This piece originally ran on The Muse.
Like everybody else, I love to complain about Monday. It’s only natural, really. As that dreaded day that immediately follows the weekend, it’s the logical scapegoat for everybody’s dread.
But, when I take a few minutes to think about it, I don’t really hate Monday all that much. In fact, it’s usually my most productive day of the week. I fire off emails. I make lists. I organize big projects. I identify a foolproof method for achieving world peace.
OK, not really, but you get where I’m going with this. At the beginning of the week, both my ambition and my enthusiasm toward my work are actually running high—even if I’m not quite excited about the fact that Monday has rolled around again so soon.
Friday, on the other hand? Well, I love Friday. I basically consider this day to be an extension of the weekend. I just need to bide my time in order to enjoy 48 hours of relaxation. However, my productivity leaves quite a bit to be desired—there’s a lot more Facebook scrolling, yawning, and mindless staring involved than I would like to admit.
Since I work for myself, I’ve developed the attitude that whatever I don’t wrap up on Friday, I can take care of on Saturday or Sunday. Unfortunately, this usually means that I spend a big chunk of my weekend working on things I actually should’ve been able to finish beforehand.
So, I challenged myself to take my weekends back by making sure I used Friday to its full potential—despite the fact that my motivation is usually waning. Here are a few tips and tricks that helped me realistically do that. I didn’t actually inspire world peace, but I was still way more productive than normal.
1. Complete Smaller Tasks
Let’s face it—this isn’t the day when you’re going to want to tackle those large projects. Those big to-dos just seem far too daunting when you know you’re going to be away from your desk for the next two days anyway.
Instead, I found that completing smaller tasks allows me to still get stuff done and feel accomplished by the time 6 PM rolls around—rather than dilly-dallying all day simply because I’m trying to put off a more time-intensive project. Plus, it’s much easier to get myself geared up to start chipping away at my list when I know that those items don’t involve an overwhelmingly large commitment.
Whether it’s filling out your expense report, taking some time to organize your overflowing inbox, or even de-cluttering your workspace, reserve Friday as the day when you can tie up all of those loose ends that pop up throughout the rest of the week.
2. Plan Your Following Week
Alright, so maybe no productivity trick in the world will inspire you to make short work of your to-do list on a Friday. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t plan all of the things you want to get done the following week. So, take some time to sit down and map out what it’ll look like.
What exactly do you want to accomplish? What action items or materials are required to get those done? Are there any large projects or presentations you can spend some time outlining right now—making them easier to get started on the following week?
Planning ahead might seem a little on the anal-retentive side. But it’s really a smart move. It allows you to walk into the office on Monday morning knowing exactly what you’re in for—meaning you can also be strategic about where you channel your time and energy.
3. Schedule Meetings
Most of the time, I’m not a big fan of meetings. They tend to break up my workday and function as a constant distraction. But, on Fridays—when being chained to my desk feels like a rare form of torture anyway—having the opportunity to get up and talk things through with others really seems like a blessing.
Now, I make an effort to schedule as many phone calls, meetings, and appointments as I can on Fridays. It gets me away from my desk and allows me to be social with others—rather than mindlessly watching the minutes tick by at my desk. Plus, those scheduled commitments make the day pass by faster. On the last day of the work week, a speeding clock is never a bad thing.
4. Utilize the Pomodoro Technique
I know what you’re thinking. “Oh no, here she comes. She’s going to throw some bogus productivity hack at me that doesn’t actually do anything.”
I can’t blame you for your skepticism—I’m the exact same way. I’ve never been a big believer in the tricks and changes that promise to transform me from unmotivated to unbelievably productive in three seconds flat. But, take it from someone who shares your cynicism: the Pomodoro Technique actually works.
What is it? Basically, it’s a time management method that breaks your day into 25-minute chunks, with five-minute breaks in between. You set a timer for each interval, and it’s said to create a sense of urgency—it inspires you to get as much done in that 25-minute period as you can.
I gave it a try, and it really worked for me. And, while it can be difficult to implement on days when you have a lot of appointments (which I know I just recommendeded you set up), it can definitely still be helpful to use during those periods of time between meetings.
Not only will it inspire you to crank out work at a breakneck pace, but splitting up your day also makes that never-ending Friday in the office feel way more manageable.
If you’re anything like me, Friday is notorious for being your least productive day. But, that doesn’t mean you need to chalk it up as a total wash. Use a few (or all!) of these tips, and you’re sure to make a good dent in your to-do list by the time the weekend rolls around.