How to (NOT) Waste 20% of Your Week

Would you walk into a job interview bemoaning the traffic and the huge to-do list hovering over your head? Would you tell your kids to start the 1st day of school in a grumpy mood? Do you LIKE being around people who complain all the time?

I know I’m a positivity activist, but for the love of all that’s good, we need to have a serious conversation about how we can stop this weekly ritual of “Blame It On Monday!”

Just like every week, when things went a little haywire this morning, people were quick to jump on the Anti-Monday bandwagon. Computer issues? “HAPPY MONDAY!” (complete with a snarky emoji) Feeling a little under the weather? “Well, it IS Monday!” with requisite sarcastic overtones. Difficulty with a business partner? “Figures… it’s Monday!” Weather a bit gloomy and soggy? “Typical for a Monday!” (and all that before noon!)

By making Monday the enemy of the people, we waste 20% of the time we have each work week (unless you work for a company like Microsoft with a 4-day work week, in which case the potential for waste grows radically!) being depressed, unhappy, and decreasing our own potential and that of our coworkers.

So, let me let you in on a little secret. We have IT troubles almost every single day. Welcome to the uber-connected world we live in. I started getting this cold last week, and I’m allergic to Indiana, NOT to Mondays. Oh, and that challenging business partner? They’re actually *easier* to deal with on Mondays because I’ve had a couple days’ break from them and am ready to go back into the fray. And seriously, people… the weather? We live in the Midwest, where this is our reality for the next several months – and it’s NOT just for Mondays!

Humans take cues from the people around us. Ever see a toddler take a tumble and then look up to see whether they should cry or not?

I get it. Monday is a transition day for lots of us, and sure, change is hard, even just change from “free time” to “work time”… but it’s also how we set the tone for the rest of our work week. And, we don’t just set that tone for ourselves, but collectively, we impact everyone around us. Humans take cues from the people around us. Ever see a toddler take a tumble and then look up to see whether they should cry or not? Or a colleague glance around the conference room to see whether a joke is funny? It’s incredible how powerful those expectations are. So when we, as a general rule, expect something (like Mondays) to suck, we increase the chances that they will, because we’ll look for every opportunity to reinforce that internal expectation, and we’ll miss (or ignore) the things that tell us hey, maybe it’s not so bad after all!

So how about this. Instead of looking for all the ways “Mondays suck”, prime your week with some intentional positivity.

  • Set a Team Manifesto that includes language around Positive Talk. That doesn’t mean that you don’t talk about stuff that’s difficult-and-important, or that nobody’s going to have personal challenges, bad days, etc. It does mean that as a group, we collectively agree to frame things in authentically positive ways whenever and wherever possible, and to hold each other accountable for creating that space. (in other words. that snarky “Happy Monday” doesn’t fly!)
  • Start your Monday off with a “Thank You” email, tweet, text… whatever, to somebody who you appreciate and haven’t had a chance to tell. (Shawn Achor talks about this practice as a daily happiness booster).
  • Kick off your work week with a “Things I’m Grateful For” practice. Maybe you journal, maybe you jot them on sticky notes and post them where you can see them, maybe you make it an ice breaker for your 8am Monday meeting and get the whole team in on the act.
  • Schedule “Quick Win” activities for your Monday mornings. Rather than diving into your email right away, instead do something that makes you feel like you’re accomplishing important tasks or making progress toward your big goals. Maybe you have a weekly deliverable – knock it out early! Maybe this just looks like actually going over your calendar and planning your week. That little jolt of the quick win will boost your mood and give you that little extra energy to tackle the less-fun stuff on your to-do list – and you’ll be in a better mood, too!
  • Get enough sleep. It can be hard to give up the weekend any sooner than you have to, but hitting the office rested will be worth it, and you (and the people around you) will find yourself more productive AND you’ll be better equipped to deal with whatever challenges come your way! (It’s science, y’all!)
  • Walk it off! If you’re finding yourself succumbing to the cultural expectations that Monday Will Suck, step outside, or just take a walk-about in your building. Fresh air is a great way to boost your mood, but if it’s raining (or below freezing), or you work in a small space, just getting up from your desk and stretching your legs can give you an opportunity to take some good, deep breaths and remind yourself that it’s actually a fantastic day to be alive!


Sarah Ratekin
Sarah Ratekin
Sarah Ratekin, founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Happiness Is Courage Inc., translates the science of happiness and well-being into actionable plans that get radically positive results. An enthusiastic positivity activist, speaker, author, and researcher, she believes we can change the world for the better by being positive, grateful, and kind, and she’s often quoted as saying “Happiness is a gauge, not a goal”. Her current focus is on helping organizations and teams navigate the particularly complex reality of today’s stressors and engagement challenges by nurturing healthier workplace cultures. No stranger to weird working environments, she believes that everyone deserves the opportunity to develop their strengths, find joy in their profession, and engage in the pursuit of happiness in the workplace and beyond. Sarah has a veritable army of garden gnomes keeping watch over her extensive container gardens and is the proud mother of four amazing humans who are making their positive own marks on the world. She and her spouse Kris, both certified Laughter Yoga leaders, also travel extensively bringing the joy and power of laughter and positivity with organizations of all sizes and industries. In their downtime, they enjoy exploring the outdoors (usually by kayak), dancing, and general merry adventuring. Sarah and her family currently reside in Indiana and travel as often as humanly possible.

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  1. I love this Sarah. I cannot agree with you more. I have a friend who even wrote the book Great Mondays. I feel like this is a bad system we created hating our jobs. I always talk about living for Saturdays and Sundays only which never made sense to me. How can we like only 2 days out of 7 is what I say. Not living Mondays ruins part of our Sundays too. It became such a habit to say something bad or sarcastic about Monday we don’t even hear it. I love every single suggestion you have there. I would do that if I had a team of my own. I am glad I finally got to this which I saved at LI. This is so important.

  2. Great tips, Sarah! I love Monday jokes even if I don’t have an issue with it. Mondays are tough when you’re in a tough circumstance. I could always tell when a work environment needed a new direction if Mondays begun to feel daunting. It’s not a quick change to achieve but a gradual transition. Thanks again for your good thoughts. The interview comparison is great.

    • That’s a really good point, Maria! If you’re constantly miserable or overwhelmed, it’s always good to dig into that and figure out why – and it might just be that the environment is not a nurturing or sustainable one. Thanks for the insight! 🙂