You work an office job and want to get out at a reasonable time on Friday. Start right now. Four o’clock is your cut off time.
Today is your chance to end this week strong. End with the beginning in mind. How you finish Friday is how you finish this week. The end of today determines your outlook on Monday morning. Think about that. But more importantly, let’s try it.
During my corporate stint, Friday was the perfect day to start thinking about Monday. As I finished things up each week, how I left the office made a difference. If I had my head held high, proud of the week, excited for the next, then Monday morning was fresh. I would be back the next week feeling positive about things. My energy and mood were better. I was more willing to get started.
If I left on Friday with my tail between my legs, allowing myself to feel like a failure, Monday morning would be slosh. As a matter of fact, the whole weekend would suck too. And since a lot of days ended like this, a lot of days began the same way. No matter how much work I did, and how well I did it, things would come up that I would allow to ruin my day.
So found resources in leaders like Tim Ferriss and Dave Stachoviak. I started to put a ton of energy into making those last hours of the last day a positive time. It did the charm. Leaving on a fresh note brought me in the next week on a fresh note. Toward the end of my short career, I was coming to work pretty pumped each day. But I had to engineer that.
Choose a definite end time to wrap things up. If I wanted to be out the door by six, I had to stop taking on new tasks by four. Interviews, meetings, data collection, those things seemed benign and even exciting when thrown at me last minute. But then I would find myself at the end of it, hours past when I wanted to leave, tired, and feeling like I had been abused. That was my fault.
If you report to someone, check with them a few hours before you’re going to leave. Let them know you’re figuring out what needs to be finished for the week, that you’ve taken care of most of it, and you want to know if there’s anything last minute. Perfect. Now your boss has a final chance to throw anything at you. With plenty of time for you to finish and leave on time.
For everything that’s in your control, figure out what you want to finish and what you’re going to pick up next week. You need to determine the end for yourself.
Meetings come in all shapes and sizes. Even random drop ins by people took up my time and pushed other things back. So it was important for me to let people know that I could not meet with them after a certain cut off point. I would let my boss know what I was doing and then either:
- Request that the interrupter find and implement a solution
- Say I was busy and ask for another appointment
- Deal with emergencies if I could in a short amount of time
- Keep my door closed
- or Ask for an email summary for non emergencies
The key is to stop intruders at the door. Do not invite them in with friendly greetings or hesitations. Keep them at the door and you have a much higher chance of preventing prolonged, unnecessary talks or task assignments. I’m talking about your boss, too. Keep it delicate and polite, but assertive, and even your boss will learn to respect your boundaries.
At my cutoff point for the day, I completely ignored emails. You will think that’s not possible. Believe me, it is possible. And you won’t get fired. If someone has something so urgent that you will get fired over it, or they will, and they don’t get an immediate response, then they will call you. Or show up at your door. I did this for over a year and ended up with far fewer email crises, better face-to-face interactions, and fewer needless interactions.
Where I worked, a phone call was usually more urgent than an email. I also engineered that situation to be so. At my cutoff point for the day, I did pick up phone calls. And my immediate greeting was curt:
“Hi, Steve, it’s so and so. How are you?”
“I’m actually in the middle of something, what can I help you with?”
“Oh, then never mind, it can wait.”
“If you send me an email, I can respond Monday.”
“Oh, I need something today. Can you help me with so and so?”
(Non-urgent or can be delegated) “You know what, I’m pretty tied up right now. Can we ask so and so to help with that?”
More often than not, the person would wait to bring it up again the next week. In short time, I got fewer and fewer last minute requests. Either people stopped because they no longer saw me as the jackpot of last minute work, or they learned themselves to not have last minute work to do on Friday.
Every once in a long while, there really was an emergency. And I did have to stay later than expected to take care of it. But these instances became further and fewer between when I stuck to these principles.
Engineer the workweek you want to have. End Friday with a bang. Start Monday with a bang. And enjoy the weekends between.
P.S., it’s the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. Get out there and enjoy the outdoors this weekend!
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