Any creative process involves lots of decision-making. Over time we hopefully find ways to make better decisions and even create a working environment that helps us make good decisions in a timely fashion. But, we often assume that decisions are an unlimited resource. We like to think we can make a decision every time we need to do so. But, what if decisions are a limited resource? What if we only have a fixed number of good decisions in us, every day or every week?
Like most people I struggle with Mondays. Not struggle in the “I hate Mondays and I hate my life” sort of way. No, I struggle in the more mundane, getting back into a working routine sort of way. I have a pretty clear idea what I like my Sundays to look like, as a day of rest, recovery and relaxation and I know my Mondays should feel like a productive start to the week. But, switching gears, from one to another, always seems hard.
The problem is Mondays have no flow to them. Often what I’m doing on a Wednesday or Thursday has a certain flow to it. The work is a continuation of what came before it. But, Mondays are like restarting a factory, or turning around a large ship; slower and more difficult than one would imagine.
This starting again dynamic encourages us to make more decisions and every decision feels a little harder. So, I started to wonder, what we took more of the decisions out of Monday, put more of the day on auto-pilot, so to speak. Would it make Mondays more fluid, less painful and maybe a tiny bit more creative if I made fewer decisions? Could making fewer mundane, draining decisions free up energy for more creative tasks?
What if Mondays were decision-free?
I started with some of the obvious things like what will I wear and what will eat, deciding those on Sunday evening. I also planned out my day at the end of my work the week before, either Friday evening or Saturday morning. I then try to leave things as ready as possible, so I don’t have to make decisions about materials, tools etc during my Monday. I try to imagine all those stalled moments I have on a Monday, staring at my email, choosing a coffee, wondering whether to catch a taxi or train to a meeting. Then I make those decisions ahead of time and lock them into my schedule.
Of course, we can’t really have a decision-free day in an absolute sense. Even zombies make decisions (seriously, watch a zombie film, they still ahem to choose whom to attack!). But, when our mental engine is not firing well, we can lighten the load by giving ourselves a smaller pallet of decisions to make.
And, it doesn’t really have to last the whole day – just long enough to help us get into the flow of work. I find my “decision-free” routine needs to take me to at least lunch-time. Even on the worst Mondays, if I’m into a more liberated mental space by about 11am or so and if I can swing back into work fluidly after lunch, it’s likely to be a great day. Those moments feel like breaking free; like rolling on a bicycle, down a big hill on a sunny day, or opening up the big sail on yacht and leaning with the wind into the ocean at high speed.
If you struggle with Mondays, then this decision-free approach might work for you. Pick five moments in your typical Monday that you could automate. Try leaving your working space ready, when you finish the week, for whatever you intend to do at the start of the next week. And, try to identify what it feels like when you open the big sails or feel yourself gathering momentum and look for that feeling.