We all know the benefits of taking time off from work: it can improve your health, productivity, and creativity. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that consistently spending more than eight hours at work contributes to a 40 to 80 percent greater chance of heart disease. A separate study showed that taking a vacation can renew workers’ creativity and boost productivity.
However, it’s not always enough to simply not check email when the weekend rolls around. To relax, you might have to do some planning. Here are some ideas on how can you use the 64 hours you have from 5 p.m. on Friday until 9 a.m. on Monday to truly relax.
1. Make a plan. It may seem like the opposite of taking it easy, but productivity expert Laura Vanderkam notes that, with weekends including almost as many waking hours as a typical work week, planning several “anchor” events in addition to some well-deserved down time can help maximize the impact of your weekend. For example, setting aside time to exercise, taking your kids (or dog) to the park, or planning to meet friends for a meal or movie can be events that you use to anchor your weekend, filling in the rest of the time with relaxation or other smaller activities.
2. Try to finish chores before the weekend. Somehow, Vanderkam notes, cleaning the kitchen can morph into a much-longer process over the weekend. If you tackle chores during the week, you put a time limit on them, and will be more likely to get them done in that smaller amount of time.
3. Don’t feel the need to check-in with work. Unless there is a major event or emergency that arises, don’t spend your down time staring at your iPhone. Read your book while waiting for a friend at the cafe, or even spend one full day unplugged every now and then.
4. Experience something new. Wouldn’t it be great if, on Monday, you could tell your colleagues about the fascinating documentary you went to see, or the cool art class you took at your community center? Don’t fall into a rut with your weekends, and you’ll feel more energized when work comes around.
5. Don’t feel bad if you want a little “me time.” There’s nothing wrong with using the weekend to “take back” rather than give back. So know your limits: if you find yourself spending every weekend working as a volunteer in addition to overseeing them in your day job, maybe it’s time to relax.