Happy Friday! I love this day. That precious uninterrupted stretch of free time known as the weekend is in its infancy. Weekend is full of potential for my projects. I wasn’t always great at being productive during the weekends, though.
When I started working full time I became outright depressed over the drastic drop in free time. It seemed like the weekend was just barely long enough to deal with all the chores and errands that piled up during the week. As soon as I was done putting the last of the laundry away, it was Sunday night and time to before start the whole process over again. It felt like all of my life, even the part where I wasn’t in the office, was dedicated to serving my employer.
So hour by hour, I reclaimed it. My weekly goal: hit the weekend running on the project or endeavor of my choice. The time added up.
In seven years I’ve used the time to chip away at various goals: learned basic programming skills, added art to my portfolio, started a plush toy business, developed an iOS app, fixed up a fixer-upper, and wrote this blog about it! I’m far from having “mastered” any of these things, but they’ve given me a sense of purpose and accomplishment. If you’ve read this far, I suspect you’d like to do the same.
Below, 8 of my techniques for maximizing weekend productivity.
1. Get enough sleep each night
If you hit the weekend exhausted, it’s probably because your week was exhausting. Don’t let the workweek rob you of your precious weekend. I think this is the most important contributor to weekend success. You must treat the week preparation for an awesome and productive weekend.
Entire books have been written about getting a good night’s sleep. This is what’s worked for me.
- Keep a consistent bedtime and wake time. Bed at 10:15, awake at 6:45 seems to be my sweet spot.
- Have an amazingly comfy bed.
- Don’t let things that delay sleep into your bedroom. No TVs, tablets, laptops. Books and magazines are okay :)
- Make your bedroom DARK.
- Challenge yourself physically during the day. This will help make you be tired by bedtime. I typically work out in the morning for 40 minutes and take a 20 minute walk after I get home from work.
- Don’t work late. If your job is making you work late regularly, find a new job. Seriously. You need your evening, no matter how depressingly short it may be, to decompress.
- Write down anything that’s bothering you. Emptying your brain onto paper can have a relaxing effect.
If these things don’t work for you, get yourself to a doctor. Your life is way too precious to spend it constantly “catching up” on sleep.
2. Write down your goals for the weekend
I find it overwhelming to get to Saturday morning with nothing on my “to do” list. It’s too much to think of something, start it, get a decent momentum on it, and finish it all in the span of a weekend. It’s easier to do nothing, or do less than I would have done had I simply formalized some plans for the weekend.
Keeping a notebook on my desk where I write tasks for my week and weekend has massively helped with productivity. I stare at it whenever my mind wanders and it helps me remember what I wanted to be doing.
- Break your weekend goal down into parts. For example, if your goal is to work on your app this weekend, then make a list of three features you want to add to it. Or make a list of bugs to fix. Try to come up with about four hours of work for yourself to accomplish over Saturday and Sunday. You can always add more later.
- Even routine things like “call home” and “wash sheets” are totally fair game for this list.
Prioritize your tasks. Circle your critical tasks, and don’t feel bad if you complete them at the expense of all the non-criticals.
3. Block out time for your weekend project
If you truly struggle with finding time for your personal projects, then you must create time for them. You have time for things like showering and eating, don’t you? Well, your project is just as important as those things!
Pick a couple hours and declare that your project time. Don’t let anything creep into that time. Say no to invitations and obligations that will interfere with being productive this weekend.
4. Start Friday night
As soon as your basic needs are taken care of Friday night, just sit down and get started.
NO TV, NO VIDEO GAMES, NO INTERNET, NO TEXTING, NO ENTERTAINMENT until you’ve put 30 minutes into your project.
It’s okay to start small and be unambitious.
If your goal is to make some new art this weekend, open Photoshop or your sketchbook and draw for 30 minutes. That’s all. Give yourself permission to stop after 30 minutes if you’d rather go do something else. Just remember: it won’t happen if you don’t do it.
If your goal has some unknowns that could slow you down (maybe you’re developing an app, haha), start simple. Run your code. If it runs, find something that’s easy to fix, and fix it. If you discover trouble – say, it won’t build, or your computer’s giving you crap – you can get a jump on resolving it. If you didn’t start this until the end of Sunday, you’d spend the whole evening being derailed by these problems and you wouldn’t get to do what you wanted to do.
If your goal is to get organized, start small: pick a closet or a drawer. Pull out five items you don’t use. You’re done. Unless, of course, you want to keep going.
It doesn’t matter how much you do on Friday night, it just matters that you do something. You’ll start to get into the project and you’ll prep your brain to think about the project and any associated challenges. Sleeping on it will give your brain time to process the problems, and you’ll likely wake up Saturday ready to continue and with some new ideas in mind.
5. Announce your plans to everyone
Tell everyone you live with that you intend to work on your app/clean out your closet/lift weights/write for your book this weekend. Especially do this if you’re usually available 24/7 to the people you live with. Tell them you’re taking X hours to work on Z.
If you’re lucky, they’ll hold you to it. ;)
6. Do chores on weeknights
If you usually save all your chores for the weekend, you’re likely to feel obligated to do them instead of your special project. At least, that’s how I seem to work: can’t do something for myself until the “responsible stuff” is done.
So get it done ahead of time. Grocery shop on a weeknight, vaccuum, clean your bathroom, sort your laundry. Do these shitty chores while you’re already tired from work, instead of when you’re well-rested and fresh on the weekend. Maximizing your weekend productivity means getting stupid things like laundry done ahead of time.
7. Get up early on Saturday morning, go straight to your project
Get out of bed, go to the bathroom, and then go straight to your project. Don’t stop to eat, don’t check the Internet, don’t do anything that isn’t house-on-fire urgent. While everyone else is sleeping off their hangover, you’ll be covering ground on something important to you.
Squeeze in as much as you can before you get pulled away by other responsibilities.
8. Do the worst part of your project first
If you’re dreading an aspect of your project, do that first. Start with the unknowns first. You’ll get your brain working on the problem subconciously. Bonus points if you do this Friday night, so your brain can backburner it as you sleep. You might wake up with a brilliant solution in mind. If not, at least you ruled out at least one idea that won’t work.
Honestly, the best way to begin is to begin. Just start. And then keep going!