What if your week doesn’t have to be five days of work followed by two days of rest? There might be another way. It might be time to consider Weekend Wednesday.
In a recent video, YouTuber and podcaster CGP Grey explained his newfound enthusiasm for what he calls Weekend Wednesday. Instead of structuring your week with five working days followed by a two-day weekend, you could follow a plan of two days of work, followed by a day of rest, followed by three days of work, and another day of rest.
Before you read on, take a few minutes to watch his explanation of the idea.
Watching Grey’s video made me angry. Not because I disagree. On the contrary, I’ve worked this way for most of my adult life. But I had never written about it. Now there’s an excellent video with this “new idea.” And I’m here at my desk muttering “Yeah, but I’ve done this for years.”
The Evolution Of My Weekend Wednesday
Five days of work. Two days of rest. We inherit this idea from family and school. But at some point it’s worth asking: why? Isn’t there another way?
I started wondering about this in my late teens. A lot of the best music gigs, especially if you wanted to see jazz, or experimental music, were on Monday nights. This made no sense if you looked at it from the perspective of the regular working week. But it made complete sense if the audiences for those gigs weren’t people who worked Monday to Friday jobs, but people who were busy working on the weekends. You can’t go and see live music on a Saturday night if your job means you’re also on stage then.
Those Monday night gigs often had a different vibe. The audiences were quieter; more obviously focused on the music. More intense. And the musicians were more daring. Feeling less constrained by the need to entertain a crowd that was only half-listening, the musicians were more willing to explore challenging ideas with an audience that was interested in being pushed creatively.
The same was true in other ways. The people who visited galleries in the mornings during the week, or who went to the cinema on weekdays, had a different intensity.
An Idea Becomes A Habit
Pretty soon a pattern was set. I would joke that the problem with going out on a Saturday night was that everywhere was full of the kind of people who only went out on Saturday nights. But behind the joke was a growing personal insight. The stuff most of us cram into the weekend, like going to the cinema, or to see live music, or to enjoy a gallery or restaurant, was best enjoyed during the week.
This notion had become formalised by the time my daughter was old enough to start pre-school. I took every Wednesday off and we spent the whole day together. Saturdays became mother-and-daughter days, which left me free to catch up on the week, giving me an extra day or at least a half-day to work.
And whenever I could, I kept up that pattern. Saturdays often had a specific focus. For several years they were when I recorded and edited podcasts. Or focused on editing photos. Sometimes I would swap Saturday and Sunday around, almost always to suit family commitments.
But the split week pattern, with a day off in the middle of the week, continued.
The Pandemic Challenges Weekend Wednesday
The pattern has been challenged during the pandemic. Just like other established patterns that had served me well. I got sucked back into a regular five plus two pattern, like everyone in the household.
But this didn’t have to happen.
In this season of working from home, and with a student daughter at university (or on summer holidays), we could’ve negotiated a different arrangement.
Except I got lulled into accepting the normal.
Watching the Wednesday Weekend video was a much-needed reminder of a pattern that had served me so well for so long. I’m now wondering if the emotional toll of the pandemic is only partly to blame for my feelings of exhaustion.
The Rest Day
Test match cricket used to include a rest day. The five-day match was split into three days of cricket, followed by a rest day, then two more days to decide the result. It was a throwback to the days when it was supposedly a “gentleman’s sport” and was done away with as the game modernised in the 1980s and 90s.
But the idea that three days of work is enough and should be followed by a rest is fascinating. Particularly given everything we now know about the role of rest and a wandering mind for creativity. Taking a break after three days stops problems from overwhelming you, and gives you more chances to put work into context with the rest of your life.
Sometimes I dream about a schedule that is simply three days on, one day off throughout the year, ignoring the sequence of seven-day weeks. Of course, this would put you out of sync with the rest of society. But regular routines are increasingly uncommon anyway. Sports, for example, no longer follow their old-established start times and kick-offs. Once you get into adulthood, finding time to see friends typically takes a bit of to and fro to find a shared space in both (or all) schedules.
I’m shelving that dream for now. But as the hot days of summer fade, I am going back to Weekend Wednesday. There might not be anywhere to go yet. Galleries, museums, and live shows still feel like something we are months away from being able to enjoy. But long restorative walks in the park, or afternoons spent reading or playing guitar, are very much available and are there to be enjoyed.