#BlueMonday is a state of mind

So yesterday was the dreaded #blueMonday, allegedly the most depressing day of the year that happens at the beginning of the week mid-January. The legend goes that people are finally coming off the highs of the holidays, and the first bills of the December spending sprees are hitting the mailboxes. Add to that the short days, lack of Christmas lights, and cold weather – what else is there to do than be depressed and feel sorry for yourself? At least, that’s the marketing mantra – they have you exactly where they want – feeling down, ready to purchase/indulge in order to feel better. I hope you didn’t feel down yesterday because someone told you to.

This is all just a gimmick. Let’s put aside the thick credit card bills and holiday highs (sugars and over-eating) for now. Those are issues ENTIRELY within your control, and are easily preventable. I’ll talk about them some other day. And let’s put aside actual depression – it’s a serious mental health issue, often conflated with other things, and comes with a horrendous stigma. It does affect many, and is also dismissed by many. This needs a lot more work. Today, I just want to focus on what type of Monday *I* had, and how much of it *I* could control, and how much of an impact (or at least insight) it brought. A simple list, with some context, do with it what you want.

  • 7am-8am: Woke up, quick breakfast, drove my wife to train station, came back home to check on emails, returned the urgent issues, read up on news, events
  • 8-9: woke up kids, spent time with them prepping for school, did more reading/research, found a couple of technical issues with personal websites, found a fix, tested, uploaded, launched, made some notes for later. Prevented a potential problem.
  • 9: Got a long-winded email from Client A that the payment (for the work done back in December) will have to be processed differently, will require more paperwork, and a quick meeting. This is far from ideal, in fact, let’s call it a *setback*, but it’s a Big Company, the extra bureaucracy kinda makes sense, so this post-factum delay is just part of the game. Agree to the extra paperwork, quickly schedule the meeting soon, to have this resolved and ‘in the can’ ASAP. Too bad about the delayed payment. Moving on.
  • 9:10-9.30: applied to a few interesting jobs that I’ve saved since last week. They could be a long shot, but I really want to work in those companies, so I’ll take the time to throw my name into the hat – even though I’m busy growing this freelance/consulting gig.
  • 9:30-9:35: Had the shortest introductory business phoner in months, probably years. This guy (name withheld) contacted me on Linkedin, proposing a wonderful work opportunity. I agreed, even though he was in health/wellness industry, and had stars around his name in the profile (two massive red flags). Still I agreed, even though most instincts told me it’s either a scam or a pyramid or something not quite as healthy as advertised. Still I agreed even as he was eager to move the call earlier in the day, and even offered any other day to chat or meet … I agreed mainly to see if I can still smell bullshit a mile away. In any case, after 5 minutes we politely parted ways (I’m not getting involved in any pyramids), he even asked for a recommendation (will never happen), and I quickly removed this waste of time from my contact lists. However, I chuckled about that phoner for the rest of the day. Worth the 5 minutes and 2 exchanged emails. No names, please 🙂
  • 9:35-10: Realized that the technical fix for my personal websites can also help out a  small client of mine who has similar business-card like website, and uses similar template/plugin combo. Wrote a quick email explaining the issue, the fix, estimated costs, and the benefits. Later in the day he agreed, approved, and asked me how my holidays were. Yay, new work!
  • 10-11: Grocery shopping. List is ready, store is not too far, roads are empty, and the store is not packed yet. Efficient, quick, and I have some cooking/baking later in the day. Looking forward to it.
  • 11am-12pm: Client B has been adding more tasks into his wishlist. I solved a few, delegated/planned out a few more, and suggested we meet soon to go over the growing list, to plan better and have the right pace. This needs a strategy. Nobody likes bloat. Later in the day a meeting was confirmed. Yay, more structured work!
  • 12-1: Client C has asked for new functionality late last week, so I finally sat down to mock up what can be implemented with this new plugin/template. Some reading, some demos, some trial and error, and I finally have an acceptable early mockup that I can send out for more feedback. Email sent, still no reply, but hey, it’s a Monday for her too 🙂
  • 1-2: Client D works overseas a lot, so our communication is all over the place. It’s typical that his requests come in after midnight, and there’s no expectation for an instant reply. Besides, for this particular issue he mentions, I had no solution right away. Needed to simmer. After some research, found a couple of potential ideas, wrote them up, sent out. No reply yet, and as tempting as it is to say ‘yay, new work’, it’s still a pitch. It’s a maybe. It’s an opportunity. We’ll see what the client says.
  • 2-3:30: Sat down to watch a movie, 44 Inch Chest. Had this in my queue for the longest time. Not quite appropriate for kids, and not interesting enough to watch with friends or my wife, so it’s in my personal list, indefinitely. Was pretty good – I’d watch this group of actors read a diner menu around a table – which is pretty much what’s happening here, only with lots of spittle and Elaborate British Cursing. Solid flick. Niche.
  • 3:30-4: Time to prep the food. Meats and fish need marinating. Oh and now that we’re cutting out dried catfood for our smallest family member, we need to take time to prepare real meat for him. If we’re making an effort to eat healthy, might as well extend that choice to the cat. More on our diet changes later…
  • 4-5: Kids come home, I check up on more emails/leads/tech reading, get a meeting invite from a freelancer headhunter. Senior enough guy, so I reply, and accept the meet request. Yay, new connection!
  • 5-6: Pick up wife (the evening commute is always more stressful than morning, so be ready), come home, quickly discuss a potential RFP that we can work on together, it’s within our skillset, and our budget. Ultimately we decide against it, because – well, because there’s only so many balls you can have in the air. Plan your capacity and resources, not just your desire to “land” the project.
  • 6: Get an invite to a beta of a new product – cannot wait to use it, possibly extend it to some existing or new clients. Yay, new tech! But not today. Workday is done. Back to kitchen/living room.
  • 6-7: Cooking, baking, dinner with kids, watching the cat approach his new food with caution, doing the dishes, sharing day’s stories. You know, family time. When do you have yours? Ahem, do you have yours?
  • 7-8: Checking up on social media, realizing just how many people have been sharing this #blueMonday bull, and thinking back, why wasn’t my day in any way depressing or blue? Thinking, that maybe I should write this up and find a connection.
  • after 8: some TV with kids, some TV without kids, bath time, a bit more followup of emails/tasks, bedtime. Day is done. Good night.

(color-coding is simple: the stuff in red is unpleasant, unplanned things I have to deal with, some of it can turn out to be beneficial, but most is a distraction; the stuff in green is planned, structured, positive things I enjoy dealing with; I cannot get enough of those)

The day had some reds, and some greens. Had some disappointments, and some surprises. Overall, it was *A LOT* more productive and front-loaded than most of my Mondays. Frankly, I’m tired. Accomplished. And I’m glad I followed up on opportunities, dismissed distractions, and portioned my time for everything: family, business, career, entertainment, and just time for me.

Now I realize this schedule is not for everyone, and not many can be in a position to do all those things. But trust me – most of these are choices. *YOUR* choices. You may not control what’s coming into your mailbox, or what’s happening in your timeline (Facebook, Twitter, actual real world news). But you certainly have control of how you react to these things, and how you deal with them.

So, continue finding opportunities, and solving problems, continue making connections and learning new tools or technology. Continue front-loading your most important work, so your evenings and quality time are longer and more rewarding. And please find time for yourself.

Coincidentally, I seem to have lots of meetings this Wednesday, but my lunch hour is open. Wanna meet up?

Also, I’m pretty certain I’ll be doing this newsletter thingy, and blogging more often. Some things need repeating and emphasis. Some very simple things. What to you think about “The Continuous Improvement Newsletter”?

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