Having a specific and intentional routine on Friday will set you up for a relaxing weekend and a successful following week.
Follow this 4-step process every Friday to maximize your productivity and peace of mind:
1. Block off your calendar for all of Friday afternoon
This means not scheduling any meetings or calls after 12 noon on Friday (trust me, your co-workers will thank you for this), and declining all invites unless they are absolutely critical (e.g. mandated by your boss).
With some open space on your calendar, now you will be able to close out the week on your own terms.
2. Spend 2+ hours working on unfinished top-priority tasks
If there are still any major outstanding items on your weekly to-do list—specifically ones that will cause anxiety and stress over the weekend—now is the time to tackle them.
Find a quiet place to work where you won’t be interrupted, and spend a couple of focused hours on these top-priority tasks, completing them or getting them into a good place before the weekend.
Once progress has been made against these big items, you can turn your attention to the little ones.
3. Spend 1 hour cleaning out your inbox
Scroll through your entire inbox for emails or calls that slipped through the cracks during the week.
If sending a response or giving a quick call back will only take a few minutes, do it right away.
Consider whether some of these items really need to be done at all. If they aren’t that important—and you will never actually get around to doing them anyway—just delete now and save yourself the stress of seeing them again.
Do make a note of any items that are important and require more time to complete, and will need to wait until the following week. It can alleviate pressure (and is a nice courtesy) to take a moment to quickly respond, saying you’ll get back to them with a more in-depth answer next week. This leads right into the next step.
4. Write out your to-do list for the following week
With a clear understanding of where things are being left off with all big and little items, you can now prioritize what you will do the following week (and equally as important, what you will not do).
It is critical to take time on Friday to write out your to-do list for the next week. Your top priorities will be much fresher than trying to do this on Sunday night or Monday morning.
This will also give you the peace of mind to know that your top priorities have been captured on paper, and will enable you to hit the ground running the next week.
Limit your weekly to-do list to no more than 3–5 essential items.
And that completes the fourth step of the routine.
* I know I said this was a 4-step process, but there is a bonus step that might be most important of all.
5. Leave the office early
At this point in the day, you have made progress against your major projects, cleared out as many minor-but-necessary items as possible, and set yourself up for a successful week ahead.
With a highly-productive Friday afternoon in the books, it’s time to get out of the office early.
Even leaving at 4 or 4:30pm will make your weekend feel significantly longer.
You deserve it!
This piece originally appeared on Medium.
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