Why Saturday is a better rest day than Sunday
I sit here on Sunday evening having emptied about half my energy tank today. I feel great; I am ready to take on Monday tomorrow head-on with full steam at 5 am.
How do I have this feeling? By trying a new practice: using Saturday as a rest day instead of Sunday. I have found that I can increase productivity on the most important planning day of the week, and I thin you can too!
How did Sunday become the typical day of rest?
I grew up around religion, and Christianity seemed to place great importance on Sunday as a day of rest. The short story being it is the day God took to rest after creating life. This theme was a foundational argument for the 7-day week with the final day being the Sabbath, or day of rest.
What I found most interesting, were the attempts throughout history to change the 7-day week. Most notably, the Soviet Union’s implementation of a revolving 5-day week whereby their industries would never be put to sleep, infuriating citizens with the nepreryvka, or “continuous working week.” While deemed a short-lived project by historians, it was ongoing for 11 years! Imagine no standard days of rest across your friends and families just so the industry could continue increasing productivity!
Thankfully, that project ended in 1940, and the standard weekend of Saturday and Sunday proliferated, with the predominant religions in the western industrial societies leaving Sunday for rest and worship. I also began leaving Sundays for rest once I entered the corporate world. Even as I started working in Asia, the pattern remained. For many years, I would do the typical work week, plan major activities on Saturday and then spend all of Sunday largely a vegetable.
What is wrong with Sunday being the day of rest?
Well, as you might have experienced yourself, lying around all Sunday without making your brain cells work up a sweat will usually give you a serious case of… the Mondays.
“The Mondays”: the feeling one gets Monday morning when thinking ‘the weekend was not long enough, how far away is Friday?” It encapsulates your mind’s friction to engage in complexities. You feel like simple arithmetic might just melt your mind.
I used to equate it to a car engine in the winter… even the finest motor finds it hard to cold start. A few cranks are required for it to warm up enough to fire.
When I spend Sunday resting, I spend most of Monday getting my mind firing on all cylinders. Given that most work uses Mondays as days for planning work, this usually leads to poor planning. Poor planning always has a snowball effect on your week!
Rest is required
Now do not get me wrong, if you are working hard all through the week, you need to rest on the weekend. No doubt even with a 4- or 6-day workweek we will need days of rest to remain productive. Research in the last decade has shown that even “rest” is not truly rest, with a publication by Mary Helen Immodordino-Yang affirming that time spent with a wandering mind allows space to affirm one’s own identity and socioemotional relevance.
You likely have experienced a sensation of being bombarded with so much information you hardly have time to process it, perhaps yelling to the bombardiers inaudibly, “Give me a second to think about it!”.
What does a rest day look like?
Now, I should clarify that I do not spend Saturday doing my nest cucumber imitation. I do activities that require minimal physical effort and only moderate mental effort. I am no neuroscientist but spending 15% of your week without any stimulation might not be beneficial either.
A typical Saturday, for me, involves the same morning routine like any other day (I cannot sleep past 6 am anymore after transitioning my chronobiology from a night owl to a lark). I link my workout routine to this day as well, so Saturday is my one rest day from the humbling gymnast rings on my balcony. Therefore, after breakfast, I turn on the TV and sit down on the couch.
Now, we all know the difference between watching TV and sitting in front of the TV. I admit this is bad practice but I will typically put some Live news feed on the TV just so I can half-listen for interesting headlines while I work on my phone doing some language training or play on this new app, I started using Elevate. This is a light brain activity to get the day started.
Then usually my fiancé wakes up and we take positions on the couch. During the day, we will usually use the TV as background noise while we work on laptops, ordering weekly groceries, write some content, browse online, or the like.
This is largely time to zone and relax. I will pick up a few ‘low-hanging fruits’, or tasks that I didn’t put enough effort into during the week, like categorizing finances in the bank app, or similar. The goal of Saturday is to recharge the batteries!
One major callout though is that we go to bed at the same time, every night. So, on Saturday, we go to bed at 9 pm. Because Sunday will be a busy day that must be started full steam.
What does a Sunday look like then?
To get in the right mindset, I pretend Sunday is a workday, but the only work I will do is for myself. Same morning routine as every other day, but now is Day 1 of my weekly workout routine. After the routine, a cold shower pre-empts jumping on the computer to work on the blog, finances, or any other projects I have ongoing.
For example, last Sunday I spent deconstructing a half dozen IKEA pieces that came installed in our new apartment and tried to creatively repurpose them into a custom bookcase. Spoiler alert, IKEA is extremely hard to repurpose, and while it looked good, it was not as sturdy as I had thought so today, I deconstructed it and replaced it with a free bookcase we found online locally.
I also find an increase in productivity on Sundays given Saturday was a day of rest. This means that content writing becomes a great Sunday activity. Given I can only find pockets of 15-30 minutes of writing time each day during the week, I get the opportunity to spend several hours on a big weekly article Sunday afternoons.
Usually, I will work on a project until late afternoon. Afterwards, my fiancé and I will explore the area with a 4-5km walk. We are new to the country so it is a perfect activity to get more blood flowing before the workweek starts.
Then it is back to some work until after dinner when we relax and head to bed at a normal time.
Does this increase productivity on Mondays?
My personal experience is yes! However, if both Saturday and Sunday turn into hard workdays, you may find your Monday feel like an extension of the previous work week, instilling unenviable mental anguish.
But if you get your blood flowing on Sunday, finish some personal projects, and have some victories under your belt, Monday night does not seem so uphill when you wake up!
This brings me to another point: make sure you accomplish what you set out to do on Sunday! Sunday is the day you can be most in control. While activities at work might be under constant delays waiting for dependencies, you should choose a project for Sunday that you have a high level of control over.
I will continue writing about the concept of projects but to simplify it for this purpose: when you are planning your week, plan out 2-3 key activities that can be completed in under 2 hours each to accomplish on Sunday.
Set yourself up so you are extremely confident you can finish them! Success begets success. Finishing what you plan sets you in the right mindset for success on Monday.
Time to eliminate bad Mondays!
If you want to increase productivity on Mondays:
Switch your rest days to Saturday
Spend Saturday really resting, only tackling low hanging fruit
Wake up early on Sunday, exercise hard and tackle 3 things that you need to do before the next week begins
Try for yourself and see if you have a more productive Monday!