Mondays are hard.
But they don’t have to be.
In our Monday Motivation series, we’re set on helping you make the start of your week—and maybe the entire week—something you look forward to. This week we’re diving into something that might seem pretty obvious, but is often overlooked:
Give yourself something to look forward to, something that will make you feel successful.
Rather than wallow in the misery of Monday, why not make Monday a special day? Not only does this strategy make good common sense, but it’s also scientifically shown to help you be more caring, more productive, and happier. Here’s how.
How Taking Care of Yourself Makes You a Better Person
No. Taking time for yourself is not selfish.
If your personal needs are not met often or consistently enough, bad things start happening—you feel tired, stressed, annoyed, abused, or something else—eek! In this state, you just can’t perform at the top of your game. Your reserve of awesomeness gets drained and willpower suffers.
If you’re feeling low, how are you going to find the patience, joy, and passion to invest in other people, problems, and projects?
Self-care means you fill your own cup. Your needs are met and you become less dependent on external satisfaction and more able to invest in others.
Cheryl Richardson, author of The Art of Extreme Self Care, explains it this way:
“. . .when we care for ourselves deeply and deliberately, we naturally begin to care for others—our families, our friends, and the world—in a healthier and more effective way.”
Sounds good, right?
How Taking Care of Yourself Makes You More Productive
It can be easy to think of self-care as an incentive for good behavior—if I get up early, I can have a fancy latte. Unfortunately, if you want to really make progress on your goals, incentives don’t work. They work well for short-term changes, but for consistent behavioral improvement, they don’t cut it.
In order for self-care to help boost your productivity, it has to be part of the goal itself. You want to tap into the progress principle—this idea that you have made meaningful progress toward a goal. For example, if you aim to be alert and active in your afternoon meetings, and you understand that you feel better and more energized after a walk, the walk shouldn’t serve as a reward but rather part of your strategy for success. (Incidentally, this helps to take away some of the feelings of guilt associated with self-care.)
So how does this shift in thinking work? Here are some examples:
- “I’ll get the latte because I woke up early” becomes “I’ll get a latte because it makes me happy and starts my day off positively.”
- “I got that project done so I can go out with friends after work” becomes “Going out with friends is important for me to clear my mind and complete my work with fresh eyes.”
- “I didn’t eat sweets all week so I can have this cake now” becomes “Having some cake once in a while makes me happy and reminds me how much better I have become at balancing food choices.”
In each case, you shift the focus from treating yourself because of your good behavior toward how the behavior marks progress toward your objectives. This shift not only frames self-care itself as a kind of productivity, but it also actually helps restore motivation and determination, which have direct effects on your success. Just be careful that this doesn’t become a form of veiled procrastination.
How Taking Care of Yourself Makes You Happier
In the Harvard Business Review, Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer discuss how happiness at work (and generally) is at the heart of productivity and success.
. . .[I]n the realm of knowledge work, people are more creative and productive when their inner work lives are positive—when they feel happy, are intrinsically motivated by the work itself, and have positive perceptions of their colleagues and the organization.
In her research, Amabile has found that happy moods are most highly correlated with “steps forward.” In fact, on 73 percent of good days, people reported making progress.
But why is progress so important to happiness?
Amabile’s “small wins” are basically a kind of positive feedback on a given goal. Regular useful feedback toward a goal can inspire states of flow, which, through the research of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, have been linked to greater levels of happiness.
Although self-care itself may not induce flow—unless it’s a particular kind of activity that gives continuous feedback, like writing or sport—it does improve your outlook and emotional bandwidth, which can contribute to these states in other areas of life, such as work.
Building self-care into your definition of progress immediately gives you the kind of positive feedback that improves your level of happiness.
Simple Tips for Self-Care and How to Treat Yourself
The key to getting the “treat yourself” mentality to work for you is to understand a few key guidelines.
- Self-care is the fun stuff.There is a lot of playfulness surrounding taking care of yourself (#treatyoself). This is largely because self-care should be fun. Effective activities are going to be those things that are a delight to you and recharge you. If it’s not fun, look for something else.
- Don’t over analyze it.This is particularly true for you control-lovers out there. Don’t over-organize it or over-plan, otherwise you’ll kill it. For example, self-care doesn’t work as well if you commit to practicing it once every two hours for sixty to ninety seconds and once every four hours for ten minutes and again once a week for three hours. . . the schedule itself becomes burdensome.
Self-care is highly personal. Taking a generic out-of-the-box activity and trying to adopt it as your own doesn’t often work well. If you pick something that doesn’t work well for your needs and preferences, treating yourself starts to feel like a chore.
If you are not sure what kinds of activities you might want to try, Greatist put together a helpful list that accommodates various time investments.
It’s time to make Monday a day of progress and happiness, and it starts with you.
What are you going to do to “treat yourself” today?