As we plunge deeper into the school year and the workload begins to mercilessly pile up, the weekends become a haven for relaxation and recharging. It is admittedly all too tempting to sink into our couch and scroll mindlessly through our phones.. for hours on end. If this sounds like you at all, I have a couple of questions.
Have you ever found it difficult- nearly impossible- to get up for classes on Monday morning? And would this have anything at all to do with how you chose to spend that past weekend?
Those who treat the weekend like it is a leisure period often find themselves bombarded with time commitments during the following weekdays. Having a balanced weekend minimizes this stress overload, while also ensuring one will be well-rested and prepared for what is to come. Hence, I have compiled a list of strategies that will hopefully improve the quality of your weekend!
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Structuring Your Time
Studies have proven that effective time management habits are, to a certain extent, linked to job performance. One of the most common methods of structuring time commitments comes in the form of to-do lists.
There is a fascinating psychology behind making to-do lists. Having a list, to start, helps you keep track of everything you want to get done. Even the simple action of writing down tasks serves as a physical and mental reminder.
We all have a multitude of things going on in our lives. It is very reassuring to have a thorough to-do list, eliminating the possibility of an important task completely slipping away from our minds.
Additionally, unfinished tasks are like looming deadlines- you feel inevitably guilty when they aren't checked off. These lists add a certain level of accountability, applying pressure to fulfill your goals in a more timely manner. Even the dopamine effect you experience upon task completion is an incentive in and out of itself.
However, to-do lists are certainly not for everyone. After all, there is nothing quite like a daunting mountain of constant frustration and stress. There are alternate methods for people who are easily overwhelmed, more susceptible to distractions, or love planning. These include creating calendars and setting productivity timers.
Ultimately, structuring your time and planning ahead keeps you more organized and efficient. Effective to-do lists (in one form or another) make you feel accomplished in completing even the smallest of tasks.
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If the weather permits, go outside. Why?
Going outside improves your quality of sleep, to start. Exposure to daytime light has proven to have a potentially positive effect on your sleep cycles. The outdoor air- in most places- is of far better quality, promoting respiratory health. Other benefits include a fostered motivation to exercise, protection from near-sightedness, and a strengthened immunity.
It is vital to take much-needed breaks from staring at one's screens, which can often be very difficult. Nowadays, much of what we do is digitized, from homework assignments to online news to streaming services. Prying your eyes from a digital device and instead taking the time to appreciate nature and its beauty will spark creative thinking and inspiration.
On top of that, spending time outdoors has also been linked to greatly reduced stress levels and an improved sense of overall well-being. This is seen in women, especially.
To recap, this simple act has an arsenal of benefits and is also an important component of your health! Even if you can only spare a fifteen-minute walk around your neighborhood, I highly suggest allotting time for the outdoors to enhance your health in addition to your weekend experience.
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Spending Time With Loved Ones
Due to the typical busyness of our weekday schedules, quality time with family and friends is often neglected. The weekend is a great opportunity to catch up with loved ones. Not only does this serve as an enjoyable break from school and whatnot, but there is even a multitude of benefits towards your mental health.
When you are with people you truly feel comfortable expressing yourself around, you become more likely to openly discuss your thoughts and feelings with them. Talking through stressors may not eliminate the stressor itself, still, the emotional support and guidance you receive may reduce your stress levels.
This kind of reinforced support also makes it a little easier to deal with adverse conditions like low self-esteem, depression, and trauma. Positive relations with others even contribute to a greater sense of meaning and purpose.
If you find yourself stuck on ideas, here are a few simple ones:
Have an interrupted meal together. No phones or distractions. Just eating and having a good time. There is nothing like bonding and connecting over good food, while giving your loved ones your undivided attention.
Watch a new (or classic) movie. While I love to watch movies on my own, close friends and family often make the whole experience all the more exhilarating. It is important to note that the mood of the movie might be ruined, so this option is dependent on your company.
Run errands together. This is a surefire way of turning what may usually register as a chore into an enjoyable time with others. Getting laundry, for example, is so much more fun with friends. If you want to be productive while hanging out at the same time, I highly suggest this!
Setting aside priority time for loved ones creates healthy, regular habits for everyone. To all of the stressed readers out there, this most certainly helps!
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Studying & Reviewing
Studying has its well-known benefits. It ensures you are better prepared for upcoming tasks and exams, identifies weaker areas you may need to review, and deepens your understanding of the material. But have you ever wondered why?
It turns out that people can forget up to 95% of what they learn in class when they don't review it within just three days.
German psychologist Ebbinghaus, who had dedicated himself to delving deeper into the inherently forgetful nature of humans, discovered this shocking statistic upon conducting experimental research. As seen in what is now known as the forgetting curve, the most significant drop in retention actually occurs soon after learning.
We forget things over time. Our memories fade. While conditions such as retrograde and and anterograde amnesia (loss of memories prior to an accident and the loss of capacity to form new memories, respectively) can most certainly be the cause, time is the ultimate evil.
Dedicating a portion of one's weekend to reviewing concepts is crucial. Not only does studying help distribute one's workload more efficiently, reviewing material on a more regular basis allows information to move from one's short-term to long-term memory. Recalling abilities will improve and thus reinforce one's knowledge of a subject, helping to prevent and resist the forgetting curve.
Thus, if you have the time and motivation to review those tricky concepts or revisit an old topic over the weekend, go for it. This will pay off in the long run!
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Monitoring Your Sleep Schedule
Many students view weekends as a perfect opportunity to sleep in and alleviate sleep deprivation. While this is admittedly tempting, mixed research suggests that this lifestyle may not be as healthy as it seems.
A study published in May of 2018 by the Journal of Sleep Research analyzed the relationship between the death rates of 43,000 adults in Sweden and their self-reported sleep-habits, over the span of thirteen years. The study concluded that getting below or above 6-8 hours of sleep had potential detrimental effects on the adults' health.
Researchers observed that participants under the age of 65 were actually 65% more likely to die early, if they slept for five hours or less on a regular daily basis. Sleeping for eight hours or more every night also came with a reported increased mortality rate.
Nonetheless, estimates showed that while short weekend sleep was associated with an increased mortality rate, this could not be said for long weekend sleep. In fact, participants who slept less on the weekdays and more on the weekends were on par with those who consistently got 6-7 hours of sleep.
Unfortunately, very few studies have proven that these habits have direct benefits; other studies have even argued otherwise. To illustrate, a 2017 study covering the sleep schedules of women showed that they had a greater likelihood of having poor cardiovascular health if they slept for two or more hours daily on weekends.
Most experts agree that a consistent sleep schedule (hopefully between eight and ten hours per day) is ideal. If this does not sound like you, it is advised to maintain as much of a sleep routine as possible. Sleeping at eleven p.m. on weekdays and at three a.m. on weekends, for example, can offset the body's internal clock and pose detrimental consequences. Sleep is a crucial component of well-being- monitoring it effectively will maximize the quality of your weekend.
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Listening to Music
One of the things I love most about music is that it is incredibly versatile. I am a firm believer in the notion that there is always the right song, piece, or even collection of sounds for every occasion. I, for one, have playlists for virtually everything. Sleeping, running, studying, driving, you name it!
It has been scientifically proven that music activates networks in the brain, such as the auditory cortex in the temporal lobes. Music is also contagious: boosting moods, generate energy, and even inducing an overall sense of happiness.
Of course, music has the potential to hinder one's productivity. I would, for example, strongly recommend against blasting that hard metal playlist during your study session. And if you find yourself easily distracted by listening to music, separating that from productive times will likely be more beneficial.
However, if you love listening to music, here's the catch. Say you really feel like listening to your favorite artist, but in contrast, you do not want to clean your room. The lack of motivation coming from the latter can balance out with the idea of listening to music.
If you associate music with positive things, it will provide you with a much-needed incentive to start. And sometimes, that's all you really need.
It is often tricky to decide on what to do to make the most out of our weekends. After all, we only have so much time. So the next time you catch yourself lazing around watching reels, make sure you hold yourself accountable! It is never too late to turn the day around.
I hope this article has provided you with information helpful for creating some semblance of a routine!