In praise of weekend anchor events

It’s a common Monday morning question: What did you do this weekend?

In my short book, What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend, (included in this paperback) I explored the idea of “anchor events.” These are events that are planned into the weekend for certain times. They anchor the expanse of hours, and give you things to look forward to.

Now I know there is a school of thought that frowns upon planning weekends. But unless you live on your own and have zero responsibilities, my guess is that you’re already planning something into your weekends: kid sports practices, errands that need to happen. Planning anchor events means planning in things you want to do alongside those you need to do.

In the Covid era, options are more limited. Those that exist often have restrictions. But one of the upsides of timed tickets/reservations — which is how a lot of family-oriented places around here are operating — is that you commit ahead of time. This allows for the magic of anticipation to kick in, and it forestalls a lot of in-the-moment arguments and whining that stem from plans being less formed.

This past weekend, I reserved timed tickets for the seven of us at Longwood Gardens on Sunday afternoon. The grounds are pretty, even in winter, and walking in a warm green house amid beautiful flowers is a special treat in January. There was the usual measure of bickering and naughtiness but it is something we can do as a family and all reasonably enjoy. We saw orchids and lilies, and as we ponder the landscaping for our new home, recognized a lot more of Pennsylvania’s native trees by bark alone. It filled some time. It contained the baby in a car seat and then a back pack. We all got some fresh air and exercise.

But even better, everyone knew it was coming (since I’d had to get tickets) and managed their energy for the day accordingly. No one started a 2-hour movie 20 minutes before leaving and then argued vociferously about getting in the car. We had motivation to put the baby down for his nap at a good time so he’d be up and rested for the trip. All of this would have been a lot harder if we’d started pondering, around lunch on Sunday, what we should do with the afternoon. The sheer volume of energy required to make a decision, and then execute on the plan, probably would have inhibited action. In some households, perhaps, “nothing” would have been possible. In our household, “nothing” would have involved policing fights over who got to use the computer, plus watching the baby every minute. “Nothing” would be far less relaxing than “something.”

So that’s why I am a fan of anchor events. Did you do anything this past weekend?


6 thoughts on “In praise of weekend anchor events

  1. Well, you know I’m an obvious yes 🙂 But I just had to share that we did a zoo trip with just me + the big kids this Sunday and it was great. Apparently 3 and up is the age at which taking your 3 kids on a somewhat more elaborate outing becomes more fun and less stressful.

    Not sure when ‘doing nothing’ will be but I’m guessing everyone would have to be over 6. And you still kind of have to make sure everyone gets some active or outside time just for health/balance!

    1. @SHU- yep, the big kids doing nothing is pretty much full-on screen time all day. So I need to nudge them out at some point…

  2. Nope, nothing planned this past weekend and I deeply regretted it. Relaxing in front of a book/TV is nice for an hour or two…. not for hours on end. The kids were climbing the walls and we all had short fuses by Sunday evening. I’ve already made a plan to go skating next weekend and take advantage of the freezing temps! All of us- parents and kids alike- do better in my house when we have at least one big outdoor excursion over the weekend.

  3. Walk at a local state park with friends and my youngest child, age 8. Even with older kids, if you don’t plan an outing during the pandemic, they don’t get out–as mine didn’t.

  4. Yes! I try to plan one “adventure” per weekend. I originally planned to take my 2.5 year old to a specific new-to-us park; however, despite showing “open” online, the playground itself was closed due to covid. I quickly googled and found another nearby new-to-us park, and we had a delightful afternoon there! The playground itself was tiny, but it also had walking trails through the woods. We did about a 1.3 mile hike (approaching my daughter’s limit when she’s on foot), and we both enjoyed it. The moral of the story is that it pays to plan even when things don’t go as planned!

  5. At the beginning of January I started ballet classes on Saturday mornings. The class starts at 11:00, and I’m usually up by 6:00, so I have a good chunk of time to get the must-dos done before class. It’s nice to come home, have lunch with my family, and then take a well-deserved nap, knowing that my critical tasks for the day have already been accomplished. And it’s also super fun!

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