I'll gladly do it on Tuesday

Every workweek has its ebbs and flows, its slow days and hectic hours. Learning to balance busy periods with appropriate measures of dawdling is the key to being a productive, sane worker.

If you toil in a regular workplace, with a boss breathing down your neck, it's a lesson you learn quickly. But for the millions of us who work in home offices, the ebbs and flows often are of our own making, and it can be difficult to balance the need to work harder with the imperative of the nap.

A recent survey by the temporary staffing firm Accountemps found that Tuesday is the most productive day of the week in most offices. Tuesdays were picked by 48 percent of the executives surveyed, followed by 26 percent who said Mondays were most productive.

Those numbers fit with past studies that show that Mondays are filled with meetings that keep employees from getting much done. By Tuesday, workers know what's required for the week, and they get busy. But things tail off from there.

Only 9 percent of the respondents said Wednesday, the traditional "hump day," was most productive. Thursdays were named by 5 percent and a mere 1 percent of executives selected Fridays. It is believed that those executives misunderstood the question.

(Eleven percent of the executives weren't sure because they spend every day at the golf course.)

Efficiency experts say workers and their bosses should pay attention to these variations in productivity because it will help them manage the flow of work. If you know, for instance, that Tuesday is your most productive day, you might want to schedule actual work for Tuesdays, setting aside meetings, golf and other distractions for later in the week.

For those of us who work at home, the equation can be more complicated. The tempo of our workweek varies greatly and often is upset by extraneous forces, such as children.

Our schedules are flexible, of course. That's one of the reasons we choose to work at home. But too much flexibility and, the next thing you know, you're hammering away at 3 a.m. Sunday to meet a deadline.

The secret to keeping the work flowing lies in scheduling. For instance, I keep a weekly planner on my desk. Everything I need to do, from important meetings to vacuuming, goes on the planner. As each item is accomplished, I scratch it off. This gives me the satisfaction of accomplishment, and guarantees that SOMETHING gets done around here before the week trickles away.

Looking back over my planner, I see that Tuesdays are my most productive day, too. At least that's the day with the most scratches. I can't read them anymore, but we'll assume all those black marks denote actual achievements.

At home, Mondays are shot because they're gobbled up by housework. The kids are home on the weekends and, by Monday, the house resembles a supermarket after an earthquake.

Wednesdays are no good because one of my sons gets out of school at 1:45 p.m. on Wednesdays. Poof, the afternoon vanishes.

Thursdays are the only days I work outside the home -- teaching a university course -- so nothing gets done at home on those days.

Fridays? Well, Fridays are as useless for me as they are for regular office workers and executives. And I don't even play golf.

With our flexible schedules, we stay-at-home types can always work on Saturdays and Sundays, but only in the wee hours when everyone else is asleep. There's no concentrating when the kids are around. It's like trying to work inside an automatic car wash.

Distractions are plentiful during the workweek, as well. Certain chores -- laundry, housework, buying groceries -- must get done, and they all take us away from our desks. Then there are the unexpected disruptions -- illness, car trouble, plumbing problems -- that can eat up entire days.

Looking back over the weeks in my calendar, I can see the wax-and-wane of work, the distractions and the emergencies, the lost Fridays. And I marvel at how busy I stay throughout every week.

It's a wonder I ever get any time to nap.

(Editor's note: The schedule is different these days, but the result is pretty much the same. Still not nearly enough nap time.)

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