father playing with child

How will you spend your summer weekends?

Summer weekends are a rare and beautiful commodity, with time to relax and rejuvenate at the beach, backyard, cottage, trailer, campground or boat. So, having to work to catch up on your to-do list is a double whammy.

Year round it is tough to have to choose between leisure activities and work but having to prioritize spending time at the office during the best weather months is especially painful. It is no easier if ‘going to the office’ means sequestering yourself in a home office, either.

“Your to-do list is not a predator,” is a line from Allison Graham’s book Take Back Your Weekends. She’s a speaker and consultant on resilience and personal growth and was prompted to write it during a workshop with a small executive team when one of the attendees broke down in tears.

He said, “I’m afraid I’m missing my kids’ childhoods. I spend every Saturday and Sunday working. It’s still not enough.”

take back your weekends books
Take Back Your Weekends is available through Amazon and Allison Graham's website.

When you’d rather be spending time listening to the waves or playing catch with the kids than sitting at the computer, it can be debilitating so Graham has some advice to get the to-do list off your back.

After 14 years in business and authoring four print books, she’s found that mindset is as important as method when It comes to managing our time and tasks.

"I'm afraid I'm missing my kids' childhoods. I spend every Saturday and Sunday working. It's still not enough."

That mindset comes in when we give too much weight to what should be simple and too little to life’s big hits. Graham breaks it down this way: tasks are all the things that are usually on the to-do list; obstacles are challenges that we must overcome but aren’t catastrophic; adversities are life-changing events, like the death of a loved one or a cancer diagnosis.

“In society, we exaggerate tasks and wear ‘I’m so busy’ as a badge of hon-our, but when something big happens – adversities – we underplay and say, ‘I’m fine,” explains Graham. “By flipping it, we save emotional band-width when we need it for adversities.”

To take back your weekends Graham advises looking at things differently. First, stop thinking of it as a to-do list. Reframe as a to-do circle. That way you won’t be always expect-ing to feel rewarded when you get to the end of the list because you’ll never get to the end.

“As soon as something comes off the list, more things go on, so you’ll never reach the end and that feels bad,” explains Graham. Do a complete mind dump of all the tasks you need to accomplish and put them into “buckets” by areas of re-sponsibility.

allison graham speaker consultant
Allison Graham is a speaker, consultant and executive coach.

If you’re in business, your buckets might include marketing, ac-counting/invoicing, human resources, sales and client fulfillment. Prioritize tasks in each bucket and work on one bucket during a power period.

Many claim that when they work on weekends, though, it is the most productive time because there are no interruptions or meetings. Graham suggests simulating this experience by using hyper-focused sessions during the week for power periods of 45 to 75 minutes. “One or two hours of increased outputs per weekday equals a full day of working on the weekend,” she says. “We want to get out of the office as quickly as possible on the weekend, so we are hyper focused.”

One or two hours of highly focused work will produce more consistent production than eight hours with constant interruptions, but how do we eliminate interruptions at the office? Graham suggests posting a sign or wearing earbuds to let others know you are in a flow state but will be available later.

Next, look for time thieves. These can include frequent interruptions, jumping from task to task, long meetings, not delegating, micromanaging after delegating. Graham lists 30 in her book.

Eliminating as many time thieves as possible will allow you to be more productive during the week and minimize the need for weekend work. Then, look for ways to shave time off jobs, she adds, by rethinking how they are done. This can apply to the office (‘Do we need a full hour for a meeting or would 45 minutes do the same job?’) to household tasks.

“Instead of putting each dish away as you unload the dishwasher, try stacking all the plates on the counter and then putting them in the cupboard. It shaves a couple of minutes off the task and those little time savers can add up. It’s important to get out of the ‘because it’s the way we’ve always done it’ mindset,” says Graham.

She encourages us to look at things “through the lens of curiosity” to change how we manage time and tasks as the first step to taking back our weekends. Tame that to-do list and end its days as your predator.