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How to make your Mondays more productive

Nearly 30% of workers say it’s their most productive day of the workweek. Here’s what to do if you’re not one of them.

How to make your Mondays more productive
[Photo: Andrew Neel/Unsplash]

Despite their much-maligned reputation, Mondays aren’t so bad after all. In fact, a new survey from staffing firm Accountemps found that nearly 30% of workers say it’s their most productive day of the workweek.

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Whether you’re rolling into the office excited for a new week or dragging a bit from a busy weekend, there are ways you can get more done next Monday—and during those that follow.

Start on Friday—or Sunday

If you walk into the beginning of your workweek with a plan, you’re much more likely to get things done, says productivity coach Frank Buck, author of Get Organized! Time Management for School Leaders. Take some time at the end of the day on Friday to organize your work space and create a prioritized task list for Monday morning. For some, doing this on Sunday evening works well, too.

“Monday is sort of like a mini first day of school,” he says. The reason the first day of school typically goes well is that you’ve prepared for it in advance. Give yourself a framework for Mondays to stay on track and get things done.

Treat Monday like January 1

For resolution-setters, January 1 is a day of action and intention. Channel the same energy into next Monday, says productivity expert Melissa Gratias, PhD. Prepare for the day, packing or planning healthy meals and time to exercise. Think about the goals you want to accomplish during the day and use the momentum of a “new beginning” to help realize them.

“We humans are very oriented toward changes in the calendar. Although calendars are pretty arbitrary from an astronomical standpoint, we attach meaning to beginnings,” Gratias says. “If we can view Monday with that same degree of excitement and opportunity, then we can start the week off right.”

Protect your best time of day

The most productive people understand their best time of day—those times when their energy peaks and they feel most alert and ready to tackle important tasks, says productivity and time management expert Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management from the Inside Out.

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For most people, that’s morning. Accountemps’ survey found that most people (75%) get the most work done before lunchtime. Whatever time is your best time, protect it fiercely, Morgenstern says. Avoid email, meetings, and even coworker chitchat, so you can devote that time to high-priority tasks and give yourself time to think. And avoid reading your email first thing Monday morning anyway—the false urgency of many requests can derail your day, she adds. If it’s possible to put off checking email until after lunch, you’ll be better off, she adds.

Limit Monday meetings

If you’re kicking off the week trapped in meetings all day, you’re going to undermine your productivity, Buck says. While it may not be possible to ban Monday meetings entirely, at least schedule them for later in the day. “As an organization . . . come to an agreement that Monday morning is sacred,” he says. “Hopefully, all of us have planned Monday and all of us are hitting the ground running on something that’s of real value.”

Treat yourself

If your day includes tasks that are less than pleasant—or you just hate Mondays—tap into your brain’s reward system to get things done, Gratias says. “There is a psychological concept called self-regulation, and it simply states that we can reward ourselves, and cause ourselves to exhibit the behaviors we want to see by attaching things that we love to do, with things that we don’t necessarily want to do,” she says.

So, if you’re dreading that report you have to write, pick up your favorite coffee or smoothie on the way to work. If there’s a friend you love speaking to, call them on the way home from work or once you’ve completed your tasks. “Pair that pleasant, rewarding experience with a Monday and you can self-regulate your brain into looking forward to Mondays, which will impact your entire day,” she says.

Incorporate environmental elements that will make you more productive, too, Morgenstern adds. If music or scent makes you more productive, introduce them into your environment.

Mind your time

Another part of knowing yourself is knowing how much you can reasonably pack into a day, Morgenstern says. What is your attention span? Typically, people can only focus for about 90 minutes before they need a break.

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As Georgetown University professor Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, said in a 2017 Fast Company interview, essentially map out the time in your day. “It allows you to schedule work for the time where it makes the most sense—batching together small things, tackling hard things when you have the long stretches to make progress, and so on,” he says. “The other advantage is that it provides you more accurate feedback on how much free time you actually have most days and how long certain recurring tasks actually take.”

Track your success

Morgenstern also suggests keeping a log of your daily activities—your “résumé for the day.” Keep it results-oriented—accounts won, tasks completed, achievements unlocked. On your most productive days, review what you did to make them so.

“It keeps you focused on not starting things, but actually finishing them, so you can wrap the day in a bow. It’s very motivating,” she says.

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About the author

Gwen Moran writes about business, money and assorted other topics for leading publications and websites. She was named a Small Business Influencer Awards Top 100 Champion in 2015, 2014, and 2012 and is the co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010), and several other books

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