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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

This Is the Most Stressful Time of the Week, Says Science. Here's How to Get Through It

While there’s some debate about the exact time, experts agree that Tuesday around midday (between 10:30 AM and 2:30 PM) is scientifically the most stressful time of the work week.

Think about it: You know Mondays are going to be stressful, but Tuesday is when the work starts to pile on (and you’ve still got so far to go until Friday!). Personally, I spend Mondays answering many of the emails and completing requests I received over the weekend, so Tuesdays become a whole new level of stress as I try to catch up on actual work.

Over the past couple of weeks, though, I’ve tried out some different strategies for making my Tuesdays a little less unpleasant. Hopefully, they can make yours easier, too.

1. Do the Thing You’re Most Stressed About Now

A couple of weeks ago, my inbox was particularly out of control: I had about 20 emails sitting there that needed longer responses, and the idea of even getting started sent my blood pressure through the roof. However, the longer I put off those emails and took on other tasks early in the week, the more stressed I became just thinking about going through those messages.

Finally, after brushing past my inbox a couple more times that Tuesday morning, I decided I was going to get through the majority of the emails in one sitting, starting with the ones that were giving me the most anxiety (in this case, that meant dealing with fired employees). Unsurprisingly, once I actually took a look at my inbox and responded to those initial tough emails, my stress eased up, and the rest of them seemed more manageable.

What did I learn from this exercise? Tackling the most stress-inducing thing on your week’s to-do list is a huge release. Don’t let it hover above you for any longer this week. Just get it done now.

2. Change Up Your Scenery ASAP

Do you feel your heart pounding as your workload piles up? Step away from the cubicle and change up your workspace, even if it’s just for an hour.

For the past three Tuesdays in particular, I’ve decided to swap my usual desk for a table at a nearby café, and it’s really made all the difference. Not only do I get to grab something to eat and drink while I work (I’m all about that croissant life), but I also get to do so without general work distractions that come with an office.

Or, if it’s feasible with your employer, consider seeing if you can work from home every Tuesday (or one Tuesday a month). One of my colleagues does it, and not only does it give her some quiet space to do more focused work, but it also helps lower her stress on the most stressful day of the week (hello, no commute).

A pro tip if you decide to do this? Turn off your phone or work chat notifications if you can, and do your best not to schedule any meetings during this “out of office” time. It’s hard to go into productivity beast mode with your phone buzzing every five seconds (and, yes, this can actually make you feel more stressed!).

3. Wake Up (Slightly) Earlier

I get that the idea of waking up earlier every day is daunting for a lot of people (not everyone is a morning person), but making a commitment to getting up slightly earlier (an hour or so) only one workday per week is much more manageable.

Before you start waking up early, plan on what you’re going to do with that extra time. For example, will you spend it answering emails (so that you don’t have to worry about them once you get to the office), or will you start to tackle that big, scary project that you’re most stressed about?

Want to make the early mornings a little more enticing? Brew yourself an extra gourmet pot of coffee, or treat yourself to a donut, but only when you’re doing early morning work. Whatever you choose to take on, your blood pressure will thank you later on in the day when you’re not up to your eyeballs in your to-do list.

4. Give Yourself an Incentive

This tip comes from a friend of mine, who watches Bob’s Burgers every Tuesday. During her gruesome day, it serves as a great incentive since she knows once she makes it through all this work she’ll get a treat. It’s also a nice way to unwind before taking on the rest of her work week.

Regardless of what it is, giving yourself something to look forward to during the week is just as important as having something to look forward to at the end of the week. Hey, Friday’s way off, and a little Netflix or a fun Tuesday happy hour with your friends can go a long way!

5. Re-Think Your Schedule

Something I didn’t realize until I started purposefully trying to de-stress my Tuesdays was how much unnecessarily strain I was putting on myself for absolutely no reason.

For example, I had certain responsibilities that I always made myself do on Tuesdays, and one day I asked myself, “Why?” Why did this newsletter have to be written on a Tuesday morning if it wasn’t due until Friday afternoon? Why was I forcing myself to work on articles four days in advance on Tuesdays instead of spreading them throughout the week? By just moving things around slightly, I suddenly had plenty more time to get through everything.

Take a look at your schedule and your to-do list items and ask yourself the same question. The idea here is not just to relieve stress on any given Tuesday, but to make your Tuesdays less stressful overall going forward. You may find some interesting patterns.

When it comes to keeping Tuesdays from becoming the new Mondays, the name of the game is to constantly evaluate and re-evaluate your routine. Adding in an extra hour of work in the morning or changing up where you work can easily produce awesome results.

Who said the beginning of the work week had to be stressful?

Photo of coffee courtesy of Shutterstock.