In my opinion, this is the worst workday of the year. The Monday following Thanksgiving. There are others that are bad: The first workday following Christmas, the first workday following New Years, the first workday after a nice, relaxing vacation, and I’m sure for the teachers out there the first day of school is probably pretty terrible.
But I think the Monday after Thanksgiving is the worst workday of the year, so let’s talk about why.
Long Weekend, Long Monday
For those of us with office jobs, there’s a decent chance we haven’t been to work since the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. That means we got a four-day weekend, which is almost unheard of. In those four days, we’ve no doubt forgotten some of the responsibilities we had, misplaced an important piece of information that we don’t realize is misplaced yet, or possibly even forgotten a password.
I’ll give you an example. A few years ago I was working at a civil litigation law firm here in Dallas and when I went back to work on the Monday following Thanksgiving, and for whatever reason I had to log back in to my case management software. Now, this was a password I had set on my literal first day of work and had never had to re-enter. I still don’t really know why it needed it then because I had been out of work for longer stretches and not needed it, but I’m convinced it was just the Force or karma or whatever associated with Thanksgiving.
Why, you ask? Because the Monday after Thanksgiving is always a long Monday. I don’t really know what it is about Thanksgiving that just makes things stack up. Maybe it’s just winding down the year, or maybe it’s cosmic payback for celebrating a holiday that I’m sure does not have the most pleasant connotations for Native Americans. But whatever the reason, the Monday after Thanksgiving is always busy and long, and so having to reset a long forgotten password is an absolute beating.
But then there’s the work itself. This I do know: we as humans are very stupid in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. With other holidays and even vacations, the general point of view is that we should work hard to finish a few things before the holidays/vacation so that we come back to a slightly less chaotic workload than we might have otherwise had. But Thanksgiving has this cavalier “screw it, I’ll get to it after Thanksgiving” attitude that is just awful. I’m not being condescending; I have done it and in fact did it this year, too.
What this means is that instead of coming back from a long weekend to a slightly elevated workload, I’m now not only behind from the stuff that amassed over the long weekend but also the stuff that I was just too lazy to get to right before Thanksgiving. I’ll be at work late tonight and probably tomorrow, too, and it could have been avoided if I had just worked like normal on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday last week. But, no. I jus had to phone it in and focus more on cooking and eating. A bad decision that I repeat year after year.
Holidays Fast Approaching
Of course one of the other reasons the Monday after Thanksgiving is so terrible is because of the immediate pressure to get some things done before Christmas and New Years. Now, I’ve talked about this a little bit before. The stretch between Thanksgiving and New Years is the least productive time of the year for me and many other people who work office jobs.
But unproductive doesn’t mean it’s not stressful. It’s unproductive because so many people start taking vacations and phoning it in and generally getting into the Christmas spirit, all at the expense of a shared sense of urgency. In other words, the rest of the year there seems to be some general sense of urgency shared by people in the same industry.
I’ll provide another example. A few years ago when I was working at that same civil litigation firm, the attorneys on the other side of a lawsuit and I normally understood the level of urgency necessary for any given matter on any given case. A deposition needs to be taken? Sure, let’s get it done within the next three weeks. Discovery needs to be supplemented? You bet, I’ll get it to you this week!
But during that stretch between Thanksgiving and New Years, the whole dynamic shifted. A deposition needs to be taken? Sorry, I’m out of town and so is my client and neither of us will be available until January; also, you have to answer this ludicrous demand by 5:00 on Friday. Kthanksbyyyyeeeeee. Oh, you need me to supplement my discovery? I would, but my client is back in Nicaragua until Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and I’m going to Cancun in three weeks so I’ll be pretty busy packing.
It doesn’t make sense. That shared sense of urgency disappears, but it doesn’t affect how busy you actually are. Instead of a mutual hurry-up-and-get-it-done situation, it becomes a hurry-up-and-wait situation, and that’s the pits, man. And it all has to do with this weird bit of reality between Thanksgiving and Christmas, which for all intents and purposes begins today, the Monday after Thanksgiving.
Of course, that whole lacking sense of urgency thing works both ways. You’re going to have to coordinate Christmas plans with your family and, if you’re married, your in-laws. You’ll have to do your Christmas shopping and have your office Christmas party and set up the tree and hang the lights and do all of the things that need doing in a socially busy time such as this. And you have to do it all while working full time.
For this reason it’s no surprise that there’s a loss in that shared sense of urgency. It’s not really anyone’s business what you do with your time over the holidays, and why should you allow some random person to dictate what you do between now and New Years.
The long and short of it is that this is a time of year when work-life balance becomes paramount, and as such it’s difficult to figure that balance out. It’s really tough. But it’s the way it works and frankly the work-life balance shifting a little more towards “life” is no doubt a good thing for most folks.
But it doesn’t change the fact that today is the day that starts it all. It’s the worst. We’re making up for lost time but in the beginning of a period where more time will be lost because of the holidays. Plus I’m sure we’re all looking forward to certain aspects of the coming month or so, and that will make things a little crazier as well.
But it’s just one day out of 365, so I suppose we should all just grin and bear it like we do every year. Don’t let your inner Garfield come out too much on this, the worst of all Mondays. Just know that in less than a month you’ll be getting another long weekend filled with overeating and generally not doing too much.