The Science-Backed Schedule for Your Perfect Weekend
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The Science-Backed Schedule for Your Perfect Weekend

Allocate your time into these six categories to build your best days off

Mon, Jan 8, 2024 10:50amGrey Clock 5 min

WSJ’s Life & Work team presents Life Math, a series on how to optimise your time in 2024. Today: The best way to spend your time on the weekend.

Saturday and Sunday are often the most anticipated days of the week, yet optimising them remains an elusive goal for many of us.

Squandered weekends leave us feeling less happy and less motivated at work, research suggests. Those who put planning and intention into their weekends emerge on Monday feeling satisfied, accomplished and more productive throughout the workweek, says Elizabeth Grace Saunders, a time-management coach in Farmington Hills, Mich.

If we don’t plan our time well, we can end up marching through our obligations, or wasting time, without ever focusing on what we really want to do.

How to plan the perfect weekend? Behavioural researchers and time-management coaches suggest breaking it into six components: sleep, hobbies, socialising, exercise, work and chores, and unscheduled time.

Using recommendations from experts and federal guidelines, we came up with this equation. It’s important to remember these numbers aren’t hard and fast—stay flexible and make the math work for your life.

The perfect weekend equation:

Sleep (7 to 9 hours x 2 + ≤ 20 to 60 minutes napping) + Hobbies (~ 2 hours) + Socializing (0 to 2 events) + Exercise (≥ 45 minutes) + Work (≤ 2 hours) + Unplanned time (~ 3 to 4 hours) = A Great Weekend

Here’s how to incorporate those elements to build your best days off.


This part of the “perfect weekend” equation is the most rigid.

Despite the tendency many of us have to take advantage of the time off by staying up and sleeping in later, we should try to keep our sleep schedules as consistent as possible to avoid social jet lag, sleep researchers say.

Sleep researchers generally permit one hour of wiggle room—so if you typically go to sleep at 11 p.m., try not to stay up past midnight. If your weekday alarm goes off at 7 a.m., rise and shine by 8 a.m. on the weekends. Finding yourself sleepy later in the day? Take a 10- to 30-minute nap in the early afternoon.

Most importantly: Make sure you’re getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night, even on weekends. If you’re among the roughly one-third of Americans who don’t get that recommended sleep during the week, you may be able to “catch up” by sleeping a few extra hours on the weekend, says David Reichenberger, who studies the links between sleep and health at Pennsylvania State University.

But don’t count on catching up forever. A recent study Reichenberger co-wrote found that among a small group of people who slept five hours a night during the week, their cardiovascular health measures worsened and didn’t return to baseline even after they were allowed to catch up on sleep over the weekend.


Having a hobby, or an activity we engage in during our time off for pleasure, has been linked to fewer symptoms of depression and higher levels of happiness, life satisfaction and even reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline.

Saunders, the time-management coach in Michigan, generally recommends people set aside roughly two hours for hobbies on the weekend.

Don’t worry if you’re not, say, a dedicated baker, painter or pianist. Hobbies can encompass much more than we might typically consider, says Daisy Fancourt, a professor of psychobiology and epidemiology at University College Londonwho researches the link between social and behavioral factors and health.

Something as simple as reading a book or cooking a tasty meal can serve the same purpose: to give us a sense of happiness, meaning and control in our lives outside of work.

Unplanned time

Scheduling unstructured time may sound silly. But failing to block out free time can leave us filling it with whatever’s right in front of us, like working or mindlessly scrolling, says Laura Vanderkam, an author and time-management expert based outside Philadelphia.

If you can, leave unplanned a chunky part of your Saturday or Sunday, roughly three to four hours, says Saunders. “If you make your weekend as packed and as busy as your weekday is, you will not come out of the weekend feeling refreshed,” she says.

This time is a good opportunity to let our brains enter so-called “default mode,” where our thinking extends beyond the here and now, allowing us to reflect and find meaning and purpose.

“It’s really important that all of us have dedicated, protected time in our lives to just be here now,” says Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, a developmental psychologist and neuroscientist at the University of Southern California.


Robust social relationships are powerfully linked to physical and mental health and longevity benefits, and the weekend is a natural time to take advantage of them.

Social activities often require more advance planning than other parts of the weekend equation, so set aside time during the week to text or email friends and family about getting together, says Saunders, the time-management coach.

People typically spend twice as much time—nearly an hour—socialising on weekend days as on weekdays, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’s latest data on time use.

The amount of time you should spend socialising on the weekend depends on how energised or drained that togetherness makes you feel, she says. Introverts typically benefit from one social event every weekend or every other weekend, she says, whereas two social events per weekend is a sweet spot for extroverts.

If you have kids and most of your socialising naturally revolves around them, try to set some adults-only social time, too, says Vanderkam. You may find it easier to relax without your kids running around, and it can be easier to have uninterrupted grown-up conversations.

Work and chores

Pick a couple of small, achievable projects to see through to the finish line rather than trying to take on five things at once, says Vanderkam. You probably can’t clean out the entire garage, sort through your kid’s closet, vacuum out the car, wash all the laundry and grocery shop in one weekend.

Professional work, too, is sometimes inevitable on weekends. Avoid it if you can, but if a little work will help you feel less anxious, set some boundaries, behavioural researchers say. Stick to a clear time frame and goal, such as finalising one section of a report within a two-hour window.

Physical activity

Federal guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise weekly, plus strengthening activities twice a week. If you’re spreading that out across the week, you may only need to set aside about 45 minutes for Saturday and Sunday.

But there’s good news for people who like to cram most of their exercise into the weekend. People who condensed their workouts into one or two days experienced health benefits similar to those who spread them out, a 2022 JAMA Internal Medicine study found.

The flexibility of the weekend allows for longer, varied workouts that can overlap with “hobbies” and “social” categories, says Heather Milton, a clinical exercise physiologist and supervisor of the NYU Langone Sports Performance Center. Try to incorporate both elements of aerobic and strength training, as well as some flexibility, she recommends.

It can help to plan an exercise block for the same time each weekend—such as a weekly Saturday morning yoga class or Sunday morning jog. Don’t have the time? Just try to move. Ideally, every 30 minutes or so, says Milton.

“Weekends are great for relaxation, but try not to Netflix and chill for 12 hours of the day without getting off the couch,” she says.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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A Killer Golf Swing Is a Hot Job Skill Now

Companies are eager to hire strong players who use hybrid work schedules to schmooze clients on the course

Fri, Jun 14, 2024 5 min

Standout golfers who aren’t quite PGA Tour material now have somewhere else to play professionally: Corporate America.

People who can smash 300-yard drives and sink birdie putts are sought-after hires in finance, consulting, sales and other industries, recruiters say. In the hybrid work era, the business golf outing is back in a big way.

Executive recruiter Shawn Cole says he gets so many requests to find ace golfers that he records candidates’ handicaps, an index based on average number of strokes over par, in the information packets he submits to clients. Golf alone can’t get you a plum job, he says—but not playing could cost you one.

“I know a guy that literally flies around the world in a private jet loaded with French wine, and he golfs and lands hundred-million-dollar deals,” Cole says.

Tee times and networking sessions have long gone hand-in-golf-glove. Despite criticism that doing business on the course undermines diversity, equity and inclusion efforts—and the fact that golf clubs haven’t always been open to women and minorities —people who mix golf and work say the outings are one of the last reprieves from 30-minute calendar blocks

Stars like Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie West helped expand participation in the sport. Still, just 22% of golfers are nonwhite and 26% are women, according to the National Golf Foundation.

To lure more people, clubs have relaxed rules against mobile-phone use on the course, embracing white-collar professionals who want to entertain clients on the links without disconnecting from the office. It’s no longer taboo to check email from your cart or take a quick call at the halfway turn.

With so much other business conducted virtually, shaking hands on the green and schmoozing over clubhouse beers is now seen as making an extra effort, not slacking off.

Americans played a record 531 million rounds last year. Weekday play has nearly doubled since 2019, with much of the action during business hours , according to research by Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom .

“It would’ve been scandalous in 2019 to be having multiple meetings a week on the golf course,” Bloom says. “In 2024, if you’re producing results, no one’s going to see anything wrong with it.”

A financial adviser at a major Wall Street bank who competes on the amateur circuit told me he completes 90% of his tasks by 10 a.m. because he manages long-term investment plans that change infrequently. The rest of his workday often involves golfing with clients and prospects. He’s a member of a private club with a multiyear waiting list, and people jump at the chance to join him on a course they normally can’t access.

There is an art to bringing in business this way. He never initiates shoptalk, telling his playing partners the round is about having fun and getting to know each other. They can’t resist asking about investment strategies by the back nine, he says.

Work hard, play hard

Matt Parziale golfed professionally on minor-league tours for several years, but when his dream of making the big time ended, he had to get a regular job. He became a firefighter, like his dad.

A few years later he won one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the country, earning spots in the 2018 Masters and U.S. Open, where he tied for first among non-pros.

The brush with celebrity brought introductions to business types that Parziale, 35 years old, says he wouldn’t have met otherwise. One connection led to a job with a large insurance broker. In 2022 he jumped to Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates in Wellesley, Mass., which recognised his golf game as a tool to help win large accounts.

He rescheduled our interview because he was hosting clients at a private club on Cape Cod, and squeezed me in the next morning, before teeing off with a business group in Newport, R.I.

A short time ago, Parziale couldn’t imagine making a living this way. Now he’s the norm in elite amateur golf circles.

“I look around at the guys at the events I play, and they all have these jobs ,” he says.

His boss, Chief Executive Chip Gibson, says Parziale is good at bringing in business because he puts as much effort into building relationships as honing his game. A golf outing is merely an opportunity to build trust that can eventually lead to a deal, and it’s a misconception that people who golf during work hours don’t work hard, he says.

Barry Allison’s single-digit handicap is an asset in his role as a management consultant at Accenture , where he specialises in travel and hospitality. He splits time between Washington, D.C., and The Villages, Fla., a golf mecca that boasts more than 50 courses.

It can be hard to get to know people in distributed work environments, he says. Go golfing and you’ll learn a lot about someone’s temperament—especially after a bad shot.

“If you see a guy snap a club over his knee, you don’t know what he’s going to snap next,” Allison says.

Special access

On a recent afternoon I was a lunch guest at Brae Burn Country Club, a private enclave outside Boston that was the site of U.S. Golf Association championships won by legends like Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. I parked in the second lot because the first one was full—on a Wednesday.

My host was Cullen Onstott, managing director of the Onstott Group executive search firm and a former collegiate golfer at Fairfield University. He explained one reason companies prize excellent golfers is they can put well-practiced swings on autopilot and devote most of their attention to chitchat.

It’s hard to talk with potential customers about their needs and interests when you’re hunting for errant shots in the woods. It’s also challenging if you show off.

The first hole at Brae Burn is a 318-yard par 4 that slopes down, enabling big hitters like Onstott to reach the putting green in a single stroke. But to stay close to his playing partners and keep the conversation flowing, he sometimes hits a shorter shot.

Having an “in” at an exclusive club can make you a catch. Bo Burch, an executive recruiter in North Carolina, says clubs in his region tend to attract members according to their business sectors. One might be chock-full of real-estate investors while another has potential buyers of industrial manufacturing equipment.

Burch looks for candidates who are members of clubs that align with his clients’ industries, though he stresses that business acumen comes first when filling positions.

Tami McQueen, a former Division I tennis player and current chief marketing officer at Atlanta investment firm BIP Capital, signed up for private golf lessons this year. She had noticed colleagues were wearing polos with course logos and bringing their clubs to work. She wanted in.

McQueen joined business associates on the golf course for the first time in March at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She has lowered her handicap to a respectable 26 and says her new skill lends a professional edge.

“To be able to say, ‘I can play with you and we can have those business meetings on the course’ definitely opens a lot more doors,” she says.


This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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