I’m running an informal book club devoted to All the Money in the World here on the blog. You can jump in whenever you like; there are links to past weeks at the bottom of this post.
Chapter 5 is called “Your Best Weekend Ever” and looks at the question of stuff vs. experiences (and the intersection of the two) and how to use what happiness research tells us in order to plan a very enjoyable and not-too-expensive Friday, Saturday and Sunday. If you haven’t read the book yet, or need a refresher, the slideshow I did for The Huffington Post about a week ago has the chapter highlights. (How many articles can I place out of one book? Let’s just say we use all parts of the buffalo in this operation).
The “Your Best Weekend Ever” chapter has had a profound effect on how I plan my weekends. One of the keys to happiness is right there in that sentence. I try to plan them. Planning stretches out the fun you get from any experience. You anticipate something good that’s going to happen, and as any kid dreaming of Christmas morning knows, the anticipation is a big part of the enjoyment. That doesn’t mean you need to plan every hour. But planning 3-5 meaningful and enjoyable activities for a weekend should leave space for downtime.
What should those 3-5 things be? Anything you like, but again, happiness research gives us some ideas. Beyond obviously pleasurable activities such as eating and sex (also good to include in your weekend!) people are happiest when they are exercising, socializing and engaging in spiritual activities. So all three are good to include: a long run, a party, a church service. Or one could think of another trio: a Pilates class, volunteering at a soup kitchen, dinner with friends. You get the idea.
Then there are two other important tricks. First, you should plan something fun for Sunday night if possible. Even people who like their jobs tend to get a little Sunday afternoon malaise looking forward to the workweek. If you plan something low-key but enjoyable for Sunday night, you’ll look forward to that instead. I’ve found that Sunday late afternoon is a good time to have friends over for just such a reason.
The second trick? Try to create a block of time for the “have-to-dos.” A general nagging feeling that you have chores to do can cloud a whole weekend. Better to tell yourself “there’s a time for that — and now is not that time.”
This past weekend, my husband and I built a fire outside on Friday night after the kids went to bed. On Saturday we took the kids to Longwood Gardens to see the tulips. We traded off later in the afternoon as we both did runs, then we got to go out for date night after the kids went to bed (a nice way to do this on weekends, we’ve decided. A late dinner means we don’t miss any time with the kids but can still go out, and I made it a personal goal lately to find sitters with weekend availability). We found an amazing restaurant less than 10 minutes away from us and had a rather fancy dinner. Sunday morning we looked for Easter eggs around the house, then all went to church and sat as a family. Three wiggly little kids packed into a full pew is quite a way to spend church! But they mostly did all right. Later in the afternoon we went to the zoo. I’ve learned to start picking up a book right before the weekend to give me something to do during downtime. This naturally leads to less puttering, since I have something else I want to do.
What did you really like about this past weekend? What would you like to plan for next weekend to create a really fun — but not over-the-top-expensive — experience?
photo courtesy flickr user ell brown