If all you can think about Monday morning is how quickly your weekend flew by, you might want to consider expanding your horizons a bit in the future. Turns out, the key to a fulfilling weekend that doesn’t feel too short is to seek out “newness.”
According to David Eagleman, professor at Stanford University and the author of The Brain: The Story of You, pursuing new settings, new activities, and new experiences is the best way to “stretch time,” so to speak. It all comes down to what your brain perceives as novel. When you spend time doing something unfamiliar, your brain focuses more on collecting the data associated with the activity, thus creating a more thorough memory of the experience. When you reflect on that memory, it feels like you had more time.
The reverse is true as well. If you do the same routine every weekend, you won’t remember much about your days off come Monday morning. It will feel like they flew by because you weren’t giving your brain new data to collect and incorporate. Eagleman points out that a routine weekend is similar to a really long, uneventful flight; it seems endless while you’re actually in the air, but once you land you practically forget about the entire experience. It’s the same reason why time seems to go by faster as you get older, explains Eagleman:
“When you’re a kid, everything is novel and you’re laying down new memories about it. So when you look back at the end of a childhood summer, it seems to have taken a long time because you remember this and that, this new thing, learning that, experiencing that. But when you’re older, you’ve sort of seen all the patterns before.”
Fortunately, seeking out newness every weekend isn’t as difficult as it sounds—you don’t need to go skydiving or anything like that. You just need to make some plans that exist outside of your normal routine.
- Go on a weekend getaway
- Go for a hike somewhere off your beaten path
- Try a new restaurant or bar
- Explore a neighborhood you haven’t spent much time in
- Go for a long bike ride on the beach
- Browse a bookstore or antique shop you’ve always wondered about
- Go to a flea market or farmers market on the other side of town
- See a play instead of a movie.
A new setting can be just as effective as well. Last weekend I took my Kindle and Nintendo Switch to the park, just for a change of environment. I was still doing exactly what I was going to do at home, but it felt fresh and really made my weekend seem longer in the end.
Experiencing more new things doesn’t make time slow down in the present, however. If anything, doing new stuff makes time feel like it’s going by faster while you do it. But it’s a price you’ll have to pay if you want to start your week off feeling like you made the most of your free time. So, do you want your weekend time to flow slowly as you go about your same ol’ routine, or do you want to look back at your weekend fulfilled, marveling at all the new stuff you did in such a seemingly short amount of time? There’s no right answer, but the choice is yours.