Five Tips for Improving Monday Mornings.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: Five tips for improving Monday mornings.

One happiness-project exercise I undertook was to consider the different times of day, and days of the week, to see if any particular dayparts were happiness challenges. In my case, I realized that school mornings were no fun, and I took several steps to make school-day mornings more calm and cheery.

Another common problem time? Monday morning — or rather, the Monday-morning mood, which can strike at any time of the week. Even when you love your job, and especially if you don’t love your job, it can be hard to go back to work on Monday morning. After a few days out of the routine, it can feel jarring and overwhelming to jump back into the workday world. If you take care of kids full time, Mondays can feel easier – or not, depending on what your days are like.

I’ve talked to several people about how they deal with Mondays. Their different answers illustrate a common point: the importance of self-awareness. If you’re aware of the fact that certain times of day, or days of the week, pose a particular happiness challenge, and why, you can take steps to improve them. When do you feel like buckling down? When do you feel like goofing off? Pay attention to your idiosyncratic rhythms.

1. Avoid getting the bends, I. One friend used to hate the frantic rush of Monday mornings, so now she doesn’t try to do any “real work” until after lunch on Monday. She eases into the work week by checking email, reading professional email newsletters, and doing more substantial tasks IF she feels like it, but doesn’t consider herself “at work” until 1:30 p.m. The result? She gets about as much done as she did before – she just feels less pressure.

2. Avoid getting the bends, II. Another friend has a job where he’s deluged with crises from the first minute he walks in the door. By Tuesday, he’s used to the atmosphere again, but on Monday, he feels overwhelmed by it. So for Monday mornings, he found an obscure room at his workplace where he can have a cup of coffee, undisturbed, and adjust to work life again.

3. Look forward to something. 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 actually comes, she’s always fine – she just suffers from dread on Sunday. Having something pleasant to anticipate lessens the feeling.

4. Set your own priorities. Another friend gets to work at 8:00 a.m. but doesn’t “react” to anything until 10:00.m.—on Monday or any other day. For the first two hours of work, he works only on tasks that he’s set himself. By not answering email, returning phone calls, or working on someone else’s request until 10:00, he takes care of his own priorities first. I would never be able to postpone checking my email for the first two hours at my desk, but I understand why it works for him.

5. Make the most of the morning. Speaking of mornings, studies show that the brain is often better able to tackle cognitive tasks before noon, so Monday morning, when you’re also fresh from the weekend, may be a great time to tackle a challenging task. This is an issue for me right now. I definitely do my best thinking early in the day, but it’s also the most convenient time for me to go to the gym (my gym is in the same building where my younger daughter goes to nursery school, so after I drop her off in the morning, I’m right there). I hate to miss using this valuable brain time, but if I don’t exercise in that slot, I’m much more apt to miss it altogether. I still haven’t figured out how to balance these considerations.

6. Shuffle the schedule. Maybe something is making Mondays unnecessarily tough. Could you suggest moving the weekly meeting from Monday morning to Wednesday morning, so you don’t feel like you’re starting your week by sitting in a long meeting? Could a report be due on Tuesday, instead of Monday, to give you a little cushion?

7. Find some fun. If you really don’t feel like coming to work on Monday morning, can you think of some workplace ritual – that just involves you, or even better, involves some co-workers – to make re-entry more fun? A little bit of fun can make a big difference to making an unpleasant situation more bearable. I once ate at a diner where the wait staff kept a chalkboard where they wrote the names of movies they’d seen, with their brief reviews. “Excellent.” “Worthless.” “Boring but my boyfriend loved it.” This sounds like a small thing, but it looked like they got a big kick out of it.

8. Roll with it. The change I’ve made in my approach to my Monday morning 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.

Because I’ve always had an officey-sort of job, these tips are best suited for people who work in an office. If you have a non-office job, what tips would you offer for coping with Monday morning — or the Monday-morning mood?

* One of my big interests is organ donation. A thoughtful reader sent me this link to The Flood Sisters — “Let’s starting saving lives together…maybe yours.” Three sisters got involved in this issue when their father needed a kidney. Live your values! Support organ donation.

* As I mentioned a few days ago, if you’re inclined to buy The Happiness Project book, it would be a big help to me if you’d buy it this week. From wherever you want to get it, and in whatever form you prefer — it all helps. If you’re a library user, I hope you’ll consider checking it out from your library. Or if you’ve already read it, and you enjoyed it, please tell your friends! I really appreciate your help.

Many people like to sample a book before they commit to a purchase. You can…
Order your copy
Read sample chapters
Watch the one-minute book trailer
Listen to a few chapters of the audiobook

  • It so often seems like the posts you write are perfectly geared to me on a specific day. This morning I have already talked with three different people about how to fix my schedule. I’ve been feeling incredibly overwhelmed with the tasks of both having a day job and a writing career that I have to attend to in my personal non-office hours. Even though this is specifically about Monday mornings, not just the general feeling of “how do I face it all???” it was incredibly helpful. I’ve been trying so hard to figure out a schedule I can stick to, when as you say, perhaps I need to learn to roll with it. Honestly, Im not sure I can do that, but good to know that if I do, it doesn’t mean I’m failing. I too adopt the “personal tasks until 10 am rule” in the office. It helps me feel like I’ve gotten some stuff done and then can deal with the crazy chatter of office firedrills. I’m going to try to enlist more of these steps to help me tackle the Monday-morning mood.

  • Sarah

    I love these ideas, mostly because they encourage me to think creatively about approaching things, rather than taking “Mondays suck” as written in stone 🙂 I like to think of myself as someone who is pretty self-determined, but you always come up with something I haven’t thought of yet.

    I sometimes jot myself notes on ideas that come up during workouts. I also now have an iPod Touch that can record voice memos, which I think could be useful!

  • I recently discovered something about my Mondays: I went into them tired and feeling incredibly stressed. And it wasn’t really the job that was causing it.

    The tired was easy… I just needed to get to bed earlier on Sunday nights.

    The stressed-feeling came to me as a “DUH!” moment … I was tired, so I was taking in more caffeine than usual to make up for it. And caffeine makes me feel edgy and stressed without an actual reason for feeling edgy and stressed. Gives me a general “something is not right with your world” feeling without being able to pinpoint WHAT was making me feel that way.

    So – earlier bed time = less tired = less wired = happier Monday.

    Simple. Right?

    • gretchenrubin

      I so agree with you. Such an important point. Getting more sleep helps with
      SO MANY happiness challenges. I have really turned into a sleep nut.

    • sunshinecook

      I completely agree with Laura’s comment that a good Monday starts on Sunday. If we have too many weekend social plans and no time to clean, chill out, and catch up, I hit Sunday night feeling like I need a day off from the weekend! Not good. So we try not to have too many weekend plans.

      • Lisa

        So true! I used to think weekends packed full of social plans were a good idea, but have found the stresses of the following week don’t always make the fun worthwhile.

  • mwags

    Love your blog! It’s great to be reminded (point 4) that I can set my own priorities at work to some extent and don’t need to instantly respond to the priorities of others as soon as I walk in Monday morning–a default for people-pleaser types. So now I’m going to try to put a fence around that first hour on Monday and focus on MY plans for what needs to get done first–Thanks!

  • I completely understand what you mean about these feelings of dread.

    Until recently I had a job I didn’t enjoy (partly the position, partly the people) and I would dread my workdays. Mondays were the worst but I spent most mornings hating it (and unable to eat breakfast due to upset stomach).

    I usually felt better once I was there and back in routine.

    Of course, I’ve been laid off recently (they didn’t have enough work) so I don’t suffer from this anymore (yes, I was looking for a new job even before the layoff because I knew that hating this job was not a good sign and knew layoffs were likely anyways).

    I have more pleasant mornings now and everyday is a weekend. Too bad this comes with no money or healthcare. 🙂

    I’ve been thinking about the fear/anxiety I suffered about work a lot on my blog lately and I do think it is a sign that a change needs to be made. Whether that is a change in workplace or a change in how work is done–if you are dreading work, something has to give. I like your suggestions but I also think that for some people, at least, severe feelings of anxiety or dread are probably an indication that more may be needed than scheduling changes or planning a monday lunch with a friend.

    I had the decision made for me, but I hope that it will lead to better things.

    • gretchenrubin

      Good luck with facing this big happiness challenge.

      You make a great point: one of the biggest boosters of happiness is
      gratitude. When you’re not looking forward to Monday morning, to remember
      how happy you are to have a job, that’s a comfort.

      (This post wasn’t meant to address dreading work — which is a much bigger
      issue. This is more about the Monday-morning mood, set off by a particular
      slice of the day.)

  • GREAT post. At my old workplace on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood (prime star-spotting territory), we kept a clipboard where we noted any celebrity sightings, including time, place and pertinent details.

    It wasn’t a Monday morning thing, per se, but it was great for *any* re-entry to work, especially that post-lunch one.

  • sunshinecook

    I have a meeting first thing on Mondays and I love it! Why?

    In that meeting, I get to review other people’s work, which is always energizing for me because I love problem-solving and making helpful suggestions. Also, I feel like all I have to do is show up and be attentive–I coach myself out of bed by focusing on how simple that expectation really is. Finally, since people are counting on me for this meeting, showing up is completely automatic. But if I had work at home by myself scheduled for that same hour I can imagine the lure of sleeping in or goofing off might be too much for my limited will power. 🙂

    At one point this same meeting was on Thursdays and it was much less valuable to me. As I was scrambling to complete my own weekly goals, I resented loosing time from my own work. It felt like a jarring break in the flow to have to focus on other people’s work at that time.

    Rescheduling the meeting was not actually in my control, but I love what it has done for my week!

  • Loved the tips. would have been really useful ideas for when I did work in an office. I’ll pass this on 🙂

  • nicole 86

    We, teachers, know that students need two hours and a break to be ready and focused ( in France school begins at 8 am and ends at 6 pm). So proper lessons begin at 10 am !
    Lots of teachers ask to be free on Monday mornings and on Friday evening because on the first one nobody is ready and on the second everyone is thinking about free time.

    As for me, whenever I have to teach on Monday mornings I used to struggle Sunday evening blues with a long hot bath and cool music before going to bed and begin a good book.
    nicole from France

  • Only recently have I started making the most of my mornings and it’s great! It feels like I’ve done 10x more things by getting up 2 or so hours earlier than normal. Nice post.

  • rosemarie

    i love your blog and book ….the research i read was that sundays were sometimes depressing for people, because it is a slow and sometimes lonely day for some people..mondays were voted not as bad -people got back to work and their routines..this makes sense especially if you live away from friends and family…

  • Katenz

    Mmm this post is thought worthy. I dislike Mondays after the quieter weekend. I am going to have to think about Monday morning and indeed every work morning!!! I am a teacher and the first hour of the day is my work time but often gets interrupted by another teacher thinking I might like to chat! I need to figure away to get my own jobs done without interruption. Then I will feel calmer and ready! Any ideas anyone?

  • Gretchen – agreed that the expenditure of money won’t always motivate you to commit to something, but it may. and agreed that the relationship between spending money and happiness is complex. However, your example is perhaps a bit unfortunate because we know that daily exercise WILL increase happiness. As will social connectedness. As will relaxation events like yoga or a massage. All of these things are likely available at an expensive gym. So a gym membership as opposed to pure retail therapy has some real potential to boost happiness.

    PS buying the book on Amazon today b/c I’ve read and appreciated your blog for years. Sorry to comment when I am quibbling as really I am a huge fan.

    • gretchenrubin

      My point isn’t that exercise won’t make you happier. I absolutely agree, it
      WILL! You should get that exercise!!

      The problem is that PAYING to go to a gym isn’t the same as GOING to the
      gym. Without the commitment to GO, spending the money won’t do a thing to
      boost your happiness. Many more people sign up than actually show up.

      In fact, it might make you less likely to go to the gym, because you’ll feel
      like you’ve committed in some way — but unless you actually exercise, it
      won’t make a difference.

  • Hi Gretchen – This year I decided to experiment with meaning making in my life, and that unexpectedly increased my Monday morning happiness. I post about each week’s insights on Mondays, and call it Meaning Mondays. So now on Sunday evenings I’m taking care of any last minute adjustments, and it helps me begin to make the subtle shift from weekend to weekday. Then on Monday mornings I’m always excited to jump out of bed to read the comments my reader’s are making. It’s definitely something to look forward to, and definitely fun. Little did I know when I picked Monday to do this, it would have such an uplifting effect to my entire week. But of course that’s the point of meaning making. I guess I just didn’t realize how it would make a difference immediately, and how much of it was in my control.

    Btw, I love your list too, and I’m going to give it to my husband because he really needs it right now!

  • elemjay

    Like Laura says getting good sleep on Sunday night is really important.

    BUT I also love doing something social with friends on Sunday night too (movies or dinner).

    I think the key is either do something social OR get to bed early – procrastinating at home by yourself til 1am is a recipe for feeling fed up *and* tired with nothing fun to show for it…

  • brooklynchick

    Why oh why do so many workplaces have standing meetings on Monday mornings? Sigh.

    My additional tip is: plan something fun for Sunday nights: book group, dinner and DVD at a friend’s place, whatever. I find that having something fun on Sunday nights keeps me from the “Monday Dreads.” I wake up in a good mood, rather than having spent the past 18 hours anxious.

  • Mornings all through the week are times for me to meditate, exercise, centre myself, write. It’s the best part of the day!

  • Mooney81u

    Mondays have never bothered me. Tuesdays are my “bad” day. So I try to make Tuesdays fun. I always wear something fun. I try to make lunch plans with a girlfriend. Anything to brighten up boring Tuesday.

    I make Mondays easy by resting on Sunday. I’ve made Sunday a “stay at home day”. Nothing gets me out of the house on Sunday. I sleep late, I watch movies, read, sit by the pool (on warm days), bake something yummy for my family and generally let Sunday be all about me. So, when Monday gets here, I’m well rested and eager to start the week.

  • These are very practical and fun suggestions. I am going to put them to use at home. I am a VA (virtual assistant) and I don’t want my work to get routine.

  • LynneL

    HI! I won your book on a giveaway blog and I am THRILLED that I did! Your book was the kind I love-easy to gobble up in a sitting, but I know I will keep rereading it different ways too- in bits for inspiration and also from front to back again and again! Some of the suggestions are part of my way of thinking now, and others are getting dispersed to all my friends and family, but I still would like to try my own Happiness Project soon. Thank you so much for your donation to Diane Estrella’s “That’s What I’m here for ” blog and know that your writing is being life-altering to me! Thanks!

  • Good article on improving Monday mornings!

  • Great points we should all consider. We are all in charge of how we think of Monday.

  • KH


    In regard to your comment about your interest in organ donation, have you read Irreplaceable, a well reviewed novel that centers on that issue?

    • gretchenrubin

      No, I haven’t read it. I’ll check it out. Thanks!

  • beth

    hi Gretchen – love your blog and am thoroughly enjoying your book. Just a comment about your remark that it is so convenient for you to go to the gym as you let your daughter off at nursery school, but that this means you don’t get to use your “best time of day for focusing” to advantage. Would it work for you to do the gym on your way to collect her from nursery school later in the day? Just a thought.

  • My tip for the perfect Monday morning? Find something you love to do so that Monday’s aren’t a drudgery but a joy! If I had Sunday evening dread week after week, I’d be looking for another line of work!

  • nursemarji

    Love your blog!

    As a surgical nurse, I don’t have the option of using my first hour to check e-mails and ease into my day. I wish I did! I have to hurry up and change into my surgical scrubs, get morning report, then I’m off and running to set up for the first case of the day.

    What works for me on Mondays and any day is going to sleep earlier on the night before so that I can get up early and have breakfast with a friend/co-worker. We were friends/co-workers from our previous jobs and joined this new facility together. Not only do we provide moral support for each other, but we also make sure that we both keep things in perspective during this challenging time.

  • LivewithFlair

    I love #3. Finding a “daily flair” moment has changed my life and has given me something to look forward to. Right on! Thanks!

  • jachappy

    Hi Gretchen,
    I purcased your book several days ago. Already, I know what I have to do to be happy. I have to routinely walk, go to the gym and do yoga. My life as a Pre-K teacher takes much energy. I often tell myself I deserve to rest. I deserve to be happy. Exercise helps reduce stress. Just devoting myself to the goal of being happy has opened up the energy I needed to get motivated. My husband is on track we me. Tonight we walked the Ponqugue Bridge over the ocean. What pleasure. Thank you for the clarity and motivation.

    Much gratitude,

  • Sleep and Sunday’s (one day a week of rest to indulge yourself in personal favorites, reading, walking, friends) are key to more meaningful, fruitful & productive life.

  • jacke

    For Mondays, I have learned not to schedule any other appointments or tasks after work. That way I can make a leisurly exit from work, no rushing around, and if I can leave early enough I go read in the park for a while.

  • joglesbee

    I am a middle school teacher and my Monday schedule this year has me teaching all four of my classes first thing on Monday. At the start of the year, I was finding this terribly stressful . . . extending backward into the weekend.

    However, I began revisioning my perspective about Monday morning in several ways . . .

    I remember that my best moments in teaching are ALWAYS with my students (and not with the adminstrative and beurochratic things of school life).

    I remember that my students are having a “Monday morning” as well, and so I’ve slowed the pace at which we all enter the week. I allow our gathering time to be a little longer and a little looser.

    And finally, I remember that my Monday afternoons are now free to plan, have other meetings and accomplish my other responsibilities.

    Maybe this helps someone else. It has worked for me.

    • Tom

      “revisioning” and “beurochratic” … do you teach English?

  • Bill Brottmiller

    Now I work for myself, which is the ultimate Monday blues solution. But back when I managed a team of 80 people, I declared Mondays “No Meeting Monday.” Everyone had a chance to ease back into the work week, engage in the quality of their own work, and pursue their own priorities. The idea caught on; other teams across this publishing company also adopted No Meeting Mondays, which meant that my group was rarely bothered by meetings called by people outside of my control.

    • gretchenrubin

      Gosh, that is SUCH a good idea!

  • Richard

    I like your blog! I will usually start my day by first listening to what’s
    outside. Like the birds or wind, I then put myself in a instant state of
    gratitude by thinking of something I am thankful of. I will not think of work
    until I arrive. I simple enjoy the drive by the beauty of what surrounds me.

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