Need to look into a bill? No worries. I’ll do that on the weekend.
Need to clean the bathroom? Got it. I’ll do that on the weekend.
Need a cardio workout? No problem. I’ll do that on the weekend.
Need to finish a big presentation for work? It’s okay. I’ll do that on the weekend.
Need to re-landscape the yard? It’s covered. I’ll do that on the weekend.
You get the point.
For many, “I’ll do that on the weekend,” has become the answer to solving any apparent time limitation problem. In their weekday minds, the weekend becomes this mythical land where time is infinite and motivation abundant.
But in their weekend reality, time is still limited and their mind simply wants a break come Friday night–not a more packed schedule.
So how do you make the shift from having to recover from your weekends instead of weekends being recovery time? I’m glad you asked. As a time management coach and as someone who herself can sometimes be guilty of packing weekends too tightly, I’ve found that you can get stuff done and be refreshed. Here are four steps to reclaim your weekend.
Step 1: Put in what you need to feel refreshed
Although weekend time is limited, it does still provide unique opportunities to do things that you might not otherwise have the flexibility to do. Decide which activities you find truly refreshing and block that time into your calendar first. For example, you could:
- Keep your schedule free before 10 a.m. to enjoy a slow start to the morning
- Sign up for an exercise class
- Plan brunch with friends or family
- Make time to go to a nature preserve or the beach
- Look into local cultural events like plays or festivals
- Give yourself permission to spend time on a hobby or reading
- Leave unstructured hours open to do whatever you feel like doing at the time
You’ll want to put in the restful time first. Because if you don’t, it’s easy for that to get squeezed out and to end the weekend more tired than when you started.
Step 2: Narrow down what you want to accomplish
It’s normal to want to get some items ticked off the to-do list over the weekend. But you’ll feel more accomplished and less frustrated if you narrow those down to a manageable size. Even two to three items that you really commit to getting done is a great win.
For instance, you may decide to go shopping for new running shoes and clean out your freezer one weekend. That doesn’t sound like a lot. But if you get those two items done, you’ve made significant progress on items that are hard to wedge in during the week. And if you consistently get a couple of these sorts of projects done each weekend, you’ll make significant progress on your overall task list.
This is a much better approach than to decide that you’ll buy new shoes, a new coat, a new computer, clean out your refrigerator and freezer, and bring donations to Goodwill in one weekend. You’ve set yourself up for failure before you begin, and by Sunday night, you’ll feel frustrated and exhausted.
Step 3: Prep for success during the week
To successfully implement the above two steps, you need to do the right prep during the week. This means making small investments in what you can get done Monday through Friday to make time at the week’s end for more fun or bigger projects.
For some of my time management coaching clients, it’s been life changing to give themselves 20 to 30 minutes of personal administrative time on weekdays. They’ll usually do this as part of their lunch break or right after work. It’s an opportunity to pay bills, make doctors’ appointments, sign up kids for summer camp, or any of the other little tasks that can snowball into an overwhelming weekend marathon. Knocking off these activities a bit at a time not only makes them less daunting but often reduces procrastination.
You can apply this same strategy to routine items like cleaning by completing small parts of the whole activity each day. That way you’re spending maybe 20 minutes at a time cleaning instead of feeling like you have to spend a whole Saturday morning at it.
And you can use this strategy for events like having friends over for dinner: Plan the meal on a Wednesday. Grocery shop or order groceries on a Thursday. And prep the house on Friday so you only have cooking to do on Saturday.
Step 4: Know your limits
The final key to weekend success is to know your limits so that you’re happy instead of disappointed with your weekend. These vary depending on your particular preferences and also your work-life circumstances. But here are a few examples of what I’ve seen work well for my clients:
- Take a tech break: Give yourself 24 hours off technology or at least off work e-mail
- If weekend work is necessary, limit the time. For example, “I will only spend from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on this presentation on Saturday. After that, I’m stopping”
- Choose one to two social events per weekend, or if you’re really introverted, no social events on the weekend
- Implement family day where you only spend time with your spouse and kids
- Get out of town at least one weekend per month if you need and love adventure
There’s no one right format for a successful weekend. But by using this four-step formula for approaching your weekend, you can reclaim your weekends and feel like they’re a success.