I suffered from both Blue Mondays and the Sunday Blues. This feeling goes back to childhood (sad to admit). On Sunday, I’d feel the pressure building.
I’d feel regretful of the things I had put off or those things I still needed to do, and would futurize some anxiety about the week to come as well as how little time I had until Monday arrived. I had trouble falling asleep on Sunday nights and as a professional, I’ve found that my Mondays ranged from a little groggy from a fun weekend to an 11 out of 10 on the stress scale. I once had a panic attack that I feared was a heart attack. It turned out to be a bad case of Monday Blues and it came with a hefty emergency room bill. I guess it was good to confirm I wasn’t dying, but deep down, I knew this as I sat in the parking lot of the hospital taking deep breaths for an hour deciding whether or not to go get checked out.
In 2015, I made a personal resolution to change my outlook about Mondays, and instituted an “”F” Monday Policy”. This is my 3 step recipe that has made Mondays (and Sundays) more productive and less destructive to my week.
1) Ease into the week
Don’t build up the idea that Monday morning will set the tone of your week. It might be great to kick the week off on a good note, but here’s what happens – something comes up to throw a wrench in your ideal Monday and now the tone for the week is sub-optimal. Look for a better day and time to set the tone for your week to re-stack the deck in your favor. How? Lower your expectations and don’t schedule highly important or sensitive meetings the first several hours of Monday morning. If you manage people and your business can support changing the day of the staff meeting, move the dreaded Monday morning staff meeting to Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning.
If you’re not the boss, socialize the idea with your peers to see if there’s a consensus of people that might support the change. Even if you’re not able to clear your calendar, nobody can tell you how to think. By lowering the stakes or by creating a little space on Monday mornings, we might be able to pull Monday away from the record of being the day with the most reported cardiovascular events reported.
2) Build joy into your day
Devote time and energy on Mondays to things that bring you joy or at minimum, tasks, and activities that don’t frustrate you. The purpose isn’t to have fun (that’s a nice side effect, however). The purpose is to create a wave of momentum and energy that carries you through the day and the week. Athletes don’t step onto the court or field and start playing. They warm up. If they don’t, they get injured, make mistakes, and their timing is off during the game. The same is true for you at work.
3) Do something selfish
When we are not happy at work, we become more sensitive to our work/life balance (or lack thereof). This feeling may be compounded on Monday’s as we return to work following a couple of days away from the office or the job. If you struggle to get things in the gear you want on Monday’s, let this be the day of the week that you’re most willing to be selfish or do something for yourself. Commit 30 minutes to scanning articles (if you enjoy reading online). If you’re not ready to open an email, plan to clean up files or organize something instead.
In living out my “F” Monday Culture, I try never to schedule a meeting before 10 a.m. on Monday’s (other days I’ll have meetings as early as 7:30 a.m.). If my productive energy hasn’t quite arrived first thing on Monday’s, rather than get upset about it, I’ll shift my focus and energy by doing some administrative tasks, reading, paying bills, or other things that don’t take a lot of brainpower or energy. By doing this, I’m able to “warm up” properly before I start doing the higher stakes work that requires my best energy and engagement. If you don’t have the flexibility or control over your schedule, then schedule something selfishly. Do something for yourself as soon as you can on Monday so you can register a personal victory or sense of accomplishment or pride as early in the week as possible. This could be an early workout, getting up early to read a book, working on your LinkedIn profile, or firing out a few invitations to connect with professional connections that you should stay in touch with.
Eli Howayeck (MBA, Kellogg School of Management), Founder and CEO of Crafted Career Concepts, is passionate about helping motivated people achieve their career, educational, or personal goals and helping businesses, large and small, overcome a variety of challenges facing their business.