This Wednesday: Five tips for making your schedule work better (with particular emphasis on coping with Mondays.)

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Five tips for making your schedule work better (with particular emphasis on coping with Mondays).

Over the last few weeks, unrelated to each other, a few friends happened to mention to me that they’d made minor changes to their approach to scheduling their work, with dramatic results.

These changes demonstrate the usefulness of paying attention to our own idiosyncratic rhythms – when we feel like buckling down, when we feel like goofing off.

1. One friend used to hate the frantic rush of Monday mornings, but now he comes into work Monday morning without any expectations for himself until after lunch. He lets himself do easy work like checking email, reading email newsletters, and doing more substantial tasks IF he feels like it, but doesn’t consider himself “at work” until 1:30. The result? He gets about as much done as he did before – he just feels less pressure.

2. Also on the subject of Mondays — 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 comes, she’s always fine – she just suffers from dread on Sunday. Having something pleasant to anticipate lessens the feeling.

3. Another friend gets to work at 8:00 a.m. but doesn’t react to anything until 10:00.m. He only works on tasks that he’s set himself. By not answering email or working on someone else’s request until 10:00, he takes care of his own priorities first.

4. Studies show that the brain is often better able to tackle cognitive tasks before noon. A friend of mine noticed that this was true for him, so now he loads all his serious intellectual work into the morning, and uses the time after lunch for meetings, easier work, and going to the gym.

5. The change I’ve made in my approach to my schedule 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.

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  • http://www.reddeerblog.com Truthteller

    interesting article Gretchen. A whole lot of dread of Mondays has to do with our attitude towards it. Like most things we have negative feelings about we start out with a bad attitude before we even start. Here is a short article, called…
    ‘Thank God It’s Monday’
    that might put you into a better frame of mind when thinking about Monday’s
    http://www.reddeerblog.com/2007/03/tgimthank-god-its-monday

  • http://www.spritewrites.net sprite

    Hmmm… I suspect those people doing well with cognitive tasks before noon must be morning people.

  • http://www.gretchenrubin.com Gretchen Rubin

    That’s just my point! Figure out when YOU are most focussed and efficient. I’m not arguing that these particular strategies will work for everyone — the real tip is to pay attention to your own rhythms and plan accordingly.

  • http://www.derekbaker.com DAB

    Similar to #3, I blocked my calendar every Monday until noon at the start of this year. I don’t want people scheduling meetings and conference calls for me during this time, otherwise I feel as if I’m behind on the week before it even begins. I’ve had to make a few exceptions over the past few months, but mostly, because people use the Lotus Notes tool at my work to find “available” time, it keeps my Monday mornings from filling up with other people’s (self-declared) urgencies.

  • Ru

    I block out friday afternoon’s on my schedule. I find that I dread coming in on monday FAR less if I have had friday afternoons to organize and clear the decks for the next week. I use that time to return phone calls and emails, go over meeting notes to extract “to do’s”, file all the stuff that has accumulated and clean up my work area.

  • anon

    I think these are great strategies. I only point out that in many industries, especially those which provide client service (e.g. law firms), superiors and customers may not care about your optimal work times or “blocked out” periods. Sigh.

  • http://www.Xplorator.com Gehi Janse van Vuuren

    I have always used Sunday Blues as a barometer. The moment I start experiencing it I know that there is something that needs adjustment in my life.
    Sometimes it has to do with work on Monday mornings, but sometimes it has to do with taking a break over the weekend.

  • http://onlineanjali.wordpress.com onlineanjali

    Hi Gretchen, must say this is an excellent post… and yes Monday blues is something really difficult to handle… but with our working culture at mangospring… I doubt if any of our employees ever face any such problem :)

  • http://julianschrader.de Julian Schrader

    Thanks for this very nice post! You’ve got another RSS reader… ;-)

  • http://julianschrader.de Julian Schrader
  • Ella

    Wholly unrelated to this post: I have been reading your archives, and found your thoughts very helpful yesterday. My older daughter was diagnosed with a fairly minor health problem that is fixable, but the treatment is going to be unpleasant for her and there will be lingering effects for a long time. I was very upset, until I reframed: I’m happy that we’d caught the problem early (at her routine annual checkup), because this particular problem is most treatable if caught before the child turns 5. I’m happy that we can get the most unpleasant part of the treatment over with before school resumes. And I’m very happy that it’s fixable, and not something more serious.
    So — thank you.

  • R.M. Koske

    The solution to my Sunday Blues was to make sure I “accomplished something” on Saturday. I realized that I was most unhappy when I spent all weekend “relaxing” – which usually meant reading or watching TV. At the end of the weekend, I never had any physical thing or new memories to show for my precious two days of not-working. Now I always do errands on Saturday and try to schedule something at least moderately fun in as well. (Going to the high-end grocery store is enough fun to count most of the time, or windowshopping at the mall.) The feeling of accomplishment makes most Sunday evenings much more pleasant.
    (I can’t remember if I’ve posted before or not, but I wanted to say thanks for starting this blog – I’ve learned a lot, and the tricks really do help.)

  • http://www.gretchenrubin.com Gretchen Rubin

    Reading these kind comments made me very happy. I’m so pleased that people find this blog useful.
    And all these tips on re-thinking scheduling challenges are very useful – excellent point that a feeling of dissatisfaction or dread can be a useful (if unpleasant) indicator that something needs to be fixed.

  • jasmine

    Hi Gretchen,
    this post is very helpful, thank you! Would you please consider writing a post on tips for scheduling if you work at home? These tips mostly apply to an offic routine, but as you work at home I imagine you are quite the expert at home office productivity.
    Thanks!
    Jasmine.

  • http://www.priscillapalmer.com Priscilla Palmer

    You have been tagged for The Personal Development List. (See my site for details), I’d love to have you participate.