WHAT THE MOST SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE DO ON THE WEEKEND: A short guide to making the most of your days off
@2013 Laura Vanderkam
Ah…the weekend, at last! It’s been a chaotic week and you’re thrilled to anticipate two glorious days with absolutely nothing on the agenda. What better way to rejuvenate and get ready for Monday’s rat race? If this is your view of weekends, you’re not alone. A great many of us feel our weekends should be unplanned time for spontaneous recreation, perhaps with a little household duty scheduled in as needed.
Nonsense, says time management expert Laura Vanderkam. She is not a fan of the “Let’s do nothing” weekend and quotes writer Anatole France for support: “Man is so made that he can only find relaxation from one kind of labor by taking up another.” Vanderkam has seen hundreds of time logs and interviewed countless successful people about what they do on their time off. “Successful people know that weekends deserve even more care than you bestow on your working days,” she says.
What the Most Successful People do on the Weekend is the latest in Vanderkam’s series on simplifying and maximizing life in ways that might feel a bit counterintuitive. Doing absolutely nothing might sound good. But the reality is that unless we plan our weekends, we expend needless emotional and mental energy trying to make our time off feel meaningful. That means our weekends not only don’t give us much satisfaction, but they undermine our ability to hit Monday rejuvenated, refreshed and rarin’ to go. Most successful people, Vanderkam says, greet the weekend having thought of what they intend to do with their time off and what outcome they desire.
You know how it is—you don’t plan and pretty soon your the weekend has sagged into hours of channel surfing, social media browsing, and countless other mundane and not very satisfying activities. Or, worse, disintegrated into frustrating, anxiety producing snits when you can’t carry out plans you made at the last minute. Think what would happen if you spent 36 hours of your work week unplanned. You’ll get the same kind of results from unplanned weekends—not very rewarding.
Vanderkam isn’t suggesting you make “work” of your weekends, though she’s not opposed to scheduling projects. She just thinks you will benefit from planning—making sure you have the proper tools and supplies on hand. A Saturday repainting your bedroom could be very satisfying, but not so much when you spend the entire morning shopping for paint and don’t have time to finish the job. Or say you like to cook and entertain. It’s disappointing when you call on Friday night and everyone you know already has plans. Invite guests early, choose your recipes ahead of time and shop for essential ingredients before the weekend.
The same principle applies even if you’re a diehard spontaneity junkie. At least make a list of things you think you might like to do—Vanderkam suggests making a bucket list of activities close to home—and take action to set yourself up for success. If your weekend taste runs to curling up with a good book, stop at the library or bookstore during the week to gather likely titles. If you like to hike or bike, research new trails, stop at the drugstore for insect repellant and sunscreen, and put air in your bike tires or retrieve your hiking boots from the back of the closet. If you like mingling in crowds, print out your community’s calendar of events.
Vanderkam isn’t suggesting you book every minute of your weekend, or that every minute you book should be filled with activity. A Saturday afternoon nap can be a perfectly fine thing to plan into your weekend. It’s the intention that counts. If a nap is something that will make you feel you’ve done something with your weekend, great. If you nap because you can’t think what else to do with your afternoon, that’s not so satisfying.
She also recommends we carry our weekend planning into Sunday night. Instead of edging almost imperceptibly into the work week 12 or 15 hours before Monday morning, as many of us do, plan something fun that will keep your mind anchored in the weekend. Play cards with friends, take the kids for ice cream—activities that become tradition are especially helpful at the end of the weekend because they make Sunday night recreation so easy. The result of planning your time off is that you will greet Monday with an energized mind, satisfied heart, and centered spirit.