A friend of mine sent me a question.
“Any advice on how to say no to weekend plans? It always seems like the weekends fill up weeks in advance and I end up wishing that I could do the sleep in and spend two hours on breakfast thing.”
This is a hard one.
It’s easiest to choose less about physical things. Often, they’re only yours, and you can get a thing back again if you ever need to.
It’s a little harder to choose less about digital things. There’s a seemingly infinite — and growing — amount of digital space and digital things to keep track of, watch, and experience. But, like with physical things, most digital things can be found again if ever needed.
When we choose fewer plans or say no to an invitation, our decision not only affects us, but also the people we are making the plans with. We’re forever giving up that opportunity to spend that time with those people.
Unlike things, we can’t get back that opportunity, which is why it’s sometimes easier just to load the social calendar and do as much as possible every weekend. But we all know the feeling of working a 60-hour workweek and wishing we could sleep for 15 hours on a Saturday instead instead of doing stuff from brunch to bar close.
How do we find a balance?
First, find a way to keep track of your appointments. Otherwise, it’s hard to know what's planned, and if you don't know that, you can't make decisions about your schedule. I just use the default calendars with my Apple account because they sync easily between my phone and my computer.
Once everything you need to track is in your calendar, look at what’s ahead for the next month or two. What plans are you dreading that you can take off the calendar right now? Find a way to politely excuse yourself from them. Do you have five things packed into one Saturday? Maybe find a way to push things out a few weeks when you have a little more time.
If it helps, try my strategy for weekends: just have one main “activity” for a day. That way I can still have some flexibility to be lazy or take care of some chores but can also look forward to a fun thing with friends or family.
Sometimes, though, we just can’t avoid the busy weekends. I know how it goes — I’m in different cities the first two weekends in May for family trips. I'm really excited for them, but I’ll be tired when they’re over.
When I know I have a lot coming up, I plan a weekend before or after the crazy that is as lazy as possible. My girlfriend and I do everything we can to choose less on those days and just relax and hang out with each other.
Those "keep it free" weekends are sacrosanct. We don’t move them unless we absolutely have to. Because they are set so far in advance, we look forward to them like they are a vacation, and enjoy them just as much. Even just one low-key “keep it free” day can be amazingly refreshing.
Do we miss opportunities to see friends and family by sticking to those keep it free weekends? Yes. But by choosing less and taking some time for ourselves weekend activities overall, we have the energy to be better friends and family when we spend time with them.
And, I also know that sometimes, for whatever reason, we all just have to change or drop from an upcoming plan on short notice. That’s okay. When you do that, I recommend giving a polite excuse and offering to meet at another day, time, and place when you’re free. Hopefully, people understand — I think most people will!
I've found that choosing fewer weekend plans can make the things I choose to do more enjoyable while giving me some space to refresh and relax. I hope some of what I discussed today might be helpful for you.
This post is adapted from a weekday newsletter I wrote in April 2018, Choose Less.