How to keep the weekend to-do list from ruining your weekend

photo-121It’s one of the great dilemmas of time management. If you spend a lot of hours working during the week — particularly if that work requires you to be away from home — then weekends seem like a great time to get caught up on personal to-dos. The problem is that too many personal to-dos can make weekends feel as task-driven as the rest of the week. You’re thinking so much about what you need to do that you don’t actually enjoy yourself.

My solution for this is to have a running list of personal to-dos. These are the beyond-life-maintenance things that should happen, but don’t generally have to happen right this minute. Things on this list recently have included buying 2T princess underwear (motivational for a potty-training little girl), using a gift certificate I got for my birthday, and signing the kids up for camp.

Whenever possible, I try to do these during the week. Princess underwear can be purchased from Amazon in 10 minutes between calls. If things don’t have to happen on weekends, I’d prefer they didn’t.

But some things are so tedious or complicated that they really require some weekend time. Signing the kids up for camp was one of those things, because it required me to plan out the summer — nailing down vacation weeks, figuring out which camps they would go to, plus registering.

I was not looking forward to this, but I sweetened the deal by assigning myself very few other projects this past weekend. I needed to register the kids for camp, set up the keyboard stand (we’d already ordered it, but it was sitting in the box), and dye my hair (a time and money saving proposition!). That’s it. I did wind up signing the lease for a beach rental for part of August, but that was somewhat related to the camp thing (i.e. planning the summer).

There are all kinds of other things I could have done. I should vacuum out my car at some point. My office is kind of a mess. I need to hang the beautiful historic map my husband bought me for my birthday. There are people I’d like to get together with that I haven’t contacted. I set up the keyboard but I haven’t gotten around to signing my kid up for piano lessons yet. But as of Sunday night when I’m wrote the first draft of this post, I’d done my assigned to-dos, and that was good enough. Because I also wanted to use my weekend for other things: recreational outlet mall shopping with my 2-year-old, running outside in the balmy 40-degree weather (much better than 4 degrees), reading To The Lighthouse, and watching the Super Bowl. If you take on too much, the weekend disappears. Take on just a few things, and they get done.

How do you keep to-dos from taking over your weekends?

In other news: We had quite the ice storm yesterday, and lost several branches in the yard, including a large one from my lovely magnolia tree–and some other flowering ones. I’m mourning that. We lost power for 2.5 hours last night and were settling in to a cold night when the power flickered back on. Phew. The kids are home from school and are already going stir crazy. It would have been worse with no heat and power.

The snowy trees are beautiful though — thick snow weighing down the evergreen branches like dollops of whipped cream.



15 Responses to How to keep the weekend to-do list from ruining your weekend


  1. By enjoying them.

    • sarah (SHU) says:

      enjoying the to-dos on the weekend, or the weekend itself? (sorry i feel dumb for asking but genuinely was curious which you meant!)

      • the to-dos :)
        *
        Like Chelsea, going to Target can be a fun and exciting trip for the kids. Folding laundry is family together time. There’s a quiet satisfaction to many chores, especially when they’re done as a family activity rather than solo. Not saying one has to enjoy (or even do) all chores, but they don’t need to be demonized either.
        *
        Plus there’s not much to do on weekends within an hours drive of our small town and going to the city is a production we can only handle about once a month. (And even when we’ve lived in cities, going to Whole Foods each week was always been a fun chore.)

        • Laura says:

          @NicoleandMaggie- is it that small a town? I’d imagine there’s lots of university stuff.

          • Sure, once a year you can go to the kids science fair that the uni puts on. In the middle of the week there are lectures and traveling plays. Not on weekends. On weekends they play in the cities they were on their way to.
            There’s also a small local museum and a small children’s museum. Dc1 does day camp at the former and there’s only so many times to go to the latter. And about 700 churches (I exaggerate.)
            No, Target trips are about equally as exciting as the library.

          • The thing is, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying mundane things that have to be done. Heck, some people shop or craft *for fun*.
            *
            We keep having this same discussion, but it’s still true that not everybody has to spend every minute planned and active (and after telling people to do that, you’ve written articles on why people shouldn’t do that). People don’t have to outsource all chores or push all their non-required activity to the weekends. People don’t have to prefer going to the same town festival they’ve been to 7 years in a row to shopping at Target.
            *
            You can resent the chores and push them to already crowded weekend evenings or spend money outsourcing them, or you can change your mindset and see them as family bonding and life-training activities for the kids. They’ll be the ones that actually know how to do laundry in college and can cook a meal for the first serious girlfriend. And in a relaxed manner that doesn’t care when you got up in the morning or when you have to get up tomorrow.
            *
            I bet in a few years when the mindfulness craze has completely died down and been forgotten, you’ll be writing articles talking about how important it is to be mindful, and how the mundane can be pleasurable.

  2. Ana says:

    Minimize it (by doing during the week or putting off altogether) and if that fails, do it together or make it fun (i.e. my husband and I listen to a podcast or watch a show on the laptop while folding laundry, I put on some music and pour myself a drink while cooking, we either all go together or take one kid to the grocery store—and if said kid falls asleep, the trip becomes fabulous “me time”)

  3. Chelsea says:

    This time of year it doesn’t really matter. It’s so cold that a trip to Target (= a reason to get out of the house) is a treat. During the summer I try to do as much as I can during the week and actively plan fun things to do so that to-dos maintain their proper ratio.

    • Laura says:

      @Chelsea- that’s true on the seasonal issue. My kids went to Target today to get basketball shorts and I think it was the highlight of their (snowy, home from school) week.

  4. sarah (SHU) says:

    i definitely try to get as much during the week as possible – at lunch break, if i arrive a few minutes early, etc. i’ll order supplies from diapers.com, baby clothes, anything/everything from amazon. i am lucky to be able to outsource a lot of the weekend stuff (mailing things, grocery shopping, laundry) to try to have the time to spend on family during weekends – and then also a little on myself :) and if it’s something i need/want to do myself, i tend to try to do it on weeknight (ie, sorting through baby clothes).

    i feel like since i work all week i need/want the weekends to be spent focused on kids/family/fun.

  5. Cloud says:

    We plan out our weekend on Friday nights as part of our “Friday night beers” routine. That way we are on the same page about which chores we’re each thinking of tackling, we know how much each of us wants to work (on our official jobs or on side projects), and we are sure to always include something fun to do as a family, even if it is just “go to the park” (possible pretty much year round here). Sometimes the weekends are full of planned things (fun or otherwise), sometimes there is slack for spontaneous choices. I don’t like it if all my weekends are all planned out, but I don’t like it if none of them are, either. So we figure out what sort of weekend to have on Friday night.

  6. Oh, isn’t it the worst to lose power in the cold? Most generally we lose it during the summer, what with thunderstorms and all, but the few times we’ve lost it in the winter, I’ve thought how much preferable it is to sweat it out rather than to freeze it out!

    • Laura says:

      @The Frugal Girl – we are finally looking at getting a generator. Not that we were out of power for long, and because we’re on a more major thoroughfare, they tend to get to our lines pretty fast. But the outages have happened frequently enough that it seems like a reasonable idea…

  7. Asteroid says:

    Thanks for explaining and modeling this solution/sytem, Laura. Great idea–I tried it this weekend and I’ll keep experimenting with it.

  8. Caitlin says:

    I used to always feel like my weekends went by far too quickly, and I was never able to cross much off my to-do list. So I too try to pick a couple of things each weekend and also plan some fun things and downtime for whatever I want. I go grocery shopping on a weeknight evening (much calmer). Actually I try to do any type of shopping on a weeknight evening. It can be a pain to go out at night after work but it takes less time overall.