The Ultimate Strategy to Get Off Work Early on Fridays

June 11, 2015

TIME Magazine

Get out the door early everything single time

Summer Fridays are great — but we’re guessing that escape-at-lunchtime thing doesn’t always go as planned. Maybe you get bogged down in work and don’t leave until midafternoon (while telling yourself it still sort-of counts as a half day), or you throw caution to the wind and leave behind an unfinished pile of work that thinking about gives you pangs of anxiety by Sunday evening.

There’s a better way to have enjoy summer Fridays and get all your work done, too. Career experts and management pros say there are some simple steps you can take on Friday that will help you get out the door on time so you can enjoy those extra few hours of summertime, guilt-free.

Give co-workers a heads-up. Even if your employer offers summer Fridays, it’s likely that not everyone takes them, says Rose Ernst, national director of Genesis10’s G10 Associate Program. “Don’t assume people know,” she says. Laying the groundwork ahead of time by telling everyone when you’ll be leaving on Fridays will stop colleagues from stopping by your desk as you’re walking out the door with a question or problem they need you to deal with right away.

Use a to-do list. “Write things down and cross things off,” Michael B. Spring, associate professor of information science and telecommunications at the University of Pittsburgh. It doesn’t matter if you use your phone, a digital organization app or go old-school with a pen and notepad. “For to-dos, I still use index cards with a card for each major responsibility,” Spring says. “I write it down, see which card is most filled [and] cross it off when done.”

Get calls out of the way early. “ Make all telephone contacts or other interactions that could result in required follow-ups and commitments early on Friday morning so they can be completed before noon,” advises James Craft, professor of business administration at the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh. There’s nothing worse than looking at the clock, waiting for the phone to ring.

Say no to meetings. “Schedule no meetings on Friday morning,” Craft says. Be honest: How many times do meetings drag on longer than you expect? Throw in a little time to linger and chat, and you’ve suddenly burned a couple of hours you could have been using to get the rest of your work done.

Plan around your mental state. “By Fridays, many people have already ‘clocked out,’” says Joseph G. Gerard, assistant professor of management at Western New England University. “Save the work that fits best with your Friday mindset for Friday,” he suggests. If you need to brainstorm for a presentation but you’re mentally tapped out, find another time to get that creative thinking done. “If you’re drained of creativity, then spend your time processing work that doesn’t require your sharpest frame of mind,” Gerard says.

Save the best for last. “Save the most engaging or interesting tasks for Friday,” says Sherry Moss, a professor of organizational studies at Wake Forest University School of Business. The half-day won’t drag if you’re actively engaged, she says. “The work will be fun — and likely more productive — and when the project is complete, it will be time for the weekend.”

Don’t bother multitasking. “An array of neuroscience research show that the brain is designed for single-tasking,” says Bahman Paul Ebrahami, a professor of management at the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business. If you think you’ll be more productive doing three or four things at once, you’re just fooling yourself. “Pause the multitasking habit… and focus on what you have to get done now,” he says.

Stop yammering already. “Skip the water cooler talks,” Ernst says. Catching up on gossip or talking about your favorite TV show might be fun, but you’ll be kicking yourself as the afternoon ticks on if you’re still stuck at your desk.