How to Mentally Prepare for a Full-Time Job

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Whether you are switching from part-time employment, starting your first job, or returning to the workforce after a break, it can be challenging to mentally prepare for a full-time job. The 9 to 5 work life can be a significant shift, but there are things you can do to help ready yourself for the transition. 

This article discusses how to mentally prepare for a full-time job. It covers aspects such as sleep, your mindset, and work/life balance.

Get On a Good Sleep Schedule

As soon as possible, create a sleep schedule that will allow you to get plenty of rest each night. A good night’s sleep is essential for both physical and mental health, but it can also have a significant impact on your productivity in the workplace.

In one study, people who were very sleep deprived experienced a 29% drop in work productivity. Those who were somewhat deprived showed a 19% decrease.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends going to bed early enough that you can get seven to eight hours of sleep. Creating a nightly sleep routine, making your sleep environment comfortable and conducive to sleep, and turning off digital devices a half hour before bedtime can also be helpful.

Plan What You Can

Another way to mentally prepare for a full-time job is to have a plan for your days and weeks. Being well-prepared can take some of the stress and anxiety out of your professional life. Some pre-planning that can ease your stress includes:

  • Figuring out the best route to get to work
  • Deciding what you’re going to wear the next day
  • Planning and preparing your lunch the night before
  • Packing your briefcase or bag with any equipment, tools, or materials you need to take with you to work
  • Making a checklist with tasks you need to accomplish in the upcoming days or weeks 

Anticipatory anxiety is something that people often deal with as they look forward to upcoming events, such as starting a full-time job. This anxiety can be helpful at times since it helps you feel alert and ready to face life’s challenges. But it can also be a source of distress and worry, particularly if you feel a lot of uncertainty

You can’t control every aspect of your work life, but being prepared can help you feel more empowered and less anxious as you enter or return to the workforce. 

Have a Positive Mindset

Developing a positive mindset can help you mentally prepare for a full-time job. Your mindset is essentially how you view the world and the different situations you encounter.

You will have a much more difficult time feeling optimistic about your job if you go into a new job expecting things to be terrible, expecting to hate working full time, or anticipating that you won’t be able to cut it,

Focus on cultivating a positive attitude about your professional life. Set career goals and think about how the work you do each day takes you one step closer to getting what you want, both in life and in your work.

Find Meaning in Your Work

Consider your impact, both in your workplace and the world at large. Finding meaning in work is linked to various outcomes, including stronger intrinsic motivation, better emotional well-being, and increased career commitment.

Remember that your contributions matter. What you do each day makes a difference in someone’s life, whether it’s your loved ones, co-workers, or people you help as part of your job. Knowing that you are doing something small toward making a difference in the world can provide a sense of meaningfulness and motivation.

Keep Expectations Realistic

In addition to maintaining a positive outlook on full-time work, it’s also essential to be realistic when it comes to your expectations. If you're starting your first full-time job, you may not be able to take on as much responsibility as someone who has been working for years. 

Remind yourself that everyone has to start somewhere. Start by setting small goals and work your way up.

It is also important to be realistic about what to expect from yourself. Working full-time is a big change if you’re starting your first job, increasing from part-time, or returning to the working world.

Make sure that you aren’t expecting too much from yourself when it comes to making commitments at work and outside of work. Leave time to do the things you need to do and reassess periodically to see if adjustments are needed.

Don’t Forget About Work-Life Balance

Another tricky aspect of entering or returning to the workforce is finding a balance between your home life and work life. While conversations about this balance are often framed around managing your time effectively or cutting out activities that are causing too much stress, the truth is striking the right balance is an ongoing process.

Sometimes you’ll have reasons to devote more time and energy to work. And at other times, you’ll find you need to take it easy, invest in pursuits that feed your soul and find ways to relax to combat burnout.

Finding harmony with both work and family, but remember that health is an essential part of this life balance.

One study found that work-health balance was just as crucial as work-family balance. Work-health balance also had more of an impact on overall job satisfaction than work-family balance.

You can mentally prepare for this process by creating a regular schedule, setting aside time for the things you enjoy, and remaining flexible as you ease into working full time. As you adjust, you may find that some things need to change. Staying flexible and treating yourself with compassion can help you prioritize your commitments while still making time for yourself.

When You Work From Home

Balancing home and work can be particularly challenging when you are working from home full-time. According to one survey, people who work from home are more likely to report feeling very stressed than those who work on-site.

Factors that contribute to such stress include a lack of structure, the presence of too many distractions, increased social isolation, and a lack of boundaries.

If your full-time job will be fully or partially remote, you can help mentally prepare by reducing distractions in your work environment and setting boundaries—both with yourself and with others. 

Create a regular work schedule, stick with it, and let others know not to intrude on your work time. If you’re a parent, this will often involve finding childcare.

Check-in With Yourself

It might seem like you should just naturally know how you're doing, but it’s essential to check in with yourself regularly. How are you feeling? What’s your mood like? Is there anything you need to feel better and stay healthy?

Spend a few moments scanning your mind and body to assess how you are truly feeling in the moment. Suppose you notice that something negatively affects you, whether it’s stress or an unmet need. In that case, you can take steps to resolve it before it has a severe impact on your ability to function effectively.

Make Plans

When you are preparing yourself to start working full time, it’s easy to put all of your focus into your job and lose sight of other aspects of life that bring you joy. Even as you mentally prepare for work, spend some moments planning non-work activities to look forward to. 

Research has shown that having positive things to look forward to boosts mood and reduces stress.

These future plans might include a vacation, a weekend leisure activity, or even just a night devoted to curling up on the couch to watch your favorite tv show. This goal is to give yourself something to look forward to. Knowing that fun is planned and just around the bend can help take your mind off of feelings of work-related anxiety.

A Word From Verywell

Mentally preparing for a full-time job can help you feel more prepared and confident about beginning your first job, starting a new job, or returning to your field of employment.

No matter how well-prepared you are, remember to pace yourself. Take breaks as needed to help minimize the risk of burnout. And don’t be afraid to ask for help if you needed. Co-workers may be willing to help you with some of the ins and outs of the job, and creating positive relationships with co-workers can create a sense of camaraderie and support.

8 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Kendra Cherry
Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the "Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition)" and has written thousands of articles on diverse psychology topics. Kendra holds a Master of Science degree in education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management.