try this: two commitment weekends

Posted on April 26th, 2012

Far too many of us get our weekends wrong. We don’t rest. We try to catch up. Catch up on emails, chores, with people.

Image by Christoph Niemann

As I’ve said soooo many times before, the biggest challenge we face now is pushing back commitments. Life used to be about chasing and finding and accumulating information and ideas and commitments.

Now, the true art of living a good, full life lies in pushing back.

Creating boundaries, preserving your energy, keeping a piece of yourself for yourself. I’ve been concertedly practicing this art for a few years. It takes bravery and boldness. But as I start to master it I can see the benefits.

You might like to read this musing on the need for space, and this one on the need for rest, and this one on email boundaries.

And so it was I came across this idea of a “two commitment weekend”. I have a friend who mentioned this idea to me recently. He says yes to two things only on a weekend. The rest of the weekend has to free-flow. Years ago, my beauty editor at Cosmopolitan would not take on commitments on a Sunday. Sunday’s were for doing Whatever The F*ck I Feel Like When I Wake Up, she would say. Many Christians over the years have done the same, in not so many words.

Honestly. Really. It’s a Silly Little Life Rule. But seriously, really: these Silly Little Life Rules are what get us through. They create the boundary in the interim, the default position, until we start to just live this way without effort. You stick to a Two Commitment rule. Over time, less and less commitments bombard you.

It’s all about muscle building. Faking it ’till you make it. Training wheels.

And so it was – knock me over with a feather if it’s not divine timing – I came across this tip, from Daily OM:

There is a skill to balancing our obligations, and it starts with simply becoming aware of our schedule. We may notice that three invitations have arisen in one weekend, and we know that we will pay energetically if we attempt to fulfill all three. At this point, we can take the time to weigh the repercussions of not going to each event, considering how we will feel if we miss it and how our absence might affect other people. Most of the time, it will be clear which obligation we can most easily let go and which one we simply can’t miss.

But what to do if we upset someone when we have to pull out of something?

At times like this, reaching out with a phone call, a thoughtful card, or a gift lets people know that you are there in spirit and that your absence is by no means a result of you not caring.

Which is kind of nice. And intimate.

My tips are these:

* Accept the first two commitments that come in (and that appeal). Instead of fretting about for the best two commitments. Why? Because it’s in the spirit of “letting life come to you”. When you allow things to come to you – and when you practice this life muscle – that which is the best thing for you right now will start to flow towards you. The chaff will fall away.

* Write a list of things you like doing. Why? Because when Saturday night hits and you’re alone and commitment-less, you can refer to it in the nervy moment. Silly? Yes. But I’ve actually done it. On my list: going to the movies alone, eating boiled eggs for dinner and listening to folky CDs (Feist, Ricky Lee Jones, Gillian Welch), having a bath in the dark, sitting on the beach/in a park and reading a novel.

* Remind yourself you’re resting. And that resting is good. And that getting a bit bored and slow is good because it means you’re stocking up on energy reserves, getting a pause (which is great for creativity) and creating some “light and dark” in your life.

Perhaps this weekend is a good one for trying two commitments only, just as a Silly Little Life Experiment?

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  • Paul

    Great idea Sarah,

    I find my most enjoyable weekends are when I just Do Nothing all Sunday. It’s hard at the start of the day as I feel like I should be Doing Something but by nightfall I feel very energised and relaxed after spending 10hrs in bed motionless watching movies.

    It’s really not a “wasted day” when you reach the end and realise how much better you feel mentally and how much lower your stress levels are. We simply forget that, like a battery, we need to re-charge: “a little each day, and alot on the weekend”.

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  • http://www.livehealthysimply.com Jessica Nazarali (@JessicaNazarali)

    Love this. I only have two commitments this weekend and I’m going to keep it that way.

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  • http://www.bestofthislife.com Emily Lynne {The Best of this Life}

    Absolutely agree with this practice. My husband and I have been learning to say no – to be together, and to be with our Little One first and foremost. I like the idea of following up with a card, or gift – I’ve done that before and it connects us with they individual, but also let’s us keep our reasonable boundaries/energy limitations.

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  • http://www.harrietkempton.com Harriet

    Sarah, thank you so much for such a wonderful article! I’ve never believed in saying ‘no’ to social commitments but lately have found that I really am pushing too much, trying to fit it all in… and it’s not working, resulting in a neglect of my main priority this year (Honours!). I’ve been writing about the importance of taking time out in my own blog which is starting to really force me to ‘walk the talk’ so to speak. Thank you… your article always seem to come in at the right time and our a privilege to read.

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  • http://www.livingsavvy.com.au Jo – living savvy

    or you can shift your intention around what you are “committing” to. Our children play sport on a Saturday morning, i choose to see this as not something we have to show up and commit to but instead as an opportunity to spend time together as a family in the fresh air cheering each other on. Extension of your suggestion what do I like to do by being clear on what things are important to me or that I value and how I live that. Saturday morning / early afternoon is all about fresh air, exercise and family time.

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  • Ivy

    Throw 3 kids into the mix and its get a hell of a lot harder to do noth8ing! But taking the kids to Vic Market for our weekly show, then go home and east luncha nd read the papers in our yard is sort of nice… and feels like doing nothing.

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  • Fiona

    I really enjoyed reading this. I try and practise this in my own life. My little boy is disabled and has about 1000 appointments a week. I used to run myself ragged (as well as him!) racing around and getting to them all, but then I realised that most of them weren’t making a huge difference to his life anyway, and so I began cutting back. At first I would make excuses, but now I just say “sorry, we are having a quiet week this week. We’ll reschedule for next week if that’s OK”. I’m calmer, he’s calmer, and we are feeling much more balanced.

    People are very fond of telling you that if you are feeling down, you are best to get out there and socialise, but I find the exact opposite for myself – I know when I am nearing the wall, and I literally go into my cave for a week or two. I potter in the garden, I cook, I sit with my son and cuddle, I read. And then, when I am ready, I re-emerge feeling completely refreshed. Consciously slowing down is a wonderful and liberating feeling.

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  • Sam

    I only booked this idea of a reference for leisure time yesterday; http://ohhappyday.com/2009/01/leisure-book/. I think it is no concidence I am reading your post today. Time to try a “Silly Little Life Experiment” me thinks.

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  • http://oneaprilmorning.net Laura

    I will do this… once I finish uni and no longer have to work every weekend!

    I especially love the tip about sending a card or making a phone call so people know that you still care. That’s lovely.

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  • http://tinksimplicity.blogspot.com Tegan (tink)

    Sarah. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. Your words take me to another level. I’m taking readibg this post as a universal sign. I’ve been over comitting, over working & over stretching myself of late and I’m beginning to feel it. As I approach another comittment heavy weekend you’ve now inspired me to pull it apart and only do what truly needs to be done. Thank you. Your amazing:)

    Sunshine & Sweetness
    http://www.tinksimplicity.com

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  • michael

    All true .. just hard to do.
    When I was a kid there was a word for people who were able to achieve this balance relatively easily. They were called ” grownups.”
    We live in complicated times ..

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  • http://www.kellyexeter.com.au Kelly Exeter

    After many, many weeks of arriving at Monday feeling distinctly UNrefreshed and having to start a week feeling already frazzled, we implemented exactly this rule on all our weekends. It makes the most ridiculous difference. I 100% agree, weekends are for re-charging, not madly trying to catch up with everyone and everything!

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  • Meg

    Thanks again Sarah…I will try…having a rule might help make this easier??

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  • Mia Bluegirl

    I feel awfully blessed sometimes to be single and introverted… being able to aim for a no commitment weekend seems terribly self indulgent and luxurious, I keep waiting for someone to tell me I’m not allowed to! I used to be addicted to being busy, but have my ego slightly more in check now. Driving yourself crazy because you are scared to miss out on social developments seems silly after a while.

    This weekend my two commitments are reading, and hanging out with my newborn niece who is SO new I have yet to meet her. Two years ago I would have been terribly anxious at such an empty weekend, yet now it sounds just great.

    Thank you Sarah, loved this post! xx

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  • Sarah L

    This is fantastic! I’ve never thought of it that way, but it’s how I plan my weekends. No more than two things planned in a weekend and I try to always leave Sunday open – though sometimes one of the “things” falls then. In which case I make sure it’s a daytime activity and not nighttime – I leave the evening open for recharging.

    When I’ve worked a normal 9-5 in the past, I’ve done something similar. I never make week-night plans. I find it always leaves me tired and feeling cranky and a bit resentful. I need the night to decompress and get ready for the next day.

    It really makes all the difference!

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  • Aine

    thanks Sarah, as usual very insightful.

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  • http://educatedderelicts.wordpress.com Courtney

    This is a nice and thoughtful post. I personally feel like I’m pretty good at saying no to potential committments (especially since I’m busybusy studying all weekends at the moment) but it definitely is necessary to set aside some time each week, be it a weekend or other, that is only ever for you. Thanks for the reminder Sarah :)

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  • Sharon in Philly

    Craziness, all I needed this weekend was to chill and not do anything, before I realised it I already had four commitments though and two of them had been put off because of study so didn’t want to do that again. It’s now lunchtime Sunday and I am still exhausted while I wait for friends to go out to brunch (last commitment for the weekend). I’ll have to try it again in two weekends time. With working long hours and studying I don’t feel I get time to catch up with friends so making commitments to see them is good but not when it is at the detriment of me time and getting some much needed rest.

    Thanks for writing this and making me aware, again, of not taking the time to just rest and rejuvenate.

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  • Amanda

    Hi Sarah! I’m just wondering, i work full time, how do you personally keep your house nice and clean, washing, grocery shopping etc but also get decent rest? I find this really hard.
    Just keen to hear how others do the day to day stuff!
    Thanks Sarah
    Amanda x

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