Why Mondays Are Your Best Shot to Get Things Done
July 9, 2018
Unpopular opinion: I love Mondays.
Hear me out.
By Friday, the typical favorite day, I’ve usually accumulated so much junk—mentally, emotionally, maybe even physically (when’s the last time I vacuumed?)—that something will inevitably be left undone.
To me, Mondays are like unwrapping a shiny new notebook and writing on its pristine pages for the first time. Or trying out a new recipe for dinner. Or finding a new running path. Everything is new. Anything can happen. It’s the cleanest slate possible—and it’s all yours to discover.
But without playing day-of-the-week favorites, the truth is every day really is a chance to start fresh. It’s a chance to say “so long” to the worries and energy that aren’t serving us and embrace the new. And if we get intentional about it, it can help us boost our productivity and motivation.
Here, five ways to start finding your clean slate mindset:
1. Take Advantage of the ‘Fresh Start Effect’
There’s a reason you feel more compelled to tackle long-term goals on January 1, after your birthday, during the beginning of the month or week, or even after a national holiday. These benchmarks provide natural endpoints to our routines and create a motivating “fresh start” effect.
How: These days have more meaning than your typical day, and they create “temporal landmarks” that can give us the push we need to shift our habits. They signal the start of a blank page—one where we can write things anew and recommit to our goals.
Scientific American explains:
“Temporal landmarks signal the start of a new, distinct time period—making us feel we can start from a clean slate. They highlight a contrast between current and future goals (which are often different!) and can thus be a relatively simple way to motivate yourself to accomplish your virtuous goals.”
It might explain why a recent study showed Monday is the most productive day of the week.
You use the fresh start effect to your advantage by actively creating new temporal landmarks, like noticing the start of a new week or a new day. Or, time that new habit or far-reaching intention to kick off on a “temporal landmark” day.
2. Have a ‘Clean Slate’ Ritual
Instead of rushing around on Mondays—or frantically trying to cram everything you want to accomplish into the first day of the month (been there!)—it’s worth it to slooooow down, and embrace a ritual that can get you in the right mood for what lies ahead.
Author Gretchen Rubin mentions that she has a friend who adjusts to Monday work life in a quiet office room away from his coworkers. Steal that idea!
Or, find a new ritual that fits within your day and feels refreshing to you. Maybe it’s a scenic walk to work rather that your bustling typical route, or treating yourself to bagel Monday (who says Fridays get to have all the fun?), or taking a few strategic deep breaths before you enter the wide-open jaws of your workplace.
3. Throw Out the Mental Chatter
You hear voices. I’m not trying to freak you out, but it’s true! We all do. We’re each having nonstop conversations with ourselves—about our days, our goals, our failures, what’s stressing us out, if it’s cool to eat pizza three days in a row for lunch, whatever. But that mental chatter doesn’t have to follow you around like the friendliest dog at the dog park. (Although Sparky can and should follow you to the ends of the earth.)
Research shows there are physical ways to wipe the slate clean, like writing down your negative thoughts and then physically throwing away the piece of paper.
“Our neural circuitry doesn’t always make a clear distinction between the mental and physical,” explains Sian Beilock, Ph.D. “Physically discarding negative thoughts turns the volume down on them mentally too.”
Before you dive into your day, try it out—write down and discard whatever thoughts are no longer serving you.
4. Reframe Your To-Do List
Sometimes the tasks themselves aren’t annoying, but it’s seeing the same thing written down day after day that bugs you the most. So rip it up, reverse it, or rename it!
One of my lingering to-do items is “clean out closet” because I have shirts in there I brought over from California when I moved 10 years ago. But “clean out closet” doesn’t actually sound appealing, does it? So instead, I could reframe it (aka tell a little white lie to myself) and rewrite that to-do as “celebrate living in New York for a decade by making space in my closet for new stuff!” Sure, it’s just a little mental trick, but doesn’t it sound like more fun?
You can also reframe your to-do items by focusing on the end result. Sometimes I’ll do this with stories I have to write. Instead of calendaring “write draft by Tuesday,” I’ll focus on the end result: “write draft so I’ll have a story published next week,” or, when I’m in a money-conscious mood, “write draft so I get paid!”
Zooming in on how you’ll feel after the fact can help you prioritize and look at a task with fresh eyes.
5. Plan How to Fill the Blank Page
As tempting as it might be to throw all your obligations and priorities out the window, hold your tiny little Polly Pocket-sized horses. The best part of having a clean slate is knowing you can fill your hours however you wish—but it still pays to make a plan.
Sketching out the day’s agenda can help you from becoming overwhelmed by a thoroughly empty calendar. What do you want to have done by the end of the day? Focus and execute.
There really is nothing to fear about a fresh start. So wipe that slate clean and enjoy your brand-new freedom.
Read next: 4 Ways to Slow Down Your Hectic Mornings