I thought beginnings might be a good place to start, since it’s the beginning of a week and almost the beginning of a new month. Taking a few minutes to think about the shape of your week and how you mark that span of time can help you make this week, and any week, even better.
When does your week begin?
Although most wall calendars in the United States display the week as starting on Sunday, many notebook-size planners focus on the conventional work week, and start the week on Monday. If you use a digital calendar program on your computer or phone, you probably have the option of changing the day to suit your preference. (Google calendar, for example, offers Sunday, Monday, and Saturday as the start of the week.) So “next week” for you and for me may actually mean something a bit different.
According to Eviatar Zerubavel, in The Seven Day Circle: the History and Meaning of the Week, starting the week on Sunday originates with the Jewish observance of the Sabbath on Saturday, which makes Sunday the first day of the following week. This practice was adopted by both Christianity and Islam, and in many European and Middle Eastern languages the word for Sunday is associated with the number one (Zerubavel 122).
So your calendar might tell you that your week begins on Sunday. But how do you actually experience your week? Maybe your week begins on Monday when you arrive at the office. If you’re a film enthusiast, maybe your week begins on Friday, when most new releases are issued. If you teach on a Tuesday/Thursday schedule, does your week begin on Monday or on Tuesday?
There’s no right answer. But figuring out when your week begins in your mind and in your actions can help you make the most of your time.
What counts as your week?
Whenever your week starts, it theoretically contains seven days. But depending on your work schedule, family routines, personal commitments, and spiritual practice, your week might actually subdivide into two or more sub-groups of days. Monday-Friday might be the work week, spent at the office, and Saturday-Sunday the weekend, spent at home or travelling. Or you might divide your time by the kind of work you do: some academics, for instance, think of Monday-Thursday as teaching days, and Friday-Sunday as writing days. If you work from home, and don’t have the same external constraints as someone who works at an office, then you may find it useful to deliberately claim specific days for specific tasks, and thus create your own definition of the work week.
Three steps to improve your week
Three simple actions will help you make the most of your week, however you define it.
- Develop a close-out routine for the week that’s ending. This doesn’t need to be complicated: maybe 10 minutes devoted to clearing off your workspace, updating your to-do lists, or journalling about the week’s successes Doing this ritual at the same time each week will reinforce your intention to think over the time that passed and mindfully move into the next one.
- Look forward to the next week. Take an additional 5-10 minutes to review your calendar and to-do lists to get clear on what’s coming up in the week ahead: what’s routine? What’s unusual? What could you take care of now to make next week a little easier? (Consider, for instance, travel arrangements, clothing upkeep, car maintenance, or food preparation.)
- Mark the transition from one week to the next with something enjoyable and relaxing. For many of us, the official calendar weekend is filled with household tasks, errands, volunteer work, and social commitments – – and of course, work that doesn’t stay contained within weekdays. If you don’t have a full day or two to devote to relaxation (or if even the thought of that stresses you out!), start small. Maybe it’s declaring Sunday after 6 pm off-limits for work. Maybe it’s watching a movie on Saturday night. Maybe it’s going for a hike on Friday afternoon. Whatever and whenever it is, put it on your calendar with the same seriousness that you record other appointments.
Take control of your week
If, like many people, your work doesn’t fit neatly into the official seven-day calendar, then reshape your calendar tools to suit your schedule. You can color-code days on many digital calendars, create your own calendar grids with the week starting on any day you like, or use infinite calendars (typically on erasable whiteboards) that let you fill in the dates and days for each month.
It’s your week, after all. Make the best of it!