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Chapter 17 - Don't do work on Fridays

Introduce 'Mighty Fridays' with regular reviews and focus on personal development.

Work-life balance is not a state, it’s an act of balancing

As I mentioned in the previous chapters of this book, working in a #NoOffice company is different and pretty unorthodox because the world is changing. The Internet together with the powerful computers in our pockets are accelerating this change. That’s why we constantly need to experiment with the way we work to make sure it’s sustainable in the long term.

We need to be performing a work-life balancing act. And to be able to stay sane, we can’t just keep doing same old, same old. Otherwise we’ll burn out.

Three important questions that changed my workweek

Inspired by many companies and my own experience running my small business for almost a decade by then, back in 2016 I introduced a new policy at Nozbe which I called “TGIF - Thank Goodness It’s Friday”.1

I introduced it to answer these three questions:

Question 1: How can people work less, but better?

Before I explain our Friday’s policy, let’s dive into this question. Many studies have shown that overwork leads to burnout. Should we start working less, but better?

The fact of the matter is that many companies have tried and mostly failed at changing the traditional 40-hour workweek:

  • Google was famous for their 20% time for personal projects, which they even mentioned in their 2004 IPO, but by 2012 this policy was as good as dead as their engineers were “worried about their performance reviews if they spend 80% of their time on their teams’ main business rather than 100%.”2
  • A fellow Internet entrepreneur Ryan Carson of Treehouse famously praised 32-hour workweeks with Fridays completely off in 2015… only to start overworking himself to 65-hour workweeks a year later due to “lack of worth ethic (in me) that was fundamentally detrimental to the business and to our mission”3
  • Marissa Meyer, ex-CEO of Yahoo, was the anti-example for all remote workers by brining everyone working from home in Yahoo back to the office and showing off her workaholic 130-hour workweeks4.

Despite these missteps I still entertained the idea of working less. But the CEO part of me didn’t like the fact of giving my team more free time with nothing in exchange. As mentioned in Chapter 15, we already had flexible working hours, but I felt it wasn’t enough.

What to do then? How to make people work less, but better? Is it even possible?

Question 2: How to help people learn more?

Our company is in the technology industry. Due to the nature of our software and our mission, we’re a productivity company. Both of these worlds are changing rapidly now. It’s hard to keep up!

In our world, if you’re not moving forward, you’re standing still, which effectively means you’re going backwards. That’s why we’re particularly focused on personal development. On learning new things. On trying new stuff. On taking the time to read articles, listen to audiobooks and podcasts, watch or attend conferences. How can we find time to do that when there’s so much to do?

Many companies claim to value personal development but these are just empty words. Just saying this doesn’t make it so. They simply assume people will learn in the meantime or after hours.

If people are to choose between learning new things and getting day-to-day job done, the latter always wins. Hands down. But is it good in the long run? Should we just keep doing what we’re doing and leave personal development for later?

Nope. Personal development should be a regular thing. Like regular exercise. I should know, I’m a triathlete. I need to make time to swim, bike and run.

How to make time for personal development in a company? How to help people learn more?

Question 3: How to encourage regular weekly reviews?

In the previous chapter we discussed the idea of a weekly review and I argued that it’s really important to look back at one’s past week and plan the next one. I find this single habit so important that I wanted to make sure everyone on my team was regularly succeeding at doing it.

And in the past we weren’t very consistent with this. As mentioned in Chapter 6, we don’t use emails internally but we communicate through tasks. I remember doing my weekly review and going through our shared projects in Nozbe and seeing lots of old tasks, completely outdated and never taken care of or just simply irrelevant.

Then in downed on me why even people on my team were not doing a proper weekly review anymore. We were all too busy in the whirlwind of day-to-day stuff that we didn’t have the time to review our things. And we are supposed to be a productivity company!

I knew this situation was not sustainable. For our sanity. For our focus. For our success.

We needed to be doing a proper weekly review. ALL OF US. But how do you encourage people to take time to really do it?

Three questions and one attempt at an answer - let’s do Friday differently!

As I write these words it’s August 2020 and I introduced this policy in August of 2016 so exactly 4 years ago. It still works. We do Fridays differently.

In my company these are Mighty Fridays.

Rule 1. We work on day-to-day tasks only from Monday to Thursday.

It’s not about just cutting the workweek to four days. If you’re getting rid of one day you’re not really getting anything in return. I mean you do get one day free, but it doesn’t make your remaining four days any better. It actually this can make them even more stressful. That’s why many companies that tried it, failed.

It’s about working on day-to-day tasks for four days and working on yourself on Fridays.

Rule 2. On Friday you must do your weekly review

That’s the idea. You start your Friday with a good weekly review. Just follow the steps from previous chapter. Go through all of your stuff and do it.

Don’t do anything else before you do your weekly review. This is your single most important thing to do on a Friday.

This way you’ll have your whole week reviewed and your next week planned. Come Monday, you’ll know exactly what to do. You’ll fall in love with Mondays again, because you’ll regain your clarity. You’ll hit the ground running instantly every Monday.

Rule 3. After your review, learn something new this Friday

Once the review is done it’s time to invest in yourself, here are some ideas:

  • watch this online conference you subscribed to;
  • go through this course you never had the time to do;
  • read all the read-it-later articles you saved throughout the week;
  • catch-up on industry news;
  • set up your home office better, put additional furniture or re-organize your workplace;
  • clean up your computer, your hard drives with files, your physical files and documents;
  • study all the latest features of the piece of software you’re using daily to get your work done - learn new tricks, watch video tutorials, memorize keyboard shortcuts or anything that will make your work easier;
  • learn new language, or improve your language skills - both the human languages like English, Spanish or French… or the programming languages you use for work;
  • get a new hobby that’s not really very useful for your day-to-day work, but just brings you joy and sparks your curiosity;
  • chat with your colleagues about anything you want, just reconnect with them and talk about stuff.

Just figure out how you can use Fridays to become a better version of yourself. In my company Fridays are designed by each team member. As the CEO and founder I have no say as to what you should or shouldn’t do on a Friday. Once you’ve done your weekly review, it’s completely up to you.

Aren’t Mighty Fridays promoting laziness?

Some companies go with casual Fridays and wear jeans to work. Mighty Fridays are better than jeans.

Yes, I’m a business owner that kind of asks of people to work less. It seems counterproductive or crazy, but I believe we’re on to something. We’ve been doing this for the last four years with much success. Each Friday our projects and tasks are being better organized and there’s simply less mess around. When someone doesn’t do their review properly, you can easily tell, so we motivate each other to keep our internal systems up-to-date.

Our main challenge hasn’t been that people were slacking off, but that they still wanted to finish off day-to-day tasks on a Friday. That’s why below you’ll find a series of suggestions for helping everyone make most of their last day of their workweek.

Tips for making Mighty Fridays really do the trick

Over the years of having Mighty Fridays we’ve found these tips pretty helpful:

  • Have people report back in a chat room once they’ve done their weekly review - this motivates others!
  • Share your ideas for Friday - what are you going to learn, watch, read… especially useful when sharing with colleagues from your closest team - let them copy you!
  • Have a clear plan to learn a new skill, new language or new hobby so that every Friday you’re excited to be advancing in this thing that brings you joy!
  • Change a scenery - maybe work from your favorite coffee shop or some other place than where you do your usual day-to-day work.
  • Have a catch-up call or video chat with your peers from other companies. I have my Mastermind group meeting every Friday at 3pm. It’s a perfect ending of a workweek.

The one thing: make Friday different, make it free(ish)

Implement Mighty Fridays by encouraging everyone around you to do their weekly review and later inspire them to focus on their personal development. Both of these things will significantly improve the level of execution in your team each week. I assure you that you’ll feel like you’re achieving much more in just four days of a highly focused week than you’ve ever done in traditional five. You’ll also have more joy at work as a bonus. And who doesn’t like bonuses?

Next: Part 2 - What if there was no office?

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