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On The Weekend Effect

When was the last time you took a full weekend off? And when was the last time you took a full weekend off without feeling guilty? As graduate students, it is difficult to set boundaries to our work hours. We don’t follow the 9-to-5 schedule of typical office workers. Weekends are often used to play catch-up – prepare for that seminar on Monday, revise that conference paper with a looming deadline, or install and learn that software for data analysis.

the weekend effect

After reading Katrina Onstad’s The Weekend Effect: The Life-Changing Benefits of Taking Time Off and Challenging the Cult of Overwork, I’m convinced that taking 48 hours off from working each week is a necessity. Below is a summary of Onstad’s arguments on why enjoying a weekend away from work is important and how you can win back your weekends.

Why do you need to take the full weekend off?

  • After slogging away from Monday to Friday, you’ll most likely need 2 full days to recover. Maybe one day to sort out your personal life – e.g. doing groceries, cleaning up your living space, or paying bills. Another day to pursue leisure activities for fun and self-fulfillment.
  • The 2-day weekend is a privilege. It is the result of long and hard battles fought by labour movements around the world. Read the history of how labour movements fought for the 8-hour day (or 40-hour work week) here. Honor the sacrifices of these movements by enjoying a full weekend.
  • The Parkinson’s Law of Efficiency postulates that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. If you let work spill into your weekend, it will easily fill up the space. Why not put boundaries around work such that you’ll be able to enjoy some much needed downtime?
  • By consistently working and neglecting days off, you’re likely to overwork yourself. Overworking may lower your creativity, increase your chances of making mistakes, and lead to various physical and mental health issues.


How can you win your weekends back?

  • Spend less time on housework – Try spreading your household chores throughout the weekdays. You can get a lot of cleaning done by spending 10 minutes a day, Monday to Friday. Another approach is to put a time limit on how much housework you do over the weekend – e.g. 11 am to 12 noon on Saturday.
  • Enjoy time with family and friends – Get together with family and friends around brunch or around the dinner table. If it is within your means, go out to a restaurant. If not, organize a get together such that everyone brings a simple dish to share. You can also organize for each member in the group to take turns hosting.
  • Connect to nature – Get out and enjoy nature by hiking, trail walking (snowshoeing in winter), or gardening. Kingston has a lot to offer here – checkout Kingston’s 3 best hiking trails. There are many health benefits too, with health treatment programmes designed around the outdoors. These programmes are called ecotheraphy, an emerging field.


  • Immerse yourself in artwork – It doesn’t have to be fancy. Doodling or coloring books count. You can also enjoy the artwork at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen’s. This art centre is regarded as one of the best private art galleries in the country. The admission is free, to boot!
  • Anything else that gets your body moving. You can try one of the free fitness classes offered at the Queen’s Athletics & Recreation Centre.

I admit that sometimes it is not possible to take a full weekend off, especially when you have a pressing deadline. You should still try your best to limit the amount of time you spend working. Always remember the Parkinson’s Law of Efficiency – work will expand to fill the allotted time.

working hardly

Working hard to the point of overworking or hardly working due to overworking?

How do YOU spend your Saturdays and Sundays?

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One comment on “On The Weekend Effect
  1. Colette says:

    Fantastic Eruani. I need to read this book as I am also bad at taking weekends off. I do find though that going for a nice long walk with the dog is great as is going for a cup of coffee.

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