One of the drawbacks of always being available via our phones or our computers is that we have blurred the line between the work week and the weekend. While it might seem counterintuitive, you can be more productive at your job if you take some needed time off on Saturday and Sunday.

weekend

A growing body of research indicates that when we put in consistently long hours, we tend to lose focus and energy. Taking breaks helps us to recharge mentally and physically. In her book What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend (Portfolio/Penguin. 2012), time management expert Laura Vanderkam advises that we apply the same energy we use to get things done on the job to our weekends – just in vastly different ways.

Vanderkam suggests that many of us think that not working means not having a plan. She cautions that if we don’t make a plan for our weekends, the 48 hours can disappear in an endless list of “chores to be completed, inefficient email checking, unconsciously chosen television marathons and a death march of children’s activities that suck all of our energy.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that women perform 15.1 hours and men perform 9.6 hours of household chores each week. If you work outside the home full-time, the natural place to fit all those activities in is the weekend, right? Wrong, if you are looking to recharge and therefore be more productive come Monday morning.

Try to spread chores – such as laundry and cleaning – throughout the week instead. Throw a load of clothes in the washer before you cook dinner. Clean the bathroom in stages over the course of the week. Enlist other family members’ help with your chore list.

Now here is our list of five productive ways you can renew and recharge this weekend:

Unplug – Resist the urge to check on things at the office or in your inbox. Let your voice mail take work-related messages. You can never really leave work if you always take it with you. Find ways to stay unplugged as much as you can. Ditch the e-reader for a real book. Watch a movie at the theater rather than on your laptop.

Use the other side of your brain– Use the weekend as time to delve into a side of you that doesn’t get fed Monday through Friday. If you work in a creative, arts-oriented field, do something left-brained, like take an automotive class or take time to mow the lawn or rake leaves. If your work is in numbers all week long, take a dance or art class.

The point is that when you explore something different from your job skills in your leisure time, you can really get away mentally from your work and any fatigue it brings.

Exercise – Maybe you hit the gym before or after work, but what kind of exercise would you do if you had more time? A pick-up game of basketball? A run in the park? A long bike ride?  Make the time.

Look for ways to incorporate these forms of exercise into your weekend. Not only will you get the health benefits of exercise, but you will get the relaxation from doing something you enjoy.

Make family a priority — During the work week, we follow a rigorous schedule, and time with family can get shifted to the back burner. Put it where it belongs on the weekend by setting standing “dates” with your kids and with your partner.

The quote, “No one on his deathbed ever said ‘I wish I’d spent more time at the office’” has been attributed to numerous people over the years, but its truth remains significant today. Of course there can occasionally be work-related projects and deadlines that can’t wait until Monday, but when you are regularly choosing work over family, you need to rethink your priorities.

Reflect – Successful people are often thinking about work:  how to solve a problem, how to deal with a difficult employee situation, how to sell a new product or service. That thinking is a big reason why you are successful. Use your weekend to plan and reflect on where you are and where you want to be. In today’s culture, we don’t place enough value on thinking. To our modern eyes, an ancient Greek philosopher would look lazy as he sat staring at the sky or at a tree. Those philosophers, however, were responsible for coming up with some pretty sophisticated ideas. They just took the time to come up with them.

You know how you come up with your best ideas in the shower or while you are on vacation? That’s because you have allowed yourself the time to let your mind wander. We get so focused on the day-to-day activities of our lives that we forget to take time to examine the big picture.

Successful people take the time to wonder “what if” on a regular basis. So this weekend, put your feet up and take a look at that sky.