Young women cycling on seafront, Cape Town, South Africa
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By Andrew Merle / Medium
February 3, 2017

During the busy workweek, I tend to be pretty good at maximizing my time and productivity. I enjoy the challenge of finding pockets of time amidst a packed schedule, and tuning out distractions in order to do my best work.

But I have struggled in the past to create a great weekend routine. The unstructured nature of weekends, and ample free time, has sometimes left me feeling overwhelmed or not knowing where to start. I have always looked forward to weekends as the optimal time to have fun and relieve stress, but haven’t consistently spent my time in a way that produced these results. Therefore, I wanted to take a more strategic approach to weekends in order to increase my enjoyment, relaxation, and regeneration.

After much experimentation and research, here are the best habits I have found to maximize happiness and rejuvenation during those precious weekends.

Consider this a recipe for a great weekend:

Avoid Work Email and Social Media

You will never gain perspective or fully experience life if you are constantly buried in email or scrolling through social media. The weekend is the perfect time to disconnect — avoiding all work email and social media. If this seems like a major step, consider implementing this for just one of your weekend days to start (Saturday has been the easiest day for me to apply this tactic). In general, I believe in minimizing technology on weekends, but not eliminating it altogether — for example, you might want to call or text people to make plans, email an old friend, or relax by watching a movie on Saturday night. All of these are perfectly acceptable and rely on some use of technology.

Spend Time with Friends and Family

Celebrate the end of the week in the company of friends and family. Social connection is the greatest predictor of happiness, and also vital to our health. Our close relationships can get crowded out of the busy workweek, so it is critical that we make time for them on the weekends. Make it a point to get at least one social activity on the calendar each weekend. I have found it helpful to keep a list of people I’d like to see, and then reference this list as I schedule social outings for upcoming weekends. Last-minute get-togethers can be great too, but they might not happen if you don’t plan ahead.

Exercise

I am a huge believer in the mental and physical benefits of exercise, and the weekend is an excellent time to bring some variety to your workouts. If you do the same gym routine or morning jog every weekday, try mixing it up on Saturday and Sunday. Use the extra time to go for a long hike, bike ride, or even just a nice walk outside (or whatever other sport or activity you like to do, whether that’s spin class, skiing, tennis, or tai chi).

Get Outside

It is all too common to spend most of our weekdays inside and in front of a computer screen. So use the weekends to get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air — if the weather is great or not. I have found that my happiness is often proportional to the amount of time I spend outside. Track how many hours you spend outside on Saturday and Sunday, and see if you can increase this number each weekend. It will likely do wonders for your mood and outlook on life.

Enjoy Good Food and Drink

I love a great meal and glass of wine. Meals can sometimes be rushed on weekdays, so I like to slow it down and savor a great dinner on Friday or Saturday night (either cooking at home or going out). I think of weekend meals as a special treat, and am always happier when I take the time to really appreciate them.

Do What You Love to Do

This might seem obvious, but the extra time on weekends gives us the opportunity to do more of what we love to do. I actually recommend the practice of writing out what you love to do (for me, this includes spending time with my wife and kids, traveling, watching sporting events, listening to music, reading, and writing). Whenever I need some inspiration, I just reference the list of things I love to do and start doing them. This list will be unique to every person, but spending more time doing what you love on the weekends will make for a very happy couple of days. And I find that this good feeling often lasts well into the workweek.

So there you have it — a recipe for a great weekend!

If this list seems daunting, just think about how many of these elements can be combined together. For example, you can enjoy a great meal in the company of friends, or make it a point to always exercise outside on the weekend.

Incorporate these weekend ingredients into your life and make the most of your precious “off” days!

Andrew Merle writes about living well, including good habits for happiness, health, productivity, and success. Subscribe to his e-mail list at andrewmerle.com and follow him on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Medium.com

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