Tuning up my weekends

I have been thinking about how I use my weekends as I study how other people use theirs (for my next ebook in the series “What the most successful people do…”). My general sense is that it helps to have a few anchor events for a weekend. This gives you something to look forward to. It also means you don’t have to do the work of planning your weekend on the weekend. I’m a planner, and having kids has made me more of one — it’s really hard to get a sitter for Saturday night on Saturday! But even if you don’t have kids, there’s something to be said for not having to call for reservations, tickets, etc. on Saturday morning (plus a lot of the good stuff books up).

I hear two main objections to planning weekends ahead of time. One is that “I don’t want to have to do anything.” I think this is a misunderstanding of what I’m talking about. The plans shouldn’t be things like “take the car to get repaired.” Yeah, you might have to do that, but that’s not a weekend anchor event. I mean things like brunch at a restaurant you like, bike riding on a trail you think is beautiful, or tickets to a team you follow. You wouldn’t say “geez, I have to go see the Phillies this weekend” if you were a fan. That’s what I mean by planning things. And second, there’s the objection that people don’t like filling the weekend up. But I’m talking 3-5 things. If they each took 3 hours on average, that’s 9-15 hours. There are 60 hours between that first beer at 6 p.m. Friday and the 6 a.m. alarm on Monday. If you sleep for 24 of those hours, that leaves 36 for other things. Subtracting 9-15 hours of planned stuff leaves 21-27 hours for lounging about or anything else that comes up. That’s still plenty of time.

So what did I do this weekend? I had some things planned: I was on CNN with Randi Kaye around 6:40 on Saturday, which necessitated an early bedtime and an early wake-up. On Sunday, we had my husband’s office picnic, which I knew would be fun (there are a lot of young offspring; events are planned with that in mind). I also planned to do a long-ish run, as I’m training for the Philadelphia half-marathon in November.

We didn’t do perfectly with the planning, though. We knew we wanted to take a fun family excursion on Saturday somewhere, but we hadn’t been able to decide on what we wanted to do. The beach was an option. But the weather didn’t look promising. My husband stayed up kind of late on Friday, and one thing he looked into was fairs. We’ve had a lot of fun at various fairs around Pennsylvania this summer. The kids love the rides, and there’s often a deal (like pay $10 per person and you can do unlimited rides for 5 hours). So we wound up going to the Elizabethtown (“E-town”) fair, and let the kids exhaust themselves on the kiddie amusements. We left just as it started to rain in the late afternoon. It was all good — but there was some stress of deciding what to do Saturday morning. The danger is that you’ll run out of energy and not do anything when you don’t have a plan — always an option when you wake up at 5:15 a.m.

Actually, being up at 5:15 a.m. on Saturday was kind of cool. CNN sent a car service, and it was fun to ride through downtown Philly just as the sun was coming up, painting the city in a pink and orange glow. It reminded me of why I like getting up early when I actually manage to do so.

But also fun? A nap on Sunday morning. Ruth slept in until 7, which was great enough, but then after I took the first shift (to 8:20), my husband was on for the next hour. They let me sleep until 10 with one interruption (Jasper coming in to announce that they’d spotted a praying mantis eating a bug in the backyard — which actually does sound pretty cool).

What did you do this weekend? What was planned and what was spontaneous?

Photo booth shots of me and the baby, taken this weekend

15 thoughts on “Tuning up my weekends

  1. Someone posted in your comments a few weeks ago that an unplanned day with a toddler in the house was actually more tiring than planning something and getting out to do something. I totally agree.

    I’ve been ruthlessly slashing things from my calendar because I am *so* tired and can barely stay awake past 8pm. But we can’t have a completely unplanned day so we’ve still been doing *something* together either morning or afternoon on days when T doesn’t have preschool.

    Today she had a Little Gym class in the morning (which is great for Sunday mornings because I get to sleep in, or get some stuff done while hubby takes her!) and this afternoon we went to visit a new neighbor who has a toddler as well.

    Yesterday I planned a crafty night for some friends from work, which seemed like a lot of work to set up, but I’m so glad I did it. Super fun.

    So I think it can *seem* like a lot of work, but in the end I’m always glad I put in the effort. Otherwise things like dishes and laundry eat up those hours. “I might as well do this really boring thing…”

    1. Yeah, I think that was me (or if not, I was certainly thinking it!). Chasing a couple of high-energy kids is hard whether at home or at the park (or zoo, museum, etc..)…but at the park we get fresh air, no worry about messes, not hear endless “I want sumpin’ to EAT”, maybe meet other kids/families, etc… Our motto for the weekends is always “get out of the house as much as possible!”
      My little one gets up at 5:00 AM these days. We take turns taking him & the dog to the park. We get to see a lot of pinky orange sunrises. Lucky (?)
      I do believe when the kids are older, home-based activities might hold more interest (crafts, kitchen time, movies, board games, sleeping in—yes? please?).

      1. @Ana- I think everything’s different when the kids get a little older. The times when I’m only with my older two (5 and almost 3) when the baby’s asleep, I’m amazed at how much more independent they are and how much less exhausting they are. They can go play in the basement for half an hour by themselves — something that is not possible with the baby.

    2. @ARC- I know I need to work on planning more social gatherings. I’m always happy when they’re happening but mustering the energy to make it happen seems not fun. I have to remind myself that my future self deserves some consideration along with the current self.

      1. There was something in The Happiness Project about the host who only liked social activities after they were over 🙁 IMO, that person is doing it wrong!

        As much effort as it takes to be the “party planner”, I make sure that I’m not required to do a ton of stuff AT the event itself so I can actually enjoy it.

        1. @ARC- one of my most enjoyable kids’ parties ever was when I had J’s 4th b-day at the American Museum of Natural History. They required you to use a party planning service that had a lock on the venue. So I paid a lot… but had to do nothing. I just trotted around with the kids while someone swirled around making sure every thing happened in the proper order. With 3 kids, that isn’t going to happen for every birthday party, but it sure was nice for that one.

  2. “You wouldn’t say “geez, I have to go see the Phillies this weekend” if you were a fan. ”
    Yes, yes I would. There’s no misunderstanding. There are plenty of events I love for which I resent having to go out of the house, or would prefer to have on another day when I’m already out and about doing stuff.
    There is something wonderful about not having to keep an eye on the clock or to keep a mental load about anything. Not having anything *anything* planned is awesome and relaxing. There is plenty of time to be Type A most of the time, but having an unplanned weekend or just an unplanned weekend day is ambrosial. Heck, if you don’t have anything planned, you don’t even have to get out of your pajamas. How can it get better than that?
    Not saying that every day or even every weekend should be like that, but the occasional day of just vegetating… it’s great. “Sunday, sweet Sunday, with nothing to do”… there’s a reason a lot of religions out there keep Sabbath. Not everybody wants to fill in every hour every day of the year. Sometimes you want to watch lousy tv or read a popcorn novel or sleep all day unplanned without feeling guilty.

    1. @Nicole and Maggie – except that many religions that want you to keep the Sabbath expect you to go to worship services at a certain time. At least that version of a Sabbath still has an anchor event. Plus, I’m not advocating filling every hour. A Sunday that features going to church and a run at some point doesn’t strike me as particularly full!

    2. I think lounge-around days can be good when you don’t have young kids (see: my husband and I when we get away for a day or two sans children). However, I personally find unstructured days/weekends with young children to be EXHAUSTING. Even though my kids are older and moving out of the toddler phase (8, 5.5 and 3), I still need at least one anchor event per weekend.

      As for Sabbath, we keep it, and it’s not unstructured in the way you are describing. Yes, it is a “day of rest” in the sense that we don’t work and we (aim to) be disconnected from electronics. However, we go to synagogue in the mornings, we often have friends over for lunch or go out to friends, and in the summers we are invariably at the park every Saturday afternoon with a big group of friends as all our children start to feel TV/video/iPad withdrawal symptoms. I still find that a good break from the work week but it’s certainly not “vegetating.”

  3. I’m a planner, too, but I also love some unstructured time. It is a weird dynamic. Back before we had kids, my husband and I would often have something we intended to do… and then decide to do something entirely different. This was possible because most of our intended things did not require money up front. They were things like “walk to the beach and then stop by our local pub on the way home” or “go kayaking in the bay.”

    Now that we have kids, we find it harder to change plans. Once you tell the kids what you’re planning to do, that is what you’re doing, unless you want to hear a lot of whining.

    But I still like planning out the weekend, or at least pinning down when we’ll do the fun stuff. The work and chores can flow in to fill the space around the fun on the weekends. We do that over beers on Friday nights most weekends, and then tell the kids on the day of the outing. And yes, the kids are definitely easier to handle after a fun outing than after a day at home. I suspect some of that is kid-specific, though. Some people prefer to be at home, and some people prefer to be out and about. I suspect there is both a genetic component and a training (or environment) component to that, and both of those components will lead to kids preferring the same things their parents prefer.

  4. I like the idea of planning a fun “anchor” event. If I didn’t do that, we would end up at home most weekends, and filling it up with chores. Even when I plan things, we sometimes don’t end up going!

    Having said that, I definitely need to alternate planned activities with a veg-out weekend (though the kids have other ideas and like to get out more often..)

  5. I’m a big believer in the “anchor event” advice, although I have never heard such a good descriptor before! Thanks for that.

    This weekend we planned around a few key anchor events: special breakfast at home Saturday morning, a festival at a local botanical garden Saturday afternoon, and a cookout with others Sunday evening. The other hours were much more low-key, and on the weekends, I appreciate that balance.

    1. @Anne- thanks! I like the phrase anchor event too – think that one’s a keeper. Sounds like you had a nice weekend. Having anchor events still leaves room for spontaneous cool things to happen. At the picnic, for instance, I was tapped to judge the pies from the baking contest. I’ve never judged a pie contest before, and that was a new experience!

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