Weekends can be long if you know how to use them
I’ve never been on Instagram. Until recently, that is. I promise you it wasn’t intentional. I accidentally clicked on a link at the bottom of a blog I was reading, and there I was, looking at Mark Bustos’s Instagram page. And it caught my attention.
If it hadn’t have been the weekend I don’t think I’d have bothered. But compared to most of my friends and families my attitude to weekend is pretty unusual. Far from being the time when I just sit back and relax, it’s the part of the week when I strive to be focused, efficient and highly productive. I get up early and I write an action list for the day setting out what I hope to achieve. In other words, it’s a bit like work only I don’t get paid.
Mark Bustos is a hair stylist in one of New York City’s high-end salons who, for the past two years, has spent his weekends cutting homeless people’s hair, and so working without getting paid. He takes pictures of his ‘clients’ and posts them to his Instagram page, which has now attracted quite a following. There are two things that delighted me about Mark Bustos’s story: (1) his compassion and generosity in using his skills to help those significantly less fortunate them him; and (2) the fact that he makes his weekends count.
The first point needs no explanation, but there is a lesson for us all in the second, and it interests me because it reflects a principal I’ve started applying to my weekends only very recently: that life can be more fulfilling and balanced if you treat your free time with the same respect that you do your work time. In other words, prioritise what’s important, plan what needs to be done and keep distractions to a minimum.
Most people I meet complain that the week is too long and the weekend too short, that they don’t have enough free time, or that they are always snowed under at work with little time to fit other stuff around it. It’s the all too common problem of the Too Short Weekend, a weekend that is over in a flash in a life that seems to be all about work.
The solution I found came as a result of looking at my own behaviour and that of others around me at the weekends. Hardly anyone I asked approached the weekend with the deliberate goal of making that time count. The number of hours willingly surrendered to email, TV and social media, all in the name of ‘relaxing’, and to unrewarding tasks that could be inexpensively delegated to another (it is, in my view, a crime against humanity to spend precious hours of your weekends ironing) was surprisingly worryingly high. Surprising, because it’s amazing how easy it is to clock 10+ hours watching TV in a 48 hour period; worrying because we do it without consciously choosing to and barely any recollection of having done it.
Approaching my weekends with a ‘work mind-set’ may sound counter-intuitive, but in the last three months it’s made quite a difference. Planning, prioritising and saying no a bit more often means that I somehow manage to squeeze in exercise, reading, fun time with the kids and some social fun into one afternoon. This past weekend I even managed an afternoon nap (no small feat with 4 young kids in the house!). When I plan it, it seems to happen so much more easily.
Two days a week is not very much time to fit in the things you love (a passion or hobby), the things you need (catch-up sleep, exercise) and the things you want (fun and time with loved ones and friends). If you are in the habit of working weekends, the time available is even more precious. But time is an illusion, the speed of its passing being so dependent on what we are doing. Which makes it all the more important to seize the time you have (however little) and make it count in the ways that enrich you most.
“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.
Life is long if you know how to use it.”
So said Seneca, the Roman Stoic philosopher, entreating us not to idly flit away what precious little time we have on the insignificant and the unimportant. I think of this as I look at the smiling faces on Mark Bustos’ page with their freshly framed features, and I feel sure that at least for Mark Bustos, the illusion of time is bent in his favour.
How do you use your weekends? Are they long or short?
I look forward to reading your comments.
Caroline Flanagan is founder of Babyproofyourlife.com, where you’ll find inspiration, advice and resources for the career woman who wants it all.