Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Heidi Johnson.
Do you suffer from Melancholy Mondays? Ever experienced the Sunday Night Blues? We live in a culture where our weekends are just as overworked as our weekdays. We over-schedule weekends with leisure activities, wind up working on the weekends, or worse, do a mixture of the two. Which leads us to dread Mondays.
But beyond the negativity around Mondays, I’m hearing more and more people talk about how anxious they feel on Sunday afternoons and evenings.
My colleague Meri and I were having coffee the other day and she was telling me how panicked, freaked out, and overwhelmed she felt a few Sundays ago. What she described was a cascade of niggling thoughts about work, which morphed into an uncontrollable anxiousness in anticipation of the overflowing email inbox, unfinished tasks, and over-scheduled meeting calendar she would face on Monday morning. The worrying ruined the rest of her Sunday and started her Monday with a headache.
On a side note, this anxiety seems to be consistent whether you work a traditional Monday-to-Friday work week, have Mondays off, or take your weekend in the middle of the week. It’s more about the transition from downtime to work time and less about which days you actually do those things.
What if you could create a few systems to bring harmony to Mondays? (Click to tweet – thanks)
Three ways to flourish on Mondays.
1. Set Up Monday Success On Friday
On Friday, create space in your afternoon to look ahead into the next week. Pull out your calendar (paper or electronic), and make sure your loose ends are tied up. If you have a tentative meeting or project coming due, confirm it. Sure, cancellations happen, but set yourself up to expect the event to happen and then let it go. Going into the weekend wondering if you’re meeting Bob at 10 or 2 just interferes with your fun and leads to worrisome thoughts.
On Friday, tidy up your work space. Think about what you want to see first thing Monday morning. Is it really a maelstrom of papers, books, files, and pens? I work and live in 600 square feet, and Friday afternoon my “office” is packed into the box it lives in and I store it for the weekend. I spend a few minutes organizing the next week’s projects, prioritizing which ones come first, and clearing out the papers and files from completed projects. If you have a dedicated home office, close the door and put a “we’ll be back” sign on it.
Finally, tidy up your email inbox. Everyone has different strategies for handling email on a daily basis – see Productive Flourishing’s related post here. Think specifically about how you want to engage with your email inbox on Monday. You might be able to create a weekend auto-responder that tells people when you’ll be back to checking your email. Set the expectation for responses up front in a way that makes you want to re-engage with email on Monday.
2. Have a Strategy for Work Creep
Invariably work will creep into your downtime, lurking in your periphery. Just as you’re getting into the rhythm of the hike or enjoying the company of friends, you’ll remember a forgotten email or a tardy task left incomplete. Or worse, your phone will beep and remind you. You could quickly shoot off an email or follow through with the task, but what if there’s a different way? What if you corralled all those stray thoughts and actions until Monday?
One of the first strategies is to turn off notifications on your phone. Even if you can’t fully embrace this practice, I encourage you to try it just for the weekend.
Second, think about how you want to engage with the lurking items on Monday morning. Decide if you’re going old-school pen and paper or fully embracing the electronic way.
I like to write down my stray thoughts on whatever scrap paper I have handy. I collect the scraps in a special box and leave it in my Monday re-entry pile. Then I leisurely address the stray thoughts as I sip my coffee and re-connect with the upcoming week.
What if you left yourself a voicemail to listen to Monday morning? You can also use something other than scrap paper, like a dedicated notebook or part of your planner. The important part is to create a strategy and test it out.
3. Create a Re-Entry Zone
Into our second cup of coffee, Meri and I came up with this idea of re-entry into the week. Take a look at the last three Mondays, or any Mondays on which you had a rough start to the week. What happened, in particular? Multiple meetings first thing? Project due dates? Overflowing email? Too much work creep?
Your business works for you, so if you don’t flourish when you have an 8 AM meeting on a Monday, then declare this time as your re-entry zone. If email gets your anxiety up, what can you bring to the activity to make reading it more enjoyable? I don’t enter the email inbox until 10 AM. I also make tea, in a nice fancy cup, and turn on the Coffitivity app to simulate the background murmur of coffee-shop chatter.
Perhaps your re-entry zone starts in the car or on the bus as part of the commute. What needs to happen in this time for you to arrive at work ready for the week?
I heard from Meri a few days ago, and I’m happy to report that she’s much less anxious on Sundays since she created a re-entry zone. Hers takes place in a coffee shop three blocks from her office. And she went electronic to create voice recordings about work-creep tasks – she stores them in an Evernote notebook.
In the comments section, I’d love to know what you might do today to decrease the Sunday and Monday blues. What strategies do you currently use?