Have you noticed that much of our social interaction at work revolves around the subject of weekends? Two of our most-common questions are:

  1. “What did you do this past weekend?”
  2. “What are your plans for next weekend?”

As I’ve worked with various teams, I’ve wondered why our conversations always seem to gravitate to this topic.

My answer is twofold: First, our colleagues are familiar with our roles in the workplace, but it’s asking how we spend our leisure time that helps them get to know us better. Second, many ask these questions as a way of checking up on each other’s health and well-being.

Overall, weekends are both an expression of our individuality, as well as a measure of our happiness and attention to self-care. Put simply, the ideal weekend should be centered around engaging in meaningful activities and resting up for the week ahead – filling our tanks.

Do you spend your weekends immersed in activities that leave you feeling restored, relaxed, and fulfilled? If you’re a modern day American, the answer is most likely “not really” or just flat-out “no.” And you’re not alone – researchers have found that Americans are far more likely to work weekends than their European counterparts.

Why is this?

Despite all our advancements in technology and science, our ancestors acknowledged the need for personal care far more than we do today. They saw value in taking time off, and many dedicated a full day each week to contemplation, social connections, and caring for their inner self. In Judeo-Christian tradition, this is called the Sabbath.

This idea of working six days and resting on the seventh has been around for thousands of years, and up until recently, many communities made it a weekly priority to rest together. Stores and restaurants closed, families relaxed, and no one went to work. If you’d like more information about the history and practice of these traditions, a terrific resource is Wayne Muller’s Sabbath: Finding Rest Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives.

Our modern two-day weekend evolved during the latter part of the industrial revolution as a way of accommodating the workers’ need for rest in order to resume work again on Monday mornings. This article from The Atlantic lays out the interesting history behind the two-day weekend, and even questions if we should now extend it to three.

Even with our two-day weekends, many of us can hardly call them relaxing. We bring homework with us everywhere, run errands, and do endless household chores. Our few free moments are taken up by social media, television, and news feeds – none of which leave us feeling truly rested and ready to return to work on Monday morning.

Now I’m not going to say you shouldn’t make that Target run or mop your kitchen floor, because I realize those things need to get done. But we cannot sustain ourselves by making our weekends another form of work, simply in a different location. We all need time to spend on activities that fill our tanks and restore our sense of purpose.

There are a wide range of activities that offer a feeling of recharge and enjoyment to many. These activities are unique to each individual, and could be something along the lines of cooking a nice meal to running a 5k.

Your first step towards self-development should include practicing mindfulness to discern which activities genuinely soothe you and which simply create more stress. Even if you haven’t found the answer to that question yet, you can start with using the following steps to feel restored and rejuvenated by Monday morning. 

 4 ways to fill your tank this weekend: 

Set aside time over your weekend for stillness.

Take either Saturday or Sunday morning to experience your own version of an old-fashioned Sabbath. Schedule in this into your day, so you’ll have no excuse to miss out. Some quiet activities to practice during your time of stillness could be meditation, reading, or spending time with your loved ones in an electronics-free environment.

Plan something fun that you’ll look forward to.

Don’t get caught up in trying to plan something complicated or stressful (which defeats the purpose of your weekend). The purpose of your plan shouldn’t be impressing your co-workers at the water-cooler Monday morning. The goal is to give yourself an activity that makes you truly happy, both in the anticipation and the experience itself.

Limit your number of chores and errands.

Although it’s tempting to try and get as much done as you can while you’re home from work, recognize that sometimes our homes can end up owning us more than we own them. Spread out your errands into smaller time blocks throughout the week, rather than wasting half of your weekend running around town.

Make meaningful time a priority.

Sharing a meal with your family or friends is a much better way to connect, rather than watching television or sitting on the sofa with your noses in your phones. Allow yourself to spend meaningful time nurturing your connections with those you love.

We’d love to hear how you fill your tank on the weekends. Please share your mindful weekend strategy with us here, so we can learn from each other!