After months of planning, moving things around, and completing checklists to free up a long summer weekend to take the family to the lake, you close your laptop on Friday with an inbox full of unanswered emails. Instead of thinking only of jet skis and sunshine, your mind is affixed to one of your Big 3 tasks you didn’t complete—the one you’ll be chipping away at while the kids are napping or taking an evening swim.
We’ve all been there. In a world of interconnectivity, where wifi access is everywhere and our phones serve as backup laptops, we bring our work with us everywhere we go, often to the detriment of our families.
The way we approach our work lives has a direct impact on those around us. And if we’re not completing everything we need to during the week, we often drag that work with us into the spaces between—time we should be spending with loved ones or simply disconnecting from the work world.
Winning back your weekends—and your evenings— is about what you do from Monday morning through Friday afternoon. A better work week means a better weekend. It means turning off your phone (or at least silencing it for a few hours) to take your child fishing or spend some quiet time on the beach with your spouse.
To win back your weekends, you have to optimize your work week, and that starts with a few practices that will help you regain your footing.
Tactic 1. Hit the Reset Button
We force our kids to take naps because it’s good for their development (and our sanity). Somewhere along the way, we forgot how beneficial naps can be for the rest of us.
According to the CDC, daytime naps of about 20 minutes aren’t just good—they’re recommended. Short naps can increase alertness and give us the extra boost we need to power through a couple hours of the day functioning at our full potential.
Not everyone naps the same or experiences the same benefits of naps, so how you nap and how long you nap may vary. But there’s plenty of research to support that naps are generally beneficial for your alertness, mood, memory, and energy levels.
There’s no shame in taking 20 to 30 minutes out of your day for a quick nap to recharge your batteries and be at your best the rest of the day. If you have a flexible schedule that allows for a daytime nap, try working one into your daily routine, or maybe try setting aside some time during your lunch break to lie down and close your eyes for a bit. Even if you don’t fall asleep, you’ll likely still experience a boost in energy.
Tactic 2. Protect Your Time
Limiting distractions is a form of rejuvenation in that it allows you to distill down your days into their purest form. With nothing to get you off task Monday morning, you power through the day with focus and clarity, allowing you to close the book on the work day and not think about your tasks and projects until the next morning.
We all have different distractions that can drain our energy. If you work from home, that may be family members who also occupy your work space. It may be delivery drivers ringing your doorbell or the dripping sink in the bathroom. Many of those distractions are hard to avoid, but it’s important to be protective of your time and your workspace to be productive, focused, and capable of clearing your Daily and Weekly Big 3 and other tasks.
Additionally, you have to be able to say no. We all have friends with flexible work schedules who want to grab a two-hour lunch every Wednesday or regularly sneak away early to squeeze in a quick round of golf. If your goal is to free up your weekends for time with those friends and family members, you have to be willing to say no when distractions disrupt your work flow and get in the way of achieving your goals.
It’s also important to set boundaries with your evenings. When your work day is done, close your computer, turn off email alerts on your phone, and simply disconnect from your work day. Holding that boundary between your work life and your personal life is a great way to feel refreshed and ready for work the next day, even if you have one extra task to do that you otherwise may have completed after dinner.
Tactic 3. Feed Your Mind
Your brain is never not working. But sometimes it’s been running the same process for too long while subconsciously running hundreds of other processes in the background. Often, some of the things going on behind the scenes are puzzle pieces the brain is fitting together while you’re not actively thinking about them.
In Michael Hyatt and Megan Hyatt Miller’s new book Mind Your Mindset, Michael tells the story of a presentation he had to complete for the next morning. Try as he might, the thoughts weren’t flowing and he was stumped. His wife, Gail, told Michael to just go to bed—it would work itself out in the morning. Sure enough, he woke up with the clarity and focus he needed to complete the presentation.
There are a couple reasons for this kind of clarity reset, one of which involves allowing the brain to reshuffle the deck—moving background processes to the foreground so it can work out current problems in the background.
You’ve probably experienced this at work. Your project isn’t coming along as quickly as you’d like. The report you’re writing feels like quicksand. Every word you write pulls you under more quickly, and it takes all your effort just to keep your head from going under.
The trick to escaping quicksand is to slow down, spread out and stop fighting so hard. And the same is true when thinking feels like quicksand. Slow down. Give your brain a little breather. Do something else—take a jog, read a book, or just turn on a TV show for a bit.
The more you can practice these rejuvenation tactics throughout the week, the more productive and focused you’ll be. That means getting more done during the week so your weekends and evenings are free for all the things (and people) that matter most to you.
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