’ve walked everyday since you started, kind of just ignoring everything and everyone around you. You walk into the building and robotically greet the doorman, and the elevator lifts you up to your office. Sneaking in through the back door so you don’t have to say “hello” to anyone yet, you set your stuff down on the floor and take a seat in your trusty office chair. Staring at your blank computer screen, you remain in this state until Stage #2 commences.

Stage #2: Forced awakening

“Hey there, fellow worker!” Your slumber has been disrupted by the co-worker you refer to as “the Ned Flanders” of the office. You are rudely snapped back to reality and realize you’re still staring at your computer screen, but have started to drool just a little bit. But you’re getting paid for that, right? You grumpily grab your packed lunch and head to the kitchen where you take 2 shots of espresso, bring 2 back to your desk, and eat a randomly chosen fruit-item before logging in to your desktop and dreadfully opening your email. And of course as soon as you do, you’re full of regret for having not checked it all night (you’re an hourly employee, if you’re gonna check email at home, they’re gonna have to pay for that, right!?). Your forced awakening translates perfectly into sternly worded email responses to clients. You continue until Stage #3.

Stage #3: Distracted A.F.

You’ve reached inbox 0, or as close as you’re going to get, and you check your personal email, you know, in case something leaked over into there you need to respond to. As you skim through, you see your favorite online retailer has sent an email with the word “FREE” in the subject line. You’re consciously aware that you’re being a slave to advertising psychology, but it’s FREE! So you make that first click, and one things leads to another, and sure enough, an indefinite span of time later, you’ve spent an indefinite amount of money, read an indefinite number of fluffy blog posts, RSVPed to an indefinite number of events you may or may not actually attend, and avoided an indefinite amount of work along the way. This sudden realization jolts you headfirst into Stage #4.

Stage #4: Pre-Lunch Uber Productivity

You’ve spent the morning in a half-dazed dreamscape and then you hit the wall that is the realization that you have real work to do and you need to make it look like you were productive before lunch. You take that last shot of espresso and do so much work you’re convinced the world around you is moving in slow-motion. You start to wonder things like, “What if I finish all  the work? Will more work be created? Or will work cease to exist? What happens at the end of work? Of all work? Will I finally find inner peace?” However, every seasoned office minion knows that the work never really ends and as your stomach growls, signaling the start of Stage #5, you realize there’s a second page to your to-do list, and the answer to your question is, “No, the limit does not exist.”

Stage #5: Feeding Time

Ahh, feeding time. Whether you use these precious moments mid-day to take a walk in the (*gasp*) outdoors and grab a favorite from a local spot nearby, or, like most of us who are poor A.F., sit in the bathroom alone at your desk with your sandwich and chips, lunch time is golden time. Take your 30-60 minutes to do what you please. Or work through lunch and leave 30 minutes earlier at the end of the day because you’re an hourly-paid employee and that seems like the only perk of your job right now.

Stage #6: Post-Feeding Time Lapse

You’ve eaten and done whatever you do during lunch. You return to your desk and get ready to work, because “they” say you’re always more refreshed after a quick mid-day break. Well “they” have never met 24-year-old us and “they” don’t realize that after you eat, all you can think about is crawling back into bed and digesting for a week or so. That’s when you get the idea to quit your job, leave, finish, and be done! You spend this time daydreaming about what your life could be like, doing things like starting a blog *cough* and scribbling crazy notes about potential business ideas and texting your friends about partnering up for an Etsy shop (you don’t know what you should sell but doesn’t that just sound like the real fucking dream!?).

Stage #7: Forced Uber Productivity

“When will you have that ready to show me?” The statement everyone dreads to hear. You lean over to face your boss and tell her you’re “just finishing up some little details and will be ready to present in another hour!!!” You sternly tell yourself that if you can’t succeed at this job you’ll never be successful at anything else and you close your great ideas notebook, put your phone away, close your Etsy tab, and command your focus to whatever task you started during Pre-Lunch Uber Productivity. You review your work with your boss, you send emails to clients like you’re a real human, and you even answer the phone when it rings (instead of sending it to voicemail per usual). All of this is fine and you feel really good, until you get the email, sending you spiraling out of control into Stage #8.

Stage #8: Anxiety Induced Energy Burst

The email. You know what email I’m talking about. You submitted that package for review weeks ago, and the email just casually rolls in with comments, and suddenly you’re in full panic mode. They want all those redlines by the end of the day? By the end of this day!? Your heart rate increases, your breathing becomes erratic, your arms are sweaty, and your knees spaghetti. You’re fixing mistakes on work you don’t even know if you did, you’re updating files with the swiftness of Mulan defeating the Huns, and you’re blaring dubstep through your headphones so you can work even faster than you thought was humanly possible. You finish. You send. You get up and fistpump the air. You get water. You sit back down and look at the clock. Enter: Stage #9.

Stage #9: Crying Under Your Desk Because It’s Just Not Quite Time To Leave Yet

This stage commences every day around 4:30. You get to leave at 5, but not a minute earlier, and between the Forced Uber Productivity and Anxiety Induced Energy Burst, you actually completed a sizable amount of work, but you’re still panicking because what if someone asks you to stay late? What if a client calls at 4:58 and has another change? What if you start to pack up and a coworker starts a friendly but work-related conversation that lasts more than a few minutes? The stress of all these questions drives you to excuse yourself from existence, and you slouch lower and lower into your chair until you eventually slump onto the carpet and melt straight through the floor. This process (luckily) takes the remaining 30 minutes in the day and by the time you straighten out your spine and get back into your chair, it’s time to pack up and leave. You shove all your belongings into your backpack, shut your computer down, and civilly walk out the back door and exit the building without saying a word to anyone. You’ve successfully left the office, but there’s still one more stage.

Stage #10: Run. Home. As. Fast. As. Possible.

Sprint to the train station. Push and you shove to get on the first train you can. You don’t care if you have to sit or stand or hang on to the caboose, you’re getting on that train. The train starts. You put on your brooding music and stare out the window like you’re in a music video. You hope people don’t try to start conversation with you, and you will it out of your life using the affirmative karma chants you worked on at your yoga class last week. Your stop. Push and shove to get off the train, off the platform, and down the steps. You feel solid ground beneath your (work) shoes and you fucking run. You sprint home and you reach your front door panting and sweating. You open the door, throw your bag aside, take your pants off and sit down on the couch. Oh! The couch! You forgot how comfortable it is. You make a critical assessment of how quickly you got home, and figure that sidestepping that homeless man’s erratic  shopping cart and running down the train station steps without touching the railing saved you 12 seconds, a personal best. You vow to continue the speed and mobility training you started a few weeks ago, and commend yourself on a personal record.

You’re home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *