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Intern Diaries: The Importance of Downtime

In light of the recent holiday, I decided to focus on something that is actually a key ingredient to your success at your internship.  I’ve spent the past five weeks learning a lot while I’m hard at work.   But truth be told, I’ve learned a lot outside of work as well- and I’ve come to find out that the way you spend your time off definitely has an impact when you’re in the office.

Impossible, you say?  How could what you do outside of your internship possibly affect your work?   It’s not hard to find out.   I’ve made the terrible mistake of getting to bed at a late hour more than a few times, and the results haven’t been pretty.  I’ve also found myself rushing home at 5:30 only to waste hours in front of my computer getting nothing accomplished.  Whether you work five days or week or only twice a week, your down time is going to be limited- something you may not be used to compared to previous summers.   So, without further ado, I give you tips on how to stay healthy, make sure you’re mentally prepared for work, and most importantly, how to make sure you’re using your down time to the fullest.

Prepare For Your Day

Summertime internships call to mind a terrible time during freshman year when there was no possible way you could get out of scheduling a grueling 8 a.m. class.   Does any morning hour before 10 a.m. actually exist?  Chances are, it won’t be second nature to get up at the crack of dawn ready to begin your day.  It’s easy to bypass breakfast and skip out the door on your merry way, but your body is going to hate you later.  And by later, I mean two hours after you get to work.  Don’t make the mistake of missing meals.  Not only will you be tired and unfocused at work, but you will more than likely over-compensate later that evening with whatever junk food is lying around.

Now, if you’re like me and <1 percent of the population who doesn’t like breakfast foods, that is no excuse to skip out on the meal.  Find a few foods you like that will tide you over until lunchtime.   I love hard-boiled eggs, and they are super easy to bring to work if you need a snack before you go out to lunch.   Greek yogurt and sides of all sorts of fruit has been a fave as well.  Do a little experimentation and see what works for breakfast and what doesn’t. Fall into a routine of waking up at a decent hour, showering and eating.  It may seem impossible when the morning hours are still in the single digits, but it’s crucial if you want to start your day out on the right foot.

Be Smart About Sleep

I should be slapped for the amount of times I’ve said “Oh, going to bed at midnight will give me plenty of rest!” the night before a workday.  If I had a dollar for every time I did this, I’d be rich…and I’d probably chew the world’s face off due to my lack of sleep.   This may be trial and error, but you usually know how much rest your body needs and how many hours are enough.   Don’t underestimate your need for sleep. I’ve found that I perform best at work when I’ve gone to bed the night before around 10 or 11 p.m.   If you’re a night owl and those hours seem preposterous, believe me when I say that the extra energy is worth it.  Save your late nights for Friday and Saturday.

Schedule In Summer

Remember when you could just sit outside on your deck and sip fruity-flavored concoctions that are horrible for you?  I have a little word I like to use to describe those times: OCCASIONAL.  Is it un-cool that you have to watch all of your other friends Instagram their summertime adventures while you’re stuck in an air-conditioned building?  Perhaps.   But just because you aren’t beach-babing it up every day of the week doesn’t mean you’re skimping out on your summer.  Most of the working world is at the grind at least five days out of the week, and the reality is that your beach-lounging 24/7 days are numbered.  The key to indulging in a proper dose of sun and fun during your summer internship is to make plans on your days off.  This does not mean texting all of your friends Saturday morning in hopes that they will all be magically free and willing to drive 3 hours to the beach.   Alert all of your buds about your work schedule when the summer begins so you have enough time to coordinate with them what weekends would work best.   Plan some fun day trips, pool visits, shopping sprees, hiking days- whatever it is you’d like to do to get out and enjoy the warm weather.  Make an effort to see your friends a few times a week so it doesn’t seem like you’re missing out on all of the fun.  You can even use a lunch break to meet one of your friends for a meal.

Take a Saturday or a Sunday to relax

“But Laura.. you just told me to use your days off to the fullest.”  Yes, I did.  But if you don’t slow down for at least one weekend out of the month, you are bound to fall apart and be utterly depleted of all energy ever.  Take a day or two to unwind and reset.  Sleep in, lounge around in your p.j.’s, and catch up on all of the episodes of True Blood you’ve missed.  Don’t feel guilty that you’re taking a real day off.  Last Friday, I asked one of my co-workers what exciting weekend plans she had.   She fired back with “nothing at all! It’s going to be amazing.”   Do not underestimate the power of a Lazy Sunday! (Wake up in the late afternoon.)

DO NOT: Computer forever!

Oh goodness.   Please do not go home from your office job only to log on to the computer until 2 in the morning.  I may or may not be speaking from (a lot) of experience. If you have your basic 9 to 5 job, that doesn’t leave a whole lot of time between arriving home from a day of work and then hitting the hay at a reasonable hour.  That small window goes even quicker if you spend it refreshing Facebook every 5 minutes. I have learned the importance of human interaction after a long day of work.  Yes, you are around your co-workers all day, but much of that time is spent hard at work.   It’s been nice to pick a few nights out of the week to have my friends come over for a few hours.  I’ve even been to a couple of early movies and spent some nights at happy hour.  You can see what’s happening on Twitter when you get home- just make sure it doesn’t monopolize your night.


Enjoy your days off!   Enjoy your days at your internship!   Enjoy… everything.  You are still in college and you are still young.   You get to have crucial real-world experience without bearing all of the responsibilities a working adult has.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have an outside that I need to go take advantage of.  Happy Fourth!~

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Laura Baugh

Virginia Tech

Laura Baugh is a senior at Virginia Tech where she is double majoring in Communications and Film. When not busy with school, Laura enjoys editing film and video, being the general manager at VTTV, spending time with her amazing sisters in Gamma Phi Beta, playing her guitar, and reading Her Campus! She is also obsessed with her school's athletics. Go Hokies!
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