Your bad Monday actually starts on Sunday. Hours before your alarm jolts you awake, your mind is already stockpiling anxieties about the week ahead. The commute, the meetings, the hours in front of a computer. Then Monday happens and guess what: It’s not nearly as painful as you thought it was going to be.
“Monday in the abstract is really bad,” says Ingrid Fetell, a design director at Ideo’s New York office. The reality isn’t usually that rough. Monday has become a scapegoat for our unhappiness. We’ve been conditioned to dread it, even if the things we hate about Monday really have nothing to do with with the day itself. In other words, first workday of the week had a perception problem. Ideo set out to redesign it.
How exactly does one go about redesigning a day? To figure that out, Ideo partnered with Studio360, a WNYC radio show hosted by Kurt Andersen. To start, Fetell and her colleagues looked at an entirely different day of the week. “It actually helps us pin down what’s happening on Monday when we understand why Friday feels so good,” she says. Friday is about freedom; it’s about the prospect of seeing friends, being unbeholden to anything other than the stuff we want to do. It’s the polar opposite of Monday’s expectation and structure. With this insight in mind, the team crafted three ideas they hope will make the start of the week a little less horrible.
First: Make The Act Of Waking Up More Pleasant
Waking up sucks. But you know what sucks even more? Waking up to the blaring default alarm sound on your phone. This simple observation is the basis of Ideo’s first provocation, Lolzzz. It’s an alarm clock that gently shakes you from your slumber with a child’s laughter. Studies have shown that our brains respond to laughter by lighting up in the premotor cortex, the same area of our brain that prepares our face to smile, Fetell says. In other words, waking up to laughter means you’re neurologically waking up with a smile on your face. Not a bad way to start the week.
The prototype clock is a simple piece of wood that rocks back and forth, as though it’s reeling from a bout of tickles. The form is friendly—or rather, joyful. Fetell has spent several years investigating what she calls an “aesthetic of joy.” She’s interested in how shape, form and color impact our emotions. More specifically, she’s interested in how designers can impart a sense of joy in their work by harnessing what we know about the way our brains process visual information.
Not surprisingly, our brains associate certain colors and shapes with certain emotions. Pop psychology will tell you that yellow is happy or blue is calming—not exactly earth shattering findings. Fetell prefers to cite studies which show how the area of our brains related to primal anxiety and fear light up when we see sharp corners, like you might on a conference table. “It’s really adaptive,” she says. “It makes sense that sharp angles are something you’d want to avoid.”
Second: Find Reasons To Be Happy
So you’re up. Great. Now it’s time to peek at your calendar. Yikes. Few things are as stress-inducing as seeing a solid block of appointments and meetings. Ideo realized that despite a full schedule, there are still opportunities to find small, unexpected moments of joy in the day. Maybe it’s free donuts in the kitchen or maybe you have time to grab a drink with a friend after work. “These things aren’t big enough to make a dent in the anticipation or dread of Monday,” she says. “But we wanted to create a tool that surfaced them.”
Their solution is PopUp, an app that scrapes your calendar for unseen moments of joy. The app will notify you of fun detours while you’re en route to somewhere or remind you that you’re about to meet someone new. It does so by ditching the typical rectangular calendar boxes for bubble-like circles. (“Joy is not a constant state, it’s an unexpected burst,” Ideo describes.)
Its physical counterpart is a funny little gadget that blows a bubble every time you have a meeting. “The horror of calendar comes into sharpest focus with notifications,” says Fetell. “We thought that this device that sends up one perfect bubble would be the best possible way and most surprising way to be notified about a meeting.”
Third: Look For Opportunities To Be Grateful
Like we mentioned earlier, Sunday is when your Monday anxiety begins. “Sunday night is a time of scarcity,” Fetell says. “You’re focusing on what you don’t have and what you don’t have is any more weekend.” Instead of thinking about what you’ll soon lose, Ideo made an app that will let you focus on what you should be grateful for.
Every Sunday night, the app, called Sincerely, asks you to record a note of gratitude that will be sent to someone you care about. That message will be delivered and (hopefully) you’ll get a note back filled with warm fuzzies on Monday. Ideo designed a prototype set of old school (but Bluetooth-enabled) can walkie-talkies whose antennas wag like a dog’s tail when you have a new message.
The bubble machines and can phones all seem a little twee, but Fetell insists the Monday redesign isn’t just about slathering the day in delight, a word Fetell says gets a bad rap because it’s “indiscriminately applied.” Instead, it’s about what she describes as “purposeful pleasure.” Changing an ingrained behavior—hating Mondays, for instance—isn’t about broad, sweeping overhauls. “It’s more about how do we create these little ripples that spiral out,” says Fetell. “It’s starting small to have bigger effects.”
Text via Wired
Image via Ideo