Routines help us move efficiently from one area of life to another. The end of a workweek is a transition that can leave us stressed and overwhelmed, and handling it poorly can make for a really unpleasant start to the next workweek.
Here’s an effective routine you can customize and use to wrap up work for a relaxing weekend and a great start to the next week.
1. Start the routine at lunch time on Friday with one very important question.
Here’s the question: What will I feel GREAT about getting done before the weekend?
Your answer should be only one or two items, not a whole bucket list full. You only have an afternoon left, but if you focus, you can get through some good work before it’s quitting time.
To help yourself do so, though, limit your work socializing on Friday. Everybody wants to move into weekend-mode, and that’s understandable; but it’s much better to stay focused at work for a few hours than to fritter the afternoon away on unproductive shuffling. You’ll still be at work, anyway; you might as well get some stuff done and enter the weekend feeling great about what you’ve accomplished.
2. Work hard on the answer to that question for the next few hours.
Stay as focused as you can and avoid distractions as much as possible. Remind yourself that you are prepping for a great weekend, and you’re going to enjoy it. You’ll enjoy it even more by focusing and using your hours at work well.
3. About an hour before quitting time, wrap up the task you’ve been working on.
Wherever you are on that task, find a stopping point, even if the task or project you’re working to accomplish is not yet complete.
Many, many tasks and projects are going to span multiple days and even weeks of work. What you should do right now is note the progress you’ve made on this particular task and any ideas or bits of info you’ll want when it’s time to start working on it again.
If you have finished up the task you assigned yourself for the afternoon, great! Wrap up the bits and pieces: papers, open files, and other related items. Don’t leave evidence strewn about or a mess to pick up on Monday.
4. Once you’ve wrapped up your task, update your task list.
Clear or mark off all the tasks you’ve accomplished in the workweek.
Delete any tasks that are no longer relevant; no point in allowing them to take up space on your list.
Delegate any tasks that don’t belong to you, or make a note to do so on Monday.
Move, migrate, or re-assign tasks that still need to be done, depending on how your task management system works.
5. Take a look at your calendar.
Once you’ve update your task list, you need to take five minutes to look at your calendar for the weekend and upcoming workweek.
The first purpose is just to get a quick overview of what’s coming up for you.
The second purpose is to notice anything big looming on Monday or Tuesday that you want to be prepared to handle. There’s nothing more unpleasant than coming in Monday morning only to be surprised by that report that’s due by Monday afternoon, or the big meeting you forgot about.
If you must, assign yourself one or two tasks to do over the weekend to prepare for your Monday events and workload. Clarify exactly what you need to do, and think about what weekend time you can use for those tasks; put it on your weekend calendar, and don’t worry about it until you get to the assigned time. Then focus, get through the tasks, and then get back to enjoying your weekend.
6. Give yourself notes and reminders for starting the next week.
When you’re in the middle of a project, everything is present and fresh. It doesn’t seem like you could forget the ideas and information coursing through your brain when you’re in the midst of the work.
But weekends come and new information and ideas take up that brain space. Part of why Monday is so difficult is that our brains are working to rewire themselves back to the “work-related” bits of information that are still hanging out in there but not as accessible because they’re buried by all the “weekend-related” stuff.
Do yourself a favor and leave yourself a breadcrumb trail to follow when you get back to work.
- For open projects: leave notes of some kind (physical or digital, whichever works best for the project) regarding the task you were doing, your thoughts on it, where you want to pick up, what you were thinking.
- For calendar items and events: leave information, ideas, reminders, and event details entered into the calendar item so you don’t have to go hunting for them. Set reminders before the calendar event to give yourself a heads up with enough time to do any preparation needed.
7. Wrap up any open communication.
Check your inbox for emails that need to be answered, and answer them quickly. If you need to take time to form your reply, start a response with your initial thoughts, save it as a draft, and mark it in your inbox as a priority so you don’t forget it next week.
Respond to other modes of communication – phone calls, texts, social media messages, and the like – as appropriate.
8. Back up your files and computer.
Run an back-up program to make sure your week’s work is saved and will be waiting for you when you come back on Monday.
9. Straighten up your physical space.
Throw away waste paper. Put your supplies and pens back in the drawer. Stack up books. File away papers.
Don’t leave yourself a mess. You don’t have to create a haven of perfection, but you can create order.
Your brain will thank you later.
10. Decompress as you move to the weekend.
Transitions are difficult, and routines help with that. Make a decompressing activity the last part of your routine. Exercise is probably the best method; even something as simple as a walk around the block or a set of jumping jacks can help you shake off the work and get energized for the weekend.
- Listen to music on your commute home.
- Spend 10 minutes meditating.
- Go for a quick bicycle or car ride (if you work from home, you might need to give yourself a “commute” so you have some transition time).
- Turn the music up and dance!
- Lay down for a 15-minute power nap.
Now you’re ready for the weekend. You can relax and enjoy your time, knowing that you’ve left things in order and set yourself up for a great week when you get back to work.
Featured photo credit: Jackal1 via flickr.com