Focus On This Podcast

73. Crash Course: 5 Steps to Start Loving Mondays

Overview

Sunday night can bring with it a sense of dread. You’ve enjoyed a brief reprieve from the chaos of the week, but now Monday is looming. You don’t hate your job; you’re just not ready to dive back into a mountain of tasks. The solution isn’t a longer weekend. It’s a better plan.

This episode unpacks the Weekly Preview—the tool we’ve designed to help you start loving Mondays again. When you get into the habit of looking back and looking forward, you’ll start each week with the motivation, knowledge, and focus you need to accomplish your most important work and progress toward your goals.

In this episode, you’ll discover—

  • The kinds of wins to notice—and why you need to celebrate them
  • Where to find the information that’s essential for goal progress
  • A simple step to improve your peace of mind
  • How to prevent getting swept away by what feels urgent
  • The power of turning goals into weekly objectives

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Episode Transcript

Verbs: Welcome to another episode of Focus on This, the most productive podcast on the Internet, so you can banish distractions, get the right stuff done, and finally start loving Mondays. I am Verbs, here with yet another special guest and, of course, Blake Stratton. Blake, how are you, sir?

Blake: Not feeling as special as I normally do when you introduce me like that. “And, of course…”

Verbs: “Yet again. Still here with this guy.”

Blake: “Obligatory other person.” Well, I am excited. I’m doing well, Verbs. I’m excited it’s Monday. We are talking about something that is, for me, my favorite part of all things Full Focus and maybe all things productivity. For those who listen, you know I like to put on the goggles, strap on the oxygen tank, and do a little scuba gear, get the flippies out, go deep in my feelings but still be productive.

What we’re talking about today is going to help people who need to get a grip on where life is going and really unclog what’s stopping them from loving Mondays. They’re like, “Listen. I listen to Verbs every week. I like Mondays, but then when the podcast is over, I hate Mondays again.” So, we brought someone here to help explain this process. Her name is Hannah Williamson. Hey, Hannah, how are you?

Hannah: Great. It’s good to be here with you guys.

Blake: It’s fun to have you here. I feel like you’re always here, because Hannah… Honestly, you are the… What’s the saying?

Verbs: The linchpin.

Blake: The linchpin. She really makes the podcast happen in a lot of ways. So much of the great content we get for the show, the ideas, the questions, the direction of the show… You’re such a big part of creating that. Whether you know it or not, dear listener, you already love Hannah, but after this episode you’ll love her even more.

Verbs: Hannah, we have a question for you.

Hannah: I’m ready.

Verbs: Are you familiar with this term Sunday scaries? Blake, did you create that term, by the way? Was that a Blake-ism?

Blake: Me? No, I didn’t. Although if I can, if there’s still intellectual property to be collected on that, then, yes, I did.

Hannah: I got acquainted with the term Sunday scaries because of Blake, actually, when I was listening to one of our Focus on This podcasts as we were recording and Blake used that term. I’d never heard it before, but I was like, that is such a good word to describe this feeling that I feel like a lot of people are familiar with and might just not have the word for it yet. So, whether you are the originator of the idea or not, Blake, you’re the person I learned it from.

Blake: I think our listeners can agree. Weekly, they are just blown away by my revelatory sayings, so I’m glad you experienced that.

Verbs: If you are not familiar with this term Sunday scaries, it’s that feeling you get when you hit Sunday and it can feel like the week is looming over you. You feel the dark clouds of Monday starting to move in. You don’t want to dread work, but you don’t want to get swept away either.

You dread Monday because it feels overwhelming to dive back into the chaos of the week, especially after you’ve had a great weekend, and now it’s like Dun! Dun! Dun! Monday is coming. But it doesn’t have to be like that, and that’s the good news. So, we want to answer the question…How can we start loving Mondays again? Or even love Mondays for the very first time since you were a young child.

Blake: I don’t know why that got me. I need Verbs to tell me what it was like when I was a young child again. That was too great.

Verbs: How can we start loving Mondays again or just start loving Mondays, period?

Hannah: I think core to answering that question is this idea that, a lot of times, it’s not actually Monday itself that we hate. We don’t like the experience of feeling overwhelmed and feeling like we’re going to get swept away from the week, which means the solution isn’t a longer weekend; the solution is a better plan. It’s a better approach to the coming week so you don’t feel overwhelmed and you actually enter energized and motivated and ready for what’s coming.

Blake: So, the key is not more time. The key is to look ahead, look behind, and be proactive, to make some kind of plan to do that. Fortunately, we have something that does the trick, ladies and gentlemen. Imagine that.

Verbs: This is one of those components to the planner where I definitely felt the upgrade when I committed to doing it, and it shifted my whole week, or my approach to the week. Take us through the Weekly Preview, what all it involves. Help our listeners understand that a little bit better.

Hannah: The Weekly Preview combines two elements of heading into a week prepared and equipped for what’s ahead. Those are looking back and looking forward. To do that, we’re actually going to walk through five steps of a Weekly Preview.

Blake: Okay. Let’s walk through these steps. There are some of you who have seen the Weekly Preview in your planner or some of you who don’t have a planner but know you need something like this, something to get a handle on the week ahead and not just feel like you’re running on a treadmill, and then you just get off the treadmill on the weekend and jump right back on when the treadmill is already running on Monday morning. Hannah, introduce us to the first step.

Hannah: Step one is celebrate your wins. I know we had an episode recently centered around celebration, more looking at an entire year, but really, celebration is key more on this week-to-week basis, in part because celebration drives motivation, which makes sense when you think back on your own life and experience.

When we feel like we’re progressing at a thing, getting better at a thing, making progress on a thing, we’re so much more likely and so much more motivated to continue working at it. When we feel that absence, it’s easy to get discouraged and not know how to keep going. Really, having this step of celebration is so essential to slowing down and noticing the progress we’re making and letting that become our motivation for the future progress.

Blake: When you celebrate a win, Hannah, is it easy for you to think of stuff? One question I get from people sometimes when I’ve introduced this idea is they go, “Well, what does that mean to celebrate it? What if I can’t think of anything?” How do you remember? Or if you have a week where you feel like there’s nothing to celebrate, what advice would you give somebody?

Hannah: That’s a great question. I think a couple of tips here. One is to remember that even though your wins could totally be goal related, they could also not be. They don’t have to be. When I start thinking about wins, I’m primarily thinking about the highlights of my week and then what I did to get to those highlights. If I had a project that went really, really well, and then I look back and I say, “You know, part of what made that project so successful was this particular strategy I used,” then one of my wins for that week might be having this super successful project as the result of this preparation I did, this strategy I used.

So, yeah, I think a possible way to find those would just be to look for the emotional highlights, if you will, and then think about the work you did to make those possible, and then also to broaden what counts as a win and to remember a win can be in any aspect of your life. It doesn’t just have to be vocational, and it can be about something that’s not strictly goal related.

Blake: That’s great advice, especially the connecting to what you did, the ownership you had in getting that highlight or experiencing the positive thing. A lot of times, I find myself writing down the positive thing that happened. “Oh! This happened, and that was good. At least life is okay.” But the whole concept of positive momentum that comes from celebration… You don’t really get that unless you take ownership of your role in that. So that’s a really wise distinction, and I want to make sure to do that.

Hannah: I think it’s really important because it combats this tendency in us to beat ourselves up and take maybe more responsibility than we should for the things that went wrong and to have this negative self-talk of “Why did I let this thing happen? Why did I say that thing? Why didn’t I do this other thing?” We tend to gravitate toward that kind of behavior and that kind of self-talk, and then we completely fail to do that same thing in regard to our wins.

We don’t slow down enough to notice, “The way I handled that situation was actually really successful and contributed to the resulting win,” whatever it was. So, just having this moment to slow down, reflect, and notice the things that are working, because we want to continue the things that work and not just stop doing the things that don’t.

Verbs: A follow-up question there, Hannah. It sounds like what we’re saying right now is “Just take a moment and recognize your wins,” and the step is “Celebrate your wins.” Is there actually something we’re looking to mark the occasion? After we’ve recognized it, to what degree should we actually celebrate it, and can that be done on a weekly basis as we do this Weekly Preview?

Hannah: That’s a great question.

Verbs: Am I buying a cake every time, you know, with a few candles just to say, “Hey, I did such-and-such this week”? What degree?

Hannah: You know, if you are, I really hope one of your goals wasn’t to cut sugar out of your diet, because you’ll be regressing. Personally, I don’t celebrate by necessarily doing something every week. If it’s a particularly large win, if it’s a milestone on a goal, for instance, then having some sort of formal celebration could be fitting, but often, just that motion of that habit of slowing down and almost letting yourself give yourself a pat on the back and not feel bad about that can be a reward in and of itself. You don’t necessarily need an external reward. Just having that moment of celebration and noticing how far you’ve come can be really powerful.

Verbs: That’s good.

Blake: All right. Give us step two.

Hannah: Step two is capture your learning.

Blake: But my learning can’t be contained on one page, Hannah. I’m a wealth of wisdom.

Hannah: You know, Blake, that’s why we have the journal for you, so you can just draw that out a little bit.

Blake: This is my favorite step. I love to learn. What I’ve told people before is, a lot of times, the lessons we need to move us to the next level or to move closer to our goal are not in a book somebody recommended to us. They’re in the events that happened in our last week. They’re screaming at us to learn so we can move forward. Hannah, can you walk somebody through how you do that with the Weekly Preview?

Hannah: Well, before I do that, I want to touch on something related to what you just said, Blake, which is the way we can actually, when we have this approach, start treating our week and our lives and our decisions almost a little bit with that experimental mindset we’ve talked about so much, this idea of “Is this working? And if it’s not working, what can I do differently? How can I pivot?” Those are the questions we’re going to be asking.

To your last question, the way you move through this capturing of your learning is you start asking yourself questions like, “What’s working well?” and, “How can I improve?” Again, I think it’s really important to give equal weight to both of those questions, kind of like we were just talking about on the last point. It can be easy to get stuck on what’s not working or what needs to change, but it’s also really important to note what is working.

What are the strategies or the changes to your routine or the technologies you’re using or the way you’re going about having conversations that are working really well, and then how can you keep doing those things? Then, at the same time, looking back and saying, “Where was there room for improvement?” Maybe not “What did I do wrong?” but “Where was the gap? What’s a place I could do better, that I could think differently, that I could adopt a different approach? How can I help further my results by altering my behavior?”

Verbs: I think it’s important to note as well, Hannah, that when you’re considering how you can improve, you keep in mind that you are considering all domains of your life, not just work but also personally, you know, some things you may want to adjust as you go throughout your week or you move throughout your week. Like you said, posture yourself in a way that you set yourself up for success and for that end-of-the-week win when you do your weekly overview and note those areas where you said, “Hey, this is where I made these minor adjustments, and because of that, this week I can celebrate what has been accomplished.”

Hannah: A great example of a silly thing I’ve thought about improving recently is I’ve noticed that if I don’t start thinking about dinner, if I don’t have a plan for dinner before dinnertime, dinner is either going to be significantly later than it should be or less nutritious than it otherwise could have been.

Even just that little change of, for me, either thinking about it at lunchtime or at the start of the week planning out my dinners for the week has been such an improvement, just even in the past couple of weeks, to the rhythm of my days and my sense of preparedness and my sense that life is not just happening to me but that I’m approaching it and taking ownership for it.

So, these improvements don’t have to be crazy. They can be just small adjustments that go a long way toward helping boost your sense of well-being. And I think in this, too, it’s really important to note that there’s always room for improvement, and we need to have grace for ourselves in that process. We don’t want to use this question “Where could I improve?” as an excuse to beat ourselves up. We want to use it as a tool for going further, for experiencing more success.

The saying Michael says often from good old Anonymous, that prolific writer, “Thoughts disentangle themselves passing over lips and through pencil tips.” Really, having this moment to think about “What can I improve?” and then writing that down… It’s a learning moment. It’s the learning moment Blake loves so much.

Blake: Absolutely. I would recommend folks who like this step in the preview, or maybe it feels like this step is hard, to start doing micro versions of it every day. That’s something I started to do last year that I felt was super valuable: just taking a moment every day to journal stuff I’m noticing. It’s not even necessarily stuff I’m “learning.” I just write down stuff I noticed. “Hey, that went really well. Hey, that didn’t go so great.” Then, during the Weekly Preview, I’m translating the noticings into lessons I can take with me.

So, if you don’t already have a journal, you can pick up one of ours, Full Focus Journal. It’s awesome. We did a couple of episodes, Episodes 60 and 61, on that. Verbs, I think you dropped some heavy revvies in that episode about journaling, so make sure to go back and listen to those, everybody. What is the next step in the Weekly Preview?

Hannah: Step three is compile your lists. Before we get into the content for this, I actually have a question. As you move throughout your week, where do you find these different to-dos, thoughts, next steps? Where do those start to accumulate for you? Is it your inbox? Is it Slack? Is it a notebook somewhere? Do you have a task management system beyond the planner? Where do those things start showing up for you guys?

Verbs: For me, it’s often just in the section of the Daily Page right underneath my Big 3 or I’ll just jot them down as I pull them out of Slack threads inside a notebook on the side where I know I’ll refer to that as well.

Blake: For me, it’s my task management app I use called Things. Stuff that’s important that I’m going to execute tends to go in my planner, and everything else… That’s this kind of collection box of maybe not the most important, maybe just the start of something important, maybe not urgent yet but should have my attention, maybe it should. Stuff will collect there.

Hannah: Even we who work at Michael Hyatt & Company and love the planner still also, a lot of times, use that planner in conjunction with other technologies and task management systems. I know our team uses Asana. The ability to make sure to check all of the different places, if you will, and make sure that all of the pieces have been caught, no details are falling through the cracks…

That’s really essential to this peace of mind that you need to start loving Mondays. It’s hard to feel at peace if you’re trying to remember “Did I forget that thing? Did I need to have that conversation? Did I need to write that thing? What’s happening?” This step of compiling your lists is really about checking the boxes, making sure nothing is slipping through the cracks, by getting all of those pieces in one central location.

Verbs: What you’re saying is when you’re coming into the Sunday evening and you realize, “Oh man. There are some boxes that didn’t get checked this week,” and wherever those things live, your mind is drifting to each of those things. You’re wanting to act on it, but it’s just kind of occupying your bandwidth at that moment, which creates that thing we talked about at the beginning, which is the Sunday scaries. So, what do you suggest or what’s the best habit we can get into to help eliminate the Sunday scaries in that regard?

Hannah: This list sweep is the solution. It’s a matter of going to each of those locations. For me, that tends to be the Daily Pages of my planner. Like you, Verbs, I tend to have them in boxes in my planner, but then also checking Slack, checking Asana, and even checking my email, and just making sure, “Is everything caught? Do I know everything that’s going to be expected of me in the coming week or, if it’s a longer-term project, in the coming month, and am I keeping tabs on it?”

You can compile those list items in a number of places, but a really great place built into the planner that I use and I know several of our clients use is this portion of the Weekly Preview where it says “Weekly Overview.” The directions next to it are about reviewing your goals and key projects, but it’s a great place to drop in those things you need to do for the coming week, to have that all in one place so you can look at it at a glance and know what’s happening, know what’s coming up, and not have to be concerned about something slipping through the cracks.

Verbs: Hannah, how long it does take you, on average, to do that list sweep?

Hannah: Less than 10 minutes. Maybe 5…5 to 10.

Verbs: What about you, Blake?

Blake: It depends on the week, I find, but especially in the early goings, this would be sometimes the longest step in the process of the Weekly Preview for me. We’re talking 30 minutes or more sometimes. If I’m out of the habit of this and there’s a lot open, and by “open” I just mean a lot of open loops…

Over the holiday season, for instance, I was still doing what I call capturing, where I’m not really trying to process anything or do any work, but emails are coming in and I’m getting ideas, and I’ll put them in my task manager inbox, just something to look at. Processing all of that, getting through all that and getting a handle on what’s important and what should happen this week… Sometimes that can take a long time. If I’m on top of it during the week and clearing inboxes and that sort of stuff, it’s closer to Hannah’s figure of 10 to 15 minutes.

Hannah: I think, in some ways, it also depends on the nature of your work. I’m a content creator, so a lot of times, my to-dos are something like “Write this content. Create this course.” It’s more single big chunks, whereas I know, Blake, by the nature of your job, you’re juggling more things, balancing more plates, keeping them spinning. So, that also will speak into how long this takes: how many details you’re needing to track just by nature of your job description.

Blake: For sure. This is a really important piece. If you aren’t in the habit of doing a list sweep, there will be a subtle anxiety headed into Monday, almost guaranteed…unless your personality type is like “I love to fly by the seat of my pants.” It’s almost like you’re flying blind a little bit until you can overview not just the tasks but the events of the week.

When my wife and I do this, we use this as a chance to talk about the logistics, stuff that needs to happen this week. “Oh, we have to renew the car registration. We have to take our daughter to this appointment.” You know, all this type of stuff. It’s like, “Oh, wait. You were going to do that on Wednesday? Well, then when am I going to do that…?” You know, that sort of stuff. After that conversation, we all feel good. The peace and the excitement about the week can start to set in when you move on to these next steps of the process.

Hannah: Yeah, because you know what’s coming. The peace that comes with having an idea of what’s coming… That’s what we’re after. But we don’t just want to stop in the immediate, what’s coming this week, but we want to take that vision even further and remind ourselves of where we’re headed this quarter or this year, which is why step four is review your goals. Blake, why is this important?

Blake: We mentioned this last week in an episode where we were talking about goal setting. Visibility is one of the simplest, yet most profound hacks when it comes to goal achievement. The biggest factor when we fall short of a goal or we get off track is that it was out of sight, out of mind. When we review our goals, it’s really helpful, because it can jog our memory to be like, “Oh, right. This is what’s most important.”

Some of you may do that weekly overview, and you don’t feel peace; you feel kind of stressed, because you’re like, “Whoa! There’s so much to do. There are so many little things.” Reviewing your goals keeps the right things, the really important things, in your perspective and naturally puts your brain to work on achieving it.

Hannah: Are you familiar with the Eisenhower Matrix, the importance and urgency and looking at those things? I think without this step… If you do the weekly overview and you’re seeing all of the things that are urgent, but you skip this step of reminding yourself of what’s important, you’re going to be undermining your productivity, because you’re reacting rather than reorienting and taking this moment to say, “What am I after? What do I really need to happen this week in order to make progress on these predefined things that I’ve said, ‘This is what I want’?”

We were just talking about how long step three takes. Step four can take seconds, really, just reading over those goals, reading over those motivations. It’s such a small time commitment, but it can have such a big effect in reminding you where your focus needs to be so you can zoom in and make sure you’re doing the tasks you need to to make progress on those goals.

Blake: All right. Let’s bring it home with step five. What’s the last step here?

Hannah: I feel like I kind of teased this a little bit already just in talking about goals, but step five is establish your priority. This is just the idea we’ve talked about so many times on the podcast, that we talk about all the time at Michael Hyatt & Company, which is that not all tasks are made equal.

If your to-do list is too long, you’re just going to get overwhelmed. It’s about taking this moment to step back, to remember that 80/20 rule, that 20 percent of your tasks are probably responsible for 80 percent of the results, and to zoom in on what that 20 percent is. This is where you’re making those long-distance goals… You’re breaking them down into action steps for the coming week.

Blake: For sure. This is critical. I’ll be honest. Sometimes there’s a temptation for me, once I do my weekly overview and I have a sense for what’s coming in the week, to almost step away from my Weekly Preview time before I nail down the priorities for the next week. I don’t know why there’s always that temptation, but it’s there. It seems like it’s like, “Well, no, I have a sense for what’s important, so I don’t need to take time to actually write stuff down,” or whatever. But where it comes up is in the middle of the week, in the flurry.

Verbs: That Wednesday.

Blake: Just the busyness of doing life. Yeah, it’s always Wednesday or Thursday. You’re like, “Wait a second. What’s the point of this week? Am I doing well? Am I winning? Am I losing?” So, what we recommend by establishing your priorities is writing down a Weekly Big 3, the three objectives that are going to guide your week, guide the tasks you choose to engage in day to day. The Weekly Big 3 is this oftentimes ignored link between your goals and what you spend your time doing day to day. We spend our time doing the same things day to day, and then we wonder why we don’t hit our goals. The answer is usually there’s just no link between those goals and the daily tasks.

That’s what the Weekly Big 3 is there for. It is that bridge. So, you choose those priorities. To me, that then becomes something I look at every morning when I am setting my Daily Big 3. Before I set my Daily Big 3… It’s like the last step before I set that Daily Big 3. I look at my Weekly Big 3, and without fail, it’s like, “Oh yeah. That is what’s most important. I was about to spend 30 more minutes replying to this email somebody sent, but is that really going to move the needle on what’s most important? No.” So, definitely don’t skip this last step. Establish your priorities with a Weekly Big 3.

Verbs: The good news is you don’t have to fall prey to the Sunday scaries. You can set yourself up for success every week and finally start loving Mondays when you walk through a Weekly Preview. You just need to walk through five steps: celebrating your wins, capturing your learning, compiling your lists, reviewing your goals, and establishing your priorities. Hannah, Blake, what final thoughts do you have for our Focus on This listeners?

Hannah: We’re in the middle of this miniseries on these different parts of the planner that give you the most leverage, and this one is huge. I’ve only been using the planner for the past six months since I started at Michael Hyatt & Company, but like you, Verbs, the two big moments for me were when I started doing my Daily Big 3 (that was huge) and then when I started doing the Weekly Preview.

It really changed the way I felt about the week, both going into the week, the Sunday scaries piece, but also even within the week, that sense of feeling grounded and centered and focused. So, I think my final thought is: Do it. Give it a shot. Treat it like an experiment, if you will, and see the difference it makes in your weeks.

Blake: I love it. Do the Weekly Preview. Stop it right now. Pull the car over, Jeff. I don’t know. I feel like there’s a listener named Jeff and he’s driving. If there is, he’s like, “What?”

Nick: We’re going to get messages from Jeffs from this show. “I was late to my meeting. I caused a traffic accident.”

Blake: Do you know how that message is going to end, Nick? They’re going to say, “But you know what, Blake? I did my Weekly Preview there on the side of I-65, and I loved Monday again.” Jeff, that’s why we’re here. Thank you, Jeff, and everyone else listening, for joining us on Focus on This.

Hannah: This is the most productive podcast on the Internet, so please share it with your friends and remember #focusonthispodcast.

Verbs: And be here next week for another great episode. Until then…

All: Stay focused!