A Cure for the Sunday Scaries

The week ahead doesn’t have to be so daunting

Illustration: Justin Cassano

Laura Vanderkam, the time management expert who wrote Off the Clock and Juliet’s School of Possibilities, is here to answer your scheduling questions. Check back every week for more advice, and send your own productivity problems to asklaura@medium.com. (Your name will not be used.)

Dear Laura: I like my job, but every Sunday afternoon, I start to feel uneasy as I think about the week to come. Everything is in flux right now with everyone working from home, but once life returns to something approaching normal, I’d like to develop new routines so I can relax and enjoy the rest of my weekend. Any ideas?

TThe Sunday scaries — sometimes called the Sunday-night blues, or Sunday syndrome — are surprisingly common. A 2018 LinkedIn survey found that 80% of working American adults experience these Sunday worries, which often set in around late afternoon as you think about what’s waiting for you on Monday morning — whether that’s a tough commute or (these days) attempting to juggle conference calls while homeschooling your children.

For people who mostly like their jobs, these worries aren’t a sign that something larger is amiss. Instead, the problem is that when your brain converts to Monday mode on Sunday, you lose many hours of what could still be leisure or family time. It’s a great way to ruin the end of your weekend.

Fortunately, there are several ways to mitigate the Sunday scaries. First, plan your workweeks on Fridays. Block off a little bit of time on Friday afternoon when — let’s face it — most people aren’t doing much else, and use it to think through the upcoming week. What do you need to accomplish? When can you do those things? What will you tackle first thing on Monday? By creating a game plan for Monday morning, you give your brain permission to relax, rather than spend the weekend sorting this out.

Second, plan something fun for Sunday evening. You’re best off with something low-key (it is a school and work night!) but make sure it’s something you will genuinely look forward to. Maybe it’s a family movie night, or another tradition like Sunday ice cream sundaes. Maybe it’s a sunset run or a walk somewhere beautiful. Once the social distancing restrictions we’re all living with are over, you could have a small group of friends over for a potluck dinner, go to a favorite yoga class, or volunteer at your local food bank. When you know you’ve got something enjoyable on the schedule for Sunday evening, you spend Sunday afternoon anticipating your fun, rather than your commute (or at least your first video call).

And finally, plan something fun for Monday too. You could start saving a favorite podcast for your Monday-morning trip to work. You could institute a recurring Monday lunch with your favorite work buddies, or a happy hour with other friends.

Even just planning to start your day with the work tasks that excite you — you know, the things that drew you to your job in the first place — can make Sunday seem less scary, and more like the prelude to something great.

Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management books including Off the Clock and 168 Hours. She blogs at LauraVanderkam.com.

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