How to schedule the perfect weekend, according to science.

Last weekend was not good. I woke up on Sunday morning with a piercing headache, hungover, anxious, dehydrated and craving fried chicken. I managed to pull myself from my bed onto my couch where I remained for the rest of the day.

Like every Sunday I’ve spent in this position, I muttered to myself, “Never again”. I know what you’re thinking, "Yeah sure." But I mean it this time because I got a sign from the universe.

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Getting ready for work the day after the weekend that shall never be mentioned again, I started listening to the Diary of a CEO podcast interview with Dr. Aditi Nerurkar a global public health expert specialising in stress, resilience and burnout. It completely changed my outlook on how I spend my weekends.

The entire episode is filled with great stress management advice, but what stood out to me the most was when Dr Aditi explained that there are only six things you need to do to achieve a lifetime of fulfilment, AKA the perfect day.


If you’re like me, you find instructions long and boring and there shouldn’t be more than two points max, but listening to her go into detail about the six things you need to do, not only made them sound easy and achievable but also pretty attractive.

I’ve been itching for it to be the weekend again for the sole purpose of trying this method out. Yes, these are six things that you should technically do every day. But there’s no judgment here, so go at your own pace. For me, my weekends are the days that could use a little *cough* work. For some people, Wednesdays or their work hump-day week could be a good place to start. Start small and work your way up.

Without any more gatekeeping here are the six things you need to do to achieve your perfect day:

1. Play.

This comes from the practice of connecting with your inner child. Dr. Aditi says, “Spend a few minutes every day in a sense of wonder and play, whatever that may mean to you.”

This weekend I’m going to start my day off with a long walk around an area I’ve never been to before just to take in the new surroundings. Another form of play that I’m a big fan of is colouring in. It’s such a mindless activity that brings me so much calm and joy.

2. Work.

If you’re working a 9-5 this should be easy. For most people, this will take up hours of your day. You should still incorporate some sort of work on your weekends as well. This could be working on a project or finally hanging that painting up that’s been sitting on the floor for way too long. 


Dr Aniti says, “Do something whether it’s paid or unpaid that gives you a sense of meaning and accomplishment.” 

3. Reflect.

“Spend some time alone to reflect,” says Dr Aniti. She goes on to say that spending time in solitude is beneficial for not only our mental health and wellbeing but also for our creativity.

Living alone, I usually end up doing this regularly. To put more value on this I’ve been practising journaling which allows me to regurgitate all the messy thoughts clouding my mind. I use the app Daylio for this which I love because you can look back at all your past journal entries from years ago and compare your days (just brace yourself for the potential embarrassment).

4. Holiday.

No, this doesn’t mean you have to hop onto a plane to Byron Bay (even though I wish it did). Holiday or if you’re American, vacation, means to just spend a few minutes a day doing something you love. This could include: Watching a movie, working on a hobby or playing an instrument. 

The idea behind this is to invoke the same feelings of relaxation and happiness that we get when we go on a holiday. Dr Aniti says that the reason we sometimes snub the things that bring us joy is because humans have an all-or-nothing mindset. If we can't do it well, we won't do it at all.

So start small. Maybe this Saturday you only read five pages of that book you’ve been meaning to get to. Once you trigger those feelings of joy, you will naturally holiday for a longer period of time in the day.


Listen to the author of this article talk about burnout. Post continues below. 

5. Socialise.

Spend time with your chosen family or in your community. Engage with people whether that’s physically or even just a phone call. Socialising has strong links with our physical and mental health and wellbeing.

6. Retire.

“Spend a few minutes taking stock of your day, figuring out what worked and what didn’t,” says Dr Aniti. Other behavioural researchers say that retirement can also be likened to just sleeping (yes please). Make sure you get enough sleep. The weekend, in particular, is a great place to start, especially if you have no obligations.

And that is it. The six things you need to do to lead a perfect day. My favourite part about these is that so many of them only need to be done for a few minutes to jump-start those feelings of enjoyment and fulfilment. I will definitely be taking these with me as we lead up to the weekend.

Let me know in the comments of this article if you’re going to try these six steps out.

If you want more culture and zeitgeist opinions and advice from Emily Vernem, you can follow her on Instagram @emilyvernem

Feature image: Canva.