Over the past year or so I’ve noticed a certain phrase surge in popularity: “The Sunday Scaries.” If you’re unfamiliar, it’s that Sunday afternoon feeling of dread as you mentally prepare to say ‘farewell’ to your blissful weekend and begrudgingly usher in a week of responsibility. This isn’t anything new for most people, but the creation of a name to express the feeling has lead me to reflect on its power over one’s mood, and specifically how that feeling disappeared from my routine. You heard me right, unbeknownst to me that feeling faded out of my existence over the past year. Upon noticing its absence I decided to explore the changes to my routine that I believe helped alleviate the scaries.
You may be wondering “Does this guy provide financial advice to new puppy owners?” or “does he work five hours a day?” The obvious assumption is that “he must love his job.” You’d be wrong if you guessed the first two (I haven’t even seen a puppy in months :( :(), and you’d only be partially correct if you guessed the obvious third choice. I absolutely do love my job, but not all of it and not all the time. Only a saint could love his job all the time. Even puppy sitters have to deal with stepping in doo-doo on occasion. Besides, despite moving to sunny California for a dream job in Silicon Valley, the scaries still creeped up on Sunday afternoons for my first few months here just as they always had. Although finding purpose and passion in your work are important components, for me the defining factor can be found in my morning routine.
First things first though, before blindly applying a new routine you should explore why exactly your scaries exist. If your job sucks and literally anything sounds more appealing than subjecting yourself to that cubicle for one more day, I’m not going to be much help to you. My solution applies more to the “I like it and it’s fulfilling, but I’d sleep in and watch Netflix if I could” crowd. Your scaries likely exist for one reason more than any other: scarcity. Our weekends are so enjoyable only because they’re temporary. This becomes obvious when you look at a long weekend or vacation where you have sufficient time to “waste time.” This past weekend I was off from work Thursday through Sunday and watched an excessive amount of tv due to rainy weather in SF. By the time Sunday rolled around I wasn’t exactly craving my cubicle, but I was pretty burnt out from excessive media consumption. As my long weekend progressed each episode of Westworld, New Girl, and Mr. Robot that I plowed through had diminishing returns. My friend Luke likes to draw on a scene from Troy when abundance or scarcity occurs. In this particular scene, Brad Pitt’s character reveals a great secret about how the gods perceive their human subordinates: “everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed.” He states that the gods envy humans because our lives are temporary. Each sunset we see is cherished because it could be our last. In much the same way, if every day were the weekend few days would be special. This insight brings me peace of mind on Sunday afternoons and has lead to an increased focus on the factors I can control during my transition back to the work week.
Throughout high school, college, and for about a year in the working world my morning routine looked much the same. If I needed to get up at 7am I would set my alarm for 6am and hit the snooze button repeatedly for an hour. My justification being the hour transition would allow me to ease into waking up. Knowing I had more time to sleep turned me into a junkie and the snooze button was my drug. Waking up early to realize you have more time to sleep is one of the most soothing feelings, and I was manufacturing that feeling every day. When that first, second, and third alarm went off I felt incredible, but by the time 7am rolled around I was going through serious withdrawal. When tempted by the choice of floating back to dream world or getting on with facing the day, the stark contrast caused me to despise the latter. In reality, facing the day wasn’t awful at all, it just seemed that way as long as I remained horizontal.
I wish I could give myself more credit, but I believe ridding myself of the scaries was entirely a product of normalizing my new routine upon moving to California. If you’re familiar with the Bay Area, then you know driving down the 101 is a nightmare during 95% of daylight hours. As a result, living in San Francisco and working in Palo Alto lead me to adopt a schedule many would never consider. To avoid the worst of traffic my alarm goes off at 4:45am every morning so I can be on the road by 5:25 and sitting at my desk by 6:00. As I was accepting this reality in preparation for my first day I never considered setting my alarm at 3:45am, instead, I aimed to maximize efficiency.
My nightly routine before an early morning always looks the same:
- Start preparation for bed around 8:30pm
- Pack laptop and other work materials in bag
- Lay clothes out on desk chair
- Place full water bottle on nightstand
- This is hugely important. Chugging water is the first thing I do after my alarm goes off. Super simple, but amazingly effective.
- Organize toiletries
- Pack lunch
- In bed by 8:45pm
The routine is simple, but it makes all the difference and you don’t need to get up before 5 for it to be effective. When I first started my new routine I placed my alarm on the other side of the room, forcing myself to get out of bed the second it went off. Although I’m no sleep expert, I’m convinced not allowing myself the fading comfort of the snooze button has been crucial to my success. Back in my junkie days it would take me an hour or more to start feeling awake, but now I feel sharp in a matter of minutes. The alarm goes off, I chug water, grab my clothes, and hop in the shower. The combination of eight hours of sleep, immediate re-hydration, and water on my face lead me to feeling normal by about 4:48am.
Other than perhaps amount of time slept, all of the variables I’ve described are incredibly easy ways to keep your routine healthy and consistent. Upon grasping the importance of this routine, I quickly transitioned to confidently calling myself a morning person. In fact, mornings are freakin’ incredible, you guys. With proper bodily maintenance, mornings are the time your mind is at its sharpest and your inhibitions at their lowest. Here’s my list of things that I’ve found to be incredibly more enjoyable and productive during a fresh early morning:
- Retaining information from a nonfiction audio book
- Listening to new music
- Tackling a complex planning issue
- Writing creatively
- Editing work completed days prior
- Reading ANYTHING!
Discovering the power of a consistent morning routine has been huge for my productivity and mental well-being. Ideally, one should keep the morning routine consistent on weekends too, but I won’t try to impress advice upon you that I don’t follow myself. You can get by allowing yourself the flexibility to stay up late on the weekends as long as you allow yourself your proper amount of sleep. It’s not ideal, but that’s reality.
Beating the Sunday Scaries requires upfront work in normalizing a productive morning routine, but if you can turn that time into something you look forward to then the scaries will cease to exist. In fact, by the time Sunday afternoons roll around I’m often looking forward to getting back into the more productive weekday mindset. The first step in defeating the scaries is to realize that it’s not possible to do consistently with sheer will power. Just like working out, you need to get yourself in shape before it becomes an enjoyable experience.