Updated: Aug 19, 2019
This post is being written on a Friday. You may be reading it on a Friday. Or a Wednesday, or a Sunday. Whatever the day of the week, think of your last work Friday. How do you view the end of the work week? Is it, "Oh, thank goodness that's over. What took so long?" Or, perhaps it's more like, "Wow, what a great week. I can't wait for Monday!"
If you're like most people, your feelings are probably somewhere in the middle. The weekend is a time for friends, family, some fun activities, and taking care of those personal errands you don't have time for during the week. You might spend time thinking about work - about what went well during the week just past and what will, you hope, go better in the week ahead.
A quick and highly informal poll on attitudes toward Fridays suggests that while people are delighted - thrilled - that the weekend has arrived, they aren't able to fully relax. Why not? Most respondents indicated they end their Fridays feeling frustrated at not having accomplished what they hoped to during the week and burdened about what must be accomplished over the weekend - including work they bring home.
When you're stuck in that netherworld between obsessing over a seemingly endless to-do list and fully embracing your life outside work, it adversely affects your work life as well as your personal life. Your friends, family and health (mental and physical) suffer when you are unable to invest the time each deserves, and your work suffers when you return from the weekend unrefreshed and resentful of the time you "had to" spend working in your off hours.
These days, very few jobs confine themselves only to the time we spend in the office, in front of a laptop, or with clients. Email apps, voicemail, social media and instant messaging have all seen to that. It is possible, however, to create some space between you and the work. It's possible to walk away from your to-do list feeling, if not exultant, at least close to content. Here are some techniques we've discovered in our work with clients and that we've stumbled across in our own quest for balance and moderation.
Instead of only a "To-Do" list, create an "I/We Did" list for the end of the week. Have you ever met anyone who checked off every item, every day? Neither have we. To-Do lists have a way of making us feel as if we've failed. Never mind that there were ten items on your list, and you accomplished eight. All you see are the two items that remain, unfinished. Next Friday, add a new column to your page titled "I/We Did" and jot down all that you accomplished during the week. Include team accomplishments because it's important to recognize collaboration. Making a list of your accomplishments somehow makes them feel more real, more substantive. You take time for all sorts of things during the day. Why not take just a moment each Friday to enjoy little self-pat on the back? In addition, record all the things you did that weren't on the list. Not as excuses for the unfinished items, but as accomplishments in and of themselves.
Another way to get some perspective on what you accomplish is to consider each item in terms of how it contributes to your larger goals. Next to each accomplishment, record how far its completion moves you toward your goal. Are you 5% closer? 20%? Assessing your progress in this way helps you see that, even if the steps are small, you are headed in the right direction. If you're unable to link your activities to your goals, or if you're spending an extraordinary amount of time on activities that aren't goal-related, that's a larger issue. It's the subject of a future post and may indicate a need for improved planning and goal setting. (We can help with that)
If you manage a team, model positive Friday behavior. If you want your staff to take pride in their achievements, it is crucial that you model that behavior. Take a moment to acknowledge work well done - yours and theirs. Gratitude expressed is powerful. On Fridays, do a quick check-in with people before they leave. Ask, "What's one thing you're really proud of this week?" Allow them time to pause, reflect, and identify something affirming to carry into the weekend. At the end of the day - or the week - you aren't responsible for your staff's self-esteem. That's something we each need to own individually. You are, however, responsible for modeling positive behaviors and helping your team acquire those behaviors. Show them that "I/We Did" is just as important as "To-Do."
A final note. Don't be the first one to bolt for the door on a Friday. Being in charge doesn't mean you have to be a workaholic, but no one wants to see the boss racing for the exit early when everyone else is still focused on answering one more email or calling one more prospect or finishing one more quote. We worked with a client whose leader left the office three or four hours before everyone else on Fridays and then arrived late on Monday, complaining about all the work she'd done over the weekend. The staff never commented openly on the situation, but they noticed. The turnover rate there was the stuff of legend. Only after this person's departure did the staff realize all they were capable of and accomplish all they imagined.
Add a few minutes of reflection and gratitude to your next Friday To-Do/We Did list. You'll walk away calmer, more self-affirmed, and ready to embrace all that the weekend and the weeks ahead bring you. Happy Friday!