Weekdays have structure. Monday through Friday, appointments, deadlines, endless to-do lists and defined goals keep most of us on task, which can allow us to build healthy habits right into the schedule. Weekends, though? Weekends are an opportunity to take a deep breath and let go. Often, this mindset goes hand-in-hand with a more relaxed approach to everything, including your personal health goals.
If you're someone who throws caution to the wind the minute the clock strikes 5:00 on Friday, remember, the weekend is almost 30 percent of your week. And if you're only staying on track 70 percent of the time, it's going to be more difficult to achieve your goals! To set yourself up for success seven days a week, try incorporating these nine habits into your weekend. Remember, it’s important to have a balance of energy-taking (responding to emails, catching up on work) and energy-giving (physical activity, mindfulness exercises, self-care) tasks.
- Do a goal check-in. Weekends are the perfect time to assess what’s going well and where you need to make adjustments. Find 15 minutes to reflect on the past week and the week ahead. Is your timeline for accomplishing your goals still reasonable? Is there anything about your goals that needs to change?
- Try one new thing. Psychotherapist Jackie Ruka suggests shaking things up by going to a new place for breakfast, trying a new bike or walking path, or discovering a new yoga class, for example. “Most of what we do during the week in our jobs is repetitive,” she explains. “Newness creates new neural pathways, opening up the natural feel-good hormones that are mood-lifting in our brains.”
- Avoid the all- or- nothing thinking. “When we are strict and trying to be perfect during the work week, then go wild on the weekends, there is this feeling of ‘I’ve failed’ or ‘I’ve gone backwards’,” explains life coach Nicole Baker. “For example, let’s say your goal is to eat more greens [and you do fine] during the week, but then on the weekend you fall into the habit of eating foods that make you feel sluggish and tired. It doesn’t need to be all during the week and nothing on the weekends. Ask yourself, what are some ways I can look for more balance over the weekend?”
- Prep meals. You don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen on the weekend, but even small things can make your weekdays run smoother and prevent last-minute drive-thru runs. Consider making some grab-and-go breakfasts for busy weekday mornings. Prep dinner ingredients or make and freeze a few meals so you aren’t scrambling for what to eat at the end of a busy day.
- Visualize your week. To get started with the visualization process, life coach Andria St-Pierre suggests asking yourself the following questions: How will I feel? To which areas will I give my energy? How will I show up for myself and my goals? “Visualization is a powerful exercise that activates the subconscious mind and will help you start focusing on the success you desire,” she advises. “What you focus on grows, so instead of starting the week off with the 'Sunday scaries', start with a vision of you successfully navigating the week and achieving your goals.”
- Schedule your time. If you have things you want to accomplish, it’s best to plan ahead before getting sucked into the latest binge-worthy show and suddenly realizing half of your weekend is gone. The schedule doesn’t need as much detail as your weekday schedule might provide, but it helps to dedicate blocks of time to things like housework, errands and, of course, fun.
- Give yourself permission to say no. “Whether it means meditating, taking a walk or just turning off my phone and computer, simple acts of letting myself relax and enjoy the moment are the very best gifts I can give myself,” says Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls. “You can fill a calendar to stay busy, but what matters most is having an impact on people’s lives, and that has nothing to do with volume of activity. [Rather,] it is about touching people in meaningful ways which may mean being less busy, not more.”
- Stick to a sleep routine. Your body’s circadian rhythm regulates your wake-sleep cycle. When you stay out late or sleep until noon on the weekend, this rhythm is disrupted and can affect your quality of sleep and ability to function optimally all week long. Try to go to bed around the same time each night, and if you feel the need for a weekend snooze, try a 20 to 30 minute “power nap” in the afternoon.
- Plan something fun. Personal trainer Katie Prendergast advises her clients to embrace things that bring you joy on the weekend, noting that if you’re always stressed about what you’re not getting done, you’re going to burn yourself out. “Having fun plans for the weekend gives you something to look forward to all week and provides an outlet to destress and chill out so you can be productive when Monday rolls around,” she says.
While all of these tasks can be helpful, the important thing is to make them habits. Creating habits means staying consistent, and, as a result, you won’t have to spend lots of time thinking about them because they’ve become an automatic part of your weekend routine. Practice makes perfect on the journey to finding the ultimate weekend balance of productivity and rest!