What a weekend, huh? The weather’s getting warmer, golf courses are green, Covid numbers are dropping, and Hideki Matsuyama made history by becoming the first Japanese man to ever win The Masters golf tournament. But now it’s Monday, and Mondays are always a bit weird. Some are good, some are bad, but every single Monday just feels…weird, ya know? Some of it is probably the feeling of catching up on work that you might should have done Friday or even over the weekend. Some of it is looking at all the emails you purposely didn’t look at yesterday or Saturday. And some of it is simply that general bit of mania that one experiences when it’s not even noon on Monday and already your week has been blown up because of developments you learn of in the morning.
When I first got out of law school I had a very difficult time handling the craziness of Mondays. For one thing, like a lot of lawyers, I like to plan. I don’t think it’s really anything other than a control issue, but still, I like to plan. I have a planner that I keep by hand, I send preview and follow up emails to people with whom I have plans, and I just generally like to have as much structure in my professional life as possible. And Mondays are the bane of planners like me because more often than not all the careful planning you did the week before will be obsolete by lunch on Monday.
So, I learned how to deal. Through trial and error, hunches, and research, I came up with a few strategies to help myself handle the chaos of Mondays better. Before I go further I want to iterate that I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist, or any other type of person who actually studies this stuff. I’m just a dude with an inquisitive mind and a willingness to try stuff that I think will help me keep my sanity. But without further ado, here are five things I do on Mondays to help keep me balanced.
1. Eat Lunch—Or At Least Pretend To
Lunch is weirdly polarizing in the 9-to-5 crowd. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who tell me, “I don’t really do lunch.” And that’s fine. Whatever. To each their own, I say, for meal preferences and otherwise. But food isn’t really the purpose of lunch under my strategy. It’s about a break. There’s no need to actually eat lunch if that’s not what you’re into, but I think it’s important to mentally check out for a half hour or so in the middle of the day. Take a walk, grab some snacks, get on Sporcle and play games, watch the news, just close your eyes…whatever. The important thing is to schedule some time where you can decompress a little bit and stick with it. Don’t cancel this. Just take half an hour and veg if that’s what you need.
2. Do Something Before You Start Working
I have a routine I go through when I get to my office. I keep a few books around with short passages in them (Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations is my go to lately) and I begin by reading that for about 10 minutes. Then I get on ESPN.com to see if any of the Dallas teams have made moves I should know about (approx. 2 minutes). Then I open FoxNews, CNN, BBC America, and The Wall Street Journal and peruse those for about 15–20 minutes. I figure the truth is somewhere in the middle of all those outlets, and at the very least I’ll know what lies each one is promulgating. Then I start working. It’s about 30 minutes to just ease me into the day. I make an effort not to look at emails or anything in this 30-minute window. And I’ve found it’s worth it to get to work 30 minutes early just to do this. It’s nice to have a routine, and it’s the one thing you can for sure have control of first thing on Monday morning.
3. Answer All Your Emails Before Lunch
Well, not all your emails; just the ones that you got between Friday afternoon and Monday morning. And I know there will be times when you won’t be able to answer one for lack of new information, instructions from bosses, etc., but I think it’s important to answer all of the ones that both require and answer and can be answered before lunch. It’s a small thing to do, but it feels productive. This helps you get through that 3:00 p.m. hump when you suddenly think to yourself, “I’ve been very busy all day but haven’t gotten anything done!” Sometimes I even answer the ones that don’t strictly need to be answered just because sending something as short as “thank you for the update!” can feel productive.
4. Text Someone Something Not Work Related
I like this one a lot because I think it’s one of the best things to do to keep you grounded throughout the day. I try to make it a point every day during business hours to text someone (spouse/significant other, friends, family, coworkers, business partner, etc.) something completely unrelated to work and something that doesn’t necessarily require a response. A meme is a great thing to send. Or maybe a link to a news article, recipe, music video, podcast suggestion…whatever. And I know you’re probably thinking, “Ben, this just sounds like you’re trying to distract others the same way you distract yourself.” But that’s not true. The goal of this exercise is really to get you to be thinking of things other than work while you’re working. If you’re waiting for something and passing the time by messing around on your phone and you see a great meme, I hope you think, “wow, my spouse would think this is hilarious!” except you’ll probably say “wife” or “husband” because no one actually says “spouse” like that.
5. Take an Afternoon Stroll
I used to work on the 34th floor of a 60-storey building. Our office had the whole floor, and each day around 3:00 or so I would get up, take a loping lap around the entire office, then pop in the kitchen and make myself some green tea or decaf coffee. It took maybe seven or eight minutes, tops. But, it allowed me to stretch my legs, possibly chitchat with someone, and generally give my brain a quick break. If I was abnormally stressed out I might even go outside and take a lap around the building or walk to 7-Eleven for an afternoon Topo Chico and a Snickers. It was just a little break that included a little exercise. Sure, it’s probably not the cardio a professional athlete would do, but it’s more exercise than a lot of office workers get during business hours.
Those are the five things I most highly recommend because they were always the most helpful to me. But here are a few other ideas I have employed with some success before:
- Listen to an album from cover to cover as you work;
- Make any calls you’re not looking forward to making right before you take lunch;
- Do some light stretching around 10:00 a.m. and again around 2:00 p.m.;
- Do a puzzle (crossword, sudoku, word search, etc.) during lunch;
- Make a to-do list with a couple things on it that you’ve already done so you can immediately cross those things off;
- Don’t have caffeine after noon;
- Close your eyes for three whole minutes in complete silence;
- Set a deadline by which you will absolutely, 100% leave work that day; and
- Have a drink the second you get home.
Happy Monday and have a great week, everyone!