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Tips on Crafting a Truly Restorative Weekend

For most of us the weekend is a respite from our day jobs. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily relaxing. In fact, for many of us, come Monday, we’re fatigued and frustrated — and we’ve yet to enter the office.

As author and blogger Laura Vanderkam writes in her latest e-book What Most Successful People Do on the Weekend: A Short Guide to Making the Most of Your Days Off, “These days disappear into chores, errands, inefficient e-mail checking, unconsciously chosen television marathons, or a death march of children’s activities that suck the energy out of chauffeuring adults.”

Sound familiar? All of the above can feel like a litany of non-negotiable activities. Even if TV watching is relaxing to you, hours spent vegging out on the couch is rarely that restorative.

In her e-book, Vanderkam gives readers a sneak peek into how successful people structure their weekends and make the most of them. She also offers helpful tips on creating weekends that are fulfilling and rejuvenating.

The key is to plan ahead, at least a little bit. You want to make sure that you’ve set aside the time and resources to incorporate meaningful activities. For instance, if you’re doing date night on Saturday, get a babysitter several days in advance.

Revising your mindset about the actual number of hours you have in a weekend also helps. According to Vanderkam, we think of weekends as only Saturday and Sunday. But we really have 60 hours. “There are sixty hours between the moment you crack open a beer at 6 p.m. Friday and the time the alarm goes off at 6 a.m. Monday.” Even if you’re sleeping for 24 of them, you still have 36 hours to play with – literally.

Below are several other snippets on creating a meaningful weekend from Vanderkam’s What Most Successful People Do on the Weekend.

Creating a List of Doable Dreams

Vanderkam suggests writing down a list of 100 dreams. You’ll use this list to incorporate enjoyable activities into your weekend. (Revisit the list, and revise regularly.) She also suggests asking anyone else you spend the weekend, such as your partner or kids, to create a list too.

While your first few dreams may be grander, Vanderkam says you’ll eventually get to the feasible stuff. I really like her tip to think closer to your home: “You could also think of these as a bucket list focused on activities within a two-hour radius from your house.”

For instance, Vanderkam’s list includes eating lobster on the water near Cape May, NJ, going on a 40-minute trail run and visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Friday evenings.

Then plan these fun activities for your days and evenings: Friday night; Saturday day; Saturday night; Sunday day; and Sunday night. Vanderkam features this example in the book:

  • Friday evening: Friends over for game night
  • Saturday day: Family beach trip
  • Saturday evening: Family dinner at a restaurant near the beach that you’ve been meaning to try
  • Sunday day: Church
  • Sunday evening: Leisurely walk around the neighborhood

Scheduling in Downtime

While invigorating and meaningful activities are important, downtime also is key. For instance, Vankderkam interviewed Jess Lahey, a New Hampshire–based teacher and writer, who has a great ritual. From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., it’s lights out at her house. That’s when she and her husband wind down and enjoy a snooze. Their kids – who are preteens – take that time to do everything from reading to playing games together to watching a movie.

Making the Most of Kids’ Activities

If you’re a parent, you might feel like your kids’ soccer and baseball games hijack your entire weekend. But reframing the situation can help. Also helpful is reconsidering your options. For instance, according to Vanderkam, “You can trade off with other parents to carpool for practice, use practices to score one-on-one time with your other children if you have a brood, or even just sit in your car and read or think.”

She gives an example of Kirsten Bischoff, co-founder of the online scheduling service, who reads through the entire Sunday Times while watching her daughter play tennis.

Minimizing Chores

Chores can easily eat away a weekend, especially if you like to keep a squeaky clean space. But, according to Vanderkam, this becomes problematic when laundry and dusting replace more meaningful activities like nurturing your relationships, career and yourself. Vanderkam gives the example of going on a long bike ride with your kids vs. organizing the attic.

Some chores, such as grocery shopping, can be done during the week. (If you can afford it, bigger cities offer delivery services.)

It also helps to set time limits. Give yourself a short window of time to accomplish your chores, which will nudge you to get things done faster.

With a little time, effort and planning, you can craft a truly restorative weekend, filled with meaningful activities and much-needed downtime.

?What’s your idea of
a meaningful weekend?


Check out my post on Laura Vanderkam’s first e-book in this series, What Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, for tips on rethinking your mornings. Learn more about Vanderkam and her work at

Tips on Crafting a Truly Restorative Weekend

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Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S. is an Associate Editor and regular contributor at Psych Central. Her Master's degree is in clinical psychology from Texas A&M University. In addition to writing about mental disorders, she blogs regularly about body and self-image issues on her Psych Central blog, Weightless.

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). Tips on Crafting a Truly Restorative Weekend. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 18 Jan 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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