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Published on March 26, 2021

9 Weekend Activities To Set You Up For Productivity the New Week

9 Weekend Activities To Set You Up For Productivity the New Week

That looming feeling of dread about Monday morning –– nicknamed the “Sunday Scaries” –– seemed to hit harder every week.

I would try to enjoy relaxing weekend activities, but as the work week approached, I found myself struggling to wind down. All I could think about were the responsibilities waiting for me in the office: a full inbox, a full schedule and to-do list, and the inevitable problems that would surface as I managed all of it.

Then, I realized: maybe the week itself wasn’t the problem. Maybe my weekend activities just weren’t preparing me to tackle the work ahead of me.

In my experience, one of the biggest predictors of a successful workweek is a strategic weekend.

The right plans on your off-days can provide the stamina you need to get things done when it matters most. The same is true the other way around: You’ll find more motivation to power through the week when you have something refreshing or fun to look forward to on the weekend.

Looking for some fresh ideas to maximize your effectiveness at work? Here are 9 weekend activities to set you up for productivity each week.

1. Meditation

Meditation can benefit your brain and behavior in many ways, from increasing your self-awareness and reducing stress to enhancing creativity and patience.[1]

All those things tangentially relate to work productivity, but gaining the ability to be fully present can have a major impact on your ability to focus –– and get things done –– throughout the week.

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If meditation feels overwhelming, start small. Focus on a relaxing task, like coloring or simply breathing, mindfully for 5-10 minutes. Write in a gratitude journal to improve your positive thinking. If you want some help in the process, download a meditation app like HeadSpace or Insight Timer.

You can also take a look at this Guided Morning Meditation for Beginners (That Will Change Your Day).

2. Something Creative

Painting. Writing. Redecorating your living room. All creative endeavors have one thing in common: They improve your well-being and brain function.

It’s well known that a sense of mastery (essentially, achieving something) can improve your mental health, freeing up mind space for you to focus on work during the week.[2] Being creative also encourages a “flow” state, which can enhance your productivity.

No matter how you choose to exercise creativity, do your best to give your brain a break from actual work.

3. Reading

Reading is a simple way to unwind any day, but it’s especially helpful to prepare yourself for the workweek. Any book you find interesting can be relaxing and enjoyable, but no matter what you choose, aim for paper –– all that time staring at screens can actually reduce your ability to read a real book.[3]

There’s also evidence suggesting reading fiction can improve your brain connectivity and function, which contributes to your productivity in obvious ways.[4]

In my experience, reading a great novel also helps me be more empathetic, and the ability to think from another person’s perspective can improve your relationships and problem-solving abilities. It’s a win-win!

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Check out these 30 Books Everyone Should Read At Least Once In Their Lives.

4. Exercise

It takes some work to motivate myself, especially on weekends –– but I’ve found that my brain feels clearer and my body feels more relaxed the more physical activity I do.

It’s hard to over-emphasize the benefits of physical activity. Exercise impacts every area of health, from your mental well-being to your life expectancy and disease risk. But it’s also beneficial for your brain.

Scientific evidence shows routine exercise can improve memory, focus, and attention span, all of which contribute to your productivity during the week.[5]

Even if you’re not athletic, choose an activity you like doing, and do it for 30 minutes a day. If you can’t go to the gym or you don’t have equipment at home, turn on a YouTube class or go for a walk outside. You’ll reap long-term benefits, but if you’re anything like me, even the immediate benefits of moving your body will be worthwhile.

Find out How to Find Workout Motivation When You Hate Exercise.

5. Spending Time Outdoors

Time outdoors is a simple, enjoyable way to boost your health and, along the way, improve your productivity and focus at work. For example, sunshine in the morning helps regulate your circadian rhythm, which promotes better sleep and mood.[6]

Greenery, too has been shown to improve brain function –– even just looking at a pretty outdoor scene can pack a significant punch.[7]

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Aim to spend as much time outside as you can on weekends –- going for walks in your neighborhood, hiking on your favorite trails, even doing work in your yard. Opt to exercise in nature, and you’ll get the best of both worlds!

6. Something Fun

You’ve probably heard the phrase “working for the weekend.” While I’m a firm believer people should be passionate about their jobs, I also know how helpful it is to have something to anticipate throughout the week.

Psychological research suggests with an incentive ahead, people find more motivation to achieve.[8]

Incentivize working by planning something you’ll really look forward to on the weekend –– seeing a loved one, ordering from your favorite take-out, taking a mini-adventure out of town, or a special movie night with your family.

7. Cooking

If there’s one hobby I’m glad I adopted during the pandemic, it’s cooking. Using your five senses is a great way to practice mindfulness and reduce anxiety.[9] Preparing meals on the weekend can also help you save time during the week.

I like to make a big Sunday dinner and save leftovers to eat in the early portion of the week. Sometimes, I order groceries and prep ingredients on Sunday afternoons, too, and if I’m feeling ambitious, I’ll make separate batches of food to freeze and heat up later, when I don’t feel like cooking.

All the effort helps me to relax, saves me time after work, and prevents me from ordering fast food that’ll drain my energy later on –– and these three things combined increase the likelihood of productivity throughout the week.

8. Screen-Free Time

There’s nothing wrong with some tech-centric leisure, but if your job relies on tech throughout the week, it’s a good idea to unplug on the weekends.

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First of all, too much screen time, especially at night, interferes with sleep. To best prepare for success at work, you’ll want to catch up on lost rest over the weekend –– and all that blue light isn’t going to support restorative rest.[10]

Plus, it’s likely your brain needs a break from the constant input of the internet. It may feel relaxing to scroll Twitter mindlessly, but there’s lots of evidence that too much screen time can interfere with healthy brain function.[11]

Allow yourself some screen-free hours on Saturday and Sunday, and you’ll find yourself more creative and focused during the week.

9. Planning Your Week

Is your goal is to enhance your productivity? Arguably, then, the most significant part of your weekend is the time you take to set intentions for the week ahead.

There’s no one-size-fits-all schedule for success. How you plan out your week should ultimately depend on your big-picture goals and the tasks you need to accomplish to achieve them.

There’s also evidence that high performance is more likely to occur when people and organizations take the time to plan out how they’ll meet their goals. Don’t skimp on this part –– studies show you’ll achieve more when your planning quality is high, too.[12]

You may not want to spend your weekend laying out your schedule and setting goals, but you’ll find your stress decreases and your effectiveness increases if you do.

The same is true for the other weekend activities. It might feel better to zone out on Netflix, but setting yourself up for success is worth the investment –– especially if it banishes those Sunday Scaries once and for all.

Want to learn even more about the best weekend activities for personal development? Check out 13 Things to Do During Weekends to Improve Your Life.

Featured photo credit: Юлія Вівчарик via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Aytekin Tank

Founder and CEO of JotForm, sharing entrepreneurship and productivity tips at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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