This post started as “how to make the most of your weekend”, but then it came to me that not all people have the weekends off. There are doctors on duty, shops that need to stay open and let’s face it, not everyone has a two day weekend. Moreover, time off isn’t supposed to happen only on weekends! No matter how small, we need to be making bits and pieces of down time happen during our workweek as well, in order to have balance. I personally have to work weekends – or certain hours on weekends – and between the months of April and November I only have a couple of weekends off, if at all. During my years in school, university, working in an office, competitive windsurfing as well as working as a coach, I am guilty of repeatedly having confused work time with leisure time, prioritising the needs of my clients over mine, not to mention thinking that my career is my life.
It is an amazing feeling to be at your best when you have to get work done. And in order to want to get work done when you have to, you must learn to do what you need during your time off, filling it with activities that help you relax, make memories and experience joy. I love it when I wake up feeling refreshed, when I am super productive and when I am eager to get on with what I have to do during my day. Equally, I experience joy when I find myself “being in the moment” during my time off – instead of spending it doing whatever random thing comes up! I have to admit, I don’t get it right all of the time, this is a learning process for me. I also didn’t use to be like this at all, taking care of how I spend my time. I used to try, try, try and top it up with trying a little more and couldn’t figure out how to “not try” or in other words “let go”. I had to work on making myself this way and it is one of the best things I have been doing for myself. Want to join and become one of those annoyingly energetic but also satisfied people? Read on.
Making the right decisions about how to use your time is an ongoing experiment, as your needs and wants change. Before you get started, know this: it won’t always go right! You will be bummed many times, but the journey is so much worth it! Here are my top tips of making the most of your time off:
Make conscious choices. Really – and I mean really – ask yourself what you need to be doing as opposed to doing something by default. Others need to relax and take a break, others need to stop procrastinating and get on with doing something, whilst others need to spend more time with their loved ones or prioritize their own needs over others’ needs. Whatever it is you need to be doing more of, failing to make a conscious decision and falling into the “same old, same old” will suck away your free hours and before you know it, you will have repeated a pattern that doesn’t get you anywhere. If you haven’t watched Groundhog Day, do so!
Do make a plan. Most people say they can’t be bothered to plan their time off whilst some can be completely spontaneous with their time and get it right every time. I by no means need or want to make a minute-by-minute plan, but in order to relax I need to plan it; in order to see the ones I care about I need to have loosely organised something with them. Even if the plan never comes out as originally thought, I find that it helps me do things. When I block certain times in my calendar to do the things I want (including catching up on sleep and relaxing) and manage to do them, I have an absolutely amazing week.
Connect. Don’t let your relationships and people you care about drift because of your busy schedule. If you are not the social type, don’t get stuck inside scrolling through TV channels, your facebook/instagram feed or replying to emails. Oftentimes I catch myself wanting to do “nothing” on a day or half-day off. I have noticed that whenever I put this “I need time alone” label on my needs, there are instances where I end up unconsciously doing “whatever” (work included) and the end of the day finds me wondering where my time went. Plus, I have missed the chance to connect with people that matter to me.
Look at the big picture. You don’t need to meditate for hours in order to have some quality time with your inner self, although it does help if you have clarity when looking inwards. What’s moving along well in your life? What’s stuck? In what areas do you need to make changes in order to evolve? Keep your eyes on the bigger picture, set goals and then actions to reach those goals. Goals need energy and thought; you need to first figure out the actions needed and then see how you can get just outside of your comfort zone and plan things towards making them happen.
Make appointments to do things you want to do. If you know you want a bubble bath, plan the circumstances to have it! If you want to see a friend, set the day and time to meet! If you want to work out, block the time on your calendar. This is one of my favorite things to do. And the best thing about it is, if I see things on my calendar which I never come round to doing, then I know I need to work around things and change something to achieve balance in the three major areas; relationships, career and myself (myself = fitness, meditation – spirituality, hobbies, education, etc).
Schedule down time. This means, a designated time window where you won’t turn on the TV, check your social media, use the internet or take care of the needs of others. Choose to draw your attention away from activities where you don’t really take care of yourself, even if that means choosing not to pick up a call that you don’t want to have at that moment. Being mindful of and giving your attention to yourself instead of others will make your down time meaningful.
The main thing I want to emphasise is that becoming aware of how you spend your time is a process. You need to stick with looking at your patterns and experimenting in what works best for you. There will be times that you’ll find that you wanted to do x instead of z but I promise that after a couple of weeks or a month it will become easier and easier to figure out how to be within or close to your comfort zone AND on track with your goals! You might even end up finding it enjoyable!
Does your time off fly by too fast? What are the things you want to do, but never come round to doing? Look at the big picture, make choices, plan ahead and be selective!