Whether you work Monday through Friday or have a staggered schedule of days in which you are on or off, one thing remains true: You probably don’t want to spend all of your well-earned downtime catching up on your to-do list. While some people prefer a ”weekend-only” cleaning plan so that they can worry less during the week, baking mindful habits into your everyday routine can help you maximize your weekends for quality self-care. You might even be able to finally tackle that easy DIY project you keep putting off.
“When you’re rested, you’re mentally, physically, and emotionally sharper. You communicate better. You get sick less (because guess what? Your body repairs itself in your sleep, not while you’re sending off those one-last-emails on Saturday afternoon). You start to focus on what it means to thrive, not just survive. Downtime is actually the key to staying motivated, driven, energetic, and productive in the long run.”
As for the urge to strive for laziness? Perhaps that can use a bit of a retooling, itself. “I think the key to embracing ‘laziness’ is letting go of the judgement that comes with that label,” Horwitch adds. “Actual laziness, to me, is about dragging your heels and not following through. The laziness we often refer to when we say we’re having a ‘lazy Sunday?’ That’s not laziness. That’s resting and resetting.” And you should never feel shame or guilt for that.
So how do you set up your weeks to maximize your recharging time on the weekends? No one habit will work for everyone, but finding habits and routines that fit in your life can certainly help. Here are 11 ways to make the most out of your busy weekdays in order to free up your weekends.
In the moment, those 30 extra seconds might seem like the longest half-minute ever, and you might genuinely be satisfied with “good enough!” when it comes to scrubbing your stove or vacuuming your living room rug. But by taking time to make sure you finish the task at hand correctly the first time, you’ll free up plenty of time to relax—not to mention all that time you might have spent feeling guilty about cutting corners. A time-saving hack is great, but so is peace of mind that you’ve properly cleaned and organized your space.
By committing 10 to 20 minutes a day to cleaning, you can break up all the work that you would have tackled on Saturday morning. You can delegate each day’s block to a certain room, or focus on a certain task. For example, you might make Mondays the day you vacuum the area rugs throughout your home, while Tuesday is reserved for cleaning mirrors and other glass surfaces.
As Apartment Therapy contributor Shifrah Combiths notes, daily tasks like wiping down kitchen countertops and washing dishes shouldn’t be counted towards your 20 minutes. But by dividing up the work you tackle on top of those day-to-day chores, the work will probably feel much more manageable.
3. Dedicate certain errands to less-busy days or weeknights.
For many people, the idea of having things to do after you complete a long workday might seem like the least appealing plan possible. But by scheduling errands at times when other people aren’t doing them, you’ll save time in both the short and long-term.
Take your weekly Trader Joe’s run: As one former store manager said on Reddit, it’s best to visit the beloved grocery store on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings rather than, say, Sundays. Not only will there be fewer crowds (a win for social-distancing guidelines!) but the shelves will likely be stocked with your favorite products.
If you haven’t yet figured out the least-busy days and times to visit your local pharmacy, pet store, and more, you can always use Google to your advantage. Most store listings feature crowd-sourced reviews that include peak busy times, so you’ll know which times to avoid if you can.
4. Make the most of the time you once spent commuting.
Whether you’re working from home full-time or only going to the office a few days a week due to social distancing guidelines, you can maximize the time you would have spent going to and from work.
“When you don’t have a commute, you might have some extra time to stay on top of work without resorting to doing stuff on the weekend,” says Laura Vanderkam, the author of “Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done”. She points to laundry and grocery shopping as two major points of time investment. By starting a load of laundry in the morning, switching it out at lunch, and tasking family members to put their things away at the end of the day, you can multitask without missing a beat of the rest of your day.
Just be sure not to overdo it, however, at the risk of burning out: “In general, we’re better off filling time with the good stuff, both at work and at home,” Vanderkam says.
Whether you’re new to meal planning or a prepping pro, building your schedule around how you want to spend your weekends can be a great place to start your new meal plan themes. By saving the lower-lift plans like ordering takeout and making the most of leftovers as Friday/Saturday or Saturday/Sunday treats, you free up your time to spend it outside of the kitchen, if you want. If cooking relaxes you, you can absolutely go all-out for a Sunday-night feast—just know that putting together a cheese board, no matter how pared back, absolutely counts as dinner if you want it to.
6. Plan your weeks in advance.
Vanderkam suggests sitting down once a week to create a big-picture plan for the coming days (just be sure to bake in time for obligations or tasks you didn’t see coming).
During each session, “Identify your top work priorities, and plan when you will tackle these projects. Look at what is already on your calendar, and make a plan to deal with that (or to get rid of it!),” Vanderkam says. “And then—this is critical—leave some open space. Stuff will come up, and if there is no empty space, you will have to make space for it on the weekend.” She suggests leaving Fridays as open as possible, to serve as a built-in catchup day before the weekend kicks off.
“If the week goes perfectly, I could use Friday to get ahead, or take the day off but that rarely happens,” she adds.
7. Set up a “go-back” bin.
Apartment Therapy’s Lifestyle Director Taryn Williford swears by the clutter bin trick, which she loves because it helps you really realize how you use certain things in your home. Basically, set up a bin in as many rooms of your home as you need to, and drop the things that you believe are messy or out of place there. When you need them, they’re waiting for you. You might even realize that you need a dedicated space in that room for that habit, which is how I learned to keep coasters on my bedroom dresser for the multiple beverages I drink while I’m getting ready for the day.
Looking for a turbo-charged option? Take a page from my old retail days, where we had a dedicated crate behind the counter for “go-backs,” or items that customers decided at the last minute they didn’t want. My go-back bin is a basket stationed in my living room, where I spend most of my time: Over the course of the day, I’ll put small things like pens, hair ties, and cat toys in the basket. Before I call it a night, I’ll take 10 minutes to return those items to their proper homes. Doing so keeps me from getting distracted by cleaning during the day, and also serves as a reminder that, usually, putting things away rarely takes as much time as I think it will.
8. Find small pockets of time to exercise during the week.
There are plenty of physical and mental benefits to moving your body regularly, in whichever way that works for you. As Horwitch notes, many fitness professionals believe in the mantra that “the best workout is the one you’ll actually do.” And not only will psyching yourself up for a 20-minute workout at the end of a long day likely be easier than talking yourself into an hourlong session, studies have shown that shorter bursts of energy are often just as effective as longer sessions.
If you are a longtime “weekend warrior,” or save your long runs or bike rides for your Saturdays because that’s what your training schedule calls for, you’ve found a process that works for you. But if you’d rather spend your weekend catching up on your favorite shows, that’s OK, too. And by exercising consistently through the week, you can break the mindset that you need to put in long hours during the weekend to make up for lost time. Spoiler alert: You don’t!
“I encourage people to find time to do what they can, when they can throughout the week, and use that time they’re exercising to build energy, diffuse stress, or get them mentally ‘in the zone’ for the day ahead,” Horwitch says. “When the weekend comes, their workouts (however long they end up being) get to be about getting grounded, having fun, or building strength…instead of being about punishing yourself or finally relieving the built-up stress of an entire week that’s now behind you.”
9. Sign up for daily budgeting tools—and check them constantly.
Every morning, my bank sends me an email with a top-line overview of my checking account. If the number dropped significantly from the day before, I can log into the app and review the purchases for any discrepancies. I can also toggle between several apps on my phone to stay up to date on a number of accounts, which means time spent chasing down paperwork and rectifying errors on the weekend is cut down significantly.
As The Financial Diet points out, getting in the habit of regularly checking your account balances can help you stay on top of potential overdraft fees or other financial problems. Plus, some banking apps feature downloadable extensions or other tools to keep your money in clear view (and when it comes to funds, it’s often better to avoid surprises).
10. Set boundaries during the week.
If you know something is a distraction for you, taking steps to curb that issue is the first step to conquering it. Whether you use an internet blocker to limit your time on Twitter or to focus on one tab at a time, or stop looking at electronic devices 30 minutes before you go to sleep, setting boundaries with the tools that are meant to make us more productive can be beneficial in the long run.
It even works for the pros. “My phone can be a huge distraction for me during the week, so while I’m working, I set it across the room unless I have calls,” says Horwitch, who also uses a Bluetooth headset so she can physically keep the device on the other side of the room even when she is using it. Doing so also paid off for her favorite weekend activities: “I used to feel bad for indulging in mindless scrolling, but now that I simply don’t scroll during the weekdays, I don’t feel guilty for going down an internet rabbit rabbit hole here and there on a rainy Sunday,” she adds.
11. Practice cutting yourself some slack.
Ultimately, Vanderkam suggests you “stop thinking of the weekend as ‘the time to get caught up on chores.’” And when you set a mindset, chances are good the method can follow.
“People spend their entire weekends getting ‘caught up’ on housework and email without realizing that there will just be more soon enough,” she says. “You will never be caught up, so why worry about it? Plan in the fun stuff and the big important work, and then do housework and email in designated windows so you manage how much time you spend on these things.”