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.
Meditation can benefit your brain and behavior in many ways, from increasing your self-awareness and reducing stress to enhancing creativity and patience.
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.
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. 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.
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.
There’s also evidence suggesting reading fiction can improve your brain connectivity and function, which contributes to your productivity in obvious ways.
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!
Check out these 30 Books Everyone Should Read At Least Once In Their Lives.
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.
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.
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.
Greenery, too has been shown to improve brain function –– even just looking at a pretty outdoor scene can pack a significant punch.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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