It’s no big surprise that Friday is the least productive day of the week. You’ve run out of steam, you’re thinking about the weekend, and it seems silly to start a project at 3pm, right?
Well, you’re not alone. In studies of how people spend their time, Tuesday wins the top productivity spot. Monday usually comes in second. Friday? Let’s just say Friday isn’t winning any go-getter awards. Actually, Friday ranks dead last.
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I never worried too much about the Friday doldrums until I became a freelancer. Then I realized that unproductive Fridays and the “flexibility” of freelancing meant I was spending valuable off-time doing stuff I should have done during the week. Who starts freelancing so that they can work on weekends? Certainly not me.
I realized I needed a way to revamp my Fridays, not by suddenly becoming a productivity rockstar, but by embracing the fact that Fridays are different from other days of the week. They may be stigmatized as “unproductive” and good for only mindless tasks, but Fridays are also a day when people feel more relaxed and open-minded. Which is something we can all start taking advantage of.
If I could use Fridays not to crank out work, but to set myself up for the week ahead, I could have less weekend work and less stress on Monday morning. Here’s the gameplan:
Make your Monday to-do list now—while you still remember
In productivity studies, one interesting takeaway is that Monday is the second-most productive day, not the first. This is because people typically spend a good chunk of Monday planning out their week.
But Monday is actually a terrible day to plan. On Friday, your to-dos are clear as day. But on Monday, your memory is hazy and a lot of details will have slipped your mind. Plus, on Monday you’re getting a barrage of emails and distractions from other productive Monday people.
Instead of spending your Monday morning—aka prime productivity time—revving up and vaguely remembering what you wanted to do, you could arrive at your desk with that plan already written out.
On Friday, help your future self out and brain dump all your to-dos for the coming week. Put them in the order that you want to do them, so that when you start on Monday you can just hit the ground running. I personally do this on a Trello board, but any method for writing it down works fine.
Make the bullets detailed, too. If you just scribble “Email Matt”, come Monday you might not remember what the heck you need to email Matt about. Or even which Matt you’re talking about. (That’s happened to me).
An added benefit of making this list is that you can clear your mind right before the weekend, and not feel like you have to hold on to lots of tiny scraps of information. It’s all written down and waiting for you when you return.
Record what you did during the past week
Whether it’s for your Monday morning check-in with colleagues or just for your own project journal, it’s a good idea to write down some bullets points of what you did over the past week. Friday is the time to do it, because again, you’re not going to remember on Monday.
I noticed another benefit when I started this habit—it makes you feel good. We often fixate on what’s left on our list, and don’t stop to think “Hey, I actually did a lot this week.” Especially when you work independently, there aren’t a lot of people patting you on the back. Creating your own sense of accomplishment will send you into the weekend with a spring in your step.
Use Friday to ask for a favor
There’s a common belief that you shouldn’t ask for something right before the weekend, since people are “running out the door.” But if you think about it, it’s actually one of the best times to ask someone for a time commitment or a favor.
The reason is that they’re thinking about the weekend, not their to-do list. The person is probably in a good mood because the weekend is coming, and they’re feeling generous with their time—because next week hasn’t begun yet. Asking on Friday also gives the other person a chance to add your request to their own plan, so they don’t get slammed with it on Monday.
The bottom line is that on Friday, people are more likely to say yes. Sneaky? Maybe. Effective? You bet. :)
Send a thank you note
As you look back on the week, Friday is also a great time to show a little love to the people you work with. Robert Locke writing at Lifehack has a great suggestion: use time on Friday to send a quick thank you note to a colleague. It doesn’t have to be too cheesy or formal, but if there’s a specific thing you can thank someone for, don’t hesitate to do it. It will spread positivity and help your colleague start the weekend on a good foot, too.
Just remember that this is the time for straight-up thank yous, not broader feedback sessions. Save any constructive feedback or criticism for earlier in the week so that the person on the receiving end doesn’t have to stew on it over the weekend.
Think about your next big idea
You might hear some productivity experts say that Friday is the worst day to start something new, because you’re tired and burned out. But Friday is actually the perfect day to think and talk about the future.
Because people are more relaxed and open-minded, I find that Fridays are the best time to talk about blue-sky ideas, or reflect honestly on what people want to be doing. You’ll then have the weekend to sleep on it and subconsciously mull everything over, which usually leads to fresh ideas on Monday.
Enjoy your weekend
A recent New Yorker cartoon shows a disheveled man sitting at a desk, asking “I can’t remember—do I work at home or do I live at work?”
If this hits close to home for you, remind yourself that time off to recharge is probably the most important productivity “hack” there is. “Leaving the work at work is one of the most important [mental] recovery strategies—and the hardest”, says Entrepreneur Magazine. “Working without letup is a bad habit that can jeopardize business, health and the life you're supposedly working toward.”
Implementing some of these Friday habits has definitely made it my favorite day of the work week. Not because it’s “lazy,” but because the different pace and the different expectations actually give you a chance to reflect, recharge, and prepare for a less hectic, more focused Monday.
Any Friday habits that work for you? Let us know in the comments.
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