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Unplug Your Weekend Or Ruin Your Life

You need energy to do your best work or be a good friend or partner. Weekends give energy. So learn how to do them well.

Not separating your weekend from your week can unravel your relationships, stymie your stress recovery, and ultimately ruin your productivity, research suggests.

We can avert these disasters, scholars say, but only if we learn to detach our grinds from our lives. Kansas State University organizational psychologist YoungAh Park explained as much in an interview:

"If you have a strong technological boundary and self-restricted rules for using email, laptops, or cell phones for work during off-work times, then you are more likely to experience psychological detachment from work."

That psychological detachment is key. Why? When you're detached from your work over the weekend, her and others' research has shown, you are able to recover from your workweek.

There are direct results: She's found that people who unplug over the weekend have higher satisfaction with life than people who spend their Saturdays stuck in their inbox. And that wellness, we know, leads to at-work achievement.

Fraying relationships

It seems that if you're sleeping with your smartphone, you won't be connecting with the person sleeping next to you. Park's research has shown that if you're continually stressed with work stuff at home, you'll be able to self-regulate hostile behaviors or support your partner.

"If working couples don't recuperate from their job stress while at home," she says, "they would be likely to fall into a spiral of lost resources."

The right move, then, is to learn to weekend as well as our heroes do.

A joint study between American and German universities found that weekendly recovery can come in several flavors, including:

  • Relaxation experiences: joviality, reading a magazine, flipping through a book, or, as the kids say, "chilling"
  • Mastery experiences: accomplishing something awesome like climbing a mountain or learning a language
  • Control: being able to decide whatever the hell it is you want to do
  • Detachment: anything that helps you "get away" from the situation at work

But the weekend can have stressors, too: housework, partner, or family conflicts, or, we have to add, dealing with that pile of laundry in your room. Nonwork hassles, the authors add, drain your emotional resources and cramp your recuperation. Their implicit suggestion, then, is to make at least part of your weekend a total retreat.

However, as Park warns, you won't be able to segment your weekend from your week if your bosses and coworkers don't as well. If the norm in your office is to never unplug, then you won't unplug. But take heart: you don't have to be the boss to shift that culture.

How to Be a Better Boss

[Image: Flickr user Simon & His Camera]

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  • Jonathan MacDonald

    Well said and good timing pre-weekend! The need to unplug is pandemic. The amount of distraction we have is critically limiting our ability to discover and/or do what we really care about. I also address it in this TED talk:

  • Matt Crawford

    Nice one Drake. I'm completely unplugging for 4 days this weekend for the first time in a while. So glad I read this now. Thanks.

  • Armando Duran

    This makes sense specially these days that it is becoming more usual and normal for anyone to have a mobile device in their pocket and at hand while being with other people.

    There's this very good TED talk presentation by Sherry Turkle called "Connected, but alone? That" that actually inspire me to write about it:

  • Mike Luque

    Totally true. 
    I consciously did this for the first time last weekend... well on Saturday anyway. As someone with a Monday through Friday job and a home website business, I'm working fairly constantly. What's funny about purposely unplugging is it's sometimes hard to think of something to do instead! It's a good challenge and one to be looked forward to.


    Me Meh too - kinda obvious stuff, can't believe we need a study for that ;-)