How to Make Every Weekend Feel Twice as Long
Email is a beautiful thing. It really is. A place where it’s totally normal to not reply for 24 hours. A place to get coupons, newsletters, or notifications from your bank. A place where you can archive everything (a hoarders paradise!). I loved my inbox, until it became my full-time job. Working remotely (and freelancing) turned email into my primary form of communication. No one in the office wants an unscheduled phone call, so I shoot them a note they can take their time to respond to. I schedule meetings and coordinate travel all day long: email. I get requests from external organizations wanting to work with us all day long: email. The receptionist receives a call she wants to direct to me: she gives them my email. My boss wants to tell me he’s running late: email. Literally everything comes to me through email. So like that song I’ve been listening to on repeat the past month, I just can’t stand it anymore. For every email I respond to (and archive), five more arrive to taunt me. You’ll never empty me, you’ll never check me off your to-do list. I’m here to stay, muhahaha. Ding, ding, ding, my phone screams as more and more emails stream in. It sucks. But, unfortunately, I don’t really have a choice if I want to keep my job.
I dream about the day when I nose out that job where email consists of 10–20% of my time. I’ll keep dreaming, but in the meantime, I’ve discovered a way to make it bearable during the work week. It’s quite simple actually, I escape it on the weekends. In fact, I escape all work on the weekends. It pains me to see how many people don’t (and how many people try to disturb my weekend by emailing me about work)! Want to know why you’re not resting on the weekend? Why your weekends always seem to end too soon? Like you really didn’t even get one? Because you spent too much time thinking about work. It’s totally possible to change that, and you can start today.
On Fridays at 5 or 6 PM, put your work laptop away (or if you’re really brave, leave it at the office) and then turn off the email notifications on your phone. (Setting>Notifications>Gmail>Allow Notifications>OFF) Seriously, do it, it will change your life. It’s belongs to the unplugging family, but without completely unplugging (yes, you can keep your phone around to capture your incredible, long weekend!)
Don’t you work enough? Five days a week, 8+ hours each day. Even if you can’t seem to get it all done in that time, for the love of God, don’t let it bleed into your self-care (hello, burnout). Because that’s what weekends are: self-care. Two and half days of focused time with your best friend or lover. Time to sip coffee slowly, to try the new restaurant in town without thinking about the email you forgot to send. To walk around the park and actually have the head space to hear the song of the birds or to listen to your loved one’s dreams (or your own dreams!). To live, every week, for two and half days, as if work doesn’t exist. Paradise, am I right?
The first few times I did this, I cheated. I turned off my email notifications but would open up my inbox one or twice throughout the day for a quick peak. To make sure nothing was blowing up while I enjoyed tacos downtown. But it doesn’t work the same this way when you cheat. Unplugging is a commitment, it means undivided attention to yourself, and that’s just not the case if you cheat (even just once). Whatever you see when you peak at your inbox will haunt you for at least a few hours, occupying precious time in paradise. Peaking is cheating, plain and simple. So, I decided to try it wholeheartedly. My weekends have never felt longer than when I completely disconnected from work. It’s amazing how quickly you’re able to forget about your job when there’s nothing popping up to remind you that you have one!
There’s only one con to this that you should be aware of. Turning off your email on Friday evening probably means you’ll have a large backlog to sort through and answer on Monday mornings. This might make your least favorite day of the week a little harder in the morning. Here’s how I get through it every week: I turn up the music to lighten the mood, dance a little in my chair, and pound through the emails reminding myself that I had a long and rejuvenating weekend and that this is a small price to pay for that. Try it this Friday, I promise you won’t regret it.
ProTip: if you work in an environment where working on the weekend is the norm, don’t be afraid to let your manager know that you will start unplugging. Unless you have a contract that specifically states you have to be available and working on the weekends, you should feel confident in your decision to have a healthy work/life balance and your manager should respect that. I told my manager to text me if there was ever an emergency that couldn’t wait until Monday. In my almost two years working there, it happened once and I was grateful they remembered and respected my request.