Why do Mondays have such a bad name? Research suggests that they’re dreaded by most of us, with two thirds of people experiencing “Sunday Blues” – anxiety triggered by thoughts of work the following day.
This could be due to the emotional shift from Sunday (a happy weekend day) to Monday (a work day). And come Monday morning you might feel bad about all that indulgent food and drink you enjoyed over the weekend.
There’s more: a weekend of sleeping in makes Monday’s alarm more difficult to bear, and we’re more likely to be late on Mondays than any other day. As a result most people will take until 11.16 to crack a smile and only manage three and a half hours of productive work.
Monday’s malaise carries on for another day as well – 37% of job applications are submitted on Tuesdays.
We’d be better to view Monday as a golden opportunity to get things set up and started to help us feel buoyant for the entire week. Indeed many people do this – for instance research shows that people are more health-conscious at the start of each new week.
The momentum you can gather over the course of an upbeat and well-thought-out Monday is priceless, with the added feeling of control and seamless transitioning from task to task, meeting to meeting, because the energy was there to start with, to get things rolling.
The knock-on effects make Tuesday prepped, Wednesday less of a hump and more of a milestone and Thursday your day of making things happen. Friday, you can expect to round off your tasks with an accomplished feeling.
Developing a weekly routine can make this a common scenario. If we eagerly anticipate the start of a new week the way we do a special event, we can give it the same level of involved planning and help set things off in the best possible direction.
The importance of planning
Good days need planning. Birthdays, weddings, holidays, awards dinners, promotions – focused work goes in to these in one way or another, and the same goes for your best week ever.
If we allow ourselves to think differently about the creeping sensation of the next working week (regardless of whether it actually starts on a Monday, or includes nightshifts, or is actually a ten-day-run-in towards the conclusion of a project) we could package it up like luggage: the sustenance needed to get the journey started on day one, the ideas and planning for day two, an added protein drink for motivation on hump day, and the tools to make it happen on days four and five.
Planning for the week is about strategy and needn’t be daunting. It’s a matter of considering what you know you have to do, what you would like to do and how you can best do it.
Be ambitious but realistic
Naming an objective and expecting to reach it without careful consideration of what it will take at each step is going to keep you from achieving it. Be honest with yourself. If you are not going to commit an extra three hours to the gym each week, don’t plan for it. Then the allotted time won’t taunt you.
Plan for disruption
While planning gives you a better chance of having your best week yet, rather than patiently waiting for good days to come from nowhere, plans are not immune to disruption. Carving out a little space for unforeseen events – from an unannounced client visit to a train strike – creates a margin for comfort.
When you are reliant on other people, be it colleagues who need to provide input for a meeting, or suppliers who are hard to get time with, your plans can make allowances for what can be achieved with and without them.
Interruptions are the other extreme: some people will not give you the time and space you need to get on. Being able to say no when people interrupt you will have a big influence on your productivity, whereas blocking out their noise and switching off email for a period of concentration will bolster your resolve to stay focused.
Learning through weekly reflection
What did you expect? What did you think you were going to achieve? These might sound like harsh rhetorical questions but actually, they are the answers you should be setting out when you start a new task. Know your objectives, be honest with yourself about them and you will have a much clearer picture of what you are aiming for and what your goal will look like when you reach it.
Harvard professor Teresa Amabile found that the most powerful factor determining whether people view their work positively is if they feel they are making progress in meaningful work. She says: “If a person is motivated and happy at the end of the workday, it’s a good bet that he or she made some progress. If the person drags out of the office disengaged and joyless, a setback is most likely to blame.”
It’s crucial we identify, analyse and learn from these setbacks, and self assessment is a telling way of achieving this. It is likely you will be more honest with yourself than with a colleague or friend; you are not competing with anyone, you are recording your starting point to measure your own success against. By openly laying down your views on what helps and what hinders you, there is more chance of avoiding the snags and gravitating towards the people, environments and habits that enrich your efforts.
Changing ingrained work habits can be hard – especially when they’ve had the benefit of years to build up and harden into existence. Often it’s more productive and longer-lasting to make a gradual series of small tweaks rather than sudden, wholesale changes.
The week’s rhythm
No matter how well we start and finish our ideal Monday, it’s impossible to maintain the same level of intensity and focus from 9-5, 5 days a week. It’s therefore important to think about ways of recharging quickly and effectively, as well as how to allocate different types of tasks according to your energy and attention levels.
Keeping track of sleep and nutrition across the week can make a big difference here, as can making time for exercise, enjoyment and family life – a successful week doesn’t have to be wholly focused on work.
Overall, it’s a case of taking a conscious, forward-looking, positive approach to the week. By taking the time and attention to make effective plans and preparations, we can stay proactive and on track as the week progresses – rather than being easily derailed at the first signs of difficulty.