Sweet, sweet Friday. So sweet we TG for I. Indeed, many companies—42% of the Fortune 1000, according to one recent survey—increasingly offer “summer Fridays,” giving employees half the day off during the warmer months.
Assuming, however, that you must put in an eight-hour day on Friday, how can you maximize your productivity knowing the weekend is looming, while taking into account the broader context of the week that preceded it? (Don’t miss our earlier guides to getting the most from your Mondays and Wednesdays.)
“I do see the week as this arc,” says Sally Susman, EVP of corporate affairs at Pfizer. “Monday is all ‘planful.’ And Wednesday is all reaction—[it’s] not what you want from the world, but what it wants from you.”
“That’s why I love Friday, the beautiful denouement of the week,” Susman continues. “People begin to exhale, and there seems to be more flexibility in the schedule. I try to schedule very few meetings on Friday”—perhaps four instead of her usual eight, she says—”so I have time to process the week, to think about it.”
Molly Sonsteng, cofounder of the productivity retreat Caveday, likes to head into the weekend feeling as though she has “closed a chapter.” She stresses the importance of not having your job bleed into your personal time. “Your work time is your work time, and your off time is your off time,” she says. “If you can close that chapter at the end of your week, you’re going to feel much more comfortable stepping away from your work for [two days].”
A TIME TO DREAM
For many managers and team leaders, Friday is a day to dream. “We did great planning on Monday, we executed and prioritized during the middle of the week,” says Deano Roberts, senior director at Slack. “Friday is when we’re working on some future work concepts.”
For this reason, Fridays at Slack are also about a bit of creative social engineering, in particular, bringing together teams that rarely work together: “We’ll bring them together on Fridays and do more exploratory work,” Roberts says. “For us, Friday is all about creativity and challenging our norms.”
Fred Stutzman, founder of the productivity software Freedom, usually begins his Friday with a few meetings that are also focused on the future of the company. “That always results in lots of ideas and brainstorming,” he says. “So by the end of the day I find I’m spending a lot of time on Google, just researching.”
Stutzman confesses without shame that he doesn’t try to do his best work at 5 o’clock on a Friday. “I’m not trying to turn in amazing code or amazing writing,” he says. “I’m using where my brain is at that point in time, and my brain’s a little out to lunch. But the out-to-lunch brain and the research brain kind of go together in an interesting way, where you can explore new things.”
These dreamy hours of research usually mean Stutzman is ending the week on, as he puts it, “a pretty hopeful note, because I’m thinking, Oh, here are a bunch of new ideas. And I’ll chew on that for the weekend.”
A TIME TO LISTEN
Robby Kwok, vice president of people at Slack, once took a test to determine if he was an introvert or extrovert; he turned out to be an ambivert—right in the middle—which shapes his approach to Friday. “I actually find myself becoming more on the extrovert spectrum toward the end of the week—perhaps looking forward to the weekend.” So Kwok finds himself seeking out the company of others on Friday, whether it’s through conducting “walk-and-talk, one-on-one” meetings, or working remotely at a lively coffee shop.
Pfizer’s Susman says her more relaxed Friday schedule allows her more time to hear what her colleagues have to say. “I do think of Friday as listening time,” she says. “If I make space to listen on Fridays, I’m learning more.”
“You find out things,” she goes on. “Maybe a hallway conversation that you wouldn’t know about, or perhaps a conflict between colleagues where it’s actually better you know about it and address it, rather than swallowing it. I often say to people on Friday, ‘Is there anything I don’t know about that I should?’ And sometimes someone will say, ‘Well, I wasn’t going to bring this to your attention, but . . .’ ”
Broadly, Friday is a day for what Susman calls “unplugged dialogue.” She’ll often take a lunch meeting that day if only to get out of the building. “The answer to your question is really not in your inbox,” she says.
Susman also devotes part of Friday to writing thank-you notes—physical, handwritten thank-you notes. “I write a minimum of one, more likely four or five,” she says, opening a cabinet drawer brimming with stationery. “I’ll write them to someone on the team, someone who did something above and beyond. Or maybe to a friend outside the company who helped me with a work-related problem or challenge. I find by doing that, I can really process the week. I can see the good in the week.”
Susman spends up to an hour on this Friday ritual. “It’s a great way to put a capstone on the week,” she says. “And to realize that no matter how hard the week was, whatever disappointments it held or frustrations it brought, there are so many things to be grateful for.”
This story was created for and commissioned by Slack.