(Photo Credit: bright sea/Flickr)
It's OK to work weekends some of the time, of course. Checking email on Sunday night, for example, can free you up to hit the ground running Monday morning, making for a less stressful work week. The problem starts when working weekends becomes constant and part of your routine, meaning that you never really have time off to rest, recuperate, and recharge your brain before you head back into work proper on a Monday morning.
Some of this is beyond our control; some companies, for example, make it clear that they expect workers to put in some time on the weekend. But for those of us who wind up putting in extra hours because of our work habits and the way in which technology makes it possible to work whenever, wherever, a few guidelines can help us carve out free time:
1. Take at least one day off.
Can't take the whole weekend? Take a day -- one whole day -- and don't do any work at all. That means no checking your email on your smartphone, no making a quick phone call, no tidying up this file or that report.
2. Get away from your technology.
You'd have to go to the moon, or at least a very remote campsite, to totally escape your technology, but it's easier not to fall into idle email checking if you break up your routine. Take the kids to a baseball game. Take a walk in the park. Get out of the house for a bit and do something outside of your normal day-to-day.
3. Figure out why you're working weekends in the first place.
Is it because your boss requires it, because you have too much work to do during the week, because you have a million meetings and no actual time to get stuff done? Once you've figured out where the time is going, it's easier to hold some of it back for yourself. Lifehacker has a good list of free time-tracking software that can help you figure out if the problem is time management or the structure of your job.
4. Be protective of your time.
Let's say the problem is that you have too many meetings. It's worth looking at which ones you're attending and why. If your presence isn't necessary, and you can make a good case for not attending, you might be able to convince your boss to let you use some of that time to do real, actual work. Just make sure you don't use your diminishing weekend as a bargaining chip. That's sadly less persuasive to most managers than the idea that you'd be able to do more work if you were allowed to skip.
5. Don't be afraid to use tricks.
A few over-scheduled workers we know get back a few hours of precious work time by blocking it off in their Outlook calendars. The idea isn't to lie to your coworkers about your availability: it's to chunk time into blocks so that you can concentrate on one thing at a time, without distractions.
Figure out when the "slow" times are in your work day, and consider blocking those off for heads-down work. Just remember that you'll have to be flexible if emergencies do come up.
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