Last Friday, the 13th incidentally, I got a meme about Monday blues, which, I would say, captured the whole sentiment behind this phenomenon. It said, “FRIDAY THE 13TH IS STILL BETTER THAN MONDAY THE WHATEVER”. When I shared it back in Teams group chat, at my office, there was an uproar of approval! By the way, the reaction to the same meme would have been subdued had it been a Monday! That’s what Mondays could do to us!

Many years back, Soumya, a Tech lead from my team knocked on my door, on a Monday morning. She looked a little dejected. Once I made her comfortable in a chair in front of me, she said, “Ravindra, I have decided to resign”. She went on to say how her life has become busier on the home front to meet expectations from everybody in addition to the already heavy workload at the office. Since she was not able to do justice to all her responsibilities, she had decided to cut down some of hers, by leaving her job for good. Her husband had a well-paying job in a construction firm, so finances were never an issue for her.

While listening to her, I was rapidly running through all the pitches, that I had practiced over several years of being a manager, to save the day. At one moment, I said to myself, “Stop! What’s the day today? Monday, right? Aha!” I knew what to do!

I empathized with her and said that resigning might be a good idea for her well-being. I advised her to let us take the discussion ahead the next day morning. Come Tuesday morning, Soumya was back in my office, cheerful this time, and said that, she wanted to give herself a chance for a few more days and see if she really must resign. Needless to say, we never ever revisited that topic and I never revealed my trade secret to her.

Monday blues are real! I think they catch us quite early when we join the school. Which child may want to forego her freedom at home and sit through several hours of seemingly house arrest at school! As we grow, we come to terms with this phenomenon only till it raises its ugly head later.

Some experts like to attribute Monday blues to dislike for the work and the people at the work. But I think it’s not necessarily true. Again, how many people are at the jobs that they “love”! Experts also list down a dizzying battery of tips to beat the Monday blues. Over years of experimenting with several things, What I have realized is that if you are reasonably happy with your job and doing reasonably well at it, the solution to Monday blues is simple. Let’s see what that is.

What bothers you most during your uneasy weekends and Mondays is remembering all the work that you were expected to carry forward from the bygone week to the next, in your head. Well, it’s granted that you will have emails, messages, or colleagues that will remind you about your work, but you would never be sure if it was all that you must work on. You may start working on one out of those you know, but something will nibble your mind inside about if you weren’t forgetting something more important. It’s like you toss and turn in your bed at night when you were in doubt about if you had secured all the doors of your house. You could ultimately fall asleep, only after you got on your feet and checked all the doors.

The secret behind stress-free weekends and super-charged Mondays is – Keep flushing all your unfulfilled commitments from your mind into a list during the week and open it back on Mondays when you resume your work. This is the only way to unplug yourself during your weekend and get back to exactly the state in which you had left the work.

Let me tell you why this simple thing should move mountains! There are two forces that are working against our mission to stay calm and focused on our work.  We, as knowledge workers are subjected to a flurry of work assignments whose priorities keep changing. You could rarely end your week with the same priorities that you had at the beginning of the week. This is all in the interest of staying agile and nimble. But that is too many moving things to stay in control of.

The other force is within us. When you try to remember your work, you keep it in your working memory, which is too small to store all your work. You will end up always missing some (typically, the ones your boss or your spouse remembers!) work.

The only way to defend these forces is to maintain a running list of all the actions from both personal and professional work, out of your head and into an app of your choice. When you start your week, and then a day, you will be required to have a peek at this list and shortlist the ones that make the most sense for that week and then for the day! The power of such an exhaustive list of actions is that you get to pick a perfect activity for any given time slot with great confidence.

Extending the Virushka’s Ads of the season that says, HOW CAN YOU LIVE LIKE THIS?, I would like to say – HOW CAN YOU LIVE WITH MONDAY BLUES?

(Originally published in Times of India on May 17, 2022)

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