Monday mornings are rough for many of us - it can be hard to feel excited about getting back to the office after two days of relaxation and unstructured time. Research shows that even those of us with engaging, high-status jobs are happier on the weekend. Learning how to make the most of your weekends can help ease the transition back to the workweek and kick your productivity into gear. As it turns out, the key is to allow time for actual rest and relaxation. According to Allison Gabriel at Virginia Commonwealth University in the United States, the brain is like a muscle, which needs to be recharged and replenished. By allowing your brain to relax, you’ll improve your mood and your performance at work. Here’s how to plan your weekends for maximum rest and relaxation:
End the Workweek Right
Leaving tasks unfinished on Friday can interfere with your ability to relax over the weekend, as your brain will constantly worry about these loose ends until you take care of them. It may not be possible to finish all of your work, but you can take care of the most important items and leave low-priority tasks for the next week. Then, take some time to schedule and organise your tasks for Monday. When you know what to expect Monday morning, you won’t have to worry about returning to work when you should be enjoying your time off.
Make a Plan, But Don’t Over-Schedule Yourself
While you might be apprehensive of the idea of planning your weekends, giving yourself something to look forward to can make your weekends more enjoyable. A 2007 study found that anticipating future events makes us feel even happier than we do remembering positive past experiences. Planning three to five events to “anchor” your weekend will bring you the joy of anticipation but will still allow for unstructured relaxation.
Don’t Fill Your Weekend With Chores
It may be tempting to leave all your chores for the weekend, but if you try to take care of them during the week you’ll free up some time for more enjoyable activities. If you must take care of some chores, get them done in the morning. That way, you won’t have them looming over your head, and you’ll be less likely to stay up late the night before.
Stick to Your Sleep Schedule
On that note, avoid the temptation to have a lie-in during the weekend. Research shows that sleeping later on the weekends does not balance out any sleep lost during the week, and can actually make you feel more tired on Monday morning. Try to go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time every day, including Saturday and Sunday.
Set Aside Time to Unplug
Even if just for an hour, spend time each weekend away from your mobile phone, computer, and other devices. Read a book, take a walk, or spend some quality, device-free time with your family or loved ones. By directing your attention away from email and constant interaction with others, you allow other parts of your brain to engage. You might see a boost in creativity, or find a solution to a problem that seemed impossible before. You’ll also want to avoid using electronic devices before bed, as the light they emit can interfere with your circadian rhythms and affect the quality of your sleep.
Prepare for the Week Ahead
While we suggested planning out your Monday before leaving work on Friday, other items are bound to pop up over the weekend. Take 20 minutes on Sunday to update your to-do list and jot down any work-related ideas you’ve come up with. Then, get back to enjoying the rest of your weekend.
Make Plans for Sunday Night
It’s natural to start stressing out about work on Sunday night in anticipation of Monday, even when you like your job. The best way to avoid this is to schedule something you enjoy on Sunday evening - whether it’s a restorative yoga class, a trip to the movies, or dinner with friends. You’ll stay focused on how much fun you’re having rather than dreading the next morning.
Believe it or not, it’s possible to return to the office on Monday raring to go rather than yawning and dragging your feet. Make the most of your weekends, and you’ll find yourself getting back into the swing of things sooner than you expected.