It might sound crazy to golfers and brunchers, but some people really do have a hard time shifting from work on their days off. That’s not good. Days off exist for a reason.
“Our cognitive resources are a scarce resource that gets depleted and has to be refilled over time,” Harvard behavioral scientist Francesca Gino says. “Cognitive resources are important, allowing us to control our behaviors, desires, and emotions.”
- By weekend, we don’t strictly designate Saturday and Sunday, because millions of us work on those days. But ideally, we don’t work on all five of the other days too; we schedule some time off.
- The category of unpaid work has received a ton of attention lately, with researchers investigating the phenomenon of manual labor performed around the house, care giving, cleaning, cooking, hauling water, and carrying out perhaps one of the most important jobs of all: taking care of the children. 79% of this work is done by women. Maybe more. And all of that is an excellent subject for another day.
The point is, we mortals need a regular weekend break. We need rest, we need to reset. If we habituate a daily grind, we need relief from it. Phones pinging, earbuds dangling—if we can unplug, even briefly, it’s a cure.
How to get the most out of your weekend, and why this is so important? 6 Keys:
- Point of View: Rest and reset are important for overall health, and also this: downtime provides perspective: “The issues that seemed so overwhelming on Friday afternoon are typically much more manageable on Monday because you’re in a better frame of mind to handle them,” according to Time Coach Elizabeth Saunders.
- The Power of Play: Time spent doing childish things is just the kind of absorbing and distracting activity your mind needs to recuperate from an intense work culture. Silly games, baking cookies together, playing catch, watching goofy cartoons, celebrating holidays with crafts and games—painting eggs, hiding them, and finding them—it’s all good for your adult-sized stress. Go for it. Be a kid again! If you have kids who are tiny, or into sports and scouts, your weekend free time is pretty crowded. Make space by simply surrendering: turn off the phone, get down on the floor or out on the playground, and, well, play.
- Stare into Space: Day dreaming, procrastination, mind-wandering, singing loudly in the shower almost always feels good, and there’s a reason for that. Spacey thinking can produce new brain waves and great ideas to solve all sorts of conundrums lurking in the frontal lobe of your cerebrum.
- Embrace a Convenient Restorative Activity: We’ve already mentioned kids, golf, and brunch. Albert Einstein played the violin when he became stuck in his thinking process. Virginia Woolf famously walked the streets of London every afternoon before returning to her celebrated fiction. Lady Gaga watches horror movies to unwind. What’s your favorite?
- Go Away: Make a getaway plan: leaving your usual physical surroundings can be literally transporting. You don’t need to embark on an expensive junket. In fact, one advisor recommends designating a “free weekend” every month to keep your spending and financial stress in check. Lose the tight itinerary: Read a book, watch an old movie. Find a hiking trail or a botanic garden, plan a picnic, head out to the beach, window-shop, or wander around a museum.
- Anticipate: If you know you have work stuff that you simply must do on the weekend, do yourself a favor. Take charge of you: set a time do get it done and stick to it. Don’t let your work rob you of your much-deserved rest. You need it!
Once you’ve experienced a satisfying break, you might be inclined to weave a little weekend right into your workday. How to do that?
Mad Men famously shook their martinis to mark the Madison Avenue-5pm shift from work.
21st century experts recommend daily Me Time. Perhaps your Me Time is a snooze on your bus commute.
If absolute stillness intrigues you, you might investigate cultivating a meditation practice. Meditation isn’t just for Tibetan monks these days: the CEO of Aetna swears by it and has introduced a comprehensive (and free) yoga and meditation program to encourage his employees to join in. Apps like Headspace can get you launched; you’ll be joining employees from Unilever, Goldman Sachs, KPMG, the Bank of England, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute when you do.
A final word: if you are a countess, you might not even realize there is a weekend. For the rest of us, let’s take a break.
Whether you’re hiding eggs with your nephews, hibernating at a spa, absorbed in March Madness, or cleaning your basement, please let us know what you’re up to this weekend and share any best practices for making the most of your well-earned downtime.