Open Mondays, Open Fridays

18 months ago, I made a structural change to my calendar that I love: leaving Mondays and Fridays (nearly) free of meetings, so that each week has a No Meeting Monday and a No Meeting Friday.

These days are dedicated to ‘doing’ rather than to talking or reacting. What’s valuable is not simply the number of hours available, it’s the large blocks of time every week: enough time to create, and the requirement to face a blank page.

How to Make it Happen

Most of my meetings are external, so I’ve set up my Calendly to only show free time on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Beyond that, it’s up to me to stay disciplined when someone asks me if I can meet on Monday at noon. (“No!”)

(Though, in truth, a short meeting here or there doesn’t materially impact my flow, since I do need some breaks.)

The Flow of the Week

On Mondays, I’m setting up for the week and laying the foundation for things that I need to move forward. This allows me to maintain some control over my (and the company’s) direction of travel rather than constantly being in responsive/reactive mode.

Fridays are for closing everything that came up during the week, including ensuring I’ve properly followed up on the many (many) external conversations I had on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

In addition, to make things really hum I also:

  • Us the end of the day on Friday to make a short list of Monday morning priorities. This helps me ensure I don’t lose any threads from the previous week.
  • Find time on Sunday to clean out my Inbox / Slack from the weekend. This way I don’t lose my Monday morning to responding to inbound traffic (but this is a balancing act because it’s also important for me to keep my weekends free…).

The Great (and Hard) Parts

The obvious challenge of this schedule is the hyper-full Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday that can feel overwhelming.

I have pretty good endurance but there’s a limit to how many productive hours of conversations I can have (my max is 5). And even 3 or 4 hours of meetings is too much without great notes. I use Notion, with clear next steps documented at the end of every meeting. Otherwise, by 3pm I’ve forgotten what I agreed to do in my 9am meeting.

The more important, and subtle, challenge is starting the week off with blank space.

If I’ve caught up on Friday (and, when needed, over the weekend), then Monday morning is all mine. Forcing myself, nearly every week, to face that down and decide for myself what’s most important for me to do, feels a lot like staring at a blank page and needing to write a blog post: humbling, often intimidating, even spilling over into a bit of soul-searching….

What is my job when I’m not frantically responding to the things that everyone else needs me to do for them?

It’s a good question that we all need to ask ourselves regularly.

And I’ve found that without this sort of structure in my days, I can go weeks, and even months, without asking myself this question.

The fact is, it’s a question we all need to answer for ourselves, regardless of how ‘senior’ we are in the organization.

We all have unique talents and a unique perspective. We all, therefore, need to have our own agenda: the work we do when it’s our time and not someone else’s.