Leadership Challenge: Managing Your Emotional Week

During the past ten years, I’ve become acutely aware of the patterns of the more-or-less predictable ups and downs of my moods and associated emotions over the course of most seven-day cycles. I call these patterns my “emotional week”. My emotional week is shaped in large part by the rhythms of my work week, its schedule, and the patterns of interactions with others in my work place, and those shaping influences are often beyond my direct control. My tendency to not get enough sleep in the first half of the work week also negatively contributes to these recurring emotional patterns.

I believe that exercising self-control is a critical factor for success as a leader; therefore, I’ve begun to factor my emotional week’s tendency to influence my behavior into how I manage those parts of my schedule under my control. Allow me to give some concrete examples.

I have come to realize that Thursdays are my weekly emotional low point; things always look their bleakest on Thursdays. Past experiences have taught me that I must avoid making critical decisions on Thursdays, I need to make a special effort to tamp down on any feelings of self-doubt, and I must exercise extreme caution when communicating with coworkers on Thursdays.

It’s easy to see why Thursdays are my low point in the week: I’m usually exhausted by Thursday evening. On top of that, for many years when I was an active church musician, I had Thursday evening rehearsals. Exactly at the point in my week when I felt most tired and stretched emotionally, I had to try (not always successfully) to find a last bit of energy, courtesy, and patience to work successfully with others with whom I only had a short time each week to meet very concrete goals. When rehearsals did not go musically as well as I might have wished, or when I failed to muster the needed patience or courtesy, the resulting feelings of frustration tended to spread out across my entire perspective on work and life.

In light of these experiences, I now try to schedule as many of my meetings as possible on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. This saves most of Thursday for quiet work behind closed doors. This has allowed me to manage the low point in my emotional week much more effectively, but it’s also given me a chance to recharge for Friday – to end the week strong. As a music executive, this is really important, because major concerts often take place on Friday evenings.

Here’s another example. I’m often tempted to stay up too late on Friday evenings. This is a pattern of behavior that goes back to my childhood. During the past three years, I’ve been trying to go to bed earlier on Friday nights and to wake up earlier on Saturday mornings.

If I’m so tired by Thursday, why am I getting up early on Saturday? Because I know how I will feel on Sunday evening! On those Saturdays when I get up and get to work on projects important to me – my personal writing, my composing, my podcasting – then by the time Sunday afternoon rolls around, I’m OK with doing a bit of work for the work week ahead, and it feels less onerous or less like an intrusion into my personal time. Indeed, if I have a good Saturday morning, I’m able to enjoy my Saturday and Sunday evenings more thoroughly, even if I decided to complete some light reading or business correspondence if in front of the TV or with a movie playing on my laptop. On an overly busy weekend when I lose my Saturday morning time for personal productivity, I often feel frantic on Sunday evening, or like I’ve been cheated of time and thus frustrated that the weekend has slipped away. By making time for important things on Saturday morning, I more successfully manage my emotions in light of more urgent things on Sunday afternoons and evenings.

If you’re not sure when you experience your highs and lows, keep a journal: over time, those cycles of moods and emotions will definitely show up. Or ask a loved one what they have observed in their long-term interactions with you. Learning to manage your emotional week can make a difference in your work-place relationships and productivity. And it could very well make a difference at home, too.