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Ask HN: What do productive people do on weekends?
84 points by polote 57 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 73 comments
We have a lot of articles here about how to be productive and successful. But what are those highly productive people doing on weekends ?

I am very weary of people that describe/brand themselves as productive. There is something about getting a lot of things done that is appealing to all of us, but in the words of a classic “it does not matter how fast you drive if you’re going in the wrong direction”.

Setting that aside, both during the week and during the weekend I optimize for physical and emotional health. Eat well, sleep, exercise, spend time with other humans (your family qualifies as humans :) ). On top of that, if time allows it: see, learn or experience something new. Reading is awesome for the learning part btw. If I ever “work” on stuff, it’s to scratch an itch I have or to align with the above.

Don’t worry about being productive, especially in a non-work related context. Find out what you enjoy and do that.

Agreed; I think it's important to realize that a naive bias for action/productivity is not always the best thing. It's imperative to cultivate a good sense of what is worth doing, otherwise one will just produce a lot that will be irrelevant at best or garbage at worst. There are many "productive" people, but a question worth asking is how many of those actions result in lasting value, however you choose to qualify that. A lot of competent and productive people leave lasting negative value, due to misdirected efforts. For some definitions, spending a weekend building sand castles with kids might have more lasting value than working on a coding project. Don't let more visible metrics of productivity (eg: number of Github projects, HN points, etc.) cloud your judgement. If you want to step back and think about this matter (one productive use of the weekend ;-)), I really like the talk by Evan Czaplicki (Elm creator/designer) on "What is success?" which might provide some food for thought [1].

To clarify, doing only things that are worth doing doesn't imply holding back from producing/practicing because you're not yet good enough. I was referring more to the direction than the quantum in that direction. See what Ira Glass said about taste and practice [2].

[1]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGlzRt-FYto

[2]: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/309485-nobody-tells-this-to...

I don't know that I agree. The "right direction" is something that is hard to define alone and is likely to be defined by the social context you find yourself in at any given moment. Finding something that you enjoy and doing that can be the wrong direction as well.

It seems that I've been the most productive when I've felt the greatest weight of responsibility--first child, first few mortgage payments, first employee--and I have been the least productive when I attempt to avoid responsibility. Productivity, at least as defined as "what I need to get done to feel satisfied that I have fulfilled my obligations in the least amount of time" for me requires motivation, and nothing is so motivating as honest responsibility.

Saturdays are often filled with work for me, now. I work towards my master's degree, and I work on and around the house, and I work and play with my children. I rarely work on the business.

The faster you drive in the wrong direction, the earlier you realize that you drive in the wrong direction, maybe.

that’s true, but only if you know there is such thing as direction

What are you hoping to find out with this question? So called “productive” people do as wide a variety of things on the weekend as everyone else. Some people are productive in 30 hours per week, and some people are productive because they work 80 hours per week. Some people make furniture, some relax to Netflix, some read academic papers, and some get extra sleep. Since we’re on HN, many startup founders spend their weekends working.

I am not OP, but I'm interested in this question too.

To be honest, I'm not too sure what "everyone else" does on the weekend either, and am curious about that also. Sometimes I end up intending to be productive, but end up more-or-less procrastinating and neither being productive nor genuinely relaxing. I've often wondered whether to attempt to be more disciplined and productive on the weekend (e.g., work, exercise, piano practice, read "serious" books, etc.), or to embrace relaxing and absolving myself temporarily of any responsibilities.

I would very much welcome any testimonials from anyone who has made either decision!

The reality is that it's a judgement call.

Some people have good health and boundless energy. For such people, spending more hours working can pay off -- at least, in the short run. They may actually be heading towards burnout without realizing it.

Some people don't have that kind of energy. Pushing themselves too hard actually hurts their productivity in the short term.

It can also vary over time for the same person. Maybe some weeks, they can do more, but other weeks, they really need some recharge time.

Wisdom is almost always specific to a particular set of details and is about a person having deep knowledge of that specific situation and acting on it in an informed manner. It tends to not generalize as well as we would like.

> Wisdom ... tends to not generalize as well as we would like.

Ain't that the truth!

I should maybe make it clear -- I'm not really asking for advice. Rather, I would find it very valuable to read how a variety of people have answered this question for themselves.

There is an inevitable bias to what we can observe other people doing: if I decide to show up to the gym, or to some social activity, or whatever, then I can see other people who have made the same decision. But one doesn't really get the opportunity to see firsthand how people spend their downtime.

Rather, I would find it very valuable to read how a variety of people have answered this question for themselves.

I agree with this idea. It would also be nice if they fleshed out the how with some of the why in their case (without violating their personal sense of privacy, preferably).

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with curiosity. And I wonder the same thing and have similar questions myself. I just wanted to better understand the question because as stated, it’s open ended enough that it might not yield very useful answers, and it feels like there’s a larger question underneath.

If the real question is whether to relax vs be more disciplined, it’s a good question, but hard to answer. We’d have to dive a little deeper on what being “productive” means - that’s an open ended criteria that people define for themselves. Some people don’t feel productive unless they’re working, some define productivity in terms of important things does per hour of work and refuse to measure weekend productivity.

It’s all over the map. Maybe the important questions are, “what are you trying to get done this week/year/lifetime”, and “what does it all mean?” ;)

I am definitely not a constantly productive person, but a productive weekend day for me usually involves waking up on the early side (5-6am) and then hydrating, eating and fitting in some type of home exercise.

Late morning (10:30-11?) go to a cafe with my wife. This time can be social and relaxing, but can easily turn into an opportunity for reading or working on something for a couple hours. I like to bring my laptop to cafes and find it is a very good atmosphere for me to focus.

At this point it might be getting close to dinner time. If I have done everything I described then I probably am already satisfied with my productivity, but if I am behind on household chores I might listen to music and clean the kitchen after dinner. Now I can finish out the night with some Netflix or vydia feeling like I earned it.

There are a few different permutations to this. Some weekends both Saturday and Sunday might look like this, others one day could have a more involved social event planned. I find that if I start off the morning similarly then the rest of the day tends to go well, so my advice is to master your morning so that you transition into the middle of the day with energy and momentum.

Try using an app like Daylio to track habits and mood. Then try both ways, work your ass off for 4 or 5 days, and then just chill and do whatever for 2-3 days. Then try splitting up your day so X number of hours are hard productivity and the rest of the day is more relaxed. See what works for you.

Judging by other comments I guess you're right. I think OP was asking the wrong question. Maybe the question should be "How", not "What". I would be very much interested in how ones could improve a particular skill in their weekends, what is their strategy/schedule? How long they've been doing it?

All summer my wife and I would do the same thing every weekend.

We would find a town within 45 mins, any direction, that we haven't been to. We'd find a really nice park there and take our toddler and have a picnic. After that was unplanned. Sometimes we'd go home and take it easy. Sometimes we'd wander.

45 mn is a rather small radius. Didn't you run out of unknown towns after some time? I'm pretty sure I've visited all cities in my neighborhood, at least those that are worth it.

Check the map for surrounding Waterloo Ontario. There's a ton of cities and towns.

Depends where you live, though often small towns are more similar than different to the visitor. Still the surrounding, some little shops etc can be quite different.

And 45 minutes is a pretty good limit when you have a small child.

I suppose it depends where you leave. 45min around my hometown would include something like ~100 towns. Many of them are blending into each other, but you still have quite a lot of variety and stuff to see

Maybe they build a fast flying car in the past weekends.

On Saturdays, I wake and get to the office by 4am, just like a regular workday. The only difference is I'll leave around 9-10 am (vs 5-6 pm M-F) when the family is awake. Let's me catch up on things I missed during the week.

Sundays I'll try to keep my mind off work but still find myself thinking of things.

So you’re working ~13h per week day and ~6h per weekend? To be honest that doesn’t sound healthy at all. What are your reasons to work that much, if you’re willing to share?

What are your / your family's sleep schedules? What stimulants (coffee, etc.) do you take?

Is that schedule something you see keeping up in the long term?

As a person who was under the impression they were having a productive weekend but who is somehow writing an answer on HN now...!

Personally I would describe productive time as

* Anything which isn't consuming media, whether it's movies/tv shows/Reddit/HN/gaming.

Then starting with the obvious "gotta do it" or "good for you" stuff.

* Just finished doing my taxes

* Cleaning your place, organizing your things

* Cooking / Meal Prep

* Working Out

* Seeing friends & family

And then I'd separate any efforts made towards personal development and in pursuit of goals you've set, separated into two main categories.

1) Learning (Coding, How to do a rubiks cube, anything really which requires concentration and effort)

2) Creating (Any side project, personal business, home improvement, etc.)

These categories are broad enough to include pretty much everything.

Any mix of these activities in which I minimize the consuming media part, I'm happy with.

Sleep in, take the kids to their activities, play music, take care of the house, ride my bike, tinker with bikes in the garage.

Saturday is Pizza Night -- homemade of course.

A few hours on Sunday to take care of the side business.

Sometimes I think about something that requires a little bit of peace and quiet away from the office.

Family time. Getting ideas for blog topics, write up a few pointers and .. Working out. Catching up with friends. If you are doing Forex, then spend a couple of hours analyzing last weeks' results and begin charting for the next. Read the news. Catch a movie. Listen to a full album. Do the groceries shopping for the week (while listening to that full album).

If I am not currently reading a book, I go through my phone's photos and pick my next read (evertime I walk into a Waterstones I take photos of the books' covers I find interesting.

Edit/addition: I email myself articles I want to read, chores I need to do, brainfarts I want to explore, and these must either be done, or take a place in my calendar, or (my favourite) be deleted :)

I don't have 'weekends'. Part of 'success' seems to me doing what you love and what you want to do, and if you're doing that, you want to do it every day, and never 'retire'. Then work and play aren't clearly separate. I don't really have 'hobbies', or I don't understand the idea, at least - I'm kind of equally serious (and unserious[0]) about everything I do. (e.g. for me, whether it's programming, making music, making art, learning some new subject or skill etc) I've noticed from all over the place that 'side projects' almost normally become peoples' main thing, whether in science, programming, art etc. Whatever they're working on for fun and curiosity.

(I read recently about how the Institute for Advanced Studies produced almost nothing, because although it sounded great, to pay geniuses to spend as long as they wanted on anything, the effect was that there were 'no side projects', and making everything 'the main thing' seems to somehow stultify it. Maybe we're natural procrastinators, and the AIS model was defeated by that.)

[0] I mean, in the sense of being alert for the comical, unexpected side of things. A playful sense of joy. Most of my favourite writers (e.g. Chesterton, Russell, Kierkegaard) have a great sense of humour, university lecturers too. I got into following chess tournament commentary online because of some commentators who were very funny. (e.g. Mig Greengard, Ben Finegold, Jan Gustafsson). I've noticed almost all great scientists, mathematicians I read/hear have a strong sense of humour, in their personalities if not in all their works. It's not separate from their curiosity and serious intellectual concerns.

I do the same thing on weekends that I do every day, but as a solopreneur who is single without kids and works from home, I have that flexibility. I typically laze around most mornings, meditation, cooking, reading, writing, long hot shower, exercise etc. Then I spend between 3-6hrs on productive things (revenue generating or in pursuit of revenue generation). Sometimes that will go much longer, depending on how into it I am, but rarely ever below 3hrs.

As mostly all of my friends are only fully available on weekends, that's usually the only thing that is different is that these activities that are in person usually only take place then.

The weekend as a thing is a very modern invention. I've found that i'm much more relaxed day to day and no longer have to "look forward" to a weekend for a break. I take those breaks as I need them. It did/does take a lot of cultivated discipline to make this work though, if you hate your work that's going to be a problem for this lifestyle.

Sleep, youtube, Netflix. If you're very productive 5 days, do you really have to be productive 2 more days? Sometimes I do try to be productive on Sundays like reading, side project programming, walking, hiking, laundry etc... But give my lazy Saturdays please.

I started teaching myself to code about a year ago and in my last job before I "retired" to travel I managed a team that was woefully inefficient and stuck in their ways. I was constantly telling them "there's always a better way!" When I had learned enough about programming to strike out on my own a bit I realized I need to practice building stuff that was a bit more complex/interesting than yet another To Do App. So I started to keep a little list of all the things I encountered that were frustratingly inefficient or annoying so I could try to "build a better way" as a way to practice coding.

I try to work on building something from my list every weekend. I'll be the first to admit that (so far at least) most of the things I've built have not, in fact, been better than the status quo. But it lets me flex my problem-solving muscles a bit and I definitely learn better by coding something from scratch than I do from any code-along course/project.

In addition to the great advice in this thread, I'd recommend finding something which doesn't involve a screen or work context that you can be interested in. The brain works best when it has a multitude of activities, and crises don't seem as large when you have alternate activities.

Define "Productive" Define "Success"

Assuming I qualify, no two weekends are the same, I don't have a routine.

This particular weekend? I slept in. I sent an email that I've been drafting all week. I had dinner with my parents, wife and kids for my daughter's birthday, and spent some time by the pool at the hotel drinking beer (it's rare I catch up with my parents, they drove up specifically for the day). I deleted a post I'd spent an hour writing because I realised I had to go back and rethink the entire premise of my reply. I spent a few hours catching up on a legal drama between two game developers. I intended to play some apex legends but now I wasted too much time in the evening watching youtube and drinking. I watched a tutorial video or two. I wrote this reply and almost deleted it too...

Overall my weekends boil down to: Family stuff, personal projects, sleep and recreation.

(I should add, I invested hugely in building my career profile, lots of weekends and late nights involved so the story is very different now that people are chasing me for my skills instead of the other way around).

The most productive person I know literally cannot stop. He has to be doing something every moment of the day or he turns sour. He’s also horrible to be around often because he’s prone to caustic, hyper criticism. He seems to have been born with more energy than average. Tho maybe it’s a symptom of ocd or somehow related?

I personally average one completely lazy day per weekend and one day of getting everything done.

Sounds like a personality trait, not a mental disorder. High conscientiousness plus high neuroticism would be my guess from my favorite armchair.

Anyway, I agree that obsessing over productivity can be toxic. The correct mindset is to be efficient, not just productive, so you can finish your tasks faster in order to enjoy life sooner.

Generally my weekend activities include:

* Sleep * workout * some computer games * grocery shopping * hacker news and some other forums

I read on weekends quite a bit. Currently reading Release It! Design and Deploy Production Ready Software. Outside of weekends, I really only read books during my commute in the morning.

I also wrap up laundry on weekends- bed sheets, towels, clothes.

I do cleaning my apartment on weekdays and so on weekends, everything is pretty clean generally aside from laundry. I will dust and vacuum the apartment and clean the bathroom over a couple days in the week and so it never accumulates to feeling like a big task.

I might go out shopping for clothes or books (there’s an amazon book store in walking distance) with my spouse. Occasionally we go out to eat on weekends.

The kitchen we never have to devote time for on the weekends. My spouse and I have a strict rule to never leave a dirty kitchen overnight. We cook a few times each week in quantities to last the whole week and we promptly wash cookware and dishware.

Wake up early on Saturday/Sunday. Endurance exercise -- usually relaxed long-distance biking ~20+ miles. In NYC it was limited, but in Washington DC suburbs, I keep strictly to country trails, so it is simultaneously also forest bathing, of sorts (http://www.shinrin-yoku.org/shinrin-yoku.html) Some days i'll walk instead of bike (~6mi) and listen to big-picture audio-books in the seclusion of the forest walk, so awesome.

Be back home by 11am. Before I had family, I used to read the rest of the day and go to restaurants/cafes with friends in the evening. Now, with family, I spend the rest of the day with family doing art, reading, puzzles, playground stuff.

After this, I sleep very well in the evenings because I'm tired to the bone. I'm incredibly productive on Monday/Tuesday after this sort of stress cleanse.

They do whatever they set out to do for the weekend.

For some, that's clean the house, grocery runs, laundry, cook, date with their partner, play with the kids, read a book, video games, visit family & friends, sleep in, work on their hobby, whatever it is. if you planned for it and get it done, then you're productive.

I don't know many highly productive people, but the few I know don't differentiate between weekdays and weekends. Working seems to be a habit, and they appear to enjoy it. Might be a case of Stanford duck syndrome though.

Network with infants. Early investment is best; you get diminishing gains as they age. You need someone trustworthy to delegate your empire to when you're older, so better get your propaganda game on now.

I’m surprised the venture capitalists aren’t scouting 5 year olds as future founders.

VC funds don't go that long. Strategic marriages are a great long term investment.

I am going for a hike along the coast on a beautiful spring day with my wife.

I have no idea who you are, but I like you already.

Working/bootstrapping my company when I'm not working at my day job

I wouldn't call myself productive, but I take a great pleasure in Security bounty hunting. My day to day work doesn't leave me a lot of freedom to spend a few hours focused in something.

Usually I'm trying to balance out many things, which makes it more difficult than the weekdays:

- getting more sleep - working on my side startup - getting some form of exercise - reading all the things I've queued up during the week - errands around the house - spending time with family

The weekends, I find, are more hectic than the weekdays. There's no set schedule and it changes every weekend.

No idea whether I'm productive, but generally, 2h in the morning of studies, then cook, eat, rest, 2-3h in the afternoon for studies, and then rest.

By studies, I mean whatever I deem productive to studying... At this moment, I'm doing a math mooc, but I did certifications as well, new technologies, or simply engage in second work when I had one.

Sleep. Exercise. Go out.

I tend to take one-off classes at Stanford to try and see if I can short-circuit some learning that would otherwise come the hard way. Aside from that, sometimes meeting other entrepreneurs, working on long term projects that I don't get to do during the week, and meeting friends to have a few laughs together.

The first thing I do is a list of the things I want to. The list could have anything from chores like cleaning and laundry, to reading or playing games, alone time sometimes makes the list too as does work and/or hobby projects I want to spend time on, etc. I sort it and I try to work through it.

I don't work a 9-5, so weekends aren't that special to me. Often I work on weekends, or don't work on weekdays.

This weekend is the beginning of tech week in the theatre -- I'll leave it up to the reader to decide if that's evidence of my productivity and success, or lack of!

A lot of productive people are as passionate and productive with their free time as they are with work. Competitive, challenging, adrenaline filled and technical activities have great appeal. Things like road cycling, kite surfing, ultra running and skiing attract productive types.

I tend to work Saturday morning for a few hours on something I find interesting work or otherwise and then do housework and get ready for the next week. Saturday nights I might go out with friends. Sundays I try to see family or friends for brunch and then relax and cook

Sat: 8:45am kettle bells / body weight workout 9:15-10am boxing fitness class

Then home, shower, breakfast

11am-3pm work (my own stuff) 3:30-5pm massage

Might do another hour work after that, but otherwise relax

Sunday - maybe a couple hours work, otherwise time with gf, brunch / go out and do something and relax

Basically taking care of whatever can't be done through the week. There is also a need to relax, should your job be demanding, but if you have an idea in mind, it's important to spend some time to do some research on it and bootstrap it.

Either you're working or you're not. Any time not meant for work is strictly prohibited for doing any work.

I do not work unless I want to.

I am hardly productive in one sense because I know when not to work.

I optimize for problem understanding and lazy solving these days.

Not spending time on HN.

but today is the weekend

If we reversed the question, would the thread get any replies?

Idempotent questions are my new favorite thing.

Reading Hacker News, of course!

Consume, create and distribute memes. Work on personal projects. Watch YouTube.

I'm getting doing Georgia Tech's online CS master's program.


Take a "digital sabbath" (google it).


The dividends those pay in the long run are huge.

Aka sabbath?


Code, learn, drink and spend time with friends

Sleep and cook.




Please don't do this here.

Don't forget the massive amounts of blow.

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