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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.

What Is Block Scheduling? (And How It Boosts Productivity) The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again How to Increase Attention Span If You Have a Distracted Mind 8 Surefire Problem-Solving Strategies That Always Work 9 Weekend Activities To Set You Up For Productivity the New Week

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

Reference

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