For all those who make drinking less part of their New Year plans — cutting down on alcohol means having fewer hangovers at weekends and having more time to be proactive! But only if you don’t drift from your plan! It’s not only going out and drinking that can take up so much valuable free time. Sometimes things like keeping bad company can also eat up so much of our time and energy. Giving things that no longer serve us up can give us a lot of extra free time!
So, what can you do with that extra free time? Here are a few ideas, in collaboration with The Waterfront Hotel, a wedding venue and spa in Bedfordshire.
How much free time do you have at weekends?
When you’re done with a solid 40-hour working week how much free time do you have on your hands at the weekend to do whatever you want to? For many, the obvious answer is not much!
But let’s say you stay in bed until 9 am, and get to bed at 11 pm. Well, believe it or not, that’s a full 14 hours a day that you have to play with! If you factor in perhaps 3 hours a day in total for cooking and eating, and two hours a day for seeing family and friends, you’re still left with 18 hours over the course of the whole weekend.
If you think about it in these terms, doesn’t it seem a waste not to take advantage of the weekend and do something different with your free time?
Learn a new language during weekends
Why not use your free time to learn a new language? Benny Lewis, author of Fluent in 3 Months and fluent speaker of 7 (yes, that’s seven) languages, estimates that it can take around 400-600 hours of practice to be a proficient speaker of a new language at B2 level.
Weekends can be perfect to show someone around an area, for example, and give detailed descriptions of landmarks in a language you are learning. I actually tried this with a cousin, in French, quite recently, and it was hard but great fun. We actually fell about laughing more than once!
If you took say an average of 500 hours to learn a new language, how many weekends would it take? Say you spent 8 out of your free 14 hours learning (any more than this could be way too intense, trust me!). It would take you 62.5 weekends, which if you think about it, isn’t really that long!
Learn to drive
People choose not to drive for a range of reasons — and many learn later in life than others. A range of factors is at play – petrol and general running expenses, environmental factors and the stresses that can come with being behind the wheel. But what I’ve discovered is that driving can create amazing travel opportunities.
And it isn’t just about sightseeing. Driving can help you look for jobs further afield and visit family and friends who don’t live close to you.
How long would it take, if you used your weekends, to learn how to pass your driving test?
According to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), it takes an average of 45 hours to get your licence. If you opt for a non-intensive driving instructor or driving school, it’s more likely that you’ll be able to take 2-hour lessons. When I was learning, my brain couldn’t really manage longer than 2 hours behind the wheel to be honest.
The DVSA also says that you need 20 hours of revision for your theory test to get yourself fully prepped. That’s a grand total of 65 hours work before you can call yourself a driver.
It may seem like quite a challenge, but if you take 4 hours of lessons per weekend (2 hours per weekend day), you can work through your practical lessons in about 12 weeks. For ten of those weeks, I would advise spending an hour per weekend day revising for your theory test. That time will fly, believe me.
Exercise, as we hear all the time, is a great way to use your free time. The virtues of exercise may at times seem over-extolled, but the reality that exercise is not overrated – it really can make a huge difference in how you feel.
Exercising, of course, doesn’t only have the benefit of helping you keep physically fit. We know, more than ever before, that it has proven mental health benefits. It can, of course, be tough to find not only the time but the motivation to exercise around a nine-to-five job, so rather than getting worked up about finding the time during the week, why not just leave it for the weekend? Think about it, when you’re done, you can have a lovely nap (bliss…!).
If you enjoy running, for example, you could use your weekends to train for a half-marathon. If you do it for a charitable cause, even better in my view.
Marathon runners apparently advise that to prepare for a half marathon, you should be training at least three times a week. Basically, if you can fit a training session in mid-week you could be well on your way! Runner’s World suggests that 15 weeks is about enough training time to train for the 13.1-mile run.
If you prefer something a little less strenuous, take up walking on weekends. Calorie burning really depends on your current weight, the distance you walk and the speed at which you do so. An hour’s walk at a moderate pace can burn in excess of 150 calories. If you spent four of your 14 spare hours walking the dog or exploring the countryside on foot, you could burn 520 calories a weekend. Not bad at all.
If you love adventure or have always fancied a winter holiday, you could spend your time learning how to ski. There are plenty of dry slopes in the UK that offer ski lessons.
UK indoor ski slope, The Snow Centre, says that to achieve a ‘good’ level of skiing (which means venturing down advanced steeps on the mountain), you need to complete five of their two-hour lessons and two of their two-hour coaching sessions. If you spend five weekends completing two-hour lessons and 2 weeks on the coaching sessions, you’ll be ready to hit the slopes after just 7 weeks!
Even if all you really want is something a lot more laid back, you can still head to your local spa for a relaxing swim and sauna session. Just one 30-minute sauna session can burn as many as 300 calories, and a 30-minute swim can burn 295 calories. As someone who loves being in the water, I can’t recommend the virtues of swimming highly enough.
Learn to play an instrument
Have you ever wished that you could play an instrument? Well, it’s never too late! Not only can you impress your friends with your new ability. But you can use it as a way to de-stress and improve your concentration skills.
Suppliers of guitar lessons, Hub Guitar, have suggested that it takes around 312.5 hours to learn to strum cords at beginner’s level. Apparently, beginner’s level is when you have ‘an expanded grasp of fundamentals, and can play several pieces, albeit imperfectly’.
Sounds like a decent start on the musical road to me! If you break it down, spending 8 of your free 14 weekend hours learning to play the guitar would see you reach beginner’s level in about 40 weeks. That’s about 9 months, so this time next year, you could start working on some serious riffs!
Of course, there’s an endless list of things that you can do with your free time. Those I’ve mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg. Cooking, photography and writing are others that appeal to me but the list is pretty non-exhaustive. What’s important is being proactive and making the most of your weekends in whatever way suits you. You’ll soon start to feel the positive effects of self-achievement.