I get it: Have laptop and WiFi, will work. The world is your office. You own a business, and business doesn’t stop just because you’re tired. You’re the one who keeps this place running, dangit, and it’s not going to run without you.
For you, weekends are just days where you check your email on the go instead of at the office. Your kids’ soccer games and dance recitals are opportunities to winnow your inbox from 500 to 50 messages between demands for applause and cheering.
Weekends … well, they’re days just like any other—they’re workdays.
Well, I’m here to tell you to stop it.
While it might sound a bit woo-woo, life’s passing you by with every moment you spend with your head buried in your phone or hiding from that big shiny thing in the sky that’s all about the vitamin D. But it’s downright astonishing what can happen when you start looking at whatever days are your weekends in a different light.
As someone who used to see every day as a workday, I’d like to share a few strategies I used to bust out of the allure of “always on” in order to enjoy some well-deserved downtime.
Hit "Pause" on the Email Flow
These days, we live and die by our phones. Heck, let’s be honest here: Our phones aren’t even used as phones most of the time. They’re mobile offices!
So if they’re so necessary for our daily life—business and otherwise—how do we turn them off but still stay connected to the people that weekends were made for (like kids, friends and family)? It's easy! Simply suspend all business-related email delivery on your smartphone for the entire weekend.
If you have an iPhone, here’s how to shush-up those all-work emails:
- Go to "Settings," then go to "Mail, Contacts, Calendars," then go to "Fetch New Data."
- Designate the email accounts you want to “silence” for the weekend.
- Set all accounts to be silenced to "Fetch."
- Under "Fetch," check "Manually."
- Set a calendar event for either Monday or your next work morning to remind you to turn those accounts back to "Push."
For other email programs and phones, including Gmail, Outlook and Android phone users, this simple guide can get you off email and back into life in a jiffy.
But, but, but … checking an email only takes a minute! It doesn’t ruin your weekend. But that's where you’re wrong. A study by U.K.-based Loughborough University found that it takes more than a minute for our brains and behavior to recover from being interrupted by an email notification. Imagine how you could spend all those lost minutes. I found a ton of extra minutes in my day once I snoozed my email for the weekend.
Fall Back in Love With Voicemail
Before I took back my weekends, when my phone would ring, I would launch into contortions of a circus sideshow level in order to avoid letting a call go to voicemail. What would people think if I didn’t answer my phone at 2:35 p.m. on a Saturday?
Well, maybe they would think I had a life.
The best thing I ever did was fall back in love with my voicemail. Between the hours of 5 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m. on Monday, calls from clients and numbers I don’t recognize roll into a lovely little digital holding tank. Then I spend from 8:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Monday mornings seeing what’s what.
The best part? I sometimes put my phone into "Airplane Mode" and unplug completely. I realized that there were a great many things I’d ignored while in my always-on, weekends-are-fair-game mode. Things like friends. My family. A social life. Dating. New scenery. Blissful and impromptu adventures to new places. Sunrises. Sunsets. The list—well, I could truly go on forever. I can only imagine the number of meaningful moments I’d have missed if I had kids all these years. Shudder.
Learn the Meaning of “Non-Negotiable”
If you’re going to reclaim your weekends, you have to be willing to put a foot down and keep it down. Because it’s easy to say that you’re going to unplug from tech and plug back into your life. It’s also easy to break that promise just once. Then twice. And suddenly, you’re right back where you were—always on and forever working on what’s supposed to be your weekend.
While the days that are considered weekends vary for many, they all have something in common: They’re days when you feel lighter. The worries of the workday are further away. The laughter comes more often, and the days are yours to do as much (or as little) with as you desire.
If you’re going to set boundaries between your business and your weekends, those boundaries must become non-negotiable. To err is human, but we’ll lose our minds if we keep erring.
More importantly, we need other people to bring about our lives’ most memorable moments. "Blurred Lines" might have been a hit song last year, but it’s not going to do anything for liberating you from the working weekend trap.
It takes strength to say no. But it takes equal strength to say yes to the people who make your life a beautiful thing to wake to each day—workday or not.
Beware of Plans
Have you ever looked at your weekend calendar and seen the same kind of over-scheduled, packed to the gills look on it that you see on your workweek calendar? I fell into the trap of scheduling the dickens out of my weekends after I said sayonara to working through them. By gosh, I was going to have fun—every single hour of the day. And it killed me.
Beware the allure of making plans all weekend long. Instead, allow yourself the luxury of a lazy morning, a late night or two, and leave room for doing a thing or three that might not be on your calendar. You might even decide to do nothing at all—and that’s okay.
Scheduling yourself into oblivion just makes the weekend seem like work. Put fewer colored blocks on your calendar, and let the days flow with a smile on your face.
So will you do it? Will you reclaim your weekends from the temptations of the always-on work schedule?
You can, you know. Just start small, because unplugging was a big step for me and probably will be for you, too. You’ll feel as if you’re missing something, and your clients might not be used to waiting for a response.
But here’s the thing: You might miss out on a little business, but at least it won’t be at the expense of missing out on life—you know, that thing you started a business in order to be able to enjoy.
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