That Monday Morning Feeling

It’s Tuesday. But for most of us it’s the first day back at work this year.

Who woke up with that “Monday Morning Feeling”? Or who went to bed with that “Sunday Evening Feeling”?

You spent most of your years at school and then your years in further education or professional training preparing yourself to do a job which, presumably, you would enjoy. So why should you have a dark feeling in the pit of your stomach at the thought of having to go back to work?

It’s a question I’ve been asking myself, of course. Why can’t work be an extension of our life rather than separate? Why does work often feel like it’s taking us away from what matters to us, a necessary evil…especially when most of us do jobs we care about, that have taken years to become skilled at and that, potentially, make the world a better place?

How we work has become unsustainable

I believe it’s because how we work has become unsustainable. It’s not the work you do that’s the problem (probably). It’s how you do it. It’s the industrial age mores that determine where work will be done, at what times, in what ways that give you that Monday Morning Feeling. After all, if you could break those patterns would you have the same feelings on Sunday evening?

Let’s say you could wake up naturally on Monday morning instead of waking up when the alarm goes off?

What if you could work wherever you felt it was most conducive to work rather than hauling yourself off to an office that wasn’t of your design?

What if the only meetings were collectives of the right people dedicated to making a difference around a shared priority?

What if you could go home or take a walk or read a novel in the middle of the day when your head felt foggy and you weren’t that much good to anyone else anyway?

What if you had your dogs with you, or your kids, or your best friends while you worked?

What if you decided, not how many hours to work, but what really needed to be done by you in order to make the difference you’re in work to make and then you organised your time and activity around that without needing anyone’s permission?

What if there was an acceptance that life and work are one, that they aren’t opposite sides of the coin and that you don’t ever have to sacrifice one for the other?

I don’t see why not.

It’s time to bust some myths

I think it’s time to bust the myths of work that keep us trapped in routines, assumptions, and conventional thinking that ruin our lives. And for what? It’s not as if working the way we do actually works!

How effective are those meetings anyway? The ones where people update the manager around the table, go through the agenda point by point, 10 minutes at the end for “any other business” (which is normally squeezed to nothing because everyone’s presentation ran over), where people battle for position and credit and being the smartest in the room, or where people wonder why they are there when they have nothing much to add, or where decisions are taken that don’t stick or that haven’t been thought through or that will have repercussions down the road that everyone’s ignoring because you’ve got to satisfy the city analysts this quarter and you’ll worry about next quarter some other time…

And how effective are you at 3pm on Wednesday afternoon? Or when you’re still at work at 8pm and texting your partner that you’ll miss the kids’ bedtime…again?

And how much value are you adding while you’re writing a report about what you’ve done for your manager’s manager who seems to need to know what you’ve been doing because you can’t be trusted to just do it without supervision…and anyway he’s got to answer to his manager for all the people in his team and have the answers at his fingertips even though he’s not the expert, you are…

Because it’s not just that I want people to feel good when they wake up on the 2nd of January 2018. I do want that, but that’s not why I feel this is important.

No one feels they’re making the difference they could make

It’s because I’ve spent 17 years coaching individuals and teams in businesses of all kinds and no one, I mean no one, feels they’re really making the difference they could be making if the organisation wasn’t getting in the way. MDs, CEOs, senior executives, supervisors, graduates…everyone can see ways that the way they work with each other is a barrier to them doing their best work.

They are tired, stressed, over-stretched. Much in their diary is a waste of time. They don’t feel listened to. Or they have to become adept at politics to be heard. Or they make huge personal sacrifices for their organisation. Or they choose not to make those sacrifices and instead sacrifice career progression.

And all of this while the businesses themselves are struggling to produce the results they’ve set out to produce. Most businesses today are looking for ways to cut overhead to stay profitable. They’re desperate to get more productivity from their people in order to meet their targets. It’s never been harder to stand out in the market, to innovate or to gain the loyalty of customers because any gains are quickly copied by competitors or because customers just don’t care any more that you’re number one in your market or that you’ve got the most expensive ad campaign or that your product does it a milisecond faster.

The only way — the ONLY way — to build a business that has a sustainable future and that really contributes to the world through its products or services is to create an environment where people can do their best work.

All the industrial age nonsense about meetings and working hours and teams with a manager and commuting and reporting to your boss and sitting at a desk and all the rest needs a massive rethink. The industrial age is over so why are we still working like it’s 1850? Or 1999? Or even 2004?

So, what can you do?

As an individual you can look at what gives you that Monday Morning Feeling and remove as much as possible from your week that relates to this feeling. I had it myself this morning so I’m writing this at my kitchen table rather than my office. It feels less “worky” and more like me. That may not be an option for you. But what is? Be bold — what can you remove from your week that will have no negative impact on anyone but help you feel greater integration between yourself and your work?

Beyond that you can shift your relationships with colleagues and those in your team. Don’t reinforce the behaviours you yourself tolerate in others. Don’t see the point in writing reports? Then don’t request reports from others. Hate being in meetings that don’t achieve anything? Then stop calling meetings just for the sake of it. I don’t write proposals. I stopped a couple of years ago. I may write a summary of the discussion I’ve had with a client in an email. But seeing as I NEVER won a contract based on a proposal and that EVERY proposal I’ve ever written has been hugely time consuming (and beautifully constructed) but NEVER resulted in a piece of business, I simply don’t do it. That’s not how we’ll decide to work together and clients who insist on a proposal won’t be able to work with me. They wouldn’t have done anyway.

Be the change!

Beyond even that, if you can, focus on purpose. What are you here for? What’s your job for? Does the role add any real value or is it just another cog in the wheel of an industrial age system? If so, what value could you add outside of your official job? You may discover that your job doesn’t really DO anything. In which case, what are you going to do about that? Find a way to make a real contribution or go somewhere where you can.

And as an organisation — which is only a set of individuals anyway — how can you remove as many barriers to people doing their best work as possible? If you, as a senior leader in your business, stopped overseeing, micro-managing, directing, calling meetings, needing to know the right answers, being the boss…you could spend your time finding out what gets in the way of the experts in your company bringing every jot of their expertise to their work and remove all of those barriers. That would be a pretty good use of your time.

Over the coming months I’m stripping out as many of the constraints as I can in my own business. I want to feel that every time I turn my attention to my work it’s time well spent, time that’s going to make a difference to someone somewhere in accordance with my professional purpose.

Want to join me?

Blaire Palmer is a coach and keynote speaker who works with individuals and organisations who believe work and business can be a force for good in the world and are willing to re-think all their outdated beliefs and assumptions in order to make that change.

Listen to her podcast, Punks in Suits, on iTunes.