…and how to avoid it.

I’m sure most of us, at one time or another, have had a very stressful Friday afternoon (or whichever day constitutes the beginning of your “weekend”) rushing around trying to get things done to clear things up for a relaxing few days off. I call this “Friday Afternoon Syndrome” or FAS.

And personally, I avoid this situation like the plague–whenever possible.

Unfortunately when you’ve got coworkers there are times when this isn’t possible. I’ve had many jobs where, usually due to poor planning, I’d be asked to accomplish some task just before I’m getting ready to walk out the door (if I’m lucky) on a Friday eve. In most cases, I’m pretty sure these last minute tasks would be better left until Monday. I know I don’t do my best work rushed, stressed, distracted (thinking about my weekend) and frustrated at the person (even if it’s me) who put me in that situation. Let’s face it, for many of us, for many reasons, Fridays are naturally a bit problematic when it comes to getting things done.

So, I did some thinking and reflecting on some things that have worked for me in the past and I’ve got a few suggestions for a more productive and less stressed Friday. Oh, and a better weekend too!

h3. Plan Better

I think the best way to avoid FAS is to plan better. Simply try and plan well enough so that you, and your coworkers. have enough time to get their weekly tasks done. I know, it’s easier said than done, but it’s something to think about and strive for. If you notice you, or your coworkers, are always rushing on Fridays, or working late, you might take that as a red flag.

h3. Avoid Friday Deadlines

It seems natural to want to put deadlines toward the end of the week. It gives you the illusion that you’ve got more time. In my experience Friday deadlines equals a stressed weekend. I try to put most of my personal deadlines toward the middle of the week. This is when I’m at my most productive and when I don’t mind having to put a little extra effort into getting something done.

As well, if my deadline is Wednesday and I miss it, I’ve got a few days to sort it out before it cuts into my weekend.

h3. Avoid Friday Afternoon Meetings

A technique that I’ve heard (from a little birdy) helps is to plan the next week’s work on Friday afternoon. This not only helps ensure you’ve planned the upcoming week well, you give everyone a chance to decompress and not have to worry about getting out the door as you’re busy planning for next week.

I’ve personally never done it, but my guess if done right, it could be more efficient and more effective than the typical Monday morning meetings I’ve been (yawn) a part of at almost every job I’ve ever had. So, that’s not saying much, and in general I find Friday afternoon work meetings problematic.

I think meetings on Friday can be good if they’re early enough in the day. I find that as Friday wears on it gets harder and harder to focus and we all know that it can be hard to get up for any meeting, let alone a meeting when you are thinking about hitting the road or grabbing a beer or taking care of some personal tasks. An alternative to regular Friday afternoon meetings would be voluntary team building type stuff, like a beer after work or an ice cream social.

h3. Leave Early

At my current job, where FAS is rarely a problem, they’ve got us leaving at 4 instead of 5. I think this helps quite a bit. You know, all week long, that you’ve got one less hour to work with on Friday. This helps (me anyway) to make sure you’ve got things buttoned up on Thursday. It’s also a nice moral booster to know you’ve got one extra hour added to your weekend.

It helps with that ever important work/life balance. I mean, a busy 40 hour work week doesn’t necessarily mean you’re more productive.

12 Comments on Friday Afternoon Syndrome (FAS)

  1. Michael says:

    We established in our group the rule of “good news friday”.
    If however possible, all bad news is to delayed till Monday.
    All good news is widely communicated and cheered. If there is any “bad” news which HAS to be dealt with on Friday, we try to give it a positive spin to hilite whatever positive side it might have (release update 1.1 failed? : Users will be able to work with the stable version 1.0 over the weekend and we will have less support calls) etc.
    As everybody in the team makes an effort to keep the “good news friday”, everybody goes into the weekend more relaxed and is better equipped to deal with everything on Monday.
    Everybody loves this rule and it really works.

  2. Keith says:

    Michael — “Good news Friday?!?” I love it. I had a friend who got called into a re-org meeting last Friday at 3:30 PM. Not really bad news, but stressful. Not a very good way to keep morale going, call that kind of meeting (any meeting really) just before people are ready to head out for a holiday weekend.

  3. Brian says:

    It amazes me how many companies could boost moral and loyalty by doing simple things like leave a 4 on Friday. I have a friend who works at a place that has 1/2 day Fridays all summer. What does leaving an hour early cost the company … nothing, everyone shut down at lunch anyway. By giving it you gain far more from your employees.

    I know I could probably get all my work done in a 35 hour or less work week, I think most could with proper planning. Ever have to leave a few hours early for a doctor appointment? I bet most of your work is done for the day before you leave, probably in 6 hours.

  4. James Archer says:

    I love “Good News Friday.” As soon as Forty Media gets big enough to start hiring full-timers, I’m going to make this a mandatory policy.

    On a somewhat related note, I have a “never launch on Friday” rule for my clients. No matter how finished we think the site is, I always wait until Monday to launch, so I don’t have to spend Friday afternoon (and sometimes the weekend) fixing everything that goes wrong after launch.

  5. VERiON says:

    I love the rule: “make sure you’ve got things buttoned up on Thursday”. We’re talking about job activities here, but try to extend this rule on your personal life duties. If you can do that – it’s a whole new world out there.
    Imagine: no more giant-home-supply-shopping, cleaning-the-whole-house… and other huge weekend-consuming activities. It is hard to do, but if you sucseed – you can have totally-free-weekend.

  6. John Hritz says:

    I’ve been doing the leave early on Friday for a few years now. There a book called “Turn It Off” by Gil Gordon that talks about on-duty, off-duty, mid-duty time. With this and having worked at an options trading firm and a newspaper, I started creating arcs of productivity at the day, week and intra-holiday/vacation level to reduce the stress leading up to time off. As you mentioned, I block out two hours for my Getting-Things-Done weekly review at 2:30 or 3:00 on Friday afternoon. This avoids most Friday afternoon meetings and closes the last few loops so I don’t have to think about work until Monday.

  7. Jeremy Flint says:

    A good round or two of foosball on Friday helps things quite a bit as well.

  8. JLP says:

    My wife works what is called a 9/80 schedule, which means she works 80 hours in 9 days and gets the 10th day off. Since I am self-employed, I usually take that day off with her. We really enjoy that.



  9. Harmony says:

    Very interesting. Wish I could leave an hour earlier on Friday, that would be nice :) FAS is also (thankfully!) a rare occurence where I work, but even on the days it’s busy I usually manage to avoid by working hard on Friday morning to get at least my big deadlines out of the way so I can enjoy my weekend properly, otherwise by nature I stress about it. And also by refusing to do overtime unless it’s absolutely necessary and I know it’s not a result of management negligence or someone else being slack.

  10. Linda says:

    I think Adam needs a “Good News M-F”

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  12. Brad says:

    I have been doing early Fridays since 2001. Friday afternoons are usually to get errands done so I can kick back the rest of the weekend.

    Friday late afternoon is my time to get together with a bunch of people and we watch Japanese Anime.

    There are a few times when management has called 3pm Friday afternoon meetings, usually the “All Hands” variety. I have ignored those and have gotten in trouble for it. Most of the management structure are former IBM people and its associated culture of “Live to Work”.

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