3 ways to make the most of every day
The phrase “Thank God it’s Friday (TGIF)” exists for a reason. For people who don’t work weekends, Friday has the special status of serving as a gateway to good times. Whether these times are spent relaxing, socializing, or taking time to be with family, there’s an aura to Fridays that can make you look forward to them with great anticipation.
Ironically enough, you may be busier on the weekends than ever at work, struggling with errands, kids’ schedules, or household chores. Nevertheless, the idea (however delusional) that you’re late is so enticing that you probably won’t let the reality of your hectic “days off” bother you.
However, when you carefully consider the notion of living from one weekend to the next, does it ever feel like by doing this you are undoing 5/7 of your real life? Think of how many years that could be over decades. Wouldn’t it make more sense to find a way to get as much enjoyment out of this big chunk of your time on earth as possible?
Plus, by trying to get through your daily life as quickly as possible, could you also be missing out on your ability to maximize your productivity and, therefore, your sense of fulfillment?
The training concept
According to Scott Dust and colleagues at the University of Miami (2022), there is surprisingly little research on the weekday highs and lows of enthusiasm as expressed in people’s attitudes toward their work. Dust et al. begin by noting that “the days of the week serve as the temporal map from which we plan our lives.” The term for this “cyclical behavior” is “entrainment,” or what happens when “human activity begins to synchronize with the pattern and rhythm of social systems, norms, and institutions” (p. 222).
Is this true for you? See if you can follow your own motivational patterns during the week. Even if you don’t have a Monday-Friday schedule, you can still be coached during whatever pattern your job follows. If you are not employed outside the home, there may still be a cyclical pattern that applies to people you live with, such as a partner and/or children, whose schedules may serve you train.
Now try to imagine yourself at the beginning of this week after having had two days off. You may need a little time to get back into the rhythm, but after that you’re probably at your highest level of motivation for the week. There may even be a formal kick off for the next five days with a reunion or check-in for everyone in the band, whether in the office or around the kitchen table. Everyone is excited and ready to go. Over the coming week, however, his end begins to grow larger and the countdown begins.
Controlled motivation and TGIF mentality
As compelling as it sounds, this scenario might not apply to you. Maybe you’re able to pace yourself fairly steadily throughout your workweek, and even leave some of your biggest projects until the end. Other people rejoice when they hit Wednesday (which they celebrate as “bump day”), but you can’t quite get the idea.
If so, you might be on top of what Dust et al. call it “motivational control” in that you never lose focus. Related to the theory of self-determination, this concept from the psychology of motivation refers to the feeling that you are not influenced by outside forces, but that you immerse yourself enough in your work so that the day of the week becomes not applicable.
According to the Miami U. team, people with high motivational control should stand out from everyone else in how they engage their attention and awareness. Living in the moment, or mindfulness, would mean that you would exclude everything else except what you are doing. This is particularly important, as Dust et al. emphasize, when your work is demanding. You will need this high level of motivation to get through your week.
To test whether mindfulness and high job demands would influence training, the authors recruited a sample of 165 workers from a Chinese medical device sales organization. Participants responded to twice-daily surveys during their 5-day workweeks, yielding 742 daily measurements from the 151 people who provided usable data (all measurements were in Mandarin). The sample itself was 29 years old on average, was almost evenly split by gender, and had worked for an average of three and a half years.
To get an idea of what the authors measured, here are some sample items:
- Mindfulness (reverse note): I find myself saying or doing things without paying attention to them.
- Job requirements: I have to work fast.
- Motivational control: Despite the difficulties encountered today, I was able to stay focused on my work.
- Daily professional performances: Today, I fulfilled all the requirements of my job.
Participants also rated the quality of their sleep each day, as well as their level of happiness and their feelings of so-called “ego exhaustion” or feelings of exhaustion. These, along with age and gender, served as controls in the statistical model the authors tested.
Looking now at the results: The results supported the whole training concept, which means that motivation and performance actually decreased during the work week. However, there were individual differences consistent with motivational control theory. People more aware of job traits and demands showed more consistent motivational control. As the authors concluded, “When job demands are high, self-regulatory abilities associated with trait mindfulness help stabilize motivation and performance throughout the workweek” (p. 234) .
How to Avoid Being a TGIF Person
As you can see from these results, your ability to perform at peak performance is affected by your tendency to fall prey to the training principle. Indeed, given the role of job demands in the study results, it would seem particularly important to resist training if your job is not so physically or mentally demanding. Try these 3 ideas:
- Try mindfulness training. There is a growing body of evidence showing that it is possible to learn how to focus your attention away from distractions and more intently on what you are doing in the moment.
- Integrate more challenges. If your job isn’t particularly challenging, give yourself your own deadlines or bump the difficulty level up a few notches by tweaking your job tasks.
- Disrupt your weekly habits. If you’re a full-time housewife, do your laundry on a Thursday instead of a Monday. If you work away from home, consider offering employees to celebrate not with Happy Hour on Friday afternoon, but with a taco on Tuesday instead.
To summarize, breaking a training cycle that has built up for years may not come naturally to you, especially if you are easily distracted. However, engaging your mind in what you do can help ensure that each of your days reaches its maximum potential for fulfillment.