Do you wind up being so exhausted by Monday that going back to work almost seems like a relief? Canadian writer Katrina Onstad thinks she's discovered the secret to making weekends great again.
Her new book, The Weekend Effect, takes a look at how and why we over-schedule ourselves and how to reclaim the hours when we're supposed to be relaxing.
"It was a gradual decline of quality on the weekends," Onstad explained to the Toronto Star. "There’s four of us in my house and we were all feeling burnt out and really had those cliché Sunday night blues." Over the course of writing the book, she dug into the history of the typical weekend and how our attitudes and expectations have shifted as people shift to more of an on-call, 24/7, always-on work mentality.
Of course, all of us probably know we're too busy. The hard part is figuring out how to change that dynamic. Here are Onstad's suggestions:
1. Get Away from Your Phone and Email.
"There is no longer that physical line between work and leisure. Our office is in our pockets and our purses, and we’re perpetually on call, which leaves us in this heightened state all the time," Onstad said in an interview with the Globe and Mail. Worst of all: It's "not necessarily because of the rules of the workplace. We’re doing it to ourselves."
For many of us, the weekend is just an extension of the workweek. Yet while it may feel like you're getting more work done overall by answering some emails on the weekend, the cost can be a drag on productivity later — when you're really supposed to be working. Keep in mind that many of the most successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople hold their weekends sacrosanct: Onstad points out that TV producer and Grey's Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes doesn't answer work emails on weekends (which means you can probably get away with skipping them, too).
2. Get Outside Yourself.
In her new book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg mentions that one of the ways she's tried to overcome the grief following the death of her husband is by being engrossed in social activities that involve good friends. Although she's coping with grief after a tragedy rather than just trying to wrangle her Saturday schedule, she says that devoting your concentration to others or fun activities — whether that's cross-stitch or CrossFit — delivers a kind of emotional balance you can't get anywhere else.
Onstad is also a big proponent of becoming absorbed in rewarding escapes. "I think those great weekends that we remember are usually very social, they involve human connection and some kind of almost escape from the self, like any kind of activity where you can get into that flow state and really feel like you’re a part of something bigger than yourself," Onstad told the Star.
The main reason people volunteer and socialize less than previous generations is that their busy schedules don't allow it, Onstad said. But "if we want to be happy and fulfilled and better the world in which we live, we need time to do" these things, she told the Globe and Mail. Social media connections don't cut it either: "Face to face – that’s where empathy comes in; where understanding comes in; conversation; human contact."
3. Get Outside, Period.
"Being exposed to beauty sparks many creative epiphanies in the beholder, if not in that moment, then later," Onstad said in the Globe and Mail Q&A. "Physically being around beauty makes us feel better. Nature, especially."
This might sound sort of hippie or New Age, but scientists have observed tangible benefits from spending time outdoors in nature. "So many of us live in cities now. We can become very divorced from the outside world," Onstad said.
So, while you don't have a private island you can swim or kitesurf around like Richard Branson, the Virgin Group founder has the right idea. Getting outside isn't remotely a waste of time if it allows you to decompress and re-energize, so that you'll be able to focus and be as productive as possible back at your desk on Monday.
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