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by Stephan Maldonado | May 31, 2019

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For many people, Memorial Day Weekend marked the beginning of "summer Fridays": that wonderful, warm weather tradition that's the closest thing many of us will ever get to an official summer break (aside from taking a vacation). More and more, employers are allowing their employees to take shortened days on Fridays during the summer.

Implementing a flexible summer schedule is an emerging trend, to be sure, and one that's gaining traction as employers recognize this perk's significant appeal. It's estimated that last year, 46% of employers offered some form of summer Fridays.

Flexibility and the opportunity to enjoy a little bit more of the summer outside the office are definitely exciting—though some of us don't know what to do with our extra free time. Here are five ways to make the most of your summer Fridays.

Focus on your mental or physical wellness goals.

It's can be difficult to keep up with your personal goals during the work week. Maybe you've set a particular fitness goal, but struggle to make it to the gym consistently. Or perhaps you've got a creative project you're working on, but can find neither the motivation nor the time to complete it.

Summer Fridays offer a convenient opportunity to make the time in your schedule to work towards these goals, whatever they may be. Bike three miles. Take a dance class. Finish that passion project.

You might feel bad for neglecting things you want to accomplish for yourself outside of work. Your Friday afternoons then become the perfect time to do something that benefits your overall well-being. Sure, summer Fridays don't last forever, but the consistency might make it easier to carve out some space in your year-round schedule.

Cross a few items off your to-do list.

Speaking of goals, we all have those little ones—the to-do list items—that slip as easily through the cracks as our loftier ambitions. So what better time is there to chip away at your to-do list than a free Friday afternoon?

Whether you haven't been able to drop off your clothes at the dry cleaner's, or you can't make it to the library before it closes after a full workday, summer Fridays are your chance to run the errands you can't otherwise get to. You'd be amazed by how heavily the little things hang over your head, and how much better you'll feel once you're able to work through them. Bonus points if you live in an urban area and can walk to all of your errands!

Work on your studies or professional development.

Plenty of grad students continue studying straight through the summer—taking additional classes to speed towards their degree as quickly as possible or conducting research for a dissertation or capstone project. Those who don't study during the summer might hold their summers sacred, especially if they're also holding a full-time job.

Nonetheless, summer Fridays are a great chance to work towards your degree. For those who do take classes during the summer, try to schedule them on Friday afternoons. This alleviates some of the stress of having to attend class after a full day of work. If you can't find any Friday courses and still have to go to class after work during the week, use your Fridays for homework or studying.

If you're not currently enrolled in a grad program, you can still use summer Fridays to pursue any professional development opportunities you've been considering: online courses, certifications, seminars, etc.

Listen, we know that studying isn't the most appealing way to spend a summer afternoon, but if studying is inevitable, using your summer Fridays can balance your schedule without eating into your weekend.

Take a mental health (half) day.

Unplugging might be one of the best ways you can spend your summer Fridays, and while it may sound counterintuitive to productivity, you do not have to be passive to unplug. Distancing yourself from your computer, emails, and assignments—if only for a few hours—is an important act of self-care. Burnout in the workplace is real, and we're rarely afforded a better opportunity to take a breather than during summer Fridays.

If the idea of scrambling to your nearest watering hole or going home to nap doesn't sound like a particularly mindful way to spend your summer Fridays, there's plenty of other things you can do. Take a long walk in the park or go to a yoga class. Read just for fun, visit a museum, or attend a live music performance. Summer is blockbuster season, with any number of sequels or remakes arriving in theaters on a given Friday, so go to a movie. 

Work on your side hustle.

We'd never encourage anybody to work on a part-time or freelance gig during their working hours. But these days, it seems inevitable that a lot of people have something they do on the side, especially for creatives and aspiring entrepreneurs. Maybe you do graphic design work or ghostwrite for your favorite blogger. It might even just be a hobby you're looking to turn into a couple of bucks here or there.

Your side gig should always have its time and place outside of working hours. But guess what? Working hours end early on summer Fridays, so if you want to spend a few extra hours honing your passion before the weekend starts, this is the time to do it.

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