Navigating Time into Your Shift Work Schedule

Exam season coming to an end brings on a new task for the summer: a job. This tends to be a common thing for students, whether they work all year during their schooling or only work during the summer. My first real full time job last summer had me working in an automotive factory doing shift work. During that time, I had also signed up for an online summer course, not realizing how hard scheduling this into a shift work routine would be.

To say that I struggled to balance my time is an understatement. It is hard work, and it made me develop an appreciation for my parents' shift work jobs and everyone else who works on this form of scheduling. Let's be real, shift work is difficult and burnout can happen quickly. Soon to be back at the same job as last summer, I compiled a list of all the things that I am going to do differently this summer to not only manage my time better but to get myself into a better routine.

Sleep

To be honest, sleep is crucial on this schedule. Not getting any sleep during the day and then having to endure a night shift with hardly any sleep is mentally and physically exhausting. Investing in a sleep mask or some good black out curtains would be the way to go if you’re a light sleeper.

Getting Active

Last summer, I struggled to get active after coming home from work. This time, I realized that working out and being active before starting a shift needs to be my new routine.  It’s also no surprise the benefits of working out in the morning, but it will also help with waking up your body and mind for the day's work ahead.

Creating Goals

I’m a list maker, always have been and always will be. Normally I don’t have many tasks in the summer to complete compared to the school year. No matter how big or small my goals are this summer, I’m going to write them down to ensure that I can manage my work schedule.

Meal Prep

Doing shift work means grabbing whatever is accessible and easy. You are eating at irregular times, as sometimes lunch is at 8pm and break is at 11pm. By taking a couple hours to meal prep, it can ensure a healthy snack and make sure to fuel the body with some good nutrition. However, don’t deprive yourself of your favorite foods.

Make ‘Me’ Time

Whether this includes hanging out with friends or family, it is important to have this time. ‘Me’ time doesn’t mean you must spend time alone, but it is completely normal if that is how you choose to spend it. Taking some time out of your day and doing something you enjoy is important for your mental health.

Create a Routine

This ideally is one of the most important ones. Create a routine for yourself that you not only enjoy but will help you feel mentally and physically better. Your summer is going to feel more enjoyable once you’re in a routine. The routine is meant to offer stability and, overall, just a better experience.

Navigating your schedule on shift work isn’t easy, but it isn’t overly complicated either.  If you take the time to effectively plan your time and goals, it will be easy once the effort is put into it.  If you are considering a job that involves shift work, I hope this gives insight on what you can do to set yourself up into a good routine. For those of us starting shift work jobs again, enjoy the time that you have and remember to take some time for yourself to relax your energies. Either way, good luck.