As someone who used to spend her work week up into a few projects of different sizes, I am still always intrigued by a new productivity hack, or a system that promises I’ll get more done in less time. I also really love weekends. Having time to recharge is not only vital to your mental wellbeing, but it’s also completely crucial to your performance at work. And while being overworked is patently not something I aspire to be, when I was freelancing full-time, I almost always found myself pounding away at my keyboard on Sunday night, getting things out of the way for the rest of the week, or catching up on things I didn’t find time to do the week prior. It’s something I spent a lot of time trying to change.
Unfortunately, for a while, I wasn’t anywhere close to being able to completely clear my weekends of doing work. Thankfully, I did really love what I got to do, which helped — and, being a freelancer, the hours I put in were directly tied to the money I made. This made it especially motivating to do a little “extra” on the weekends. And sometimes, giving in and working a little helped me take my mind off the things I had to do for the rest of the weekend (and honestly still does, even now that I work for TFD full time). If I didn’t take a little of my free time to take care of them, I’d just be distracted thinking about them — which made my time a lot less “free.”
To find a happy medium, I eventually started implementing a little bit of what I like to call my “weekend power hour.” It’s a list of several things that each takes only a few minutes or so to complete — together adding up to about, you guessed it, an hour — but are oh-so-helpful when Monday morning rolls around. (Also, preparing for Monday really helps set the tone for the rest of my work week.) Granted, I would still occasionally find myself doing “actual” work on the weekends, instead of fully enjoying my me-time. But I’ve gotten better, and by writing these steps out in a simple, straightforward system, they started feeling second-nature to my weekend routine.
My Weekend “Power Hour”
1. Check your email once.
Two or three times, maximum, just to make sure you aren’t missing anything dire. I even recommend turning email notifications off on your phone, which I do (I’m still trying to get out of the reflexive habit of going right for my inbox when I open up my phone — I’m not totally there yet). When you do check it, have a system in place, so that you’ll know which messages you need to deal with first thing on Monday morning. For me, I use a lot of folders, but I don’t sort things into them until they’ve been dealt with. Everything pending stays in my main inbox, and I leave the ones I need to handle first marked as unread.
2. Do one small thing to prepare for your biggest task on Monday.
I find that big projects are a lot easier to finish once I’ve…started them. If I have something that needs to get done, doing a small part of it the day before makes it a lot easier to actually do the thing when it’s time. If you have a big meeting on Monday morning, jot down a few things you want to make sure to bring up. If you have a presentation to put together, make a rough outline, so you’re not totally starting from scratch. We send Lauren the photos we want for TFD posts in the morning, so I almost always copy and paste the links onto a sticky note on my desktop the day before. It makes my mornings a lot calmer.
3. Go over your calendar.
See what you have going on this week, and save yourself from the unwelcome surprise of a forgotten phone call or a missed doctor’s appointment. If you keep multiple calendars, make sure they’re all synced somewhere.
4. Set reminders for the week.
Don’t underestimate your ability to forget things you need to do. Set calendar reminders or alarms on your phone for tasks you need to complete, or even events you want to attend, if you’re the kind of person who forgets those things when you’re swamped at work.
5. Download your podcasts.
Or audiobook, playlist, or whatever else you may listen to on your commute. Nothing sucks quite as badly as getting on the subway and realizing I’ve forgotten to download the latest episode of Happier, and I forgot the book I’m reading, so I just get to sit there and play FreeCell on my phone for forty minutes.
6. Check in on your finances.
Look at your spending from last week, and see if there’s anything you should change about this week. Pretend like you’re in a yoga class and “set an intention” for the week. If you have an upcoming bill, and you’re not on automatic payments — we all have our reasons, so no shame there — make sure you have a reminder set somewhere, or some other method in place, so you don’t forget about it.
7. Prep your snacks.
Look, I’m not going to get all preachy with you about meal prep. I’ve tried it, and it certainly doesn’t work for me — I’d much rather make big dinners throughout the week and save the leftovers, rather than make food on Sunday that I’m not even going to start eating until the next day. That being said, I do like snacking, and I tend to be less tempted to spend money if I have snacks on hand wherever I’m working. Put together a few little containers of snacks to grab and go throughout the week. Nuts and dried fruit, a granola bar and an apple, and a mini cheese wheel and red grapes are all snack combinations I love, and don’t tend to get sick of.
8. Pack your bag.
Whether that’s a purse, briefcase, or backpack, pack it up so it’s ready to go Monday morning. It’s one less thing you have to do when you wake up, and somehow it always takes less time to do the day before than when you’re scrambling around making sure you didn’t forget anything in the morning.
9. Set out Monday’s outfit.
Again, just one less thing you have to do in the morning. If I already know what I’m going to wear, that’s a cool 15 minutes I’ve saved myself on Monday. Also, putting together outfits can be fun.
10. Do a quick clean.
It does wonders for my own stress level if my apartment at least appears clean when I leave in the morning. That way, I’m not thinking about the state of my home, and am instead able to focus on what I need to make happen that day. This is certainly something I’m still working on, but even something small, like making sure there are no dirty dishes left in the sink, makes me feel better leaving the house in the morning.
Perfection Isn’t The Goal
The point of these steps is to do them whenever you feel like it over the weekend. I tend to like prepping for the week on Sunday evenings, but if you would rather get them out of the way on Friday or Saturday and spend all day Sunday relaxing, the more power to you. And, if you have a different weekend ritual, I’d love to hear about it!
This post was originally published on February 10, 2017, and has since been updated.
Holly is The Financial Diet’s Head of Content. Follow her on Twitter here, or send her your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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