Some weeks, the thought of the weekend is all that keeps us going. Then we finally get there, and the two days seem to fly by. Sunday evening comes around and often we’re struck by Sunday sadness, soon followed by Monday misery. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are some tips for spending those precious 48 hours in a way that boosts energy, helps you tap into your creative synapses, and prepare for a productive week ahead.
You might not have to work on a Saturday; that doesn’t necessarily mean you should sleep half the day away either. Sometimes excessive sleep causes a hangover-like feeling. Your body follows a natural clock and after you’ve adjusted to waking up at 7am each day, waking up at noon on the weekends will upset that rhythm and your mood.
Plus, with the extra time, you can exercise, buy groceries, or socialize with friends before hitting the noon-to-4pm window, which is when people most easily get distracted and productivity can decline.
If you do wake up early and find yourself tired out later on, just take a few minutes to snooze. While some people regard naps as a sign of laziness, they’re actually a good way to enhance performance and restore alertness, according to the National Sleep Foundation. But even napping is an art, and different amounts of sleep correlate to different goals:
- 10-20 minutes: For a quick boost in energy levels and alertness.
- 60 minutes: To improve memory for facts and faces.
- 90 minutes (a full sleep cycle): To improve “creativity and emotional and procedural memory,” according to Lifehacker.
It’s a good idea to avoid 30-minute naps because they’ll lead to post-nap grogginess, or “sleep inertia.” Also, nap in a slightly upright position to prevent yourself from falling into too deep a sleep, which makes it harder to wake up.
When the typical work day is a long strew of scheduled tasks, it’s easy to feel trapped in your routine. Break that up by doing something new—like rock climbing or learning the drums. Biologically, the act of doing new things can stimulate production of neurotrophins, proteins that can help brain cells thrive.
If your job requires that you sit in front of a computer for eight hours a day, five days a week, that’s an average of 40 hours (give and take a few for breaks) a week sitting. While it’s impossible to undo the damage sitting has on your health, the least you can do is to not perpetuate the negative consequences of sitting when you finally have the freedom to get moving.
According to the Brookings Institution, even low-intensity, regular exercise will boost energy levels while producing less fatigue than moderate-intensity workouts. For a more relaxing form of exercise, try yoga—it’ll also boost productivity.
It’s good to do things that will put you in a positive mood, whether it’s going to a social event, indulging in a piece of cake, or enjoying the unconditional love of a family pet. According to a study by the University of British Columbia, staying positive will help you be “creative, tolerant, constructive, generous and non-defensive.” It’s also been shown that positive emotions “carry the capacity to transform individuals for the better, making them healthier and more socially integrated, knowledgeable, effective and resilient,” according to a study (pdf) by researchers at the University of North Carolina.
Chances are, your mind is under constant siege from the alerts coming through your cell phone or the nagging need to check your social media feeds. Don’t let technology consume you. By temporarily turning off your electronics, whether it’s for a good chunk of the weekend or just a few minutes while you go for a short walk, you’re giving your brain—which isn’t made for multitasking to begin with—a much needed break.
This especially applies in big cities where greenery is harder to come by. Flowers and plants aren’t just nice to look at and smell. Studies have shown that being around plants helps people feel more positive and increases their energy levels. This in turn will make you more productive when you need to be.
Chocolate—and white chocolate more so than dark—causes the brain to release dopamine—the pleasure chemical—which will keep you alert and energized. Researchers at Vanderbilt University have found higher levels of dopamine in people who might be described as “go getters,” versus those who are “slackers.” So try eating some white chocolate to kickstart your day.
For some people, the thought of going back to work on Monday arouses stress, anxiety, even sadness. And these negative feelings can can disrupt productivity at work. To avoid this, set aside something fun, relaxing, or exciting to do Sunday evening. It can be a dance class or social gathering. Whatever it is, the activity will keep your mind off Monday and elongate your weekend.
Last but not least, part of having a productive weekend is setting yourself up for a productive week. Take a few minutes out of your weekend to see what’s on tap for the work week ahead, set some goals, and plan ahead. It will give you comfort to know you’re aware of what’s coming, and you’ll be better prepared to regroup when unexpected things come your way.