How the viral 'Bare Minimum Mondays' trend helped me beat the Sunday scaries and avoid burnout
- Digital creator and startup founder Marisa Jo Mayes has gone viral for doing "Bare Minimum Mondays."
- It helps her avoid the dread and pressure that many people feel when returning to work on Mondays.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Marisa Jo Mayes, a self-employed digital creator and startup founder who has gone viral for doing what she calls "Bare Minimum Mondays" at work. It has been edited for length and clarity.
In 2020, I worked in medical-device sales. I was completely miserable and burned out. I thought the problem was my boss or the work culture in corporate America, so I quit my job and gave self-employment a whirl.
I soon realized the issue was bigger than that. I had a "hustle culture" problem, a perfectionism problem. I was still approaching work the same way as in my corporate job. It was like a cycle of stress and burnout. I'd feel bad because I was so burned out I couldn't do anything. So I'd make an insanely long to-do list for Mondays with the hope of overachieving my way back to feeling good about myself and how much I was getting done.
Every week, the "Sunday scaries" would hit, and every Monday, I'd sleep in until the absolute last second because I knew that list was waiting for me. The pressure I was putting on myself was paralyzing, and I realized something had to change.
One day in March 2022, I gave myself permission to do the absolute bare minimum for work, and it was like some magic spell came over me. I felt better. I wasn't overwhelmed, and I actually got more done than I expected.
I've done Bare Minimum Monday every week since.
Managing expectations was really important. I learned to cut out "wishful thinking" tasks and aim for two to three important things that'll move the needle, and I'm thrilled when I finish those.
On a Bare Minimum Monday, I don't take meetings and take it slow for the first two hours. I'll do some reading, some journaling, maybe some stuff around the house. It's two hours of no technology — no checking email — just doing whatever I need to do to feel good starting my day.
Around 10 or so, I let myself do whatever I want creatively. It could be shooting content or making visuals for my brand; it's work-related but I make sure it's creative work that I enjoy.
I'll do an hour of that before breaking for lunch or a walk. Then I do my main work tasks for two hours. I'm not multitasking, I'm not distracted, I'm not on my phone. If I'm not done after that, I'll do another hour, but it's usually no more than that. My Monday workday is shorter but because it's really focused work, I get the same amount done as my old eight-hour workdays.
Most comments I've received about Bare Minimum Monday are either "You're living my dream" or "What an entitled millennial who doesn't know the value of hard work." At one point in my corporate career, I probably would've rolled my eyes, too. But after experiencing burnout, I get it.
I'm neurodivergent, and I think for neurodivergent people, we often do extra mental lifting that neurotypical people don't do in order to mask or fit in. Because we're overcompensating, we can be more prone to burnout. Letting myself off the hook for a lot of unspoken expectations and rules that didn't really matter was so liberating.
I understand Bare Minimum Monday isn't realistic for everybody. I'm self-employed, I work from home, I'm not a mom. But for anyone interested in trying it, pay attention to where you're putting unnecessary pressure on yourself or setting unrealistic expectations. If you know you won't have time for something, don't put it on your list.
Also, it's not a productivity hack. I get more done when easing the pressure, but I never meant for it to be a way to do more work. It's really a way to start the week prioritizing yourself as a person over yourself as an employee. It's radically changed my life, not because of the productivity, but because of that self-compassion.
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