On one of the last episodes of “Seinfeld,” the main characters are stuck in traffic on a Sunday night. Galpal Elaine, who desperately wants to get home, wails, “All I know is that it's Sunday night, and I have got to unwind! Now, who's with me?”
If perpetually single Elaine felt that way, you can imagine how the rest of us -- especially workers with families -- cope on Sundays. But while some have their own ways to decompress before the workweek starts (Elaine watched “60 Minutes”), others spend Sunday nights either worrying about the upcoming week or trying not to think about it at all.
There are better ways to prepare.
“It all goes back to choices, and a lot of people choose to go the negative route,” says Joel Zeff, author of Make the Right Choice: Creating a Positive, Innovative and Productive Work Life. “Why not go the [positive] way? It’s less stressful.”
And while you may think planning is a drag, the truth is that the more you plan your life, the more you reduce your stress and increase your sense of control, says Steve Prentice, president of professional education firm Bristall Morgan and author of Cool Time: A Hands-On Plan for Managing Work and Balancing Time. “I always say that planning gives you the freedom to be spontaneous,” he adds. “Preparing for work is an investment in your long-term health.”
So how do you effectively prepare yourself and your family for the workweek? Follow these 10 tips from Zeff and Prentice:
1. Prepare to Be Happy
Happiness is a choice, Zeff says. “On Sunday, if you’re thinking about that manager or customer, you’re letting that customer choose your happiness,” he points out. “You’ve got to take the choice back. Choose to be happy, passionate and organized, and what you want to accomplish will happen.”
So how do you -- and your family -- avoid lying awake Sunday night fretting? According to Prentice, write out what’s bugging you. “In so doing, you can solve your own problems,” he says.
2. Know What You’ll Eat
This includes both at-work meals and what you’ll eat for dinner. Make a meal plan with your significant other, and get what you’ll need to prepare each meal. “The mental energy you’re spending at 3 p.m. wondering what you’ll have for dinner can be used for work,” Prentice says.
3. Plan Your Commute Practically
Figure out how long it’s really going to take. “If you’re realistic as to what your pillow-to-desk time is, you’ll reduce your stress along the way,” Prentice notes. And once driving to work, Prentice recommends staying in the right lane for the fastest commute.
4. Get Up 15 Minutes Earlier
Use the extra time to have a comfortable, relaxed breakfast, rather than “running out the door with a Pop-Tart in your mouth,” Prentice says. “The more you can start the day comfortably, the better you can handle stress.”
5. Write It Down
Always forgetting your cell phone or wallet when you leave for work? Make a list of items you regularly take with you and put it on your car’s visor, Prentice recommends. Another handy tool: A visual calendar for the fridge, which lets everyone know where everyone else is and what they’re doing.
6. Do What’s Important First
The hours of 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. are often the most productive, Prentice says. “Be ready to defend the morning strenuously from meetings and email, so you can get the most important work of the day done,” he suggests.
7. Be Ready to Ask for What You Need
Everyone needs something from work, whether it be the chance to be more creative, the opportunity to manage, more support, higher pay or anything else. “You need to figure out what you need to be happy,” Zeff says. “If you’re not getting it, you’re going to be physically there but mentally not. Stand up and say you need opportunity and positive support.”
8. Ask How You Can Help
At the same time, instead of just asking what others can do for you, think about what you can do for others. “When you help your customers, colleagues and partners, it will come back to you tenfold,” Zeff says.
9. Stop Whining
This is an energy-drainer, so make up your mind not to do it. “Does it help you?” Zeff asks. “It does nothing and just builds stress.”
10. Accept the Upcoming Week Will Contain Change
This constant in business and in life often is a source of stress. “When you’re open and flexible to change, you reduce stress, and the passion starts coming up, which means you’re more productive and effective,” Zeff says.
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