The Weekend Experiment That Will Change Your Life

You probably have more leisure time than you think. Here’s how to maximize it.

You probably have more leisure time than you think. Here’s how to maximize it.

Illustration: Dora Godfrey

The time between the moment you close your laptop on Friday and the moment your alarm goes off on Monday morning can feel shockingly short. But it isn’t. Assuming eight hours of sleep a night, there are 37 waking hours between 5 p.m. Friday and 10 p.m. Sunday. That’s nearly the equivalent of a full work week — which seldom feels like it disappears into nothingness, even for people who like their jobs.

But a key difference between weekdays and weekends is that work hours have built-in accountability. We think through how we’re going to spend our working hours with certain outcomes in mind. Weekends? Not so much.

I’m not saying you need to plan every minute of your weekends. But having a good sense of where your weekend hours go can help you see their abundance. That, in turn, can help you spend them in a way that makes life feel more fun.

Yes, I’m talking about time-tracking, at least for a week or two. My perception of my own weekends totally changed when I began tracking my time on weekly spreadsheets about six years ago.

My spreadsheets have the days of the week across the top, Monday to Sunday, and half-hour blocks down the left side from 5 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. This means that my weeks begin on Mondays at 5 a.m. After a few weeks of tracking, I noticed something curious: As I neared what felt like the end of my workweeks, there was always a lot of spreadsheet left.

Indeed, I soon saw that if the week starts Monday at 5 a.m., the exact midpoint of the week is 5 p.m. Thursday. Since I was accustomed to thinking that 5 p.m. Thursday sounded like the end of the week, this was eye-opening. There was an entire second half of the week that I was mentally discounting.

Knowing what your time looks like and being intentional about how you’d like to spend it, dramatically increases the chances that you’ll be able to have a weekend that feels fun, relaxing, and memorable — or at least like it didn’t slip away without you noticing.

And that’s a good thing. While leisure time isn’t as rare as we make it out to be, it is still precious and much too important to treat mindlessly.

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