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We all often face the same problem: The workweek drags by at a glacial pace, while the weekend speeds past us before we even realize what’s happening.
Mathematically, of course, it all makes sense. But what if you could change that? What if you could use your time so efficiently that you had all of your important to-dos wrapped up by Thursday?
Even if you can’t actually pack up, leave the office, and take every Friday off (we wish, right?), wouldn’t it be nice to know that you have that whole “bonus” day to stop putting out fires and instead get a jumpstart on next week—or even use that day to tackle those bigger ambitions that have been permanently parked in your backseat?
I know, it sounds impossible. But, skepticism aside, it’s totally doable if you use your time effectively. In fact, numerous companies have actually begun instituting flexible or four-day workweeks for their employees.
So how do these people manage to pull this off? It’s not as tough as you think.
1. They Schedule Intentionally
You’re aiming to view Friday as the extra day tacked onto the end of your workweek—a day when all of your weekly tasks are finished and you can finally have a clear head and a somewhat empty plate.
This means you’ll want to avoid scheduling meetings, phone calls, and other important get-togethers on that day (unless it’s just a casual coffee get-together with a networking contact). Instead, you want Friday to provide a large chunk of totally uninterrupted time that you can use however you’d like.
Dustin Moskovitz, cofounder and CEO of Asana, swears by this no-meeting structure—although he implements it on Wednesdays for his team. “With very few exceptions, everyone’s calendar is completely clear at least one day out of the week, whether you are a maker or manager,” he says in an article for Inc. “This is an invaluable tool for ensuring you have some contiguous space to do project work.”
This intentional scheduling applies throughout your entire workweek. In order to set yourself up for an empty Friday, you’ll also need to keep a close eye on your schedule during the other days as well.
No, you don’t always have complete control over your calendar. However, it’s important that you frequently check through your schedule to see how your week is shaping up. If you think you have far too many commitments and not enough time to actually work, you’ll need to see what you can move around or back out of.
2. They Focus on Priorities
You start your week with the best intentions and a laundry list of things you’re going to tackle in the office. But when Friday rolls around, you’re shocked to realize that you barely accomplished any of them. You were too caught up in the emergencies that cropped up.
As Stephen R. Covey, the successful businessman and author, said, “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent, and not enough time on what is important.”
People who get everything wrapped up before Friday know the value of effective prioritization, and many of them use the time management matrix developed by Covey in order to take a step back and readjust their focus on the things that are critical, rather than time pressing.
There’s often a big difference between how you’re actually spending your time and how you should be spending your time. And if you want to have Friday reserved as free space, you’re going to need to constantly evaluate your priorities and ensure that you’re channeling your energy into the right things.
3. They Tune Out Distractions
Of course, you’re going to need to maximize every single minute of the days you actually do have. And that means minimizing distractions as much as possible.
If you can’t focus at your desk with the office chatter and phone calls happening around you, try to find a quiet spot (or, if you’re desperate, some noise-canceling headphones) so that you can get into a groove and zone in on whatever you’re working on.
Another distraction you’ll want to keep at bay? Emails. So close out that browser tab and resist the siren song of your inbox. You can even take a cue from Tommy John’s CEO, Tom Patterson, and set an out-of-office message that lets everybody know you’re only reading your emails at a certain time. That way, you won’t feel as tempted to keep checking in on your inbox.
4. They Find Shortcuts
You might hear the word “shortcut” and assume that means shoddy work. But that’s not what this strategy is about at all.
Successful people are always concerned with producing top-notch results—however, they also find little ways to save time in the process. So, take a page from their book and have a good, hard look at your routine. Are there places where you’re spending a lot of unnecessary time?
Perhaps it’s a document you’re repeatedly drafting. Create a template so you always have the barebones in place. Is it an email you’re always sending? Save a canned response so you don’t have to draft the same message over and over again. Is there a menial task you need to complete daily or weekly? See if there’s a way you can automate it.
These changes seem small. But, if you managed to save yourself 15 minutes each day between Monday and Thursday, that’d be an entire hour by the time Friday rolls around. See? It all adds up.
Cutting a day out of your week might seem like a sure-fire way to get far less done. However, that’s not always the case. In fact, four-day workweeks have been proven to offer plenty of benefits—including increased productivity, higher levels of engagement, and happier employees.
Studies also show that longer hours don’t always equal more tasks being accomplished. After a certain point, we check out, and our productivity either flatlines or takes a total nosedive.
So even if your office won’t officially implement a compressed week, you can still roll up your sleeves, make the most of Monday through Thursday, and reserve Friday as a more low-key day when you can tackle bigger projects or set yourself up for success next week. After all, there’s no better way to head into the weekend.
This article originally appeared on The Daily Muse and is reprinted with permission.