March 5, 2017

Work on your weekends

How a little bit of planning goes a long way

4 minute read, in Behaviour

I’m constantly on an ‘efficiency kick’ – looking for ways to augment/streamline time-spent. Like how I code, how I commute (thank you podcasts), and most recently, how I use my weekends.

Look up ‘efficient’ in the dictionary and you’ll find a definition like this:

  • achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense
  • working in a well-organized and competent way
  • preventing the wasteful use of a particular resource

(From Apple’s Dictionary app)

Whenever the weekend approaches, a lot of folks have an inner dialogue along the lines of: I just want to do nothing. Or, I’ll play it by ear.

Then Saturday morning rolls around, and they end up taking a substantial chunk of weekend time to plan out what they want to do. Sound familiar?

Time is finite. That’s a chunk of your weekend that you’re not going to get back.

So, why not think about what to do on your weekend in advance?

You may be thinking: Plan. My. Weekends? But where’s the spontaneity? Why would I want to work on laying out my weekends?

I’m not saying to spend a huge amount of time blocking out your weekend in 15 minute intervals. That’s rigid scheduling. But what about taking time earlier in the week to choose three activities? Three activities you can do during the weekend that will bring you joy. Just three.

Laura Vanderkam calls these ‘anchor activities’ in her book, What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast – And Two Other Short Guides to Achieving More at Work and at Home.

These activities are anything that you, personally, are going to look forward to – actions that, when thought about, evoke a ‘hell yes‘ and a huge metaphorical checkmark on your soul’s invisible checklist.


Like this.

Vanderkam suggest tying the activities to certain times, and choosing something social, something active and something spiritual – but whatever floats your boat will do. She also recommends doing something special Sunday night to ease into Monday on a high note.

For example, for me this may look like:

  • Social: Dinner with a friend on Friday night at one of our favourite spots.
  • Active: A walk early Saturday morning (6am), taking the long way to the 24-hour grocery store, so I can shop the aisles in peace and avoid long checkout lines.
  • Spiritual: Meditating in the morning for 10 minutes.

Besides the actions themselves inducing joy, the act of planning them out in advance has a benefit as well: anticipation.

When anticipation comes from a positive place (booking of a vacation, dinner with friends, signing up for that coding course you’ve been eyeing for forever) we experience some of the same pleasure that will come from the future event itself. In a Psychology Today article, Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project says, “by having something to look forward to, no matter what your circumstances, you bring happiness into your life well before the event actually takes place. In fact, sometimes the happiness in anticipation is greater than the happiness actually experienced in the moment.”

Part of this anticipatory effect is visualization – picturing yourself in a situation.

When you think about that breakfast with your family or that early morning jog, you subconsciously cause sensations associated with that situation to bubble to the surface. Calmness. Excitement. Joy.

So, fast-forward a bit, and by Sunday evening you’ll have at least done three things that you genuinely enjoy – but I have one more preposition. Bring Monday into your Sunday. Think about what you want to tackle. You can lose a large chunk of your Monday to figuring things out, and the rustling of a typical office environment probably won’t help this process. Maybe choose your Most Important Task(s) (MIT) – something that, when completed, will make you feel a strong sense of accomplishment, regardless of what happens throughout the day. Kind of like those aforementioned ‘anchor’ activities. Most people say to tackle your MIT first thing in the morning, but you can revise this model.

All that said – give thought to your weekend (and Mondays) a shot in advance. You might find that it’s the type of work that you enjoy doing.


  • Add some efficiency to your weekend, and plan to do three ‘anchor’ activities that will bring you joy.
  • Anticipating pleasurable planned events adds more happiness to your life, in part because we’re able to visualize/trigger some of the feelings we’ll experience when the event actually takes place.
  • Think about Monday’s goals – without knowing where you’re going, you end up lost.

Side Notes

  • Here’s the TED Talk that introduced me to Vanderkam’s work – How to Gain Control of Your Free Time. It changed the way I thought about the phrase “I’m busy”.
  • Get some Headspace. I use this app to help me with meditation.


And of course – a GIF!

The brain can put on some pretty amazing light shows.

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