What if you were able to have a 3-day weekend EVERY week?
Obviously, you still need to show up to school 5 days a week and give your best each day. But you can shift your perception of how the week is structured to maximize time for rest and recovery. Read or listen as I share:
- How all days/hours are not experienced equally (some are more valuable for specific purposes, some feel longer and others shorter)
- Why weekends feel too short, and how beginning them sooner is a better solution than stretching them out longer
- How to approach your time each day of the week to get your most productive work done before the “long weekend” and truly relax on your time off
This article + podcast episode is a playful approach to mindset. Experiment with how you use your time so that you can have more time for everything that matters most!
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All time is not experienced and valued equally
This is a concept that Lisa Woodruff of Organize 365 spoke about recently on her podcast in Episode 500 about a book review on The Slight Edge about productivity and consistency. It talks about how all time is not created equally, which is also a concept that Lisa and I have learned from Laura Vandercam who is a productivity specialist.
Notice how on your summer break, June 29 feels different than July 29. You’re not working either day, but knowing that you still have weeks ahead of you before the school year start makes the day feel different, and that impacts your productivity and your mood, and how you use your time.
Think about how time feels different on a Monday morning versus on a Saturday morning.
And think about how a Sunday night feels different than a Thursday night.
That leads us to the 3-day weekend mindset idea that I want to share, and it’s just something for you to experiment with and see if this little mindset hack works for you.
I have found that staying positive, energized, and motivated is really about experimenting with these little things. They work for a while sometimes, then they stop working, and then you can come back to them. So, consider this one tool in your motivation toolbox when you’re exhausted and overwhelmed and you need a break from work.
Why the 2-day weekend feels too short
Part of the reason that a standard two-day weekend feels too short is that we’re trying to cram too much in. It’s five days of hustle and grind and only two days to get all the house projects done, errands, shopping, rest, socialization … and it’s really unbalanced. We need a longer weekend. I’m happy to report that a lot of schools are moving to a four-day week but even if your district is on a five-day week, you can still mentally shift in that direction.
Another major reason the weekend is too short is because you really only get one good night. On Friday night, you’re tired from working all week, and on Sunday night, you’re already planning for the week ahead working on some school stuff, doing meal prep. Sunday night does not feel like part of the weekend. Even if you do something fun and relaxing Sunday afternoon, you may feel a little bit of those Sunday Scaries or back to the grind the next morning.
How to mentally extend the weekend
So part of this process is about extending the weekend in your mind a little bit. We already know Sunday night is a wash. If it’s not a wash for you when you’re able to enjoy your weekend right up until the moment you drift off into a nice peaceful sleep at night, that’s great — you just got an even longer weekend! But for most of us, Sunday night is prep and prepare a night whether we like it or not. Personally, I find it easier to work with our natural tendencies than to fight against them.
So if we want to have a 3-day weekend mindset — and we know that Sunday night doesn’t count — then we have to start the clock sooner.
We need to start it on Thursday night, so Thursday kind of feels like Friday in terms of recuperating from the week and starting to get into weekend mode. Then Friday night feels like a full weekend night and we can fully enjoy it, and then Saturday and Saturday night are our great weekend days we can catch up on stuff and get things done, and then we have Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon to rest, rejuvenate, and do fun things.
Obviously, your reconstruction might look different than that but that’s one possibility. The main idea here is that your weekend starts Thursday night and goes until Sunday night.
On Thursday evening, do something fun that starts to feel like a weekend!
Maybe you go out to happy hour with your colleagues for an hour. Try that on Thursdays instead of Fridays, or maybe you have coffee after school with your best friend on Thursday evening, or you take a class at the community center, or you spend time on a hobby.
It could be a short period of time, but the idea is that you are doing something on Thursday evening that you look forward to that you would normally do only on a weekend.
Maybe it’s going to a yoga class that you normally do Saturday morning. Check to see if there’s a class on Thursday and try that one, and use this fun Thursday activity even if it’s just something you do around your house like reading or watching your shows. Do something fun on Thursday night that makes you feel like it’s a weekend.
Obviously, on Friday, you’re still going to work, but you’re going to do to stay in that weekend mindset by scheduling in lots of fun and enjoyable things.
This is the natural structure of the work week for many teachers anyway. Particularly at the elementary level, Friday is the day where there might be extra recess if the class earned it, or center time or learning games, or it’s a day where you’re giving a lot of tests and quizzes. And then in the afternoon they get to do something fun, maybe watch a movie or play some kind of educational game.
Friday is a day where your students are likely to have less concentration anyway. They are already thinking about the weekend. As I said from the beginning, time feels differently depending on when it falls. Friday at 12 noon feels very different from Tuesday at 12 noon.
So work with the natural tendency of your students as well — do fun things on Friday as much as you can, even if they are short. Do a two-minute dance break in your class at the end of the period or right after lunch. These are little easy things that give you and your students something to look forward to.
If you’re in a school in which every second of every day must be packed with rigorous learning activities, get creative. Teach a lesson outside and have kids use chalk on the pavement instead of a worksheet in the classroom. Do your science experiments on Friday, or do your hands-on learning on Friday — find the fun and engaging, worthwhile, and meaningful learning experiences and do them on Fridays so that you have something to look forward to and so do the kids.
This will make Friday within our 3-day weekend mindset something to look forward to, even though you do have to get up early and go to work, at least it’s a fun day of work. See if you can do things on Friday that make you feel like you do on the days when there’s an assembly or half days, when you know how this is going to be a lighter load or a more fun day.
And again just to be clear: I’m NOT saying you don’t teach on Fridays.
I’m not saying you waste a day of learning for your students on Fridays.
I AM saying you should consider the things in your curriculum and in your weekly schedule that you and your students love doing, and schedule them on Friday so you have enjoyable things to look forward to.
Then Friday after dismissal, you go home. Check out the article/podcast episode linked above about how to set a target number of hours each day. This episode teaches you how to decide in advance when you’re going to work, and you can choose to not work Friday afternoons in fact you can choose not to work from Friday afternoon until Sunday evening if you like or even — let’s get really wild here — imagine that you don’t work again from Friday afternoon until Monday morning. Inconceivable!
So you leave on Friday on time and do whatever it takes to get yourself in a weekend mood. Listen to party music in the car it makes you feel happy and brings up good memories … do tacos or pizza or something fun at home for dinner, whatever feels like a fun Friday night tradition for you, do it! It doesn’t have to be the same thing every time but have something fun so you have something to look forward to.
Your Saturdays can be essentially what they are now: a time for home projects, catching up on things, sports, errands, rest — whatever you want. Changing to a 3-day weekend mindset won’t impact your Saturdays much.
On Sunday, you can either get stuff done or you can rest — whatever you’d like to do — and then set a time for yourself on Sunday evening if you need to get ahead for the week.
It does not have to be the same time every week, but on Sunday morning when you start to feel that dread about Monday morning, tell yourself I’m going to stay in my weekend mindset until 4 PM. At 4 PM, I will start doing laundry, planning out clothes for the week ahead, checking my kids’ homework or planners — whatever you need to do to get ready. If you need to lesson plan or grade papers and you choose to do that on a weekend, then that’s the time.
But you have until 4 PM Sunday if that’s the time you choose to really enjoy yourself to take your true 3-day weekend mindset, and so every time you start to think about how much you need to get done, tell yourself, “I will get it done, and I will start at 4 PM, and until then I’m going to be present in whatever it is I’m doing right now.”
So you may need to start earlier than 4 PM some weeks, but then other weeks you might not need to start until after dinner, say 7, 8, or 9 PM to just get a little bit of stuff ready for the week ahead and mentally prepare.
On Sunday night, I like to look at my to-do list for the week ahead and wrap my head around my busy times, what errands I need to run, if I have appointments scheduled, things that might be happening that actually aren’t, and just moving things around and figuring out what my week is going to look like. Doing that on Sunday night helps me feel more prepared on Monday morning. I sleep better on Sunday night knowing that I’ve already mapped out my week. So you can do that Sunday night if you want or you could do it Monday morning if you prefer but by that time, I’m usually in go mode and not in planning mode.
One of the important principles of productivity is to separate the planning from the execution, and by the time Monday morning rolls around you’re in executing mode, right? Things are in motion and are happening. Sunday night is a calmer and quieter time for thinking and planning.
Monday morning through Thursday afternoon
So when you do go to school on Monday morning, you’ve now had a 3-day weekend. You’re refreshed because you’ve been enjoying your life for the last three days, starting Thursday night, then you enjoyed your whole day Friday, you enjoyed your day Saturday, and you enjoyed almost the whole day Sunday.
Now it’s Monday morning, and taking that true break from work coupled with mapping out your week and knowing what you needed to do as of Sunday night, is going to help you get your stuff done on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
These are going to be your main work days, so if you need to, you will go in early, stay late, bring work home — whatever you need to do to make sure you can take a 3-day weekend.
Of course, you’re working a normal day Thursday too, and you can count that in this time of primary work days. If you like, it just depends on what time you want to be able to leave Thursday. People who are part of the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek or I’ve been experimenting with productivity for a long time may be able to leave school right on time on Thursday and on Friday. If you’re not there yet, you may need to stay late on Thursday or bring work home on Friday.
But you have to have a set cut-off point: “My weekend begins at ___ time on Thursday.” It might be 5 PM, or it might be earlier or later, whatever time that is when you are done with schoolwork and you are not doing anything else outside of your contractual hours again until Monday morning. You’re going to work only what’s required on Friday and you’re off Saturday and you’re off Sunday until Sunday night
Experiment with this!
I hope that this has been inspiring to you in terms of experimenting with a different way to think about your work. I hope you will try out this idea of starting your weekend on Thursday evening and going until Sunday evening.
Make Friday as fun as possible and give yourself even little things to look forward to, like stopping for your favorite coffee or breakfast sandwich on the way to school. Things that you wouldn’t normally allow yourself to do on a daily basis — do it Friday.
And, really think about Monday to Thursday afternoon being the bulk of your workweek. That is when you go hard, you give 100%, you are all in, and you do whatever needs to be done so that you can truly enjoy your weekend. Work hard, play hard right?
Giving your all Monday to Thursday is not nearly as daunting when you know you’re going to get a true break and you’re going to have time for home projects, time for rest, and you’re going to actually take that real break for yourself almost every single weekend to do this 3-day weekend idea.
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