The idea of a “fresh start”—wiping your slate clean, tidying up your workspace, and resetting your mind—has been discussed on this blog before. We’ve talked about the concept’s numerous benefits, and we’ve also talked about the ways in which it might be actually overrated. After all, your desk and inbox are probably clean enough to get some good work done at any given time. And if it’s the third time you’ve cleaned it today, instead of writing your essay, that’s procrastination.
But, as we take on more ambitious long-term goals that require consistently high levels of performance, it becomes more and more necessary to buffer your week-long sprints with a pit stop of sorts. An opportunity to get your bearings and catch your breath. And if you have the time to spare, try dedicating an entire day to it.
This refueling day has become a sacred element of my workflow. I use it to pause, reflect, recharge—all those fun buzz words. But I also clean, and put things in their places. I put myself in the best position to reach the starting line of my next sprint unencumbered, energized, and purposeful.
It may happen on the weekend, but these are not days off. These are Sundays.
About last Sunday
I can’t stop thinking about last Sunday.
I had just ended a pretty taxing week, and I knew that an equally arduous one was on the horizon. I had spent Saturday dedicated to my patented “Do Nothing, You Earned It” day off, wherein I celebrated my hard work by doing absolutely nothing.
The result of that type of day is usually a bit of a mess. Rolling into Sunday, I usually feel a little bit behind the eight-ball and discombobulated, but would still lazily sail through Sunday and just wait for Monday to hit me like a speeding train. Sound familiar?
But on this particular Sunday, I was out of clean clothes. So I had at least one traditional “Sunday chore” that had to be done. And out of pure luck—maybe it was the podcast I was listening to, or whatever headspace I happened to be in— fell into the zone. I got in the groove of folding and putting items in their correct places. I even started arranging my shirts by color.
And when I was finished, basking in and slightly confused by the experience, I followed my first instinct: do something like that again. So I moved on to dishes. And the filing cabinet in the closet where I keep my important mail. And my sheets—yes, even the sheets.
I was lucky to receive that burst of inspiration. You can’t live life waiting for good ideas to strike—as I can attest, there may be years in between those lightbulb moments.
But it allowed me to see what I was left with. A significantly cleaner house. Less things to tempt me to lose focus. And this sneakily addictive feeling of, “okay that’s done—what’s next?” That feeling will have you stringing together productive activities.
Now I know you hate doing dishes. But its value is twofold: you can get valuable momentum from a simple task, and you can make life easier for yourself tomorrow.
Look at it as a gift you’re giving your future self—the “you” that will be inhabiting this space 16 to 24 hours from now. Think about how much lighter you feel, how much clearer your mind is, when your space is clean. When clean dishes are available, in abundance, and right where they should be. When any shirt you could desire to wear on a random Tuesday is ready and waiting in your closet. Give your future self that gift.
(Of course, depending on your life, this process can happen on any day—including Saturday. Sunday is just the day that works for me.)
Get food out of the way
So what else can happen on this magical day?
One of the sneakiest leeches of your time and focus during a busy work week is food. There are twenty-one meals that need to be accounted for. If you’re trying to be relatively healthy, those meals will require some cooking or preparation.
The Sunday grocery routine has become nearly meditative for me. I put on my favorite podcast and allow myself to zone out—cruising along the aisles at random, and at my own pace. I consult my list, of course, and try to get everything I set out to get. But if something catches my fancy, Why not try it?
Get bananas and apples for zero-thought zero-guilt easy breakfasts. A loaf of bread for some toast. Essential veggies, rice, chicken, pasta—whatever you like. If you’re really dedicated, try one of those pre-mixed and pre-washed salad bags and try not to let it go bad in your fridge. Add in some items you really love and that’s a full week’s worth of rations.
It’s a real joy, in a silly way, to stock your refrigerator to the point it’s a truly optimized “grab and go” experience—almost like the cooler at a corner store. A quick Greek yogurt. Your favorite LaCroix. It just makes things easier.
Meal prep is a rabbit hole many fall into, and the philosophies therein probably warrant their own article entirely, but there is a simple way to approach it.
Make dinner for yourself on Sunday, and make more than one portion. Put the rest in the fridge, and reheat it later in the week if you want. That’s it. If the ease of that resonates you, do it again next week, but double. If you want to get really specific about it, you can use individual little Tupperwares to portion out each meal. You just meal prepped! It can get fancier, but that’s the basic process. From a pure convenience standpoint, it’s hard to deny.
The things I like to make require a lot of chopped vegetables. So I do all the chopping in one go on Sunday, when I can get really in the groove and burn through a ton of it very quickly. I’m left with convenient pre-chopped ingredients always at the ready.
Do you have a blender? Find a super simple recipe for a blueberry smoothie, dump everything in, and freeze five to six portions. They’ll come in handy in pinches and rush lunches throughout the week.
And this can all happen on Sunday. More things that you won’t have to worry about the next six days.
Moonshot your week’s plans
From a practical standpoint, the most helpful thing you can do for your work on this day is make as detailed a plan as possible. Schedule things to certain days, and certain hours of certain days. If you have a day job or other obligations you need to work around, be judicious and precious with those few hours you have. And work your hardest throughout the week trying to execute on the plans that “Sunday you” made for you.
But maybe also try making an incredibly ambitious, aspirational list. Write down anything that you can think of that you would want to accomplish, in a perfect world.
You know your week’s going to go off the rails. You could probably plan for it at this point—set your watch by the guarantee of it. But that’s not the energy we carry with us on Sunday.
On Sunday, anything is possible. Next week is a shining mirage, without dents or scratches. Design it how you wish it would happen.
It’s like the old standby of writing out your to-do list the night before—instead now it’s like a supersized vision board of your whole week that will help you achieve as much as possible.
Find and preserve your calm.
But with all this fun planning, we also don’t have to get too ahead of ourselves. Especially if it’s not what we feel we need right now. It is still the weekend after all.
Sometimes, what you need on the weekend can be staying in bed. Or it can be ordering takeout from the unhealthiest, best restaurant you can think of. If you’re okay with it, it might even look like making a mess of your space for a creative or DIY project.
It’s just very important to know yourself in this moment. What you want and what you need are two deeply different things. The point is that Sunday is a blank canvas that shouldn’t be disregarded or disrespected, or underestimated for its power to shape your week.
Work to reset your soul. Find a place of equilibrium that you can refresh yourself in, before you spring back out, ready to take on the world. Try meditating, or maybe yoga. Find your calm.
Do what you need to do come out swinging tomorrow.
See if you don’t feel 10 to 100% better as you start another tough week. Even if it’s not Sunday when you’re reading this, start thinking about the possibilities your next one might hold.