Meeting-Free Mondays

For the last six months, my team has followed a simple productivity practice. We don’t have meetings on Mondays.

The idea emerged after speaking to my team about their productivity habits, where it became clear that meetings were an ongoing issue. Several people complained they couldn’t find time to get work done because their days were fragmented with meeting after meeting. Work was being squeezed into the small gaps in between, which killed an opportunity for deep work.

I was keen to address this, so in my next staff meeting (yes – ironic), I ventured the idea of adding a meeting-free day to our week. This was the first time I had proposed a team-wide productivity concept and I wasn’t sure how it would be received. Fortunately, the team relished the idea. After a brief discussion, we concluded Mondays were the best option. Not only did “Meeting-Free Monday” have a nice ring to it, it also started the week on the right note. With my team happy to experiment, we agreed a four-week trial.

As a productivity geek, I was already enjoying a well-structured calendar, and yet the freedom of clearing an entire day for deep work was blissful. Throughout the week I felt a sense of relief that another Monday was coming, when I knew I would get a chance to ponder strategy or get significant work done.

In fact, I was enjoying it so much that I failed to spot that eight weeks had passed. I raised the topic with my team again ¬– should we persist with this experiment or was it not working? The response was a resounding hell yeah. Even with heavy use of the bad hat technique, I couldn’t find anyone who disliked the scheme and wanted to end it. Mondays had become a bastion of calm and seemed to be a major opportunity to “get the work done”. Due to the overwhelming support for the idea, we’ve continued with it ever since.

Since the subtitle of this essay included “pros and cons”, I should reflect on the (few) downsides of this approach to work. I will first acknowledge that declaring a meeting-free day is a luxury afforded to my type of knowledge work and my position in the organisation. In many roles, such as support or sales, it’s not possible to switch off for a day. This could cause awkwardness in a multi-disciplined department.

Also, like many teams, my group doesn’t operate in isolation. We frequently engage with the wider company, and yet meeting-free Mondays haven’t yet been a point of friction. I’ve not announced my group is adhering to this practice, but nor have I kept it a secret. We simply offer times at other points in the week for meetings. Occasionally we end up in a Monday meeting to avoid being awkward, but this is uncommon. Most of our meetings are internal, so we have full control over when they are scheduled.

I’ve also noticed that once accustomed to the bliss of a clear day to start the week, it feels overwhelming to lose it. Every time a national holiday falls on a Monday it’s a mixed blessing – a day off is great, but the rest of the week feels hectic without a clear day of work. However, this is less a downside, and more an indicator of how valuable this practice has turned out to be.