How a ‘Focus Friday’ could transform your work week

How a ‘Focus Friday’ could transform your work week

TGIF, am I right? Time to unwind, blow off some steam, and bid farewell to another long week.

As the weekend approaches, many of us start to wind down the intensity of our work, with productivity appearing to dip towards the end of the week.

But what if I told you that Fridays are the perfect time for reflection and ticking off tasks you’ve been putting off? Would you roll your eyes or dismiss the idea as sacrilegious to your precious relaxation time? Fair enough, but the benefits of a Friday productivity burst might change your mind.

The idea of a ‘Focus Friday’ has become popular among tech companies like Google and claims to help make you more productive, less stressed, and better able to switch off and fully enjoy your weekend.

What is a Focus Friday?

During a Focus Friday, you reflect on the prior seven days, noting your successes and lessons, and tend to any tasks you’ve been avoiding.

Ideally, Focus Fridays also eliminate distractions, including one of the biggest culprits: non-essential meetings. Some companies implement a meeting ban during Focus Fridays to free up employee time and mental energy for ‘deep work’ at the end of the week.

While Fridays can feel like a write-off for getting things done, pushing niggling tasks to the following week could do more harm than good. Knowing that you have looming deadlines and important emails to send can play on your mind when trying to relax or creep into your subconscious as you drift off to sleep.

Finishing the week strong could boost your efficiency and output quality and foster stronger work-life balance. Focus Fridays pave the way for a more balanced and productive work environment, ensuring you end the week on a high note.

Focus Fridays can also help you practice setting boundaries, which can be especially difficult when you’re passionate about your job. But, doing so will only benefit you and the organisation in the long run, protecting you from burnout and keeping your relationship with work sustainable and healthy.

How to make the most of Focus Fridays

Despite the catchy name, there is no need for you to follow this protocol to the letter to benefit from a Focus Friday.

The most important thing is to make this productivity practice work for you, your needs, goals, and schedule.

Here’s how you can make the most of Focus Fridays:

Focus on the intention, not the semantics

Keep an open mind with how you approach a Focus Friday, and remember that nothing is set in stone.

Don’t work Fridays? No worries. ‘Thoroughness Thursdays’ or ‘Tunnel-Vision Tuesdays’ work just as well.

Focus Fridays are more about being intentional with your working style than the minute details of how you structure them. If you can’t set aside an entire day for high-quality work and planning, an afternoon or even a block of a few hours will do.

Some research indicates that people are hardwired to work most effectively in short, sharp bursts of hyper-focussed concentration, followed by a short break.

Take the broader objective of a Focus Friday and adapt it to work for you so it doesn’t become another lofty productivity goal or life hack that fails to deliver results.

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Share your plans with colleagues and friends

Announcing your intention to dedicate time to intense productivity serves several purposes. First, it holds you accountable and may help you stick to your plans. Second, it lets everyone know you don’t want to be disturbed unless necessary.

This goes for colleagues who may be accustomed to stopping at your desk for a chat, your supervisor who sends you impromptu catch-up requests, or friends you may check in with on social media during breaks.

Announcing that you are deep-diving into work mode and won’t resurface until a predetermined time helps you make the most of this practice. It will also mean you aren’t pausing throughout the day to explain why you are less talkative than usual, allowing you to plough through your to-do list.

Tackle one task at a time

With everyone so short on time and energy, multitasking has become increasingly normalised in most work environments. While switching between tasks repeatedly throughout the day may feel productive, it’s probably less effective than you think.

Multitasking gives us the psychological satisfaction of feeling like we are getting through more work due to the constant variation of task-switching. If asked what we worked on today, giving a long list of projects can feel more validating or impressive.

Unfortunately, research consistently highlights the drawbacks of multitasking, particularly for complex tasks. Psychologists have found that the human brain is ill-equipped for heavy multitasking, leading to mental overload and decreased productivity by about 40 per cent.

The experiment found that speed and accuracy are worse when people switch between tasks than when doing one thing at a time.

Get the most out of your Focus Friday by planning your time with work blocks where you work intently on one task and watch your work efficiency and effectiveness skyrocket. If it’s feasible for you, turn off your email notifications and set your phone to do-not-disturb to avoid the temptation to switch between work and communicating with friends and colleagues.

Set realistic expectations

It’s great to set ambitious goals, particularly on a day dedicated to maximising your output and efficiency.

However, ensure you don’t set yourself up for disappointment by being realistic about how much you can get done.

Assess your to-do list and be honest about each item’s complexity and time required. The idea of Focus Fridays is to end the day or week feeling empowered and energised, not flustered or deflated.

Manage your expectations and what others expect from you, and don’t be surprised if it takes a bit of trial and error to find what is reasonable to achieve in your deep work stints.

Take time out to recharge

Highly focussed work takes a severe toll on your cognitive energy. Depending on the nature of your work, it can also mean being sedentary for long periods.

Schedule breaks to stand up, stretch, grab coffee, water, or a snack to prevent burning out mentally or ending up with aches and pains from poor posture or prolonged sitting.

Taking a short walk between focused work stints can also be a great recharge. Walking promotes increased blood flow throughout the body, including the brain. Walks can improve alertness, creative thinking, and concentration and keep you physically healthy.

Nothing derails your longer-term work goals like getting sick, so give yourself breaks to tend to your body’s needs, even when hyper-focused on your professional achievements.

Maintain balance of ambition and patience

When experimenting with Focus Fridays, it’s essential to maintain a balance of ambition and patience.

This practice is about optimising your productivity gradually over time, starting by identifying and blocking out dedicated time for your most pressing tasks while remembering to remain flexible and adaptable.

Any change to routine involves an adjustment period. Don’t be discouraged by occasional hiccups; they’re part of the learning curve. Over time, as you fine-tune your Focus Friday strategy, you may unlock newfound efficiency and work-life balance.

Embrace the journey, stay persistent, and remember that your best effort and a dash of patience will lead you to the rewarding destination of heightened productivity and a more fulfilling work experience.

Emma Lennon

Emma Lennon

Emma Lennon is a passionate writer, editor and community development professional. With over ten years’ experience in the disability, health and advocacy sectors, Emma is dedicated to creating work that highlights important social issues.