Successful People Do These 8 Things Each Weekend

Time management expert Laura Vanderkam reveals the subtle secrets to restorative and productive weekends in her new book ‘What Successful People Do Before Breakfast.’

By Lauren Gelman
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Flex different skills

Your weekends need to feel different from your weekdays, says Vanderkam, which happens if you rotate in different activities and hobbies you don’t have time to do during the week. For examples, she notes that celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson plays soccer, television correspondent Bill McGowan chops firewood, and architect Rafael Vinoly plays piano. Doing a different kind of labor allows your mind and body to recover from the typical stresses you encounter during the week.

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Plan it out

In today’s distracted world, no weekend plan likely means you’ll end up mindlessly watching television or browsing the internet. “Failing to think through what you wish to do on the weekend may make you succumb to the ‘I’m tired’ excuse that keeps you locked in the house,” she writes. You don't need a micromanaged, minute-by-minute playbook, but sketch in three to five “anchor” activities. Planning also lets you savor the joy of anticipating something fun; psychology research shows we’re often happier anticipating an event, like a vacation, than we are during or after it.

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Do something fun on Sunday night

Dampen those Sunday night blues by giving yourself something to look forward to. “This extends the weekend and keeps you focused on the fun to come, rather than on Monday morning,” according to Vanderkam. You could make a tradition of a big dinner with your extended family, take an early-evening yoga class, or find a volunteer opportunity, such as serving meals to those less fortunate.

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Maximize your mornings

Weekend mornings tend to be wasted time, notes Vanderkam—cleaning up toys, throwing in laundry, flipping through your DVR. But if you’re willing to get up before your family, they’re great for personal pursuits, like training for a marathon. “It’s less disruptive for your family if you get up early to do your four-hour run than if you try to do it in the middle of the day,” she explains.

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Create traditions

Happy families often have special activities they do most weekends that don’t require special planning—Friday night pizza, a walk to religious services, Sunday morning pancakes. “These habits are what become memories,” she writes. “And comforting rituals boost happiness.”

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Schedule nap time

It’s not just for toddlers. Encouraging your whole family to have rest time in the mid- to late afternoon ensures you’ll actually take the time out of your busy schedules to let your body rest and recuperate.

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Compress chores

We know what you’re thinking: When else am I supposed to get errands done? Rather than let them take over your whole weekend, Vanderkam suggests that you designate a chore time, maybe on Saturday while you wait for the babysitter to come or for a designated period on Sunday mornings. “Giving yourself a small window makes you more motivated to get chores done quickly so you can move on to the fun things,” she writes.

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Cut down on tech

Even if you’re not religious, observing a “technology Sabbath” is good for your brain. “A stretch of time apart from the computer, phone, and work stresses creates space for other things in life,” says Vanderkam. Encouraging your whole family to put away their smartphones for a day, or even a few hours, forces you to have a different relationship with your spouse, friends, and kids. If you need to work on the weekends, consider a specific window to finish a project or sort through your inbox, rather than periodically checking and writing back to emails all day long.

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