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How Successful People Make The Best Use Of Their Weekends

How Successful People Make The Best Use Of Their Weekends

That old Loverboy song “Everybody’s Working for the Weekend” rings true for so many of us who give their all Monday through Friday, and just want to use Saturday and Sunday to catch up on some R&R. What a lot of us don’t realize is that spending Saturday and Sunday binge-watching Netflix or sleeping off hangovers is a complete waste of 2/7 of our life. The most successful people know that, even if they won’t be doing much “work” over the weekend, they still have to be productive if they want to stay ahead of the rest of the population. Rather than glue themselves to the couch watching reality TV all weekend, the hardest working among us choose to:

1. Plan

Successful individuals don’t go haphazardly into the weekend. They plan their day out just as they would any other. It might be a little more loosely-scheduled than a typical Tuesday, but with only so many hours in a week, successful people know they have to use all the free time they can get to accomplish the errands and tasks they need to accomplish. Without a plan, you’ll end up watching “just one more episode” of sitcom reruns before you realize it’s already 4 p.m. on Sunday.

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2. Get up early

Of course it feels good to sleep in, but it feels even better to have checked some tasks off your list before anyone else around you has gotten out of bed. It’s actually quite rejuvenating to get up and moving early on days you don’t have to. Starting your Saturday off by hitting the gym or reading a book will leave you feeling more refreshed than if you wasted an extra two or three hours laying in bed staring at the ceiling.

3. Unplug

In today’s busy, interconnected world, most of us never truly leave work at work. Our phones are likely connected to our email and Twitter accounts, meaning we can be bombarded with a work-related task even after the 5 p.m. whistle blows on Friday. But even the hardest working among us need time to let work go. Laura Vanderkam, author of What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend, advocates taking a “tech Sabbath,” even for a couple hours over the weekend. Go fishing or hiking, visit a museum or library – and do so without your phone in your pocket. You’ll be amazed at how much more visceral the experience is.

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4. Exercise

During the week, you probably told yourself you were going to hit the gym at least once or twice. Then, life happened. While you can’t blame yourself for neglecting the gym because you needed to pick up your kids or your wife’s car broke down, the weekend is the perfect time to make up for lost opportunities. And if you can knock it off early in the day, doing so will absolutely kickstart your day and keep you motivated and moving throughout everything else you have planned for your time off.

5. Socialize

During the week, you may not have had time to eat dinner with your kids or take them out for ice cream. Don’t be that parent that’s so addicted to work that they neglect the people they are working to support. Plan fun activities to do as a family, and don’t forget about taking your spouse out for romantic dinner dates every once in a while. Make the time to meet up with friends and connect in more ways than just text messaging each other every few weeks. After all, what’s the point of life if you can’t enjoy it with the people you love?

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6. Follow passions and hobbies

Warren Buffet plays the ukelele. George W. Bush paints. Jay Leno is a car freak. Successful people use every minute of their free time doing something they love doing, because they know they’ll never get that time back. Even if your hobby requires hard work and dedication, if you’re passionate about it, you’ll still be relaxed and comfortable while working on it. Don’t waste precious time scrolling through Twitter when you could be learning a new song on piano. You never know when a simple hobby could turn into a life-long passion.

7. Embrace downtime and reflect

Of course, there are times you’ll need to sit quietly and let yourself just be. Career coach and author Roy Cohen believes meditating to be a great way to achieve peace of mind, while life coach Marsha Egan says most successful people use their downtime to reflect on their accomplishments, failures, and future plans.

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8. Prepare for the week ahead

There’s a reason many people wake up in a groggy panic every single Monday morning: They haven’t mentally prepare themselves for the work week. Especially if you’ve wasted the weekend and didn’t do all of the tasks you said you were going to “when you had the time,” Monday mornings can be an incredibly stressful time. But if you’ve used your weekend wisely, and you take some time Sunday night to analyze all the errands and jobs you need to do throughout the week, you can wake up on Monday feeling ready to take on whatever gets thrown at you.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm4.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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