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

Tue, Jan 9, 2024 10:19amGrey 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) + Socialising (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 London who researches the link between social and behavioural 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.


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Savvy travellers who plan their trips around dining at their destination’s most in-demand restaurants know that securing a reservation at a top Paris eatery isn’t an easy proposition on any given day.

Come the Olympics in July, when the city is flooded with tourists, one would expect the jockey sport to snag a table to be that much more intense. But that’s not necessarily shaping up to be the case. As of mid-May, Parisian insiders such as hotel managers, restaurant owners, and local luxury concierges reported that inquiries at sought-after spots were no higher than usual, foretelling a potential opportunity for visitors looking for a fine-dining experience during the games.

The time to book falls over the next few weeks given that many top spots don’t take reservations until one month before the dining date.

The Michelin-starred Jean Imbert Au Plaza Athenee and Le Relais Plaza, both at Hotel Plaza Athenee and helmed by the renowned French chef Jean Imbert, are two examples.

Francois Delahaye, the COO of the Dorchester Collection, a hospitality company that includes the Plaza Athenee and a second Paris property, Le Meurice, says that his regular guests who are visiting for the games and Parisians who frequent the restaurants know not to call too far in advance of when they want to dine.

Further, he doesn’t foresee reservations being a challenge at either venue or at Le Meurice’s two-Michelin-starred Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse.

“Booking for the restaurants won’t be an issue because people are planning meals at the last minute,” Delahaye says. “Also, the people who are in Paris specifically for the Olympics are here for the games, not to eat at restaurants. They’re not the big-spending clientele that we usually get.”

Delahaye doesn’t expect the kinds of peak crowds that descend on fine dining during Fashion Week each spring and autumn, for example, when trying to land a seat at the three eateries is nearly impossible. “People are fighting to get in,” he says. “You need to book through your hotel’s concierge, have an inside source, or be a hotel or restaurant regular.”

Several Paris luxury concierge companies echoed Delahaye’s perspective

Manuel de Croutte, the founder of Exclusive & Private, says that Paris regulars probably aren’t planning a trip when the Olympics transpire—from July 26 to Aug. 11—because they want to avoid the tourist rush. “We’ve gotten some reservation requests from people who’ve heard about us but not nearly as many as we usually get when the very wealthy travellers are here,” he says.

During peak periods like the French Open or Fashion Week, de Croutte says that his job entails making bookings for travellers who don’t have any other way to get into buzzy or Michelin-starred establishments.

“You’re unlikely to get a table at a see-and-be-seen place without knowing someone,” de Croutte says. “No one picks up the phone or answers email.” He says his team has established relationships with managers and owners of many of the hot spots in Paris and often visits them in person to land tables.

Exclusive & Private’s Black Book of Paris restaurant recommendations for Olympic visitors span a broad range, from casual bistros to fine-dining.

Michelin eateries include the three-star Le Gabriel at La Reserve, the two-star Le Clarence near the Champs-Elysee, and the two-star Le Taillevent.

Spots without a Michelin star but equally notable are also on de Croutte’s list: L’ Ami Jean offers traditional and flavourful southwestern French cuisine, Allard is a brasserie from Alain Ducasse, and Laurent serves French food to a fashionable set.

“My favourite neighbourhood for restaurants is Saint Germain de Pres,” de Croutte says. “You’ll find unassuming but chic names with excellent food and a great vibe. You can book with these places directly if you’re here for the Olympics, but don’t wait until the last minute because they will get filled.”

He also cautions that some Paris eateries are asking for nonrefundable prepayments for reservations during the Olympics.

“Be sure you want to go before committing and ask about the refund policy if you are charged,” he says.

Stephanie Boutet-Fajol, the founder of Sacrebleu Paris, says her bespoke travel company charges a lump sum of about US$750 to make all the restaurant bookings for the Olympic period, though the price varies depending on the dates and the number of restaurants that a client requests. “Reservations around the closing ceremony are harder to come by because that’s when more elite travelers are coming to Paris and want the chic restaurants that are always difficult to get a table at,” she says.

Meanwhile, chefs at some Michelin-starred restaurants share that they have tables available during the Olympics and welcome travellers to their establishments.

Thibaut Spiwack, for one, behind the Michelin-starred Anona, serving modern French cuisine, and the culinary consultant for the popular Netflix series Emily in Paris , says that he is open for reservations.

“My team and I look forward to sharing a culinary experience with new clientele that I hope will remain in their memory,” he says.

Spiwack suggests that travellers check out other worthwhile restaurants where he himself dines. For terrific wine, there’s Lava, and for Italian, he likes Epoca where the pastas are “divine.” Janine is the best bistro in town, and Prima wins for a pizza fix, he says.

“You have a lot of restaurants in Paris to pick from,” Spiwack says. “You just need to determine where you want to go, and book as soon as you can.”