Photo: Marina via statigram
As work weeks get longer each year and free time seems to slip away quicker than ever, it’s essential to make the most of time we actually have at least some control over: the weekend.Time management expert Laura Vanderkam recently came out with a new e-Book, What The Most Successful People Do On The Weekend.
The book outlines how readers can take control of weekends by planning ahead, and making their time off count.
It's so easy to plop down on the couch on a Friday night or Saturday morning and watch T.V., but falling into default activities like this will suck away the few free hours you have available during the week. Instead of doing something by default, choose to decide how your time is spent.
Vanderkam writes, 'In a world of constant connectivity, even loafing time must be consciously chosen, because time will be filled with something whether it's consciously chosen or not--and not choosing means that the something that fills our hours will be less fulfilling than the something our remembering selves will likely wish we'd elected to do.'
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee says you need to have a plan for the weekend, part of which should be setting specific hours or minutes aside for activities you want to do. Then you have to commit.
He advises, 'If you know you want to read a book, then get the book out and have it set aside and make plans to read it. Say it's going to be at one. When that starts, get on it. Don't wait until that afternoon, then think--could I read? Or listen to some music? Or take a walk? Then you'll sit about wasting an hour of what little time you have figuring out what to do with the rest of it.'
You have to be disciplined and commit to the decisions you make.
Vanderkam cites Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert's 2006 book, Stumbling on Happiness. Gilbert argues, 'The greatest achievement of the human brain is its ability to imagine objects and episodes that do not exist in the realm of the real.'
Gilbert is talking about anticipation. Anticipation accounts for a huge chunk of happiness, which that comes from thinking about the events we plan. Vanderkam writes, 'As you look forward to something good that is about to happen, you experience some of the same joy you would in the moment. The major difference is that the joy can last much longer.'
Vanderkam says most people cringe at the idea of planning their weekend. But placing three to five main or 'anchor' events on your calender for the weekend doesn't mean you need to plan them down to the minute.
She writes, 'Three things taking three hours apiece is nine hours of your 30-six waking ones. That leaves a lot of time for sitting and nursing a scotch, if you don't have three small children, or watching 'The Backyardigans,' if you do.'
People dislike planning because they associate it with things they want to avoid, rather than things they enjoy.
When people do not like the sound of 'planning,' it's usually because they think of planning things they don't want to do, rather than things they do want to do.
Planning activities that are enjoyable to you are what define 'anchor' events. One reader told Vanderkam, 'When you plan enjoyable things ahead of time you magnify the pleasure.'
When the weekend rolls around there may be so many things we want to do that we freeze up and end up doing almost none of them. It's effective to have a really good list.
Vanderkam suggests people create something called 'A List of 100 Dreams,' which prompts you to brainstorm anything you might want to do or have in life. Although some things like going to see the pyramids may not be doable right now, by the end of the list you'll be coming up with things you can do every day.
One of Vanderkam's key secrets is to 'dig deep.' Even if there are activities that you haven't done since childhood, you can still make them part of your regular weekends.
One of her readers signed up for Saturday morning piano lessons. She says that sometimes parents get so caught up in planning their kids lives that they forget to schedule fun activities for themselves. Pick something that means a lot to you and make it a permanent routine.
Weekend mornings are very easily wasted. Instead, set them aside for personal pursuits.
Vanderkam writes, 'If you're training for a marathon, it's less disruptive for your family if you get up early to do your four-hour run than if you try to do it in the middle of the day. To get up early, you'll probably have to avoid staying up late the night before, but this is a good idea in general.'
'Happy families often have some special weekend activity that everyone loves but no one has to plan each time,' Vanderkam writes.
It could be as simple as making pancakes or taking an stroll on a Sunday evening. Whatever you'd like to implement, make it a ritual because soon they will become traditions and traditions become comforting memories which are proven to boost happiness.
Planning something for Sunday nights is an easy way to avoid stressing about work in anticipation of Monday morning. That can happen even when you like your job, but for people who don't like their job, Sunday night stress can be draining and sad.
To combat this, Vanderkam suggests scheduling something during these hours because it extends the weekend and keeps you focused on the fun to come, rather than the next morning. Aliza Rosen, a reality T.V. producer, goes to yoga at 6pm on Sunday nights and says it is a great way to sweat out the toxins of the week and centre herself for Monday.
There are always things you have to do, but keeping chores, errands, and any sort of busy work to a minimum on the weekends is really important.
Finishing chores shouldn't be central to your weekend because they often expand to fill available time. Instead, try to do a chore each day during the week. If that's not possible then set aside small windows of time during the weekend. For example, set a half an hour on a Friday night between dinner and when you watch a movie to wash the floor, or 20 minutes between your piano lesson and bike ride on Saturday morning to empty the garbage.
Setting small amounts of time will motivate you to get chores done quickly.
Have a tech 'Sabbath' day. Or at least a few hours in the weekend when you unplug from your email and professional life.
Although it becomes harder to do that with smart phones and demanding careers, Vanderkam recommends hiding your mail icon on your phone during your 'Sabbath' so you are not even tempted to click on messages that spill into your inbox. You may not be able to completely avoid working on the weekends but you can at least carve out a few hours.
4,160 weekends doesn't sound like all that much. It's very easy to feel overwhelmed and simply do nothing (or meaningless things.) But by falling into that trap, Vanderkam points out you may miss the best parts of your own life.
Too often people don't think about what they'd like to do and wind up living constrained versions of life, doing little tasks on a to-do list.
Vanderkam says, 'What the most successful people know about weekends is that life cannot happen only in the future. It cannot wait for some day when we are less tired or less busy.' So start with this weekend and do something.
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