How to Make Mondays Better

Three in four Americans report feeling stressed and anxious ahead of the workweek. Here are four strategies to banish the blues and start your week right.

Published: Nov 25, 2019

It’s very hard to get consensus on anything in America these days. But one inescapable reality is that Mondays are, quite simply, the worst.

There’s plenty of research that debunks this, of course. Years ago, The Journal of Positive Psychology published a sweeping study of how days of the week affected people’s moods. While Fridays showed a definite positive uptick, people’s moods on Mondays were no worse than they were on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays. Researchers found that it’s actually just the memory of Monday—its role as usher of the workweek and ender of the weekend—that has given it an unshakably bad reputation. In fact, it’s actually Sundays that tend to be scarier: three in four Americans report having “really bad” anxiety on Sunday nights.

Even just focusing 30 minutes on your most important item, before checking email, can have surprisingly positive results.

And yet, we still all dread that first day of the week. Here’s how to make Mondays better and get your workweek off to a happier, more productive start.

Make your to-do list on Friday.

The churning in the pit of our stomach that many of us feel on Sunday nights can be mitigated slightly when you know you’re walking into Monday with a plan. Instead of waiting until Monday morning, experts say it’s best to write yourself a to-do list before you finish work on Friday, or even sometime over the weekend. While any sort of list will do, one written with paper and pen may help you get yourself even more ahead: according to researchers at Princeton University, taking notes longhand can help you better process the information. “Just a few minutes putting your tasks on paper will start to produce solutions and ideas for moving forward,” says Ryan Frechette, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance.

Don’t sleep too much on the weekends.

With the average American getting less than the recommended seven hours of sleep each night, many of us try to catch up on sleep on the weekends. But research shows that not only are we unable to truly catch up on sleep by doing that, we’re actually messing with our circadian rhythm and making ourselves more tired by having different weekday and weekend sleep schedules. To make your Monday mornings better, try getting more sleep throughout the whole week and maintaining a similar weekday and weekend schedule. If that’s not an immediate option, experts suggest taking a 20-minute nap on the weekend instead of having a marathon sleep session. But don’t nap too late in the afternoon: the National Sleep Foundation says that even a short nap in the early evening can interfere with your ability to sleep at night.

Tackle your most important tasks first.

Yes, there’s plenty to do at the start of the week. But if you want to make your Mondays better, start by crossing off your most urgent and necessary responsibilities to set yourself up for a productive week. “Do the most important things first thing in the morning, ideally before you open your inbox and the rush of thoughts about X, Y, or Z floods the mind,” Frechette says. Even just focusing 30 minutes on your most important item, before checking email, can have surprisingly positive results. The same goes for meetings; experts say if you can schedule any nonessential meetings to later in the week, that can help you get a head start and set your pace for the week.

Introduce a ‘Make Monday Better’ tradition.

Most of us think of the fun days of the workweek as Thursday and Friday, but there’s no reason to let Monday be devoid of joy. Rewire the negative associations you have with Monday with a positive tradition. It could be as simple as taking turns with your coworkers bringing in bagels or doughnuts in the morning, meeting a friend for dinner after work, or dedicating Monday nights to watching your favorite show on Netflix. The one thing to avoid: scheduling a fun lunch. “Mondays tend to be so busy, and lunches can often run late, which might end up adding more stress to your day,” says business etiquette coach Jacqueline Whitmore.

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