Have you ever felt doom settle around you as Sunday evening rolls around and you realize you have nothing to show for your two days of freedom? I have!
In fact, at the end of the weekend, I sometimes can’t even remember what we did. I remember being busy. I remember periods of laziness. But I can’t remember specifics and I know I didn’t use my precious weekend family time wisely. A few minutes of advanced planning can change all of that!
Consult Your People
The first step to forming a plan is to check in with all of your people. Does your 3rd grader have a science fair project due? Did your husband promise to mow his great aunt’s massive lawn all afternoon? Did your high schooler forget to tell you she’s babysitting the neighbor kids Saturday afternoon?
If you make a plan without all the facts, your best intentions can be quickly torpedoed. You’re not a family dictator as much as a family manager and scheduler. Make sure you hear from everyone before you dive too deep into planning weekend family time.
Calendar Your Weekend
Knowing what you know, sketch out a rough timeline for the weekend. Who needs to be where, when? Only include non-negotiables in this timeline, promises that need to be kept, appointments that can’t or shouldn’t be changed, kids’ sports games.
Hopefully you still have some free time available. If not, and you don’t have time to pursue goals or hobbies, you may need to re-prioritize. For now, set this timeline aside. Get out a piece of paper, divide it in 4, and write “Relationships”, “Productivity”, “Relaxation”, and “Recreation” at the top of each quarter.
What relationships do you want to strengthen this weekend? Write the names you want to focus on. Beside each name, write one action you could do to strengthen your relationship. Next to “mom” you might write, “send a family email update.” Next to your teenage daughter’s name, you might write, “Go for a walk and just listen.”
For your spouse, maybe it’s, “Snuggle up and watch a movie after the kids are in bed,” or, “Read a book together.” Try to choose action items that show love in the way your family members feel love. That may sound obvious, but I often try to show love in the ways I feel love and then I’m surprised when my kids or my spouse just aren’t feeling it.
This is where you write all the stuff you want to get done this weekend. You can go to town, writing a massive dream list of everything you could imagine accomplishing if time and strength were unlimited. Don’t worry. You’ll be paring these down later. So, go ahead and write down everything, just to get it out of your head.
What could you do this weekend to help you feel relaxed and rejuvenated and ready to start the new week? Is there a book you’ve been meaning to read for pleasure? A yoga class you want to try out? How about an afternoon nap your body has been begging for? Make a list of a few things that will help you feel rested.
What things do you enjoy doing but never have time for? This is the list for things like bike rides and craft projects, elaborate dinners (if cooking brings you joy) and pickle ball games. Our family loves to pull out a board game, like THIS one. How do you like to play? Write two or three fun things you could do this weekend purely for fun.
Re-Calendar Your Weekend
You should now have a pretty extensive list of actions and activities with which you could fill in the rest of your weekend. Take a look at your initial timeline and identify blocks of free time. Allow plenty of margin around each activity.
For example, if your daughter has a soccer game at the park down the street from 11:00-noon, don’t schedule anything from 10-1 to allow you time to get ready and then decompress afterwards. So, you may have a chunk of free time from 1-4 if your next activity starts at 5.
Go back to your 4-box list of actions and activities and write an approximate time next to each one. Your snuggly movie might take 3 hours. Your bike ride could take 30 minutes. Choose one activity from each category and see where you can fit it in your weekend. Do you have a ton more free time? Add a few more things, in order of those most important to you.
You may find that some weekends are full of relationship building, while others consist mostly of naps. That’s okay! Just nap on purpose. It is very freeing to think, “What I needed most in the world was rest and I got it!” rather than, “I’m so exhausted but I puttered around all weekend, trying to avoid being lazy and napping, but I was so tired that I accomplished nothing.”
Sometimes what you really need to do is be spontaneous and have a few days of unstructured time. So, consciously think, “I need unstructured time and I’m going to take some this weekend,” and then do it. When you plan in advance, you can own your weekends and it feels great.
One final word of caution – Do NOT schedule every spare minute of your weekend. An overscheduled weekend can be worse than an unstructured one, especially for your kids. Make some goals. Set some priorities. And then do your best.
For more ideas on how to improve family time, check out these great posts: