Defying the Norm: Make Friday your Most Productive Day

Katie Corbett holds the book "I Know How She Does It."

By Katie Corbett

Friday. It’s the workday that signals, for many, the start of the weekend, a day to celebrate, a time to let loose and relax. It comes as no surprise, then, that it is the least productive day of the workweek. I wanted to change that for myself, since, for me anyway, there’s no worse feeling than getting done with work and realizing I didn’t accomplish anything. Goal-oriented much? I know, but bear with me.

In Laura Vanderkam’s book, “I Know How She Does It,” there are several tips suggested to improve productivity. I have taken her suggestions and modified them so they fit my productivity needs. These ideas helped me ensure Friday was a day of the week when I definitely got work done.

1. Set Deadlines for Friday: In my work as a writer, I need to submit articles, content plans and fundraising copy to my manager. Setting my deadlines for Fridays gives me time to get everything done on a day when I’m less likely to get interrupted or have meetings.
2. Plan Weekly Goals on Friday: Laura Vanderkam stresses that to move forward, it is a good idea to plan goals in three areas of life—career, relationships, and self. When I worked at a company with fewer deadlines or where I didn’t have as much control over my schedule, I found it helpful to plan my personal, career and relationship goals on Friday afternoons. This meant I was spending otherwise unproductive time moving my life forward.
3. Work Fewer Hours Each Week: I currently work 25 hours per week at my writing job. That’s typically 5 hours per day, 5 days per week. This means I have 25 hours to get everything done, and that I have to use all of that time efficiently and effectively. Working this schedule requires me to focus and accomplish tasks every day, even on Fridays.
4. Start and Stop Work at The Same Time Each Day: While there are occasionally days when I need to stay late, I typically start work at 9 a.m. and am done by 2:30 p.m. each workday. This spreads out the work among all 5 workdays of each week. It also means I don’t have the luxury of staying late to get last-minute projects finished
5. Be Intentional About How to Spend Time and Energy: In the mornings, I’m much fresher and my mind is ready for intense work, such as writing articles. In the afternoons, I’m in a more relaxed mental state, so making edits to documents, conducting interviews, and meeting with others to brainstorm for upcoming projects is a better use of my time. Following this pattern every day of the workweek makes Fridays just as productive as the earlier weekdays.

In what area can you defy the norm? How can you incorporate better use of your time and energy? If you have a trick that is working for you, feel free to leave a comment so others can benefit.

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Moving Forward: Planning Goals Each Week

Katie Corbett holds the book "I Know How She Does It."

By Katie Corbett

When going through life day-to-day, it can be hard to see the ways in which we have moved forward. Progression, however, is a criterion necessary for satisfaction. Otherwise, how will we know we are heading in the direction we want to go? How will we be confident we are taking solid, concrete steps to get us there?

I first found a strategy for addressing forward momentum in Laura Vanderkam’s Ted Talk, and she mentions it in her book “I Know How She Does It,” as well. She says to develop 3 goals in each of 3 areas of life: career, relationships and self. Do this at around the same time each week. Laura suggests Friday afternoons, since Friday afternoons are the least productive time of the workweek. I have found this strategy very helpful in moving forward in these important areas of life, though I found that planning on Sunday afternoon or evening works better for me, since sometimes I set goals for events or items I have planned for that weekend. I write my goals on my phone, since I always have it with me. This makes it easier to review my goals throughout the week.

One of the many benefits I have gained from this practice is pushing myself to do things that scare me, but are necessary to making progress. As an example, I needed to order materials for the product I’m developing. This involved calling a fabric retailer in Chicago, which seemed intimidating at the time. Because I had it on my goals list, however, I talked myself into making the call.

Now, I’m not perfect, and there are weeks I don’t accomplish everything on my list. If it comes time to set next week’s goals and I realize there is a goal I did not achieve, I ask myself if the goal is still something I want to accomplish and, if so, add it to the list for the next week.

Another thing I will mention is the importance of setting goals that don’t depend on the actions of others to accomplish. Instead of writing “Have conversation with my sister,” I would write, “Send a text message to my sister.” That way, all I have to do is send the text. If she doesn’t reply, or says she is too busy for a chat, I will still have met my goal because I reached out to her.

Just as an example, my goals for this week are:

• Career: (1) Meet with friend to brainstorm ways to reach employees of a certain company who might benefit from career coaching; (2) Take the minutes for the staff meeting at work; (3) Contact paralegal for product development paperwork status.
• Relationships: (1) Praise hubby for 10 things he does well; (2) Go to networking event on Thursday; (3) Go to girls’ night on Tuesday.
• Self: (1) Read at least 1 fiction book; (2) Give dog her medicine Saturday night; (3) Call for information about conference discount.

What goals will you set this week for your career, relationships and self? When will you write them down? Where will you write them down? Do they rely on the actions of others to achieve, or is their accomplishment solely dependent on you? Have fun with this activity. If done consistently, you will start to see yourself intentionally making progress toward living the life you want.

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Achieving Balance: Make the Most of the Time you Have

Katie Corbett holds the book "I Know How She Does It."

By Katie Corbett

No person wants to feel like one area of their life is dominating over all others. I first had this experience when I was working a data entry job fresh out of college. I went from primarily spending my time how I liked to being at the same location for nine hours a day, five days per week, doing work I didn’t enjoy. This period of my life forced me to manage my time better during off-hours.

I didn’t read time management expert Laura Vanderkam’s book, “I Know How She Does It,” until a couple years after leaving that first job, but she makes many points I have found to be true and have made more of an effort to apply to my life. She first points out that every week consists of 168 hours, so there is a lot of time not spent at work. I spent 45 hours at the office and 7 hours sleeping per night, resulting in about 49 hours of sleep. That meant I had 74 hours free the rest of the week. Making the most of that time is the best way to fit everything in to live a full life.

One way I made the most of my off-hours was to take charge of my commute. Since I’m blind and cannot drive, I either hired a driver or took public transportation to work. I found that taking the bus was ideal, since I could listen to audiobooks on my daily commute. Taking the bus also meant I needed to leave at the same time every morning, so I had to head out the door and be ready bright and early. As a result, I made a point to plan what I was going to wear and have for lunch the night before. Taking the bus also involved a walk from my home to the bus stop, and another walk from the bus stop to work. This brisk exercise, repeated for my commute home after work, was a great way to get outside and move, even just for a few minutes each day.

What area could you take charge of each day to make yourself more productive? In what ways could you make the most of your time when not at work? Share any suggestions in the comments. I look forward to reading them!

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