It’s hard not to resent Mondays. The day marks the end of the fun and freedom of the weekend—and that’s especially true during the summer, when ordinary Saturdays and Sundays have a carefree vacation vibe.
Even if you love your job, the angst of having to go back to the grind on Monday can leave you disorganized and spinning your wheels all day, explains Richard Citrin, an organizational and consulting psychologist and author of The Resilience Advantage. Then you have to spend the rest of the week playing catchup.
But while Monday is going to happen whether you like it or not, that lack of productivity doesn’t have to. The key is to adopt a few smart habits on Sunday so you set yourself up for a brighter, more efficient workweek without really cutting into your weekend R&R time. These tips will help you do just that.
Whipping out the calendar app on your phone or tablet while you’re poolside or enjoying a sports marathon on TV is probably not how you planned to spend Sunday. But trust us, it’ll pay off.
"Taking no more than an hour out from your Sunday to anticipate the week ahead and get organized will help you free up head space and reduce worry," says Christine M. Allen, PhD, a psychologist, executive, and coach. Check your calendar, email a note to a coworker or yourself, and make a to-do list prioritizing tasks you expect to come in first thing in the a.m.
And if you really want a happier Sunday to set you up for Monday, try knocking out annoying chores earlier in the day rather than waiting until the last minute. You know the ones: doing that load of laundry, prepping for next week’s meals, or laying out your work clothes so you aren’t tearing through your closet desperately looking for something decent to wear. Tackle them ahead of time, and you can coast through the rest of the weekend.
Do your feasting on Friday and Saturday, as an indulgent Sunday brunch or dinner can make Monday stress worse. Consuming rich, heavy food and alcohol on Sunday will sink you into a food coma that can leave you lethargic on Monday morning, explains Debra Nessel, RDN, CDE, a registered dietitian with Torrance Memorial Medical Center in Torrance, California.
Aim for three balanced, delicious meals on Sunday, each containing lean protein and complex carbs to give you steady energy and lots of high-fiber fruits and vegetables to aid digestion and leave you feeling full. Remember to skip the cocktails or brew and fill your glass with plenty of water. Alcohol is dehydrating, and that brings on the mental fog and sluggishness that intensifies stress.
No judgment if your preferred way of spending Sunday afternoon is sacked out on the couch binge watching Game of Thrones. But making your Mondays brighter might come down to designating Sunday as the day you do something active that’s personally fulfilling—such as going on a nature hike or walking shelter dogs.
We all have things we have to get done over the weekend, but there’s something to be said for making time for activities that are consistent with your values and connect you to the people you love, says Allen. Scheduling a yoga session with friends or volunteering in your community, for example, lends meaning to the day and resets your mental and spiritual batteries, so you’ll go into Monday feeling accomplished and inspired.
A rough commute, crabby coworkers, stale coffee—the start of the workweek can bring on an endless round of small miseries. It can be easy to get in the habit of dreading Monday, anticipating what the morning will bring. Instead, focus on the positive things that can happen when you get back in the office. Maybe you’ll have the opportunity to blow away new clients with fresh ideas or at least get caught up on weekend gossip.
If the problem is that, in general, you’re not loving your work these days, spend some time on Sunday thinking about what could help you enjoy your work more. Try recalling those days when you looked forward to your job and all the hard work it took to move up in your career. For many people, those early days were a high time in their career. Says Citrin: "Ask yourself, what’s changed since you had that feeling? What can you do differently now to help you recapture it?"
Your Monday dread might cue you to stretch your boundaries and take on different assignments—or it may mean it’s time to put out feelers for something new, says Citrin. Until then, focus on the good things, such as the salary, the occasional chance to travel, or the office mates who never fail to crack you up.
Pull out the Monopoly board, invite friends over for poker, or suggest a game of H-O-R-S-E with your kids. Games, hobbies, and creative activities "stimulate creative thinking, encourage single-tasking, clear your mind, and improve your confidence," explains Maura Thomas, founder of RegainYourTime.com and author of Personal Productivity Secrets. Playing computer games, sports, and other activities that promote fun are also linked to improved creativity, according to a study published in Research in Organizational Behavior.
If you want to start Monday morning feeling fresh and inspired, these are qualities you want primed. "There’s no specific amount of time you should play," says Thomas. The point is to not work on weekends, and simply use this time to engage different parts of your brain but approach it like fun, she adds.
A good night’s rest on Sunday is the best way to dodge the madness of Monday; it helps you handle stress, puts you in a more optimistic, can-do mood, and leaves you feeling alert and energized, ready to tackle the start of the week rather than retreat under the covers.
To prep for the shut-eye you need on Sunday, try eating healthy, not-heavy meals and finishing your last meal two-and-a-half hours before you plan on turning in so the digestive process is under way, says Michael Breus, PhD, a sleep specialist and author of The Power of When.
Other tips include getting in a decent amount of physical activity on Sunday. "There is data to show that daily exercise does help with improving sleep quality," says Breus, who recommends getting at least 20 minutes of heartbeat-raising movement. And make alcohol off-limits before bedtime, as it can lead to fitful sleep, affirms one 2015 study.
This article originally appeared on LearnVest and is reprinted with permission.