There is a trend out there where on Sunday mornings, social media accounts start lamenting the “Sunday Scaries.” Even when you aren’t experiencing them, seeing people post about negativity from the second you wake up on Sunday can make you feel robbed of your weekend. If you find yourself in that situation more often than not, it’s time to take control of your life. In other words, if you don’t like Mondays, change them.
There are some evidence-based best practices to organize your schedule. Most of us think that we want to frontload our weeks and give ourselves light Fridays to ease into the weekend. That’s sort of true. Here I’m going to explain the optimal way to design your week to truly “work smarter, not harder.”
Start by thinking about your week more holistically. Instead of eight- (or 10- or 15-) hour days, think about your time as a 168-hour week. Identify what you have to do generally, what must get done right away, what can wait, what you are dreading, what you can postpone, what you can rearrange and most importantly, whom you can recruit to be on your team. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, calls this “identifying big rocks,” but use whatever framework works for you.
Fridays should definitely focus on low-stress work like long-term planning, big-picture goal-setting, and relationship building and maintenance. Schedule blocks of time to check on your long-term goals. Look at your monthly or quarterly benchmarks and assess your progress. Make a plan for how to tackle items the following week.
Once you have a vision for the upcoming week, spend Friday afternoon focused on human capital. Schedule lunch with a client, colleague or mentor. Make phone calls to people you have been neglecting. Set calendar or Boomerang reminders to email connections you haven’t touched base with in a while. People will go into their weekends feeling pleased about the individual attention and it will foster positive ongoing relationships.
When you come back to work Monday morning, you will have a plan laid out for yourself already. You don’t have to spend Sunday night dreading the office, making mental plans about how to tackle your to-do list or wondering if you forgot anything. Your Sunday won’t be a pre-Monday stressfest, but a truly relaxing part of your weekend, as it is intended.
Use your weekend momentum to slide into Monday with high energy and consult your vision from Friday. Organize your week around goals and anything that has come up since your Friday planning session, and block off time to work.
Tuesday and Wednesday you are at peak productivity. Save your most challenging problems for those days. Treat work time as sacred, just as you would a meeting with a superior. Put it on your calendar, assign specific tasks and outcomes to it, and then put your head down and tackle it.
On Thursday energy begins to wane, so continue being productive in the morning and save the afternoon for larger meetings. People are mentally shifting into weekend mode by Thursday, so schedule a meeting where brainstorming and consensus-building are necessary. People will be motivated to compromise and come to agreements to avoid going into their weekend plans with stress hanging over them.
By shifting your mindset around the structure of a workweek, you will find yourself happier and more efficient and effective. But if you find you’ve done all of this to make your work life the most balanced, productive and fruitful experience it can be, yet you are still unhappy, it might be time to consider making a bigger change. Start thinking about what your long-term vision is for yourself and which steps you might need to take to realize it.