It was 3PM, and I was blurry-eyed from working in front of my computer for the past six hours. A solid six hours of work sounds perfectly normal, right? Except this was a Saturday -- a day I normally try to reserve for computer-free activities.
Chances are, you've found yourself in this exact same scenario more times than you care to admit. The ability to be constantly connected offers great convenience, but it also makes it overwhelmingly difficult to truly unplug and disconnect -- even on weekends.
We all deserve a little time to relax and recharge. But, taking your weekends back from that to-do list of yours can be a challenge. Use these five tips to reclaim your weekend and finally step away from that computer.
1. Adjust Your View
Before you can make any further changes, you first need to alter your perception of the weekend. Too many of us view it as a bonus extension of the work week. We tell ourselves that we can take care of those things we weren't able to wrap up on Friday afternoon on Saturday or Sunday.
However, that assumption needs to change if you truly want to reserve your weekends for relaxation and enjoyment.
Stop viewing your weekend as the catchall for the work you can't quite finish during the regular week. It'll make you that much more productive those other five days in an effort to tie up any loose ends before you clock out.
2. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Speaking of tying up loose ends, if you previously worked the majority of the weekend and now plan to stop, you're technically losing two working days.
Obviously, you can't just cut out a chunk of your work week without it having an impact. So, adequate preparation is key to ensure that you can actually unplug for two days each week. This might mean longer hours Monday through Friday, but it's usually worth it to have an entire stress-free weekend.
Start each week by jotting down all of the major things you need to get done before Friday afternoon. Having this master list will keep you focused on the big tasks you need to accomplish, and help you avoid missing the forest for the trees when your week gets crazy.
3. Utilize Small Pockets of Time
Wish you could add a little more time to your work week? Well, you probably can.
No, there isn't some magic formula that'll actually stretch your working hours. However, making an effort to effectively utilize those small pockets of time you're used to wasting -- like those twenty minutes before your next meeting starts or those ten minutes before you head out to lunch -- can really maximize your productivity.
Those might seem like small, insignificant time blocks. But, they add up fast. And, by using them for real, productive work, you could technically add a couple of hours to each week -- meaning there's less for you to feel tempted to handle over the weekend.
4. Set Expectations
If you've gotten used to working weekends, chances are other people have gotten used to you working during that time as well. Maybe colleagues and clients are emailing you at all hours on Sundays. Or, perhaps you've become accustomed to having to take a call on a Saturday afternoon.
Similarly to how you had to adjust your own expectations, you'll also have to tweak the expectations of the people you work with.
Make it clear that you're going to do your best to stay away from work each weekend -- even if that means you need to set an "out of office" message on your email. Eventually, people will get used to the fact that they shouldn't reach out to you on your days off, and you'll be able to relax without your inbox constantly filling up (hopefully).
5. Accept the Unfinished
If you spend the majority of your weekend working, chances are you have a lot to do -- so much that you couldn't quite cram it all into a normal work week.
But, take a minute to ask yourself: How much of the stuff you do over the weekend absolutely has to be done by Monday morning? I'm willing to bet only a very minor slice of it.
I hate having pending work and projects hanging over my head just as much as the next person. However, if you're seriously aiming to reserve your weekends for personal time, you're going to need to be comfortable with recognizing what's unfinished and -- unless it's incredibly urgent -- leaving it on your desk for Monday. I promise, it'll still be there when you get back.
You may be accustomed to working during the weekend. But, you deserve some time to unplug and recharge. Use these five tips, and you're sure to reclaim your weekends from the firm grasp of your to-do list!