On Not Letting My (New and Novel) Weekends Slip Through My Fingers

how to make the most of the weekend

Last November, my family reclaimed our weekends. When my husband resigned his position at the church to accept a new job, suddenly weekends could hold–for the first time in six years–leisure and family time instead of long workdays.

To say I’m thrilled is an understatement. These “regular” weekends are new to us, and precious. Now that we have our weekends back, we don’t want to let them slip through our fingers: we want to be intentional about using them well.

But how?

Since the fall, my husband and I have spent a lot of time thinking this over, relying on Laura Vanderkam’s ebook What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend: A Short Guide to Making the Most of Your Days Off as a guide and conversation starter.

Here’s what we’ve come up with so far:

1. We’re planning anchor events.

Laura says, “A good weekend needs a plan. Not a minute-by-minute plan, not a spreadsheet full of details, but just a few fun anchor events sketched in ahead of time.” I firmly agree. I’m always more satisfied with my weekends when I plan the “big rocks” in advance. Besides, logistics drain my energy, and I’d much rather get the planning bit out of the way before the weekend really gets going.

We’ve been choosing 4-5 anchor events for each weekend: things we want to do, not things we have to do. Some of these repeat each week, like dinner with my parents and church. Sometimes we’ll plan family excursions or dates for just the two of us; we also plan ahead for low-key activities like game night or popcorn and a movie.

Planning ahead has another benefit: we get to look forward to fun weekend events all week, and anticipation is a known happiness booster.

2. We’re involving the kids.

The kids are just as excited to have our weekends back as we are! We’ve been intentional about including them in the planning process. When they toss out ideas for fun excursions during the week, we ask them if they want to put it on the weekend calendar. We also encourage them to keep a list of things they’d like to do.

We’ve also been brainstorming happy family traditions, like big Saturday breakfasts or Friday game night, but we’re still playing around with that one.

3. We’re minimizing chores.

It’s easy for chores to expand to fill the available time, especially on the weekends when more time is (seemingly) available. We’ve been very deliberate about not letting the have-to-dos take over our weekends.

Right now, we usually spend 30 minutes on laundry right after Saturday breakfast, and that’s it for the weekend. Cooking is the other big “chore:” we both love to cook, but 3 meals a day for 6 people (and worse, the clean-up) isn’t what I call “fun.” We plan ahead so we have leftovers and easy meals for these days.

4. We’re backing away from our gadgets.

In her book, Laura points out the paradox of weekends: “You have to set an appointment to go off the grid as surely as to go on it.”

Convinced of the benefits of a “tech Sabbath,” we’ve been setting those appointments: we’ve been stashing our phones and closing our laptops–not all weekend, but for hours at a time.

I’ve found this habit is tough to make but easy to keep. At first it was hard to make myself leave my phone in my bedroom, but I’m getting used to it–and enjoying the freedom from distraction.

Finding the right rhythm

We’re still learning what works for us and what doesn’t, but I think we’re on the right track.

How do you approach your weekends? Any tips for getting the most out of them?

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  1. Kara says:

    We are in sync with our thinking today, aren’t we? 🙂

    Minimizing chores is a sticky one for me (literally? ha ha!). I feel sometimes like I get more done when Christopher is home and can help out with the kids … but I don’t want to let our weekends turn into another extension of the work week and spent it all on housework either.

    That book about what successful people do on the weekends sounds like one to add to my list, for sure. Thanks for sharing!

    • Anne says:

      I know what you mean: I feel like I can accomplish so much when I’m not holding a baby on one hip! That’s what makes it so tempting…

      (Also, my baby is older than your baby–I think that makes a big difference!)

  2. Tiffany says:

    I’ve been frustrated with our weekends lately. We take care of cleaning, laundry (even though we do that all week too), and groceries on the weekend. And I spend a fair amount of time writing and/or cooking for the blog on the weekends. I’m not sure if I need to change what we’re doing, so much as I need to change my attitude and focus on the “anchor events”.

  3. Our weekends have changed character at different times over the years. They were easy and fun when the kids were really small because I was at home all week to take care of household things and then we all just enjoyed each other when my husband was there on the weekend. Then there were the Soccer Years. (I was a reluctant soccer mom!) It felt TOTALLY DELICIOUS when the kids stopped playing organized sports and we got our Saturdays back! Thus began a period that has largely continued to the present where we do very little planning for Saturdays, although that night’s dinner is Homemade Pizza and a Movie Night. Sundays are usually pretty full and always have been — worship morning and evening and often guests for lunch and the afternoon. On Sunday nights, I try never to do anything more than eat something junky and yummy and sit with my feet up and Masterpiece Whatever on the TV.

    • Anne says:

      Oh, yikes: my baseball years have begun, and the season starts soon….this makes me nervous, Lori!

      Your Sunday nights sound fabulous. 🙂

  4. Stacey says:

    I love the ideas you present here and may just have to get that book. I really like the concept of having anchor events. While I hate having overscheduled weekends (I am also a reluctant soccer mom!), I also don’t do well with wide open days. Another example of the importance of balance I suppose…

  5. I loved Vanderkam’s ebook, and it has had me thinking about how we use our weekends. The biggies for us are planning things in advance, and not letting chores swallow up too much of the time.

    I really like tackling as much as I can Thursday evening (if I need my husband’s help), or Friday during the day (if I can do it around taking care of small children) because then I feel like the weekend is so much more fun.

    But the best thing I’ve done regarding weekends is being clear with my husband as to what I would most like to be able to do. Typically, that’s to have him make sure to keep our son out of my hair during our daughter’s naptime – it’s a way to give me an hour or two of completely child-free time to read or write.

    • Anne says:

      Sheila, that’s a great idea about Thursday evenings!

      And you’re right, it’s been so helpful in our family too to touch base about what we’d each like to accomplish over the course of the weekend. Thanks for pointing that out!

  6. Beth @ dot in the city says:

    These are great tips for reclaiming the weekend. They can be precious time together, but frustrate me if we don’t get a few things accomplished. As we prepare for our first child, I’m especially thoughtful of how we can set rhythms for life that can be adapted the many changes that will come as we transits to parenthood.

  7. My husband just switched jobs in the last year too — from campus minister to a development position within the campus ministry. This means he works business hours, and so our days off have switched from Mondays or Fridays to the weekends (although he still volunteers at our church, so Sundays are usually busy). At first, I really didn’t like having off when everyone else had off. Having off on Mondays was fun because NO ONE has off on Mondays, and it was like a secret awesome day we had to ourselves. But now I’m really a part of the rhythm and love it.

    But of course, he feels called to be a pastor someday. I do not “feel called” to be a pastor’s wife, but I DO feel called to obey God and I have a suspicion that being a pastor’s family IS in the future cards. So we’ll have to get used to Mondays off once again someday.

  8. Jillian Kay says:

    Getting chores done by the time my husband comes home Saturday at 2 is huge for us. We don’t typically do well with anchor events (they stress me out), but we do intentionally plan large blocks of time for wandering on weekends.

    • Anne says:

      Hey, a large block of time for “wandering” can be an anchor event 😉

      It’s so smart of you to realize what you enjoy, and what stresses you out. That self-knowledge is an important key to enjoying your weekends–or any other time!

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  10. Betsy says:

    These are a great ideas, Ann. I especially like the point about NOT filling your weekend with chores. That is so tempting. Sometimes if I’m desperate to use weekend time for cleaning or household, I use a timer, say for 45-60 minutes. When the timer goes off, cleaning is done for the weekend. (That’s IF I do any, try not to.)

    I have older kids, so I take responsibility for one meal Saturday, and let everyone fend for themselves the other meals. No cooking on Sunday. We eat out or eat leftovers.

  11. Gretchen says:

    We anchor our weekends by using Friday nights when we’re too tired to be fun or excited about much to have a lazy dinner, often frozen pizza, and to do bills and our weekly business meeting. Then we go to bed early and have the weekend free and clear. I also try to do all the cleaning (because I can do it so much faster than my husband!) and catch up on laundry on Friday afternoons during my toddler’s nap time so we can enjoy our clean home and chore-free weekend!

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