The '5 to 9' Routine: inspirational or unattainable?

Is hustle culture distorting our beliefs surrounding productivity and self-worth? One of our writers weighs in.

Jay Barber
29th November 2022
Image credit: Pixabay
The ‘5 to 9 routine’ trend on TikTok is one of many centred around ‘that girl’ aesthetic – based on productivity and perfectionism, each high quality video shows us how much more we could get done if we just put our minds to it. This iteration focuses on the ideal routine to maximise the hours surrounding your 9 to 5 job, starting from before the sun is up or from the minute you get home.

If you’ve ever stumbled across the corner of TikTok that focuses on this sort of productivity, the composition will be familiar. Seventeen-step skincare routines, meditation, planning your week down to the last second, an hour at the gym, tidying the apartment, meal-prep… the list goes on.

I’d be lying if I said that these videos aren’t addictive; there’s something captivating about watching people with their lives so seemingly put-together. But after watching the tenth video in a row of a 20-something year old maximising every minute of the day, the question comes to mind: is this trend aiming to inspire others, or is it pushing a culture of productivity that can only lead to burnout for the average person?

there’s something captivating about watching people with their lives so seemingly put-together

The habits displayed in these videos are by no means harmful. It’s well-known that activities like exercise and journalling are beneficial for mental health, and promoting them as part of a healthy lifestyle should be good for everyone. The problem appears when they show nothing except this relentless productivity – there’s not one slip-up, no relaxing after a hard day at work, no time to sleep in on a Sunday. Not when you could be filming yourself doing yoga and manifesting your next promotion in your corporate girl-boss job.

The that girl aesthetic tells us that no time should be wasted. It tells viewers – most likely to be women – what they could be doing to better themselves, as if relaxation isn’t also essential to our mental health. We should also recognise that a lot of these videos are textbook examples of the ‘double shift’ that women work under the patriarchy, balancing domestic chores alongside a full-time job: only this time, they’ve been rebranded as aesthetically pleasing.

It tells viewers – most likely to be women – what they could be doing to better themselves, as if relaxation isn’t also essential to our mental health

In the age of social media, everyday lives are turned into a commodity. We’re told that the prettier picture we paint, the more each moment is worth. The never-ending hustle culture is shoved in our faces repeatedly, telling us that we too can be successful as long as we have hours to spare and the money for the (totally not sponsored) green smoothies that each influencer chugs at sunrise.

In reality, that girl lifestyle isn’t accessible to most, nor would it be beneficial. If these videos work to inspire you, that’s great! Anyone doing a 5am spin class before a 9am lecture has my respect. But beauty is found in the balance, where we can enjoy a morning walk and not feel guilty about watching six hours of Grey’s Anatomy in one evening. Our lives are so much more than what a trend can capture. If one thing’s certain, it’s that taking a nap now will always be better than suffering a burnout later.

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