Banish the Monday Morning Blues by Planning Ahead on Sunday Night

Monday morning is the punchline of innumerable coffee mugs and Garfield cartoons. It’s the brutal, unflinching time when we transition from the unstructured weekend into the regimented work week — and many of us spend it in a caffeine-deprived haze, trying to sort out priorities.

But what if you could tackle Monday morning with a clear set of priorities and momentum, rather than trying to rev your engines up to speed by sorting your email?

One thing I noticed when I wrote about Laura Vanderkam’s What the Most Successful People Do At Work was how much preparation her subjects put into a successful work week.

Planning ahead on a Sunday night doesn’t have to take very long once you get in a rhythm, and it can be a helpful way to deal with that Sunday night anxiety that can sap the joy out of your last few weekend hours.

Ready to try something new this week? Here are some tips to get you started; experiment to see what works best for you.

1. Reflect on the past week

Now that you’ve had the space of a few days, think back over how last week went. Take a moment to celebrate any successes — maybe by jotting them in a success journal, or just running through them in your mind. This will help you get started on a positive footing.

If you had any problems over the last week, try to take another look with fresh eyes. It’s important not to dwell on them. Just spend some time troubleshooting, and considering how you might address things differently next time.

This is a good time to think on a higher level about your work and your processes. When you get in the habit of reflecting on a regular basis, you may start to notice patterns in your workflow and behavior. Some you may want to reinforce, but it’s likely you’ll come up with others that it’s time to let go of.

Keep a pad of scratch paper close by. While you’re thinking through your last week, jot down:

  • loose ends that need tied up
  • people you need to follow up with
  • ideas or projects that came up
  • things you’re inspired to learn or do
  • other notes to yourself

2. Get clear on priorities

Some priorities will be instantly clear to you — you have an important meeting to prepare for, a deadline to meet, or a date night with your partner. Others may be less tangible, such as conversations you need to have to further a future project, or steps you need to take to get closer to a lifelong dream.

It’s important to take a moment each week and check in with your longterm goals. What reasonable steps can you take towards those goals this week?

When you’re drawing up your priorities list, don’t forget about exercise, downtime, friend time, and all the other things that keep you on an even keel. It can be easy to just focus on work, but your Sunday planning should be about your whole life.

3. Schedule your week

The appointments already on your calendar form what David Allen, in his book Getting Things Done, calls the “hard landscape” of the week.These are the immovable tasks around which you’ll need to work your priorities around, so make sure you’re clear on those. Be sure to make a note of things you’ll need to tell someone else about, like your family or a coworker.

Next, rough out your deadlines and any tasks that need to happen on a specific day. I use an Evernote document to map this out — it’s a good visual way to see if I’m trying to fit too much into a day.

You don’t have to schedule every item on your to do list. I normally just schedule Monday and Tuesday, then adjust the rest of the week as I go.

When you’re going through your to do list, it can be helpful to jot down a list of “Five-Minute Tasks” that you can knock out whenever you have a few minutes to kill.

4. One last thing! As you’re looking over next week’s plan, try to find at least one thing you can cut out or delegate. I find that all too often we just transfer to do items and tasks without really considering if they’re still worth our time.

Do you plan your week ahead of time? I’d love to hear about your process!

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Nena Roberts

Great advice. But I’ll take that advice and utilize it on Monday mornings. My weekends are mine, including Sunday nights. 🙂