(Note: the following post would be rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Apparently, using the “f” word within the context of sex usually gets you an R rating. Use it a couple of times as a swear word, and you’re still PG-13.)
Creative work is a lot like sausage-making and politics: you might like the end result, but you don’t want to see how the ads get made. The real problem with Mad Men is that it’s far too tame and civil. Ad agencies are pressure-cookers.
They’ve always been that way. There’s always pressure to meet marketing challenges with creative solutions. You’re only as good as your last TV spot. You’re putting your creative product out into the world daily to be loved–more often, to be compromised or rejected.
Add to this the crazy pressure of today’s typical do-everything-all-at-once workplace. The ability to connect with everyone else in the world right now can be a wonderful thing–but it also puts pressure on all of us be connected with everyone all the time. (How many of you check your phones or e-mail first thing when you get out of bed? Be honest.)
If you have to sit in a lot of meetings–and some of us have to sit in a lot of meetings–it makes the situation even worse. Even necessary meetings are, by nature, huge time-sucks. No wonder everyone tries to multitask in meetings, with one eye on the whiteboard and the other checking e-mail.
For creative professionals, this combination of pressures can be deadly. You’re always reacting. You have time to get the minimal input on the job you need to do. You have minimal time to do the job–and to respond to everyone’s changes at a moment’s notice. And you have absolutely no time to think.
Which is what you really need. If you’re going to do great work, you need time to plan, time to think, time to dream. Time to really collaborate. Because we really care about the work we do; it’s not art, but it is certainly artistic, and we want it to be persuasive and smart and beautiful.
Back when we were freelance writers, my partner Scott and our pal Greg Perry and a rotating band of office mates including Steve Woods and Duncan Alney used to have a little thing we called Fuck-All Friday. We used to work our behinds off Monday through Thursday–actually, sometimes on weekends and always to noon on Friday–responding to the demands of our pressure-cooking world. Friday afternoons were our time to do whatever we wanted; that was, fuck-all.
Sometimes we went for a leisurely run, followed by a late lunch and a beer. Sometimes we took an early lunch and drove to the movie theater for a matinee of something our wives wouldn’t want to see with us. (Gangs of New York and Borat spring to mind.) Sometimes, we just went our separate ways. We had errands to run, libraries and bookstores to haunt.
Sadly, we don’t have time for Fuck-All Friday anymore. (Ah. Those were the days.) But we do think it’s time to give ourselves a chance to breathe–to plan and collaborate and think and dream.
So we’re turning Fridays into office days. We’re trying to not take outside meetings on Fridays. We’re trying to work our behinds off to deliver eight days’ worth of jobs, Monday through Thursday–and not deliver anything on Fridays.
Fridays are for making sure we have all the information we need to do our jobs right. Fridays are for sitting down and talking about our work–what’s coming up, what we’ve just done, what’s worked and what hasn’t. Fridays are for sharing ideas. Fridays are for catching up.
Fridays are for making damn sure our work is the best it can possibly be.
Will there be exceptions? Of course. Some important outside meetings are going to have to happen on certain Fridays. Some work just flat-out has to be delivered. Some change absolutely has to be made before someone goes on vacation.
But we think the principle is sound. As creative professionals, we need to consciously set aside time for these things. The pressures of the workplace will eat us alive unless we do.
A bold experiment? Perhaps. Check back with us in a month and see how we’re doing.
Because, who knows? Maybe the pressures of the workplace that overwhelmed Fuck-All Friday will also engulf The New Friday. Maybe the world is just too crazy.
And, then again, maybe we’ll actually find time to see a movie or a ballgame or visit a museum together. Or hang at the library for an hour. You never know.