How To Take Full Advantage Of Your Days Off Of Work

The start of the weekend can feel oh-so-sweet -– but by Sunday afternoon, the dread of the upcoming workweek can start to set in, and it can feel like those anticipated days off were way too short. To make matters worse, many people now work during the weekend, making it even harder to savor free time. A 2017 survey by Enterprise Rent-A-Car showed that 70% of Americans worked at least one weekend each month, and 63% said their employers expected them to clock regular weekend work hours.


Whether your weekends are totally free of work or not -– or if you get other out-of-office days during the week -– it's time to reclaim your days off. Dr. Alicia H. Clark of the Clark Psychology Group says of days off, "If we careen into Friday night exhausted, yet anticipate high expectations for doing, doing, doing, on the weekend, we can end up depressed. We need to do less and rest more." Here's how to rest and recharge during your days off.

Plan your days off in advance

Most of us have a list of things that we must do during our days off, from supermarket runs to, yes, the occasional work-related task. Days off can start to feel like days on, where we're busy doing all the things we have to do and none of the things we want to do. Almost The Weekend, a blog devoted to maximizing leisure time, suggests planning your days off in advance to make time for the activities you enjoy. This might mean booking tickets to an exciting event or organizing a Saturday night group dinner with friends. Or it could be as simple as deciding that your Sunday morning will be spent watching your favorite movie, with no interruptions allowed.


Of course, that doesn't mean those errands and to-do list items disappear. Kendra of The Lazy Genius Collective says to "put your tasks in their places." Choose time slots for tasks that are repeated each week, like meal prepping or doing the laundry. That way, you don't spend your days off procrastinating or preoccupied with stressful tasks.

Be an early riser

Days off are made for sleeping in, right? Wrong! Snoozing more on your days off to compensate for workweek sleep deprivation isn't so great for your health. According to a 2016 research review published in Sleep Medicine, losing sleep increases the risk of suffering from diseases and illnesses, and catching up on days off doesn't reverse this risk.


Plus, sleeping in on the weekend eats away at your precious free time. Next thing you know, you're rolling out of bed at 1 pm, and half of your day is gone. Dr. Jonathan Huppert, professor at the anxiety lab and Chair of Clinical Psychology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, tells The Healthy that it's best to maintain a regular sleep schedule throughout the week. If, like most people, you have to wake up early on work days, wake up early on your days off too. To avoid sleep deprivation, try shifting your bedtime earlier, even if it means leaving a party early or skipping those late-night pub crawls.

Keep chores to a minimum

A 2020 survey by Arm & Hammer Clean & Simple (via Yahoo!) showed that the average American parent spends six hours on housework each week. That's enough time to take up the bulk of a free day. Instead of pushing chores off until the weekend, do what you can during the week, squeezing in a load of laundry or a quick bathtub wipe-down after work.


For chores that must be done during days off, time management expert Laura Vanderkam says in her book "What Successful People Do Before Breakfast" (via Reader's Digest Asia) that it helps to compress chore time as much as possible. "Giving yourself a small window makes you more motivated to get chores done quickly so you can move on to the fun things," she writes.

To speed up the process even more, Sabrina Fierman, vice president of the cleaning service New York's Little Elves, shares an easy tip with MyDomaine: start the night before. If you have the weekend off, spend just 10 minutes on Friday night organizing clothes or changing the bedding to give yourself a head start.

Unplug and unwind

There's a good chance you spend nearly every waking moment of your work days staring at a screen, whether it's an office computer monitor or your smartphone. Yet the benefits of putting down your devices are immense. For a boost in mental and physical health, it's best to spend at least three or four hours each day without devices and screens, Dr. Dimitri Christakis explains to Time. And what better time to be present, sans electronics, than during days off?


Minimalism website Be More with Less suggests kicking off a digital detox with baby steps. Start with just one or two hours without devices. Turn off notifications or download an app that locks your device during set times. You can also invite others to join you in unplugging.

Replace those hours spent mindlessly scrolling through social media with meaningful or restorative activities. This can include going for a walk in nature, reading a book, cooking, or playing a sport.

Prep for work the right way

The Sunday Scaries, the feeling of dread that sets in before the start of the workweek, are real and can wreak havoc on your days off -– but they don't have to. Devoting a small amount of time during your days off to prepare for upcoming work can ease anxiety so that it doesn't ruin your free time.


Kate Matsudaira, founder of planner and stationery brand Ink+Volt, uses Sunday night to map out the coming week. "I block out a full hour on my calendar to devote to planning and thinking — I call it my Ninja Planning Session," she says. Spending a one-hour-or-less block of time preparing for the week means you're not wasting all of Sunday obsessing over Monday.

Healthline also suggests overcoming workweek dread by brainstorming solutions to looming problems. Set a timer for 15 minutes, grab a piece of paper and a pen, and jot down any to-do list items that are creating anxiety. Divide them into groups of things that have to be done, things that can wait, and things that can be done with the help of someone else. For items that must be done, do a brain dump of any possible solutions or action steps that would help you in tackling them during the week.