in: Advice, Character, Podcast

Podcast #753: Take Back the Weekend

Note: This is a rebroadcast.

Do you ever get to feeling kind of down, dejected, and anxious come Sunday evening? People refer to this phenomenon as the “Sunday Night Blues,” and it’s a common experience. You may have chalked it up to rueing the fact that your fun and restful weekend is over, and that you have yet another workweek ahead.

But my guest would say that your Sunday night sadness may also be rooted in the feeling of regret — the regret that you didn’t put your weekend to good use, that it wasn’t restful and fun, and that it was instead busy, draining, and, once again, a big letdown. Her name is Katrina Onstad, and she’s the author of The Weekend Effect. Today Katrina shares how the idea of the weekend, of having two back-to-back days off from work, came about, and how it’s been challenged and subsequently eroded in the modern day. We then talk about how to take back your weekends, so that your invaluable Saturdays and Sundays feel more the way they did when you were a kid — filled with a sense of possibility.

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Read the Transcript!

Brett McKay: Brett McKay here, and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness Podcast. Now, do you ever get to feeling kinda down, dejected, and anxious come Sunday evening? People refer to this phenomenon as the Sunday Night Blues and it’s a common experience. You may have chalked it up to ruing the fact that your fun and restful weekend is over and you have yet another work week ahead. Well, my guest would say that you’re a Sunday night sadness may also be rooted in the feeling of regret. The regret you didn’t put your weekend to good use, that it wasn’t restful and fun, that it was instead busy, draining, and once again, a big let down. Her name is Katrina Onstad, and she’s the author of The Weekend Effect. Today, Katrina shares how the idea of the weekend, having two back-to-back days off from work came about, how it’s been challenged and subsequently eroded in the modern day. We then talk about how to take back your weekends so that you’re invaluable Saturdays and Sundays feel more the way they did when you were a kid: Filled with a sense of possibility. After the show’s over, check out our shownotes at

Alright, Katrina Onstad, welcome to the show.

Katrina Onstad: Thanks for having me.

Brett McKay: So you’ve got a book called The Weekend Effect, and this is all about the benefits of actually enjoying those two days that we get for a weekend and how to make the most of them. I’m curious, was there a moment in your own life where… Of life of weekends where you realized, “Man, my weekends, they’re not great. I could probably do these better?”

Katrina Onstad: Well, it’s funny now, post-COVID because, of course, a weekend looked pretty different a few years ago when I wrote this book. So I’ll dig back into the moment where… The before times. And yeah, I was raising two kids, married, very busy work life, and we were packed. I think our calendars were like the calendars of CEOs, even though that’s not exactly what we did professionally, and certainly not what our kids were. But they were scheduled, we were scheduled, and my son on a Sunday night would turn to me every Sunday and say, “So was that it? Was that the weekend?” With this kind of disappointment as if we had withheld something from him. And it was kinda clear that the pace wasn’t changing, that there was nothing in the texture and the tone of the weekends that differentiated those two days from the other five days. And it was a problem and I was really worried about losing this time as a family and also about my own rate of burnout, which was palpable, and a kind of sharpness and unhappiness was emerging that I think often happens with people in our overwhelmed lives and I wanted to really take a look at it. So that was kinda the spark for the book.

Brett McKay: Well, that comment by your son, “Was that it? Was that the weekend?” A lot of people experience that. In fact, there’s a name for this phenomenon, the Sunday Blues, Sunday Evening Blues.

Katrina Onstad: Yeah, it’s actually something that… There’s been lots of surveys and research, and people will actually report a negative feeling on Sunday night, a kind of upcoming panic about the week ahead, and also a sense of regret that the weekend wasn’t what they had hoped it would be. And I think that that’s kind of a universal feeling. We know that it’s supposed to be different, we know it’s supposed to be set apart, and we remember probably, hopefully, from our childhoods, we were lucky enough to have those kinds of weekends where we were free and we were kind of off a clock. And getting back to that feeling or being reminded of that feeling and not having it on a Sunday night is something I think we all kinda grieve.

Brett McKay: Yeah, I think so. Yeah, I remember my weekends as a kid compared to as to now as an adult, weekends, they often just feel like any other day, except the kids don’t go to school.

Katrina Onstad: Exactly, [chuckle] exactly. Yeah, that sense of wander and possibility and bottomless adventure. That Friday feeling you have when you’re young, that’s the feeling I think we’re all yearning for.

Brett McKay: Well, let’s talk about the history of weekends because I think we take weekends for granted. Everyone listening to this podcast has lived in a world where there’s always been weekends, unless there’s some 120-year-old person listening to this podcast.

But it’s a pretty recent idea that you get two back-to-back days of no work or school. So let’s do a crash course in the development of the weekend. When did we first start seeing this push where you would get some time off at the end of the work week just to do whatever you want?

Katrina Onstad: Yeah, well, it’s kind of a fascinating history and it’s not an accident, it didn’t just happen. People fought and people actually died for us to have these two days off, to have a reasonable relationship to our work. So really, the idea of time changed with the industrial revolution. Okay, let’s go back there where people went from what used to be called task time to clock time. So before, with work in an agrarian society, you’d have three cows to milk, the amount of time that would take you is three cows time. But then, industrialization takes place and the clock changes, time. Time becomes measurable, it’s the beginning of data. So now you have 20 minutes to milk three cows and you’re paid for the time, not the task so time gets commodified.

And with the industrial revolution, of course, workers’ conditions, and we have this Victorian images of Victorian factories with people starting in the dark and ending in the dark and limitless, limitless amounts of work in the service of these new factories and productivity, productivity, productivity. So organized labor kind of rises up out of that, in the 19th and early 20th century as a response to this mass industrialization and this shifting relationship to time and we see an era of protest. So the weekend is one of the victories of organized labor. So yeah, fighting for an eight-hour day, that was the very beginning of the labor movement that fought for the weekend. The big event in Haymarket in Chicago in 1836, I hope I’m getting that right… It was ’76 rather, 30,000 people marched for an eight-hour day. And bombs went off, police fired shots, eight people died, there was a court… A massive trial. So sacrifices were made, blood was spilled, that was for the eight-hour workday.

The eight-hour workday slid into the two-day-a-week, the idea that people didn’t need to work seven days a week and could get two days off back-to-back. And that of course, is even farther back, rooted in the Sabbath. That idea that there needed to be one day a week, this kind of edict from God that people didn’t have to be indentured servants to the pharaoh. That’s in the Bible, that the slaves were building granaries for the pharaoh endlessly and needed a day off. So Judaism, Christianity, Islam, all of these monotheist religions have one day a week that’s supposed to be a break. Depending on which religion, of course, that it’s executed in different ways, but the idea that there is time where… To tend to spiritual self, a self outside of work where one’s identity isn’t just tied to productivity, but expanded. So these things have collided to give us those two particular days, the Saturday and the Sunday. But now, of course, things look quite different.

Brett McKay: Right. Okay, so we have Saturday and Sunday. I think that was because there’s basically was… Well, Jewish people, they’re gonna take Saturday off, Christian people, they’re gonna take Sunday off, so to accommodate, we’ll just make it Saturday, Sunday is the weekend. ‘Cause there was a moment where there was… The weekend was Sunday, Monday. Monday was the unofficial second weekend. People were supposed to go to work but they were like, “I’m not doing that.”

Katrina Onstad: “I prefer not to.” Yeah, it’s actually funny, there was a fake saint invented called St. Monday and in England people would not show up on Monday and they say, “I am honoring St. Monday.” This is not a real saint and what they were is probably hung over. Benjamin Franklin actually wrote about that and was very irate about the slovenly Monday holiday takers. So yeah, eventually, things kind of reverted and that Monday became part of the work week. But you’re right, there was a long tradition of people just… If they got just the one day off, they made it two anyway.

Brett McKay: And then also, you saw this movement as well after the labor movement, where you saw some factory owners or company owners embrace the idea of a weekend ’cause they thought, “Well, actually our employees are happier and they’re more productive when they take those two days off.” Henry Ford, is famous for paying a decent wage, but he’s also, “Hey, you don’t need to work all the time. So you can go enjoy yourself and buy cars from me.” And they caught on the idea and they really bought into it.

Katrina Onstad: Yeah, that’s a great example of that shift because it’s true. Employers know that workers who are overworked are not great employees. People who are overworked and burnt out, introduce more errors into the work that they do, they aren’t more productive. And so it benefits workplaces to manage the spread of work hours. And yeah, Henry Ford realized that, and he needed his employees to not only be working reasonable hours, but to have time off to buy the products that they were making. So it’s a kind of tricky dance of capitalism, the idea of the weekend because it is so tied to consumerism. So yes, on one hand, it’s very altruistic of him and other business leaders to give people time off, but also really benefits them to have consumers out in the world because when it was just a Sunday, then of course that’s a true date for Christians anyway, like a true Sabbath, and you’re not supposed to be shopping. So give them the Saturday, they’ll go buy their cars. So you’re right, this has been a long kind of evolution to get to where we are now.

Brett McKay: Alright, so by the early 20th century, the weekend was established that this is a norm that you do, but then towards the end of the 20th century, you start seeing the weekend wane. So what do the numbers say? How many… What’s the state of the weekend starting at the end of the 20th century and today?

Katrina Onstad: Yeah, well, so first of all, I would say it’s hard to measure, and I think that right now, particularly, and in the last decade, it’s getting harder and harder to really understand how much people are working because of the borderless-ness of work. Because we are so… Literally, our bodies are wired to our workplaces 24/7, so even if we are in an office, maybe now it’s a virtual office, nine to five-ish, most people will probably… Particularly in white collar creative class jobs, report that they are taking emails and texting outside of that conventional work time frame. So it’s hard, but here’s what I think we know, or here was the research that stood when I wrote my book. Which was that overall hours have remained pretty steady in North America for about about 30 years, which is around 35 hours a week. But what we see is that educated and high-wage earners are working much longer than 50 years ago. Self reports suggest some up to half of white collar workers are working 50 hours a week or more, not that 35 hours or more.

And then on the service side, we have underemployed and less employed workers. So it kinda averages out to this 35 per week. So are we working more or are we working less? It depends what the work is. It depends what kind of work you managed to get. And particularly now in this gig economy, many people in lower paid fields are working several jobs at once. And then, of course, there’s the side hustle. So it’s a slippery, amorphous thing, this question, “How much are we’re working?” We’re working a lot, and certainly, anecdotally, we hear this all the time, that when people are asked to rate the quality of their lives, one of the first things that comes up is “Concerned about being busy.” And that has actually endured through COVID, which I find really interesting because there was that moment at the beginning of COVID where I think we all thought, “Oh, we’re gonna get a break. Now, we’re really gonna back away.” And our quality of life is gonna improve so vastly. And I’m not sure that that has borne out. I guess we’ll be finding that out, I hope.

Brett McKay: So, okay, pretty much everyone across the spectrum, they’re doing some type of work on the weekend. If you’re in a white collar office job, you might be answering emails, Saturdays, Sunday taking care of things while you’re shuttling kids to sports. But then if you’re in a service sector job, a lot of… That’s the stuff like weekend is when you’re probably working, restaurants, movie theaters.

Katrina Onstad: Yeah, retail.

Brett McKay: Amusement parks, retail, Uber driver. And so, people in service they might get some days off, but it might not be Saturday, Sunday, it could be Tuesday, Thursday. So there’s an asynchrony going on with weekends in our culture, everyone’s not having the weekend at the same time, basically.

Katrina Onstad: Yeah, for sure. Yes, this conventional 40-hour Work Week that maybe our parents had, this Monday to Friday, nine to five, it really does feel like a thing of the past. Basically, you kind of never know when people are working anymore, don’t you find this? I find like if I’m contacting someone, I’ll get out to… I’m off this Wednesday, but I’m working Saturday or I’m not working Thursday or I work every second… And I’ve had that myself and I’m actually working in a podcasting company, and I was working four days a week, and then it shifted to five and then some weeks it’s three. And that’s also a real result of contract work, right? This shift from a full time staff salaried positions to contracts.

Brett McKay: Yeah. And that affects us on a cultural level. If you can’t hang out with your friends, if you guys aren’t off at the same time or you can’t do things as a group if everyone’s working different days of the week.

Katrina Onstad: Yeah, there’s not a kind of collective experience of the week, right?

Brett McKay: Yeah.

Katrina Onstad: What is our shared time off when everyone is on a different calendar? Yeah, it really does change the kind of social fabric of our communities for sure.

Brett McKay: So we’re working more on the weekends, but any other things that have encroached on the weekend that makes the weekend like, your son’s like, “Man, was that it?” What else is happening besides work?

Katrina Onstad: Well, I mean, I think secularization is a big piece of this, right? Like with that idea. And I think whether you’re a religious person or not, it’s kind of a beautiful concept that there’s a time in the week where you can hit an off switch, and remember who you are outside of your work identity. And of course, without a religious motivation for that, it becomes… It’s no longer an edict, and it’s no longer even a kind of social norm. So we lose something in terms of our kind of spiritual self, I really think that and I don’t mean that in a necessarily organized religion way. But that kind of space in which to ponder and wonder and just be kind of, in the world, and rather than in the workplace, or even so mentally distracted and mentally kind of compromised or compartmentalized, that you can no longer kind of just be in the moment.

So I think that’s one thing that’s happened with the advent of a more secular world. I think technology is what we keep circling here and maybe haven’t kind of said out loud, which is just that having our offices in our pockets is a completely different way to live. To live and to work, right? And life and work that line between the two is pretty much non-existent now. And of course, we lived this to its fullest during COVID, when many people were working from home and literally had their workplaces in their bedrooms. So, where are those boundaries between workspace and personal space, they literally don’t exist for many of us anymore.

Brett McKay: But there’s an expectation to I think that comes with this moment of total availability and total commitment to work. This is a status symbol, to be busy, to be overworked. It still has a lot of currency. And that’s something that I’ve always been kind of interested in, why are our identities… And I actually think for men, maybe for your listeners, this is something that they are probably thinking about, that success and acquisition, workplace status. Now I hear a lot about legacy from the older men that I know. And all of these things are bound up to work, not necessarily bound up in the same way to our accomplishments as human beings, how loving of a parent or a partner or a valuable member of the community, but how much money did I make? How far did I advance in my workplace? In my work life? And I think that this kind of fetishization of success which is ongoing now for a long time is another one of the big pieces of why we lost the weekend or decided that it wasn’t a priority anymore.

And for me too, when I’m not working. There’s also I feel like Saturdays are like the ketchup day. It’s where you do… My wife and I we call them doodads. So you do all the stuff like the admin, life admin, pay bills, fix things, go to Home Depot five times because you always forget the one thing, or then you’re taking kids to sports and when Saturday’s over you’re like, “Man, that was not fun.”

Katrina Onstad: Yeah.

Brett McKay: Don’t feel refreshed.

Katrina Onstad: No, I mean, the two most common things that people do on weekends are shopping and chores, right? [chuckle] I don’t think either of those things are necessarily… I mean, sometimes shopping could be fun I suppose, for some people, but neither of those things are, as you say, a lot of fun. Yeah, and kids, I think in busy families and the scheduling of kids. Kids are so, you know, over-scheduled. This is something I really… My kids are getting older, and I… And of course, COVID, but one thing I’ve really noticed is how much time I have back, because they’re more independent and I don’t have to hover as much and do as much schlepping of the children, and that is those kinds of things really do eat up a weekend, and it’s what we have to be on guard against. Or the whole weekend could go like in the blink of an eye.

Brett McKay: Yeah, you talked about it in the book with your experience, your, I guess your kids play hockey, and that just seems like, man, that seems like so time-intensive, you got all the equipment you gotta buy and then like you gotta be early at the games, and that was something you struggled with like your weekends were eaten up by hockey games. I’m sure a lot of parents who their kids play soccer or baseball can relate to that as well.

Katrina Onstad: Yeah, I mean, yeah, I’m in Canada, so it’s hockey [chuckle] but everyone… I think everyone with kids has some version of this. Yeah, it was an issue for us so much that actually we made a decision or… And our… One that our son in particular was happy to go along with and our daughter who also plays hockey, which was… We’re sticking with house league because we dipped a toe into the world. You know, this is a, I think actually like where we see a transposing of some of the things we were just talking about, about this urge for success and status. I think a lot of that is kinda being projected, you know, with the best of intentions, mostly onto the lives of kids. So playing house league isn’t really enough, like we gotta get the kids the private coaching and the weekends away, and they’re in select or they’re more competitive with tiers with more games, more practices, driving them in and out of the city.

I mean those are… The true hockey parents will be up at 4:00 AM during the week, and then it’s hockey all weekend. And, you know, I think there are kids for whom that is… It’s a passion that can’t be denied, I’m not suggesting that anyone [chuckle] punish their children unduly, or whatever. But if you’re a family where this has taken over, it might be really good to look at it and just say, “Is this the childhood that I want my kids to have?” Because there usually does come a point in adolescents, many of these kids are gonna burn out, they’re not gonna take pleasure in it anymore, they’re gonna notice that it’s been kind of professionalized and that the measure of their engagement is about succeeding rather than playing and taking joy in it. And I think it can be kind of an infection in families, this high-level over-achievement, so what we did eventually, and maybe it’s also just some kind of laziness, I don’t know, you can judge me if you want, was like we said house league only. We just can’t let… We don’t wanna live like that. And it bought us back some time, which I think was worth it. I think it was worth it, but maybe you should ask my son. [chuckle]

Brett McKay: We’re gonna take a quick break for a word from our sponsors.

And now back to the show. So let’s talk about how we take back our weekends because you highlight the research, you know, if you wanna… If you’re worried about, if I take two days off, is it gonna like, I’m gonna get behind in work. I’m gonna set myself up for failure. If you’re a business owner, it’s like man, if I, if I don’t… If can’t reach my employees during the weekend, we’re gonna fall behind in the competition. The research shows that that’s not gonna be the case, in fact, working more hours, there’s a declining benefit, at a certain point, they’re just diminishing returns on working.

Katrina Onstad: Long hours without breaks introduce errors, it can cost companies money and on a personal level, of course, there’s burnout and health and all of those expenses are often incurred by employers ultimately, right? And countries with really long work hours report depression and high suicide rates among their workers. So, yeah, like 40 to 50 hours is pretty reasonable, above that people will start introducing errors into their work, and it doesn’t mean that they’ll be making more widgets if they’re working 60 hours a week. It means they’ll probably be making less, and more of them will be of low quality, whatever those widgets are. And fatigue and overwork are often causes of medical malpractice suits. The Challenger space crash had an element, there was the cause, there’s an element of fatigue in their oil spills, like all… We see over and over that there are serious ramifications for overwork that employers will bear out, not to mention the personal and the social toll of climate in which people are expected to work to the point of utter exhaustion. So yeah, productivity is not actually that closely tied to number of hours worked.

Brett McKay: Okay. So you make the case one of the things you can do to start making your weekends more refreshing, enjoyable, reviving is, one thing you should make your… Focus your weekend is, it’s all about connecting. So what are some ways that you’ve added more social connection in your weekends?

Katrina Onstad: I mean one thing we really know about the erosion of the weekend is that it coincides with the erosion of personal and social connections. And when we look at what makes people happy, it’s actually not the things that correlate with work, right? So it’s not a higher salary, it’s not success. Yes, I think they say, what is it, $70,000 a year, that’s a salary at which people will be able to maintain a decent lifestyle and also their anxiety will be a swage anxiety about money. Anything below that, of course, will affect happiness, but say you have that kind of average decent salary and a decent job, that’s not the thing that’s going to really affect your happiness. What it is, is your connections to other people, right? Your social life, who you’ve loved, who loves you back, how much you matter in your community and to the people around you.

Our happiness is intrinsically bound, it’s a sense of belonging, right? Not wealth, not status, and if we don’t have time, it’s very… Like it’s a kind of a simple equation, if we don’t have time to strengthen those bonds, then we are less happy and less fulfilled as people. So yeah, on the weekends, I usually, when there’s not a pandemic on, would try to see somebody outside of my family, for sure, just make sure that I’m checking in on people. Remind myself, and I tend to be kinda introverted, that being introverted is not necessarily the best way to move through the world, and also to give something back to my community if I can. So periodically, we’ll try some kind of volunteer exercise or just engage in a community meeting or I do… I’m involved with a writers group where we do workshops in under-served communities with… Doing creative writing exercises. And these things are kind of small and maybe sometimes they feel or they might seem from the outside, like meaningless gestures, but they kinda give me a profound sense of value. And then I have like that kind of physical buzz, like there is something, a definite correlation, biological connection between altruism and feeling good, like you get like a rush, right. Don’t you think?

Brett McKay: I think so, yeah.

Katrina Onstad: From doing things for other people. Right? Coming out of yourself a bit.

Brett McKay: Yeah, no, yeah, for sure.

Katrina Onstad: Yeah.

Brett McKay: And you also talked about, for people who are religious, the weekend is they have like a baked in social connection, ’cause if you’re a Christian, you’re gonna go to church, you’re a Muslim, you’re gonna go to mosque on Friday, if you’re Jewish, you’re gonna go to temple. And they got that there, but you also highlight people, not religious people, you gave an example, there’s like you found this group being like secular humanists who… They’d get together at Panera Bread and they just chat about pretty much anything.

Katrina Onstad: Yeah, that’s right, I love that group. Well, yeah, so here’s an upside of technology, it’s like you can kind of find anyone who shares an interest that you have, right. Like the meet-ups and social media and Facebook, and if you can migrate some of that online connection into real-world connection, hobbies are a really great place to meet people. And hobbies, I think are one of the other… Another kind of collateral damage of the erosion of the weekend, we have a lot less… People seem to have fewer hobbies than we used to, and hobbies are fantastic for that again, that feeling of coming out of yourself and hitting that kind of flow state, like that deep immersion in any activity that’s not monetized. It’s not for profit or personal gain or status, but just something that you love and lose yourself in. That feeling, that hitting that kind of flow state and falling down, it’s just something… And if you’re doing in a room of other people who are into this thing too, even better, right. Like I know that, like where I live, there used to be whole bunch of knitting clubs and people really love this stuff, then it kind of awakens something in you that’s sort of spiritual, that’s definitely creative, definitely pulls our humanity forward and reminds us that we are people outside of work. Our identities are just tied to our workplaces, in our work cells, that we are fully flesh humans.

Brett McKay: Right, so make connection the top priority. If you’re going to church, go to church, if you don’t do that, find a group or even just like use it at the time just to connect with your family or re-connect ’cause you guys have been crazy all week on different places, just have a day where, we’re just gonna hang out. We’re not gonna have anything planned, but we’re just gonna be around each other.

Katrina Onstad: Yeah, yeah, I think not having anything planned is a really great phrase and I’m glad you reminded me of that because I do think this compulsion to schedule, even our leisure. And I’m a little bit guilty of this myself, where I’ll be like, “Boy, I have to work out.” Everything becomes an obligation, but sometimes just meandering with your family, if getting in the car or we’re getting over to a park and just being together without an agenda is really powerful. Boredom is really powerful, it opens up all manner of kind of pathways in our brains and our hearts. But yeah, I think we can take our families for granted because they’re around us a lot these days, [chuckle] and so we assume that we’re connected with them, but we’re often heads bowed over our devices, everyone in their own corners in the same building or the same apartment or same house, but not really together together. So taking that time, putting away the devices and having a cooking together or doing something active together. Is there a sport you at all play or some kind of physical active engagement with one another just to remind each other that you’re more than just co-workers in a family structure, but actually people who’s… Who you wanna spend time with, getting to know. And it sounds very basic, but I feel like I definitely need a refresher on that sometimes, ’cause you’re just so caught up in the panic of getting through contemporary life that you forget who’s by your side.

Brett McKay: You mentioned that just get in the car and drive. That was actually a thing. My mom talked about doing that when she was a kid, like The Sunday drive, you just get in the car and the… And you you’re just, “What are you doing?” “We’re just gonna drive.” In fact, we’ve been reading… We just got done reading Cheaper by the Dozen with our kids.

Katrina Onstad: Oh yeah.

Brett McKay: Yeah, classic novel, written in the ’40s, and one of the chapters is about how they take a Sunday drive with all 12 of the kids, take a picnic, and that was it, that was like, that sounds… I’ve done that before. And it just sounds… It’s just really relaxing. You don’t have a destination you’re trying to get to, you just kind of drive around and look around, it’s enjoyable.

Katrina Onstad: Yeah, I love that. And also, it doesn’t cost too much. [chuckle]

Brett McKay: Yeah.

Katrina Onstad: Because I think so often we think we need to pay for our experiences, and that idea of getting in a car and driving or, if you don’t have a car. I lived in a city when our kids were younger, sometimes we would get on the subway and go to a neighborhood we’d never been to and just walk around, and it doesn’t always mean shelling out to curate a perfect afternoon. Sometimes just spontaneous and cheap and dirty is a way to do it on the weekend, for sure.

Brett McKay: So you mentioned hobbies are a great way to spend the weekend. So that leaves me… You have a chapter about recreation, and you make this case that oftentimes when we think about recreation, we do it wrong. You said there’s two types of recreation, there’s passive and active recreation, and you… You are you mostly when we choose recreation, we go with passive, so what’s difference be passive and active, and why should we choose active over passive?

Katrina Onstad: Yeah, so passive recreation is you know when you’re doing it, it’s the kind of… What we do when we tune out and binge-watch a series or just check out emotionally or and physically. One of the phrases that someone used for this was spectatoritis, watching rather than doing, which is great, like, we all need that sometimes. But if that is if you’re operating at such an amped up level all the time, and then when you have that downtime, you just unplug completely and crash into that mindless consumption of entertainment or sports or whatever it is, you actually don’t come out feeling super rejuvenated, right? It’s like a sugar high, right. It’s like eating a lot of chocolate or something like feels good in the moment but it doesn’t actually help with a reset. So active leisure in contrast, is something like we’ve been talking about where you’re connecting with people, or you’re participating in an activity that’s purposeless and not really based necessarily on success or money, but brings you a lot of pleasure and joy. And hobbies of course fall, I think fall really nicely under that idea of active leisure, where you can be creative and engaged with something and maybe within a community that feeds this part of yourself. That often goes really un-nurtured during the workweek.

Brett McKay: And you’re saying it’s okay to do passive recreation, but don’t make it all that you do. And then you also said if you’re gonna do it, do it with somebody else. If you’re gonna like, play video games. If your kids are gonna play video games, make sure they’re playing with their siblings or with you even.

Katrina Onstad: Yeah, well, I think that’s nice ’cause it’s such that’s social, right. So you’re bringing back in that element of connecting with another person and coming out of the self. But yeah, like, listen, we all need to just tune out and like have the pint of ice cream and the binge-watch or whatever from time to time. But what’s alarming is when it becomes the only way in which we unplug. And I think because we… So many of us have so little free time. That’s feels like all we… The energy that we have, like that’s the most that we can pull off in our free time is that really passive, watching, not doing, but it’s a vicious cycle, because you actually end up feeling more burned out at the end of it. So I think we have to be as vigilant with our leisure as we are with our work, right. Like we’re really, most of us are good workers, we wanna do well at work, and that’s great. But I think we need to shift that emphasis a little bit and become excellent at play as well, and take as much joy and pride in our successes at doing nothing.

Brett McKay: Right. So one thing that happened with weekends, particularly or now it’s we use weekends to shop, like you said earlier. But there was a time in our history in America. And I’m sure it’s the same as in Canada, where on Sunday, they had these things called Blue Laws where if you had a store, you had to shutdown, you couldn’t shop on Sunday, it wasn’t an option. You make the case that you might get something out of your weekend if you institute a personal Blue Law day, where you don’t do any shopping. How has that made your weekends? Or how can that make your weekends better?

Katrina Onstad: Yeah, well, we’re talking about a late-stage capitalist condition, right. This lust for work. This veneration of work. And of course, work is tied to consumption, right. It’s been called by economists, the work-spend cycle, we work a lot so that we can spend a lot. And then because we’ve spent a lot we have to work more, so we go round and round on the hamster wheel. So breaking that pattern, that neural pathway is I think really important to, again, to just be reminded that there’s a larger world out there. So if we don’t engage in the shopping and the consumption on a weekend, then we get that space back, we get the time back and that’s so much… You know that I think if there’s anything that people might get out of this book, I would hope that it’s a kind of fierce impulse to protect their time and consumption. Does it make us happier? I don’t think so.

I certainly haven’t seen any research that suggests that buying more stuff fills the hole that many of us have inside. So maybe don’t for a while. Take a break for a couple of weeks. See what’s… You know there are lots of these experiments online when people will talk about not shopping for two days or a week and seeing what it feels like. And I think we’re all so mildly addicted to consumption that it can be quite a shock to our systems and all these other ways of being in the world might open up if we break that habit. So yeah, I think it’s a really neat idea to try and recreate your own Blue Law day here and there if you can swing it.

Brett McKay: Yeah, I hate shopping because it’s the time factor. Even online shopping. It doesn’t save you any time because especially if you buy clothes, you’re like, “Well, I gotta… ” This doesn’t fit. I gotta got to take it back. It’s like, Well, I gotta got to box this up. I gotta got to drive over to UPS or some [0:38:14.8] ____…

Katrina Onstad: Totally.

Brett McKay: It’s just like… I’d rather just… I don’t even… Books are the one thing I buy where like, I enjoy a book.

Katrina Onstad: Right. It does feel like books online, at least you’re in like its words you’re already in a word kind of world online, so it makes sense. But yes, I totally agree. And God, the online shopping, again, this borderless-ness, right. Like at least with shopping, before we used to have to leave our houses to do it so we would be… We’d at least be sort of outside but now you can literally go back and forth between working and spending in a two-minute period without leaving your chair, and I do feel like it’s dangerous and become sort of habit forming, and yeah, sucks up all of that time.

Brett McKay: Alright, so try not to shop, or at least do less shopping on the weekends ’cause so that will free up some time for you. You also recommend trying to tame the amount of chores you do on the weekend, because for a lot of people, the weekend can easily turn into just doing chores and that’s it. And you can do that in different ways, one way is spreading the chores out throughout the week, or if you got the budget for it, maybe outsource some of your chores. So overall, the advice is, take time to connect, engage in active recreation and then limit shopping and chores.

So, how do you approach your weekends in a way, so that you feel like you’re gettin the most out of it, but it doesn’t become another project and you feel like, “Oh, I didn’t do this weekend right ’cause I didn’t allow enough time for spontaneity and relaxation.” So how do you, like, how do you avoid that while getting the benefits of a good weekend?

Katrina Onstad: Yeah, I mean listen, I certainly don’t want to turn the weekend into another feeling of failure for people, I don’t think there is a one way to do the weekend. But I think making that space, that space physically like noticing if that calendar is filling up being really thoughtful in the week leading up to the weekend to say, “What is this weekend? What’s the balance of my weekend here?” Yes, of course, we’re probably all gonna have a bit of work to do, but what’s the balance? Like… Is it… Am I looking like at a day and a half of work, or work every hour. Can I log off for 24 hours straight and then do something, on that second day. But just above all vigilance, really about how precious this time is, how fleeting it is, it’s funny, when I wrote this book, my son was, I think 12, or you know, it’s published he was probably 13, and now he’s finished high school. [chuckle] And a lot of the concerns that… And I have a daughter who’s still in high school, but I, you know, was really plagued by, when I was writing this, aren’t really relevant to us anymore, and I have never once sat around and said, “Gee, I really wish we had done Select Hockey, and I had done more chores that year.”

You know, all I think now is, “Oh, God, that time is gone and I can’t get it back.” So I would just say those weekends, if you’re lucky enough to have a work life that gives you those two days to guard them, to look at them with the same, as kind of a sacred space, the way that religious people look at an actual Sabbath. To approach them with the same kind of sense of honoring that time and making the most of it with that’s, kind of, clear eyed, and not being hard on yourself, but really taking it seriously that this time is gonna go and this is your life, and is your life gonna be filled with experiences and other people, and joy, and love, and laughter, all those cheesy things. Or is it going to be… I got a really big paycheck and I never turned my phone off. [chuckle]

Brett McKay: Yeah, I know.

Katrina Onstad: Maybe somewhere in the middle. [chuckle]

Brett McKay: Somewhere in the middle.

Katrina Onstad: Yeah.

Brett McKay: Well, Katrina, it has been a great conversation. Where can people go to learn more about the book and your work?

Katrina Onstad: Yeah, the book is available everywhere, I hope. It’s called The Weekend Effect and my website is

Brett McKay: Fantastic. Well, Katrina Onstad, thanks for time. It’s been a pleasure.

Katrina Onstad: Thanks so much.

Brett McKay: Well, I guess that was Katrina Onstad. She’s the author of the book, The Weekend Effect, it’s available on and book stores everywhere. Make sure to check out her website at where you can learn more about her work. Also check out our show notes at where you find the links to our resources and we delve deeper into this topic.

Well, that wraps up another edition of The AOM podcast. Make sure to check out our website at where you can find our podcast archives, as well as thousands of articles written over the years, about pretty much anything you can think of, and if you’d like to enjoy ad-free episodes of the AOM podcast, you can do so on Stitcher premium. Head over to, sign up, use code MANLINESS at checkout for a free month trial. Once you’re signed up, download the Stitcher app on Android or iOS and you can start enjoying ad-free episodes of the AOM podcast. And if you haven’t done so already, I’d appreciate if you take one minute to give us a review in Apple Podcast or Stitcher, it helps out a lot. And if you’ve done that already, thank you, please consider sharing the show with a friend or family member who you think will get something out of it. As always, thank you for the continued support. Until next time, this is Brett McKay, reminding everyone listening to AOM podcast, to put what you’ve heard into action.

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