Best of 2018: The Winning Formula for a High-Performance Weekend
Think back to a time when you had a great work week.
Everything was going perfectly.
You accomplished everything on your “To Do” list (and then some), you successfully avoided distractions and stayed focus, and you made time for your big rocks: taking your spouse out for date night, spending time with the kids, and crushing it in the gym.
… Only to lose your momentum and fall victim to old bad habits over the weekend.
You ate too much, drank too much, slept in, and felt exhausted and anxious come Monday morning, breaking your “amazing work week” streak and falling back into those negative patterns and routines that hold you back from your goals.
There are so many weekend temptations that can take us off track. Weddings, birthday parties, sporting events, concerts, visits from family or friends, and even business conferences can derail our best intentions.
Hopefully, this happened to you a long, long time ago. And if it didn’t, don’t worry. It’s happened to all of us at some point.
To this day, I still remember one of the most catastrophic weekend blunders I ever made… The first time I went to Morton’s Steakhouse.
I was fresh out of college, working for a large nutrition supplement company, and attending a weekend conference in Las Vegas when one of our biggest suppliers treated us to the fanciest and most fattening meal I’d ever had in my life.
First came the drinks.
Then came the 2,000-calorie appetizers (that’s what you’ll get in a plate of fried calamari).
Next came the steaks and sides.
Then, mercifully, dessert.
The next day, tired from overeating and under-sleeping, I found our host and asked, “How do you do it? You must take people out for dinner all the time, and yet you’re as skinny as a teenager and as energetic as ever.”
That was when he revealed one of his secrets for “having it all”… But I’ll get to that in just a minute.
The little tip that he shared with me sent me on a two-decade journey to discover how high performers can enjoy the best that life has to offer – from amazing meals, memories with family, and decadent indulgences – all while getting and staying ahead in their careers and maintaining the momentum they earned throughout the week.
To help you accomplish this goal, I developed what I call the High-Performance Weekend Guide—a way to keep your success habits going while making time for the people and moments that matter.
When you follow this schedule, you’ll be able to enjoy every event without guilt and never feel like a social pariah because you can’t take part in festivities. At the same time, you’ll also continue to get your work done, stick to your healthy habits, and return to work on Monday rested and prepared for a busy week ahead.
Here’s the exact schedule to follow to have that perfect High-Performance Weekend:
It’s time to end your day by thinking about the start of the next one.
In my mid-20s, I stumbled across a secret: Saturday morning is a magic time to get work done. If you’re willing to set aside two hours on a Saturday morning, you’ll feel like you’ve completed the equivalent of a full day’s work. To make this process smoother, spend a few minutes on Friday afternoon preparing for that work—what it will entail and what you want to (realistically) accomplish.
Next, prepare for family time. Too many families waffle when it comes time for a group activity, ending up with their heads buried in smartphones or glued to TVs. Prevent that by thinking of a few engaging activities you can do together, and suggest these to your family at the start of the weekend.
Lastly, make sure you schedule a 30-minute block on Sunday’s calendar to plan for the week ahead and to reflect back on the previous week’s wins and losses. (More on that later.)
Here’s a little motto for life that strongly applies to every weekend:
“Push the envelope, but draw the line.”
In other words, when you’re working, you should constantly be pushing to better yourself and your business. But you also know when and where to draw the line and step away from work. Know when enough is enough; draw the line and stick to it.
It’s Friday night, so draw the line and spend your energy on loved ones instead of working or checking your phone. If you don’t, work stress will bleed into home and social lives and will increase tensions in your most important relationships.
Set a strict quitting time so that you can leave work and spend time with family or friends celebrating your victories and enjoying one another’s company.
If you choose to visit a restaurant or have a “cheat meal” on Friday evening (or at any time on the weekend), I urge you to follow the “Pick Your Poison” approach to dining. It is one of the big ideas I learned from my skinny salesman friend mentioned at the start of this guide.
His idea is simple, but effective for keeping extra pounds from accumulating on your waistline—all while keep you social and engaged during special meal.
Here’s how it works:
There are three “poisons” presented to you at most meals: the bread basket, alcohol, and dessert. Pick one of the three (in moderation, of course—not a loaf of bread, a 6-pack of beer, or a full 2,000 Chocolate Thunder from Down Under dessert from The Cheesecake Factory). Choose just one poison, and accept that the rest are off the table.
To help make this easier, take a look at the restaurant’s menu before you arrive for dinner. Nearly every restaurant has their menu available online so you can plan ahead to choose your “poison” based on calorie counts or ingredients. This also helps avoid wasted time at the restaurant hemming-and-hawing over what you want your indulgence to be.
Following this tip allows you to enjoy your meal without going overboard. After dinner, focus on being social for the rest of the night until bedtime, but I urge you to stick as closely as possible to your normal bedtime, even on Friday and Saturday. This makes it easier to get up at the ideal time in the morning—one of the keys to maintaining high performance. It also prevents you from messing up your sleep pattern and tossing and turning on Sunday evening, resulting in you waking up exhausted at the start of the week.
But, if you do stay up later than normal, then use the “Ballantyne Bedtime Rule”:
For every extra hour you are up the night before, you may sleep 15 minutes longer the following morning.
Keep in mind, however, that the later you are up and the longer you sleep in on the weekend, the guiltier—and lazier—you will feel in the morning. It will also be that much harder for you to stick to your “No Snooze” rule when Monday arrives.
Consistency is key when it comes to high-performance habits. Getting off track and out of rhythm makes it much harder to make progress on your goals in every area of life.
Do not hit snooze!
This sounds harsh for a weekend morning, but it’s important. Get up with your alarm and change your state as soon as you’re awake. Turn on the lights, play some music, splash cold water in your face. (This works for weekdays, too.)
When you stick to your regular wake-up time all week (weekends included), you program your mind and body to be energetic and productive earlier in the day. If you drop these good habits on the weekend, it will be harder for them to stick when it really matters during the week.
Now it’s time for that two-hour, productivity-packed work time.
This habit hack goes like this: On Saturday morning, when you’re up before anyone else, take the first 2 hours of the day and spend it on your #1 priority.
The earlier you do this the better—there will be fewer distractions and interruptions. (Also, make sure to keep your phone off while you do this.)
After your 2 hours of work are done, complete your biggest chores and to-dos: 30 minutes of exercise, shopping, yard work, etc.
By about 11am, you should have accomplished all of your big goals for the weekend. Now it’s time for dedicated family time and fun.
Saturday afternoon is an ideal time to suggest a family activity. Plan several options in advance. Be ready to go to Top Golf or bowling if the weather is not co-operating, or have a bike ride route and picnic lunch prepared if it’s a beautiful day.
Be intentional about this activity. Minimize phone time and maximum memory time. This is what life is all about! These are the moments that make memories, so don’t give them short-shrift.
After you’ve spent a few hours with the family but before you have dinner, make time to prepare for Sunday and the upcoming week.
First, if applicable, do a meal prep session with family. These days, it’s easy to use a meal delivery service, so go online and place your order. If you prefer to cook your own meals, make a ritual out of shopping at the grocery store as a family and batch-cooking healthy lunches for the week ahead.
The point is, you don’t want to give yourself an opportunity midweek—in the exhaustion and frenzy that’s bound to occur—to take the path of least resistance and order pizza from Domino’s. Planning in advance helps you stick to your high-performance, healthy lifestyle.
Next, make time to prepare for a device-free Sunday. I’ve written about this often, and I believe that scheduling 6-12 hours without your phone or computer on Sunday can make a big difference in your mental health and relationships. Even as little as 3 hours away from your phone can refresh and renew your mind.
When you first try this, you’ll quickly realize how dependent you are on your phone for almost everything—music, communication, directions, food. That means if you want to go device-free on Sunday, you have to plan for it on Saturday.
Think of everything you may need: print off event tickets and directions to any new locations; write down the details of a get-together and contact info you’ll need; send emails to friends letting them know you won’t be reachable by phone and give them an alternative emergency number (your landline or your partner’s phone), etc.
Saturday dinner is often a special meal. Whether out or at home, remember the “Pick Your Poison” rule. I also encourage you to avoid alcohol to ensure your sleep is sound. (Alcohol, after all, makes it more difficult for you to experience the benefits of deep sleep cycles crucial for your physical and mental recovery).
After dinner, spend a few hours socializing, but once again, set boundaries so you get to bed at a decent time so you’re up and ready for conquering another day.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “Craig, do you really expect me to go to sleep at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night? Geez, live a little!”
Listen, I get it. You don’t have to be in bed at the same time as a “school night.” However, this article is about high-performance habits, not how to be a frat boy in your 50s.
Your bedtime is your decision. Choose wisely.
If you do stay up late, remember my rule about sleeping in only 15 minutes for every hour you are up late. Add in a quick nap the next day to help offset your sleep deficit. But commit to not sleeping late or hitting snooze because you’ll pay the price on Sunday night when you toss and turn in bed, causing you to be tired and grumpy on Monday morning.
After getting up (without hitting the snooze button, thanks to good habits), follow through on your plan to enjoy at least 6 hours away from your mobile phone, laptop, and television.
Spend this time journaling, catching up with friends and family, going to church, reflecting on big questions in your life, practicing gratitude, going for a hike or long bike ride, or engaging in other high-performer “recovery” activities.
If you’re tempted to go out for a “boozy brunch”—like many of my younger clients—just remember the consequences. Combining alcohol with “dessert for breakfast” (i.e. pancakes, waffles, etc.) will leave you craving a long afternoon nap. This, in turn, will affect your sleep at night, throwing your sleep schedule off and leaving you exhausted on Monday morning. You’re a high-performer. Don’t be thrown off track.
Sunday afternoon is perfect for more device-free time with family. Make memories with the people in your life who are most important to you—without the distractions of work or technology. Be present. Your family will thank you for it.
Sunday night family dinner was sacred in my house. It didn’t have to be fancy, but it was important, and a time for us to gather together. I always looked forward to it and remember many of those meals fondly.
If this is a habit in your home, make the most of this time together, and encourage conversation—reflection on the week past and planning for the week ahead.
Some of my friends and colleagues have even gone so far as to institute family meetings—either at dinner or shortly afterwards. During this meeting time, the family talks about what’s coming up the following week and what each person is looking forward to. This is dedicated time for sharing, bonding, and planning together. Trust me—these are the rituals that carry from generation to generation and build the strongest memories.
When dinner is over and you’ve had a chance to relax for a couple of hours, it’s time to finish your planning for the week ahead. Put together a list of weekly tasks and a process plan for how to get them done—what I like to call a weekend-closing “brain dump.”
The last must-do in your high-performance weekend is a weekend reflection.
I’ve often talked about “watching the movie of your life,” but on Sunday night, I want you to watch the “movie of your weekend” instead.
Reflect on the following questions to see if your life and goals are on track. They will push you to change what isn’t working and strengthen what is working for more rapid growth:
1) Is the life you’re living worth what you are giving up to have it?
2) Are you doing what you want in life?
3) Are you living the personal life that you want?
4) Are you doing enough of the little things that make you happy?
5) Are you spending enough time with the people who make you happy?
6) Are you making the best use of the limited time you have?
7) If things aren’t going great, what’s at least one thing you can do to start making a change today?
There you have it! THE guide to a high-performance weekend that “pushes the envelope” in your career while also “drawing a line” for quality time with friends, family, and fun.
Every action has consequences. Make the connection between what you do on the weekends and how you feel so that you can do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
As a high performer and a successful entrepreneur, you don’t have to sacrifice family or work on the weekend. You can have both, enjoying each one as you continue to move toward ever greater success.
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