How to Have a Good Weekend
Suggestions for how to feel energized, nourished and refreshed
First of all, thank you to everyone who has participated so far in our “Daily Delights” Substack chat. If you missed it, it’s a running thread, open to all subscribers, in which people share anecdotes or photos of things that have brought them delight that day—a practice, inspired by the poet Ross Gay, that I believe is important at any time, but is especially so given everything going on right now.
Looking through the chat has been very grounding and helpful to me this week, and I hope it will be the same for you—and also serve as a reminder of the importance of focusing on small, positive things, especially if other areas of life feel out of control. For more on what a delight practice is and why I believe it is so important, here is my original explanation. And you can join the chat here:
And now, the main focus of today’s newsletter:
How to Have a Good Weekend
Last week I went to New York City for a dance workshop, and I was absolutely stunned by how long (and satisfying and memorable) the weekend felt compared to most others that I’ve had recently. It wasn’t just the dancing, though that was fantastic; it was the number of interesting experiences that I had in just two days. Granted, a lot of it could only have happened in New York (and with childcare), but it made me wonder: how can I make my normal, non-NYC weekends feel more fun and memorable?
I was talking to my friend Abby Davisson about this (she’s the co-author of Money and Love: An Intelligent Roadmap for Life’s Biggest Decisions, and just launched a Substack called, which you should subscribe to), and she pointed me toward the work of Cassie Holmes, who’s done research on exactly this subject — namely, how to have weekends that don’t suck. Which brings me to my first suggestion:
Tip 1: Treat Your Weekend “Like A Vacation”
Cassie (who’s an acquaintance of mine—small world!) researches time and happiness. She’s the author of a great book called Happier Hour: How to Beat Distraction, Expand Your Time, and Focus on What Matters Most, and recently was a co-author on a study investigating whether a shift in mindset might affect people’s perception and enjoyment of their weekends.
The study’s instructions were simple. The intervention group was told to “[t]reat this weekend like a vacation. That is, to the extent possible, think in ways and behave in ways as though you were on vacation.” The control group received verbatim instructions, except with the word “vacation” replaced with “regular weekend.”
Participants were left to interpret and act upon these instructions as they saw fit. When they analyzed the results, the researchers found that the people who had treated their weekends “like a vacation” reported more happiness, less negativity and greater satisfaction on Monday. As Cassie explained it to the Washington Post,
“Treating the weekend like a vacation activates a mindset shift — nudging us out of our constant doing mode, where our activities are items we’re trying to get through to check off our to-do lists. . . . The vacation mind-set allows us to feel like we can actually take a break and enjoy the moment.”
And apparently that last bit was key: the effect on people’s moods seemed less dependent on WHAT they were doing, and more on how PRESENT they were while doing it. As the study authors put it, “Our results suggest that directing attention to the present was most important for reaping emotional benefits from time off.”
This makes sense on many levels, and also reinforces one of the ideas that really stuck with me from writing How to Break Up With Your Phone, which was that we only experience and remember the things we pay attention to. So one simple technique for making your life more memorable and enjoyable—whether it’s on weekends or weekdays—is to work on reducing distractions.
Want fewer distractions and more delight?
But, with that said, I also can’t help but suspect that “not having to do laundry” (or, god help me, pack school lunch) also played a major part in my enjoyment of my NYC weekend—and that (obvious alert) certain activities are much more inherently happiness-boosting than others. Which brings me to my second suggestion:
Tip 2: Break Your Weekend Into Chunks (and Make Plans for Them)
I got this idea from Julie Morgenstern, an organization expert whose work I first encountered right after college, when I read her book, Organizing From the Inside Out, and immediately rushed to the Container Store, where I spent $200 (of my unemployed writer’s non-salary) on empty boxes.
She subsequently wrote a time management book called, wait for it, Time Management from the Inside Out, in which she offers a strategy for weekend planning that I am interested in trying, and wanted to offer to you as well.
She suggests that if you want to have a restorative (and fun) weekend, you should think of your weekend as seven distinct chunks of time: Friday night, Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, Saturday evening, Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon, and Sunday evening—and make enjoyable plans in advance for at least some of them.
What kind of enjoyable plans? She recommends that in every weekend you make space for some sort of physical activity, some sort of social interaction, and some sort of “escape,” which she defines as activities that “get you out of your head and into a different world” — such as a hobby, visiting a museum, or even just going for a phone-free walk with your dog.
I like this time-chunking approach because it encourages you to reserve time and make plans for things that you’d enjoy (which often will NOT happen unless you make plans for them)—and it also helps compartmentalize weekend chores so that they don’t start to expand and expand and expand until suddenly your entire weekend has been spent on household maintenance. In theory, time-chunking could have prevented what happened to me a few weekends ago, when I had made no plans, started tidying aimlessly around the house, and somehow ended up spending two hours of my Saturday on my hands and knees, using a carpet vacuum to clean our stairs step by step—an activity driven less by necessity and more by the fact that I had caught sight of the vacuum while doing laundry and had started reading the instruction manual. You know, for fun.
Tip 3: Start Early
Julie Morgenstern suggests that you start making weekend plans early —as in, ideally start doing some social outreach by the Sunday before the weekend in question, which seems a bit aspirational to me, given my current level of mental overwhelm, but also like it’s probably a pretty good idea, given how freaking BUSY everyone is these days. (Busy-ness and how it’s making us all miserable = something I intend to write about in a future newsletter.)
But she also points out that many people wait until Thursday night or later to plan their weekends. Given that I am writing this on Thursday during the day, I figure that there’s still hope for me—and you, if you’re up for it—to overachieve (or at least beat the average) and start making some weekend plans.
In conclusion, if you want to have a good weekend, I suggest that you ask yourself:
How could you treat this weekend “like a vacation”?
How could you reduce distractions so that you could be more present?
What would you like to do in each of your weekend’s “chunks”? (And how can you prevent the not-fun stuff from expanding outside its allotted time?)
What plans could you make for socialization, physical activity, or escape (or anything else that sounds enjoyable)?
(Bonus) How could you make space for (and make yourself more open to) spontaneity?
I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section—don’t be shy!
To scrolling less, living more, and having weekends that don’t stink,
PS: My personal delight of the day? Finding out that Little Rock Arkansas has a new mural that was directly inspired by my book, The Power of Fun. As a writer, I’m accustomed to working alone, in isolation, and am always surprised (and yes, delighted) to discover that something I wrote has had a positive impact on someone. I never, ever, would have anticipated that my words would inspire public art. If anyone lives in Little Rock, please take a photo of yourself near it and send it to me!
Many thanks to the muralist, Jessica Jones, and the Rotary Club of Little Rock and the Downtown Little Rock Partnership (the sponsors) for making this happen. And for these lady bug hose nozzles.
PPS: I just was looking to see if Cassie Holmes had a Substack that I could link to (she does not), and discovered that she was interviewed for one of my own new favorite Substacks, “Bad at Keeping Secrets,” by Carissa Potter, whom I just had the pleasure of meeting/speaking to yesterday. Double delight!