If you’re reading this in on a Sunday, in between crossing items off your to-do list that should have been checked off by Friday afternoon, you’re probably not in the best mood right now. It’s also likely that you’re heading into the week in a less productive mode than you would if you could take the weekend off.
This isn’t to say that it’s all your fault that you’re here composing emails to your boss when you’d rather be catching up on your Netflix queue (or even doing chores). Americans, by and large, are martyrs to the idea that working hard means working all the time. You can’t help the fact that the culture tells you that rest is for the weak.
But that doesn’t mean that you have to participate in it, either. Rest is important for all kinds of reasons, not least of which is that it will make you a better worker. Taking time off makes you more productive, less stressed, even healthier.
If you recognize the value of taking your weekends, but aren’t quite managing to make it happen, these tips might help:
1. Keep a time diary.
Where does your workday go? If you’re like most of us, you’re pretty busy, but by the end of the day, you might not exactly be able to say what you were doing. Track your time for a day or two, and you might be surprised to discover how much time you’re spending on social media or talking to your coworkers about nothing in particular.
That’s not to say that every moment of your day has to be accounted for with work – fun has a place in the office, and having a good rapport with your team is essential. But if you look over your time diary and find out that you’re losing five hours a week to Facebook or chatting in the breakroom, you might be inclined to take back some of that time and get back your lazy Sundays.
2. Batch tasks.
Modern working life is a frenzy of multitasking, which for most of us means task-switching. That’s less efficient than doing one thing at a time. Do similar tasks in the same block, and you won’t have to waste time switching from, say, email-answering mode to meeting mode.
3. Cut out unnecessary meetings.
And speaking of meetings, there’s no bigger time-waster than an unnecessary meeting. Of course, you probably can’t just announce to your team that you’re not going to attend the next brainstorming session. But you can encourage people to think twice before scheduling, by employing simple tricks like asking for an agenda and blocking out your time. Hey, maybe you’ll save them a few precious hours as well.
4. Steer clear of social media.
Unless you’re a social media manager or similar, you don’t need to be on Facebook and Twitter all day long – and you probably shouldn’t. It’s just too easy to dip into your feeds for what feels like a second, only to emerge an hour or so later, behind on your work and hopelessly distracted.
5. Get the boss in your corner.
It’s easy enough to stay off Facebook or batch your phone calls or emails, but if you really want to improve your work-life balance, you need your manager on your side. Otherwise, she’ll start to wonder why you’re not responding to emails 30 seconds after you receive them (because you’re batching tasks!) or asking for an agenda before you confirm a meeting (because you’re planning your schedule for maximum effectiveness!). Present any changes as a solution to wasted resources, not a complaint about how your own time is being wasted, and you’ll get a better reception. After all, your time is the company’s money.
Tell Us What You Think
Do you wind up working on the weekends, no matter how hard you try not to? We want to hear from you. Tell us about your experience in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.