One happiness-project exercise I undertook was to consider the different times of day, and days of the week, to see if any particular dayparts were happiness challenges. In my case, I realized that school mornings were no fun, and I took several steps to make school-day mornings more calm and cheery.
Another common problem time? Monday morning -- or rather, the Monday-morning mood, which can strike at any time of the week. Even when you love your job, and especially if you don’t love your job, it can be hard to go back to work on Monday morning. After a few days out of the routine, it can feel jarring and overwhelming to jump back into the workday world. If you take care of kids full time, Mondays can feel easier – or not, depending on what your days are like.
I’ve talked to several people about how they deal with Mondays. Their different answers illustrate a common point: the importance of self-awareness. If you’re aware of the fact that certain times of day, or days of the week, pose a particular happiness challenge, and why, you can take steps to improve them. When do you feel like buckling down? When do you feel like goofing off? Pay attention to your idiosyncratic rhythms.
1. Avoid getting the bends, I. One friend used to hate the frantic rush of Monday mornings, so now she doesn’t try to do any “real work” until after lunch on Monday. She eases into the work week by checking email, reading professional email newsletters, and doing more substantial tasks IF she feels like it, but doesn’t consider herself “at work” until 1:30 p.m. The result? She gets about as much done as she did before – she just feels less pressure.
2. Avoid getting the bends, II. Another friend has a job where he’s deluged with crises from the first minute he walks in the door. By Tuesday, he’s used to the atmosphere again, but on Monday, he feels overwhelmed by it. So for Monday mornings, he found an obscure room at his workplace where he can have a cup of coffee, undisturbed, and adjust to work life again.
3. Look forward to something. One of my former roommates has always suffered from the Sunday Blues. Now she deals with it by making sure she has something to look forward to on Monday: she schedules lunch with a friend, excuses herself from some daily task that she doesn’t enjoy, or figures out some other way to improve the day. Once Monday morning actually comes, she’s always fine – she just suffers from dread on Sunday. Having something pleasant to anticipate lessens the feeling.
4. Set your own priorities. Another friend gets to work at 8:00 a.m. but doesn’t “react” to anything until 10:00.m.—on Monday or any other day. For the first two hours of work, he works only on tasks that he’s set himself. By not answering email, returning phone calls, or working on someone else’s request until 10:00, he takes care of his own priorities first. I would never be able to postpone checking my email for the first two hours at my desk, but I understand why it works for him.
5. Make the most of the morning. Speaking of mornings, studies show that the brain is often better able to tackle cognitive tasks before noon, so Monday morning, when you’re also fresh from the weekend, may be a great time to tackle a challenging task. This is an issue for me right now. I definitely do my best thinking early in the day, but it’s also the most convenient time for me to go to the gym (my gym is in the same building where my younger daughter goes to nursery school, so after I drop her off in the morning, I’m right there). I hate to miss using this valuable brain time, but if I don’t exercise in that slot, I’m much more apt to miss it altogether. I still haven’t figured out how to balance these considerations.
6. Shuffle the schedule. Maybe something is making Mondays unnecessarily tough. Could you suggest moving the weekly meeting from Monday morning to Wednesday morning, so you don’t feel like you’re starting your week by sitting in a long meeting? Could a report be due on Tuesday, instead of Monday, to give you a little cushion?
7. Find some fun. If you really don’t feel like coming to work on Monday morning, can you think of some workplace ritual – that just involves you, or even better, involves some co-workers – to make re-entry more fun? A little bit of fun can make a big difference to making an unpleasant situation more bearable. I once ate at a diner where the wait staff kept a chalkboard where they wrote the names of movies they’d seen, with their brief reviews. “Excellent.” “Worthless.” “Boring but my boyfriend loved it.” This sounds like a small thing, but it looked like they got a big kick out of it.
8. Roll with it. The change I’ve made in my approach to my Monday morning is – don’t expect to have a regular schedule. I love routine and predictability, but the way my life is right now, every day is different. For a while, that made me felt frustrated and inefficient. Now I’m trying to embrace and enjoy it.
Because I’ve always had an officey-sort of job, these tips are best suited for people who work in an office. If you have a non-office job, what tips would you offer for coping with Monday morning -- or the Monday-morning mood?
* One of my big interests is organ donation. A thoughtful reader sent me this link to The Flood Sisters -- "Let's starting saving lives together...maybe yours." Three sisters got involved in this issue when their father needed a kidney. Live your values! Support organ donation.
* As I mentioned a few days ago, if you're inclined to buy The Happiness Project book, it would be a big help to me if you'd buy it this week. From wherever you want to get it, and in whatever form you prefer -- it all helps. If you're a library user, I hope you'll consider checking it out from your library. Or if you've already read it, and you enjoyed it, please tell your friends! I really appreciate your help.