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Why You Shouldn’t Work On The Weekend

How do you spend a typical weekend? If your answer includes working or thinking about work, you’re in the majority.

How do you spend a typical weekend? If your answer includes working or thinking about work, you’re in the majority. Recent survey research from Enterprise Rent-A-Car shows that almost 70% of Americans work at least one weekend/month and even if they aren’t working, 61% report they struggle with not thinking about what needs to be done at the office.

If you’re one of those people putting in time on a Saturday or Sunday, here are three reasons to change your behavior ASAP.

Your productivity dips after 50 hours/week.

Spending more time working doesn’t actually result in getting more done. We’re all subject to the law of diminishing returns and research from Stanford shows the 50-hour mark is where productivity starts to drop. It hits rock bottom at 55 hours, meaning that if you were to work a full Saturday and Sunday on top of your normal 40-hour work week, you wouldn’t accomplish any more than if you’d spent the weekend in a hammock.

Doing nothing helps you do better work.

Even the historic figures we consider to be influential thinkers and creators weren’t necessarily slaving away at their desks 24/7. Instead, they understood that well-spent leisure time was as essential to their creative process as focused periods of intense work. In a fascinating piece for Nautilus, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang writes of Charles Darwin’s daily routine:

“After his morning walk and breakfast, Darwin was in his study by 8 and worked a steady hour and a half. At 9:30 he would read the morning mail and write letters. At 10:30, Darwin returned to more serious work, sometimes moving to his aviary, greenhouse, or one of several other buildings where he conducted his experiments. By noon, he would declare, ‘I’ve done a good day’s work,’ and set out on a long walk….”

Setting boundaries leads to more success.

It’s easy to tell yourself you’ll “just” check your email for a second while waiting in line to get into a new brunch hot spot. From there, it’s a short hop to justifying Sunday night document reviews as a good way to get a jump on your Monday (which never gets any shorter no matter how much you do on the weekends) and then, you find yourself thinking, “Hmm...the office is probably so quiet on a Saturday morning” as you decide to swing by for a couple of hours. Eventually, you realize you aren’t working your job, your job is working you. And it will work you right into the ground if you let it. Super successful people may invest a tremendous amount of sweat equit to get where they are (maybe less than you think in Darwin’s case), but that’s a calculated choice -- they remain in control of their time and how they spend it and they focus on outcomes, not the input of hours.

Working on the weekend may seem like a necessary evil of our interconnected age, but if you’re able to resist the siren song of a Saturday spent on paperwork, you’ll actually be doing more to boost your productivity and creativity than the short-lived sense of accomplishment that a few more hours on the clock might give you.