How to take Fridays “off” (and still be insanely productive)
Let’s be honest. For most people, Fridays are a wasted day.
Think of your typical workday on a Friday. It likely involves (quite a bit of) goofing off mixed in with some busy work. You’re mentally checked out and exhausted from the week, and emails start to pile up. Getting quality work done becomes harder and harder.
Trust me, I’m speaking from experience. My typical Friday was an ode to procrastination. I’d start reading about sports and then land on Reddit (and we all know what a time-suck Reddit can be). Then I’d head on over to Facebook and spend a few hours chatting with friends. Before long, it was 2pm, and I hadn’t accomplished anything meaningful.
I knew I had to make a change. As an entrepreneur with multiple businesses, I can’t afford to lose an entire work day to inefficiency or burn out, and I’m sure you can’t either.
The solution I’ve built: Taking Fridays off.
Well, I don’t actually take Fridays off, but Fridays have become such a fun, restorative, and productive day that it feels like I do. And I’d like to show you how it works so that you can make Fridays one of your most productive days too.
It comes down to flipping the way you think about Fridays on its head. Rather than using Fridays for busy work, carve out time for three things you probably don’t do enough of during the week: Learning, connecting, and planning.
Here’s what a typical Friday now looks like for me:
Seems simple enough, right? It actually took me a few years to perfect this system. Now I’d like to show you how it works. Let’s dive in to exactly how to restructure your Fridays for success.
1. Use Fridays for focused learning
Derek Sivers argues that it’s important to set aside blocks of time that are free of busy work (email, project tasks, meetings, and so on) so that you can invest energy in learning, growing, and strategizing for your business.
Yet entrepreneurs are often too overloaded with sales, clients, and pushing projects through to spend enough time on these essential tasks.
Nowadays, the bulk of my Fridays are spent reading. Over the course of the week, as I come across interesting articles, I throw them into Evernote. You can also use apps like Pocket or Feedly to save articles to come back to later.
On Friday I load the articles I’ve saved throughout the week in a browser, go to a cafe, disable my wifi, and start reading. I take notes on what I learn, and I often think about who I know that would also appreciate the article (a great way to add value to your network).
Turning off your internet is key here — the idea is to immerse yourself completely in reading and learning. This allows for what Cal Newport calls deep work, where, rather than hopping between a big project, answering email, and checking your work chat, you devote all your attention to one task at a time.
Focused, uninterrupted work time allows you to absorb complex information and complete tasks more quickly.
2. Use Fridays to nurture valuable connections
Understanding how to network effectively is an invaluable skill. Knowing the right people can open up opportunities you may not have access to otherwise.
But it’s not enough to exchange a few emails with a VIP or say “hi” at an event — you need to build meaningful relationships.
Fridays are a great time to nurture your network. I like to get creative about it. I head over to my local cookie shop, text a few people, and invite them to come hang out. I say something like, “I’ll treat you to the best chocolate chip cookies in Toronto.”
Depending on who shows up, we then spend a few hours chatting about successes, failures, and just getting to know each other.
There’s a couple reasons this works well on Fridays. First, people are excited for the weekend and tend to be in a more sociable mood. They’re ready to leave the week behind and enjoy themselves. They are also in a relaxed mindset, which opens up opportunities for deeper, more meaningful conversation.
And it’s these face-to-face, casual interactions that truly grow the value of your network.
Because this often becomes a group hangout, I’m able to connect with a lot more people than I would if I just had one-on-one meetings or set up a few individual calls. Consequently, I’ve become known in my local circles as a great resource for meeting interesting and successful people — I’m seen as a hub for networking.
If you aren’t able to organize a group hangout on Fridays, take some time to thank and appreciate people in your network. I tend to tweet the most on Fridays (sharing what I’m reading), and I always compliment the writer, which provides an opportunity for us to connect.
3. Use Fridays to plan your upcoming week
Tim Ferriss said it best: “What you do is more important than how you do it, and doing something well does not make it important.”
The reality is that most people inflate their ability to plan well. A lot of us simply aren’t that good at it, but planning ahead is essential to success.
I now dedicate at least one hour to planning every Friday afternoon. First, I go through my planning tool (I’m a huge fan of the Productivity Planner) to assess what I accomplished this week and where I fell short. I then use that as a guide to figure out what goals to set for myself for next week. By the time Monday arrives, I already have a map of what the week will look like, and I can hit the ground running.
There are three main reasons planning on Friday afternoons is so effective:
- If planning is the last thing you do on Friday, it will be fresh in your mind when you start work on Monday, making you ready to hit the ground running.
- The unconscious thought theory asserts that, over the weekend, your brain will continue to work through the problems you mapped out Friday afternoon, even while you are doing other things and not actively thinking about those problems. This means that, come Monday morning, you might find yourself with a few fresh ideas.
- The act of reviewing your past week and then planning your upcoming week provides closure so that you can thoroughly enjoy the weekend. The physical act of closing my planning application is a trigger that says “your week is done, now go enjoy your weekend.”
Take back your Fridays
I now always look forward to Fridays — not just because it means the weekend is finally here — but also because it’s the perfect time to learn new things, build deeper relationships, and prepare for the upcoming week.
Before I developed this system, I dreaded Fridays. It was a stopgap to the weekend, and I rarely got anything meaningful done. Since rethinking how I approach Fridays, I’ve used those few hours dedicated to networking to meet in person with over 200 entrepreneurs.
And because of better planning, the weekdays feel less hectic, which allows me to focus on growing my business. Then, when I get back to work on Monday, I come fresh, inspired, and ready to hit the ground running.
Over to you: How do you spend your Fridays? And what’s one lesson you can take away from this article to make your Fridays more productive?
Sol Orwell is the co-founder of the seven-figure business Examine.com. He has started 6 companies over the past fifteen years, and he currently teaches other entrepreneurs how to do the same at www.sjo.com.