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Work Better by Not Working Weekends

by Jim Martin

A recent study at Stanford found productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that there’s no point in working longer. People who work as much as 70 hours (or more) per week actually get the same amount done as people who work 55 hours.

Successful people know the importance of relaxing on the weekend and getting their minds off work. But that is easier said than done, so here’s some help.

Here’s a list of ten things that successful people do to find balance on the weekend.

  1. They Disconnect. Disconnecting is the most important weekend strategy. If you can’t remove yourself electronically from your work, then you’ve never really left work. Making yourself available 24/7 exposes you to a constant barrage of stresses that prevent you from refocusing and recharging. If taking the entire weekend off isn’t realistic, try designating specific times on Saturday and Sunday for checking e-mails and responding to voicemails. For example, check messages on Saturday afternoon while your kids are getting a haircut and on Sunday evenings after dinner. Scheduling short blocks of time will decrease stress without sacrificing availability.

  2. They Minimize Chores. Chores have a funny habit of completely taking over your weekends. When this happens, you lose the opportunity to relax and reflect. What’s worse is that a lot of chores feel like work, and if you spend all weekend doing them, you just put in a seven-day workweek. To prevent this, you need to schedule your chores, and if you don’t complete them during the allotted time, leave them for the following weekend.

  3. They Reflect. Weekly reflection is a powerful tool for improvement. Use the weekend to contemplate the larger forces that are shaping your industry, your organization, and your job. Without the normal weekday distractions, you should be able to see things in a new light. Use this insight to alter your approach to the coming week, improving the efficiency and efficacy of your work.

  4. They Exercise. No time to exercise during the week? You have 48 hours every weekend to make it happen. Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that reduces stress. Exercise is also a great way to come up with new ideas. Innovators and other successful people know that being outdoors often sparks creativity. Whether you’re running, cycling, or gardening, exercise leads to endorphin-fueled introspection. The key is to find a physical activity that does this for you and then to make it an important part of your weekend routine.

  5. They Pursue a Passion. You might be surprised what happens when you pursue something you’re passionate about on weekends. Indulging your passions is a great way to escape stress and to open your mind to new ways of thinking. Things like playing music, reading, writing, painting, or even playing catch with your kids can help stimulate different modes of thought that can reap huge dividends over the coming week.

  6. They Spend Quality Time with Family. Spending quality time with your family on the weekend is essential if you want to recharge and relax. Weekdays are so hectic that the entire week can fly by with little quality family time. Don’t let this bleed into your weekends. Take your kids to the park, take your spouse to his or her favorite restaurant, and go visit your parents. You’ll be glad you did.

  7. They Schedule Micro-Adventures. Buy tickets to a concert or play, or get reservations for that cool new hotel downtown. Instead of running on a treadmill, plan a hike. Try something you haven’t done before, or perhaps something you haven’t done in a long time. Studies show that anticipating something planned is a significant part of what makes the activity pleasurable. Knowing that you have interesting plans for Saturday will significantly improve your mood throughout the week.

  8. They Wake Up at the Same Time. While sleeping in on the weekend to catch up on your sleep feels good temporarily, an inconsistent wake-up time disturbs your circadian rhythm. Your body cycles an elaborate series of sleep phases for you to wake up rested and refreshed. One phase prepares your mind to be awake and alert, which is why people often wake up just before their alarm clock rings (the brain is trained and ready). When you sleep past your regular wake-up time on the weekend, you often feel groggy and tired. This doesn’t just disrupt your day off, it makes you less productive on Monday because your brain isn’t ready to wake up at your regular time. If you have to catch up on sleep, go to bed earlier.

  9. They Designate Mornings as Me Time. It can be difficult to get time to yourself on the weekends, especially if you have family. Finding a way to start the day with an activity you’re passionate about can pay massive mental dividends in happiness and cleanliness of mind. It’s also a great way to force yourself to wake up at the same time you do on weekdays. Your mind achieves peak performance two-to-four hours after you wake up, so getting up early keeps your mind fit.

  10. They Prepare for the Upcoming Week. The weekend is a great time to spend a few moments planning the coming week. As little as 30 minutes of planning can yield significant gains in productivity and reduced stress. The week feels a lot more manageable when you go into it with a plan because all you have to focus on is execution.

Use your weekend to make yourself more productive rather than pursuing the myth that you have to be on the job at all times or the business will suffer. Trust me: it won’t.

If you have a businesses that is at its busiest on Saturdays, and you feel you must work that day, do two things. First, dedicate Sunday completely to family and friends. Secondly, pick the slowest day of the week, and have your most trusted employee run the business that day. You won’t regret either.