Jobs can vary in any number of different ways (blue/white collar, factory/office, etc.), but I’d say one consistent is that Friday afternoon is usually dead. Maybe if you work at a bar or in a service industry job, this might be a bit different — but probably not before 5pm. At around 2pm, 3pm on a Friday afternoon, there just isn’t a lot going on. Again, it varies — but I think that argument is relatively sound. (Of course, we all have worked with the total gasbag who schedules some 90-minute deep dive on some major strategy for 3:30pm on a Friday. Every soul in that meeting is completely checked out.)

There is some logic to how to manage your time day-by-day in a job, but many people do not follow said logic. Instead, we tend to have workplaces where “busy” matters more than “productive.” We also tend to have workplaces where the quantity of work done matters more than the quality of it. In sum: most people aren’t very good users of their own time. We’ve been trying to “growth hack” this deal for years — maybe Big Data can help us! — and we’re still not exactly there yet. There’s a psychological element to all this, of course. People often look to work for self-worth and definition, and “having a lot on your plate” is certainly one way to provide that.

[Tweet “Want to set up your next week to hit the right goals? Focus on Friday afternoon.”]

But we’re all living in The Time Management Era now, so let’s get a little better at this. That’s where Friday afternoon comes in.

Friday afternoon and Laura Vanderkam 

I watched this Laura Vanderkam video recently:

(Here’s the link too.)

I don’t know her, although I know she’s famous in some of these circles. She makes mostly good points. Probably the best one was about the role of Friday afternoon.

What about Friday afternoon?

Well look. If we agree that:

  • No one should be calling meetings from about 1pm-5pm on a Friday afternoon, and …
  • … a lot of people are just clock-watching during that time too, but …
  • … you know Monday has a chance to be slammed, then …
  • … it would stand to reason that this is a good “get your next week in order” period

I ain’t no corporate target-basher. I mostly just freelance for different people. But this is how I roll. On Friday afternoon, I outline each day of the next week in Trello. I set up a bunch of automated sharing and emails. I try to figure out what days I want to go to the gym or do other things. By the end of Friday afternoon, then, I have a road map for Monday-Friday next week. Obviously stuff changes — “urgent client need,” etc. — but it’s usually a good way to map stuff out. Plus: since you can easily drag and drop cards from one day (list) to another in Trello, I can always move something from Wednesday to Monday or whatever.

But I do all this Friday afternoon. Because what else am I going to do? Client prospecting? Everyone will ignore those emails. Schedule meetings? You get people at their most checked-out. Start drinking at 2pm? Possible, but seems a bit much. So you use Friday afternoon to set the table. Then Monday morning is less of a tire fire.

Is this common?

For the best managers and co-workers I’ve ever seen, yes, this is common. This is what the best employees I’ve ever observed do. They set the table on Friday afternoon so that Monday morning, 9:11 am is a lot less painful.

What do some of the worst managers do? Take/schedule meetings on Friday afternoon. (Useless.) Surf the Internet and watch the clock. (Productive!) Tell everyone how slammed they are and how hard the week was. (Adorable.) Claim they’re “getting projects out the door” when, in fact, they’re buying stuff on Amazon. (The rise of ecommerce.) Leave early. (Family time!) They went to the bar. (Oh.)

There are a million and 19 distinctions you can make between a “bad manager” and a “good manager” — I’ve probably made most of them in the course of writing here — but honestly, how someone uses their Friday afternoon is a big one.

The Friday afternoon consultancy model

We love to deify the consultant work model and work ethic. Think about standard consulting gigs (many are different). A lot of times, it’s fly out Sunday, fly back Thursday. What do a lot of these people do on Friday afternoon? They maybe stop by their home office or generally sketch out the next week with the client, because they’re going back in 54 hours. It’s a planning (and some catch-up) time. If we love us some consultants, then that’s another reason to consider embracing this model.

What else would you say about the role of a Friday afternoon at work?

Ted Bauer

Originally from New York City, Ted Bauer currently lives in Fort Worth, Texas. He's a writer and editor for RecruitingDaily who focuses on leadership, management, HR, recruiting, marketing, and the future of work. His popular blog, The Context of Things, has a simple premise -- how to improve work. Ted has a Bachelors in Psychology from Georgetown and a Masters in Organizational Development from the University of Minnesota. In addition to various blogging and ghost-writing gigs, he's also worked for brands such as McKesson, PBS, ESPN, and more. You can follow Ted on Twitter @tedbauer2003, connect with him on LinkedIn, or reach him on email at [email protected]