TikToker Marisa Jo Mayes used to feel “so anxious” every Sunday, dreading the massive task list she had waiting for her on Monday morning. It’s long been called the “Sunday Scaries,” in which Sunday is all about wishing Monday wasn’t just around the corner. For those considering jumping on the “Bare Minimum Monday” bandwagon, here’s how Mayes does it:
“I used to feel so anxious every Sunday and wake up on Monday feeling already overwhelmed… then I would inevitably not finish everything on [my] task list, and that would leave me feeling defeated at the very beginning of my week,” she says in her TikTok. Instead, she has her own Monday policy.
“I decide on Sunday night, ‘What are the bare minimum work tasks that I have to accomplish tomorrow?’ And then I only hold myself accountable to finishing those bare minimum tasks,” she says. “And then I get to decide how to spend the rest of my Monday, and that usually looks something like self-care or doing something that would set me up to have a really good rest of the week…. Ever since I’ve shifted these expectations of myself for Monday, I’m no longer stressed on Sunday, I’m no longer stressed on Monday, and the rest of my week is actually way more productive.”
Fans and naysayers alike are weighing in on her idea, with one commenting, “This is why I don’t ever schedule clients on Monday.” Others had concerns: “This is great if you can set your own pace at work…. on Monday I have no choice but to hustle,” and another who commented, “Who do you work for??”
With all eyes on increasing workplace burnout rates, no strategy is off the table. And remember: different strategies work for different people to help create balance. For example, the “2022-2023 Aflac WorkForces Report” shows “More than half (59%) of all American workers are experiencing at least moderate levels of burnout,” a number only 2% higher than what was found during the “height of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Here’s how to determine if Bare Minimum Mondays are right for you or your team.
Are Bare Minimum Mondays right for you?
Fridays have long been on the chopping block as a natural way to ease into the weekend, with some companies moving to four-day work weeks and others going to half-day Fridays, also known as “Summer Fridays.” To determine if Bare Minimum Mondays might alleviate stress for you, determine which day is already the most difficult, most dreaded or most stressful. If it’s not Monday, you might want another strategy.
Who is the best candidate? “Anyone who gets a bad Case of the Mondays (hat tip to the movie Office Space) or as some people call it, the Sunday Scaries—that sense of dread or even despair at the thought of diving straight back into work first thing Monday morning,” says Jenny Blake, podcaster and author of Free Time.
“Perhaps Bare Minimum Mondays mean you will do the bare minimum of admin and reactive work, so that you can fully immerse yourself in your deepest creative, strategic work. Or, perhaps, the opposite. You do release the pressure to be productive on Monday, and instead focus on planning the week, taking care of as many admin tasks as you can to set your mind free for the mid-week sprint.”
Consider implementing company-wide focus time
Kriste Goad, Nashville-based founder and chief fire starter of fuoco who leads a team of 14 employees, alongside freelancers and contractors, saw the stress Monday was causing and made a change. “There was a common theme bubbling up across the agency of, ‘I need time to do the actual work.’ Rather than dive right into back-to-back meetings at the start of the week, we saw the opportunity to schedule sacred time for everyone,” she says. “With employees working in office and remotely across all different time zones, we’ve found that our Monday focus time helps eliminate the Sunday Scaries (work-life balance is extremely important to our culture at fuoco) and gives our entire team the chance to plan their week, complete projects and maximize their time before the week gets away from them.”
Goad implemented a three-hour block of “focus time” on Mondays, after an open conversation with the team about productivity. “Monday was the best fit to help structure the week, plan ahead, move big projects forward and foresee any roadblocks that may come up during the week.” The only initial hesitation was making sure they could still accommodate internal and client calls. “However, our team saw that it was actually easier to schedule meetings because individuals weren’t blocking off short bursts of time at different portions of the day to complete tasks. Having a uniform focus time realigned schedules.”
The payoff has been tangible. Increased productivity and concentration without interruptions has led to improved quality of work, reduced stress and more innovative solutions, she adds.
Do Bare Minimum Mondays work?
Small business owners and leaders might have more control over their schedules to give Bare Minimum Mondays a go without permission from a boss. Stephanie Malia Krauss, a consultant and author based in Illinois, has been “safeguarding” her Monday mornings to do tasks that feel right to her—bullet journaling, confirming upcoming meetings, scanning the news, meeting with her assistant about the week and more.
She says it’s working. “Instead of explaining why I’m unavailable, it’s held as an existing commitment on my calendar, so I just tell people I’m busy (which I am). I find it absolutely essential to my overall productivity and enjoyment,” she says.
Cindy Marie Jenkins, based in Orlando, Florida, is a counselor, writer and editor who works from home. She takes advantage of the time to clear her slate from the previous week. “So much of my time is centered around other people: my kids, my clients, my students, my husband and family visits. I have a luxury in that I work from home and can catch up any time of day, so I tried [Bare Minimum Monday (BMM)] as a way to make sure I continue to prioritize my work and my dreams on one day a week.”
But Bare Minimum Mondays don’t just mean doing less and putting off the hard tasks. For others, Blake explains, Mondays might be your prime creativity hours.
“One of my favorite experiments in my business is called Made By Monday. Taking a page out of the Brian Tracy classic, Eat That Frog!, I did the opposite of BMM by batching my most important, creative work projects for Monday—the sense of accomplishment, momentum and freedom lifted my spirits for the rest of the week,” she says, a concept she speaks to more in a recent podcast.
How to get started
Goad gives employers who have teams wanting to try Bare Minimum Mondays some guidelines. Here’s what she recommends:
- Make it clear to employees that focus time is important and that interruptions should be minimized during these periods.
- Help your employees minimize distractions by encouraging everyone to turn off notifications and close unnecessary applications while working during focus time.
- Remind everyone to respect focus time by avoiding interruptions or distractions during these periods.
- Give your team opportunities to provide feedback and be flexible upfront.
The real proof that a Bare Minimum Monday-style focus time is worth it, for Goad, is in an epiphany and not in productivity data alone. “I think the biggest impact so far has been the realization among the team that scheduling time to think about the work is as important as scheduling time to do the work,” she says.
Photo by Jelena Stanojkovic/Shutterstock