Have you noticed that much of our social interaction at work revolves around the topic of weekends? Two of our most-common questions are:
- “What did you do this past weekend?”
- “What are your plans for this coming weekend?”
As I’ve worked with various teams, I’ve wondered why do people talk so often about weekends?
My answer is twofold: First, people know us in our roles in the workplace, but how we spend our leisure time in tells our colleagues much more than they see through our work. So asking about our weekends is a way to know us better. Second, people ask these questions as a way of checking in on one another. On the surface, the question is about our weekends, but the question behind that question is whether we are happy and taking care of ourselves.
Taking these answers together, weekends are both an expression of our individuality and a measure of our happiness and attention to self-care. Put simply, weekends are supposed to be about filling our tanks: engaging in meaningful activities and getting rest.
Are your weekends spent engaging in activities which fill your tank, leaving you feeling restored, relaxed and fulfilled? If you’re an American, the answer is likely “not really” or just flat-out “no.” And you’re not alone. In a Slate article, researchers found that Americans were far more likely than their European counterparts to work weekends.
Despite all of our advancements in technology and science, our ancestors were much wiser about rest. They knew the value of taking time off and many of them dedicated an entire day every week to contemplation, rebuilding social connections, and caring for their inner self. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, it’s called the Sabbath.
This idea of working six days and then resting on the seventh has been around for thousands of years in the western world, and up until quite recently, communities rested together. One day a week, stores and restaurants closed, people got together with family and neighbors, and no one went to work. If you'd like more information around the history and practice of these traditions, there are some terrific resources such as Wayne Muller's Sabbath: Finding Rest Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives.
Our two-day weekend is a modern invention which evolved during the latter part of the industrial revolution as a way of accommodating the needs or demands of workers for more time to rest, so they would be ready to resume work on Mondays. An article in The Atlantic lays out the history of the two-day weekend (and even wonders if we should be transitioning to a three-day weekend).
But at this point in history, even with a two-day weekend, many of us can hardly call our weekends relaxing. We bring home work with us, or, as stores are open 7 days a week, we spend our free time running errands or doing chores. Our free moments are taken up with our social media and news feeds. None of which actually leaves us feeling truly rested and ready to return to work on Monday morning.
I’m not going to tell you that you can’t run errands or do chores (because I realize that those things need to get done). But we cannot sustain ourselves by making the weekend merely another form of work in a different location.
We all need time to fill up our tanks with activities that restore our sense of purpose and peace.
Which types of activities offer a feeling of recharge are very personal and particular to each individual. For some people, cooking a meal feels restorative, for others (especially those who’ve been cooking all week or who cook for a living) cooking is just more work.
Your work on self-development should include practicing mindfulness centered on what types of activities and experiences genuinely soothe you and which ones create more stress and anguish. While you are discerning what is what, I can offer some general guidelines for filling your tank on the weekend.
4 ways to get more out of your weekend:
- Set aside time over your weekend for stillness (schedule it in so that it happens). I highly recommend taking either Saturday or Sunday morning to experience a version of an old-fashioned sabbath (no electronics, no chores, just hanging around the house, reading books, interacting with loved-ones, meditating or engaging in some other peaceful practice).
- Plan something fun that you’re looking forward to doing. Don’t get caught up in trying to plan something complicated or stressful (which defeats the purpose). The purpose of your plan shouldn’t be impressing your co-workers at the water-cooler Monday morning. The goal is to give yourself something that makes you happy in both the anticipation of it and experience itself.
- Try to limit the number of chores and errands you’re running. It’s tempting to try to get as much done as you can while you’re home from work, but recognize that sometimes our homes can end up owning us more than we own them.
- Make meaningful time with your family (and friends). Sharing a meal is a much better way to connect than watching television together or sitting on the sofa with our noses in our phones.
We’d love to hear how you fill your tank on the weekends. Please share your restful weekend strategy with us here so we can learn from each other!