Dear style & substance,
Monday mornings have become unbearable for me. I spend Saturdays decompressing from the week and Sundays dreading the start of the workweek. You will probably advise to start looking for a new job, but that may not be a possibility for me. Any tips to make it a little easier?
Let’s all face it, a full work week can be draining, and Mondays seem to come all too quickly! It sounds like you understand what weekends should be for, but you are unable to disconnect, reboot and enjoy the other aspects of your life. You bring your job home with you and let it effect your free time and possibly your family. Weekends or time off should be both enjoyable and refreshing and you might be surprised to find that in order to experience the positive effects, most people have to WORK at letting go of the work week and stepping into down time.
Rather than looking for another job, you may need to consciously explore your job duties/expectations and the time management needed to fulfill these demands of both the job and your supervisor. We would recommend a writing exercise to give you a visual guide of how you are spending your time. If you can begin to slightly alter or restructure your work week, with the idea of wrapping it up on Friday, you may find that this extra hour spent at work frees your mind up to begin the weekend.
The writing exercise can begin with a calendar or chart. Remember the gold star chart from first grade? (hopefully this was a happy time in your life) Using your job description as a framework, begin designing your chart. Have fun with this exercise, as you have enough grown up stress related to work. Now that you have a design for your chart based on your job description, you can plan. First, write down all of the things you do in a work day that you like to do. Next, write down the tasks that you consider essential to doing your job, then, create a list of tasks you need or want to do but always seem to neglect or complete in a minimal fashion. Lastly, create a list of activities that you consider distractions. You now have the material to analyze and complete your calendar or chart.
Once you have created an overview, share it with your supervisor. Schedule this conversation with your supervisor so he or she knows how committed you are to your work and success. This meeting will also create a common understanding of expectations you both have for this position within your organization. Once agreement is reached, you are ready to put your plan into action.
Start Monday morning with your plan and a fresh sheet of gold stars. Review the typical distractions of your day and either get those tasks out of the way early or make a plan to avoid those distractions if not related to your job responsibilities. Every time you complete an item on your chart, give yourself a star. As silly as that might seem, we all respond well to praise – even self-praise. Praise for a job well done is the best motivator. Not only will you be motivated to stay on course so you can enjoy your weekend, you will most likely reconnect with the enthusiasm you felt for your work when you initially started your job.
You may need to redesign your chart after the first week. Use your stars to measure success as well as areas where you would like to improve your performance. Be sure to schedule a review session with your supervisor once you have had some time to work through your new work plan. You may find that your job is too much and that can be a discussion you and your supervisor can have based on the plan, rather than emotion and stress.
Having practiced with your work chart, use the same writing exercise to manage and realign your weekend. You may find this is unnecessary because your stress level decreased due to a happier work week. Use your car ride home on Friday afternoon to visually separate work from home. This simple exercise will help you transition to a more relaxed state of mind.
Having a sounding board in your home life can be a blessing and a curse; it may have created a habitual communication pattern, where you complain/ramble and your partner/friends accept it and let it continue without constructive feedback in a reasonable time frame. Should this be the case; discuss it with them and come up with a fair and compassionate solution such as, “When I am complaining or running on about work, please remind me that I need to refocus and let things go.” It needs to be acknowledged and determined by YOU.
You may discover that your weekend is stressful for the same reason as your workweek, too much to accomplish in too little time. If this is your truth, realign your expectations for yourself and your family. If your mood from work is affecting others in your home, you are cultivating a negative environment. The effects on others are mirrored, so they come back at you in duplicate and you lose any refuge from stress.
Stress is insidious – it creeps into all areas of your life and before you know it, the damage has been done – relationships are strained and zest for life is lost. While we often think that happiness is spontaneous, PLANNING for joy and contentment can help you get back on track to a happier and healthier you.
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