Have you ever had one of those weeks with a constant stream of interruptions, back-to-back meetings, and an increasing workload? Or, have you felt so hectic that when Friday rolls around, you feel so bogged down in work that the joy of the weekend is shadowed by the sheer amount of work you must do?
Regardless of the work environment you’re in, you’ve probably experienced times of overwhelming workload. So how can you cope when priorities are weighing you down? Here are some tips for using Fridays to finish the week strong and cope with work overload.
1. Kill e-mail. A recent report in USA Today highlighted a phenomenon called “Zero E-mail Fridays.” At Intel over 150 engineers at the company recently committed to forego e-mail on Fridays and to opt for a phone call or face-to-face meeting if communication is needed. Other professionals are going a step further and deleting their entire inbox each Friday in order to have a clean slate when Monday rolls around.
2. Get an e-secretary. You may not be able to take things this far, depending on the type of work you do and whether or not you’ve followed up on important e-mails, but many prominent time-management gurus advise that at the least, workers should avoid staying logged in to e-mail throughout the day. If you can’t commit to this every day, start doing it on Friday. One way to do this is to treat the out of office e-mail function as a personal e-secretary. Simply type a message saying something along the lines of: “I’m in the office right now but not checking e-mail until 4 p.m. today. If you need to get in touch with me immediately, please call…” That way, you can commit to checking your e-mail only two or three times each day and have more time to focus on the tasks at hand as the week ends.
3. Purge the paper. If you are like most workers, you have a constant inflow of information, and not all of it is digital. In fact, research shows that the Internet has increased the amount of paper we use – 1 billion trees total or 735 pounds of paper per worker are consumed each year in the U.S. alone. But, studies show that when you’ve touched paper once, you will only look at 10% of it again. So, start throwing it away (or stop printing it out!). Don’t even waste your time filing, unless it’s something that’s necessary to have a hard copy back up of. Do you really need that memo about the new software training you’re signed up for? Probably not. Into the recycle bin with it. Making a goal of tossing 90% of the paper on your desk at the end of each week will help you cut down on the clutter and keep only the most important documents within reach.
4. Make time to plan. Try to carve out a chunk of time on Friday to plan for next week’s work. An hour is a good goal. This gives you time to review and update your to-do list, to rearrange priorities, to look at your calendar and to think strategically about how to approach your work. You’ll thank yourself when Monday rolls around and you can hit the ground running without a second thought.
5. Give yourself a break. Now that you’ve done the hard work, the planning, the organizing, and are set up for a great upcoming work week, it’s time to give yourself a break. That’s what days off are for, after all. So, after you leave the office for the week, turn off the Blackberry, forget about your to-do list, and find some time to unwind. Making time to enjoy life will help you feel balanced, increasing your focus and job satisfaction once you return to work for a productive week.
Instead of finishing the week on a tired, frazzled note, try using these tips to make Fridays your week’s best asset. What are your Friday tips? Let us know in the comments below.