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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
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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.

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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 July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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