Dreading Mondays seems to be a favorite meme of office workers because for many people Monday symbolizes the end of the weekend (“fun”) and the beginning of work (“not so fun”). Our “down time” is enjoyable but most of us need to earn a living too. So when it’s time to get back to work, we need to show up, settle in and get ready.
No matter when your work week starts, you need a simple system to get you out of the blocks fast. Use the following five-part plan to make the first* hour of your work week productive and positive:
1. Get your mental game in order. Feeding your brain with negative thoughts like, “And it’s another Monday at the Chaos Factory” may showcase your acerbic wit, but it sets the wrong tone for the week. Do you best to start off with something positive: “I can handle any of the stuff that’s tossed my way.”
2. Make a plan for social interactions. If you work in an office, it’s likely will be some sort of “how was your weekend?” chit chat. Depending on your personality, you either love or loathe these interactions. Keep this in mind: these social niceties are an important part of the workplace, so don’t cut them out completely, but do discipline yourself to notice when it’s time to move along.
3. Avoid checking email/voicemail when you first get to your desk. It’s tempting to jump right into the messages that await us; be strong and resist the Tyranny of The Urgent. Instead go to step #4.
4. Attend a meeting – with yourself. The first meeting of your week should be a thirty minute planning meeting that you create on your calendar every week to protect your planning time. At this meeting, review your calendar to get a sense of what your week is shaping up to be. Here are the things you’ll want to look at during this one-person meeting:
– What deadlines do you have this week? Block off time on your calendar to complete tasks related to the deadline. If you don’t create space in your week for project work, your calendar will fill up with other meetings and then you’ll be squeezed for time on your deadline.
– Ask yourself, are all the meetings on your calendar essential? “Placeholder” or recurring meetings are put into the calendar weeks in advance. Is this week’s status update meeting truly necessary?
– Look ahead to next week. What’s on the horizon that will need attention this week?
5. Check emails and voicemails. Factor in the new information that those messages convey: do you need to modify any of your weekly plans? The benefit of doing this step after step #4 is that you have already planned in tasks for the week. New requests coming in can be viewed in light of what’s already on your plate.
When you start your work week this way you are being proactive. There are many things at work over which you have no control, but you certainly can protect 30 minutes of your time each week for planning. Think of it this way: when you systemitize your weekly planning, you are saying “yes” to being in control of your schedule, if only for 30 minutes. And being in a proactive state of planning allows you to give your best to your team, your projects and your organization. This five-step plan won’t solve all your time management problems, but it will put you in the best possible frame of mind to be productive at work.
*I know that some work teams have weekly “huddles” on Monday morning, or have other first-thing-of-week systems. No worries. Just build in this plan as early as you can to lay a productive foundation for your work week .
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