It has been months since I’ve set an alarm clock, worn dress pants, or sat in bad traffic while commuting to and from work, and suffice it to say that I’m not losing any sleep over these life omissions. But as the old cliche tells us, there are two sides to every coin, and one aspect of my new stay-at-home-most-of-the-time lifestyle that I’ve found particularly challenging is that every day feels the same.
Every day feels like 3 p.m. on a Tuesday.
There’s nothing wrong with Tuesday’s three o’clock hour. In fact, as a creature of habit who enjoys my day-to-day routines, I’m usually quite content on Tuesday afternoons when I am likely winding down on my day’s work, beginning to think about what to cook for dinner and maybe even squeezing in some leisure reading or a workout.
These are all good things. But they are also remarkably non-exceptional, and too much Tuesday afternoon — especially on a Friday night, or Saturday morning, when I might have previously been meeting friends for drinks, or going to a culture fest with my family — is slowly transforming my usual joie de vivre to listlessness.
The past few months have revealed to me that I need out-of-the-ordinary forms of fun to make my weekends and evenings feel satisfying and full. Many of my usual sources of enjoyment are no longer available to me, but that doesn’t mean that I’m destined to a life that feels like one, long midweek afternoon. Here are three ways that I’ve started to infuse my evening and weekends with festivity:
Make a treat list
There are all sorts of little luxuries that add a dose of delight to my life, from fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies, to straight-out-of-the-freezer cookie dough; from nicely scented candles to drugstore sheet masks. I used to indulge in these sorts of treats haphazardly, either whenever I felt like it (a spoonful of cookie dough every other time I passed the fridge) or not at all (I liked the idea of lying in the bathtub with a face mask, but I never actually got around to buying the face mask).
When I started to notice how blah my weekends and evenings felt, I decided that I needed to take a more systemized approach to treating myself. I made a list of all sorts of items and actions that I consider treats, and I resolved to stay away from this list during working hours and then enjoy them fully on weekends and evenings. Given my budget and desire to maintain good health, my treat list is humble, including ironed pajamas (trust me and try it) and reading my favorite blogs. But each of the items on the list makes me happy and has helped make weekends feel special.
Be intentional about scheduling fun
We tend to think of having fun as an in-the-moment sensation, but a deeper look at my experience leads me to see that it’s actually a multi-step process, much like author Gretchen Rubin describes happiness. We anticipate the pleasure, savor the moment as we experience it, and reflect on the good memories after the moment has passed.
Because social distancing has reorganized my life in a way that I rarely have to leave the house, I’ve gotten out of the habit of scheduling anything except work meetings and instead engage in leisure activities (calling friends, baking cookies, listening to a waited-for podcast) whenever I please. The problem with this is that I miss out on the anticipatory aspect of fun.
I’m realizing that much of what makes a weekend feel celebratory is that I’ve looked forward to it all week, so I’ve started pulling out my calendar and intentionally making weekend plans. For example, my schedule for next weekend includes picnicking at a local park, sitting down with a fresh pot of coffee and a stack of magazines to read during my daughter’s morning nap, and FaceTiming with my two best friends.
Start a project that will take time to complete
When I don’t have something scheduled and free time rolls around, I tend to fill it with the most immediate and easy source of entertainment that I can find — goofing around on my phone — or by frittering around my house, half-completing various chores. Neither of these uses of time is satisfying in the slightest, and they make weekends and evenings feel far from special. I’ve found that one antidote to this pattern is to have a time-consuming project in the works at all times so that I have something specific to turn my attention towards during moments of downtime.
For instance, I pulled out my sewing machine and have been working on a simple dress; I’ve also been organizing my favorite recipes in a binder and creating a meal-planning system. Other ideas that I have for projects include re-reading the “Harry Potter” series, organizing my digital photos, and sending postcards that I’ve watercolored to my friends and family members. Besides being fun in the moment, projects make me feel like I’ve used my weekend and evening time in a meaningful and happy way.
While we’ll probably miss occasions like large dinner gatherings with friends and attending cultural events until these activities can be reintroduced to our lives, we don’t have to put weekend and evening fun on hold until then. Trying these three strategies will reintroduce a sense of festivity and specialness into weekends and evenings at home.