If the beaches are beckoning, don't wait for the weekend. While you may be looking forward to the time off, and maybe planning on extending the weekend even a day or two, new research says that the best day to take off for a mini vacation is actually Wednesday — that is, if your normal work schedule is Monday through Friday, anyway. Science says that the key to feeling more relaxed and refreshed is by giving yourself a day to make your own pace and to break up an overwhelming work week — after all, the whole point of time off is to wind down.
Essentially, science says that our human experience is ordered by both internal and external "pacers" (like being a "morning person" or a "night owl" vs. the work week and deadlines, etc.). Dawna Ballard, a communications professor at the University of Texas at Austin and a scholar of chronemics, the study of time and communication, says that everyone has a different chronotype — which is what can make Mondays so difficult for some who are coming off their own slower-moving pacers.
"Some people are slower moving, some people are faster moving,” she said, according to Quartzy. “Our work, though, just goes and throws that out the window and says actually, this is how fast you have to work, this is when you have to work.”
She was referring to projects and assignments that may temporarily restructure our lives (read: staying up late to meet deadlines or working odd hours), as well as the general cyclical pacer of the work week: a two-day weekend followed by a five-day work week.
“The week obviously keeps repeating and so, because it keeps repeating, it develops a real power,” Ballard said. “In the same way that the sun, the diurnal cycle, keeps repeating, it’s incredibly powerful because we are also cyclical organisms.”
To break the repetition, Ballard advised taking a day off in the middle of the week. Wednesday, she explained in her research, interrupts the external pacer of work and will give you a chance to rejuvenate. While a long weekend offers valuable time off, it doesn't disrupt the cycle like Wednesday does. For this same reason, many companies are implementing work-from-home-Wednesday benefits — a practice that Ballard believes has potential to keep our inner and outer pacers in sync thanks to a "greater sense of calm and control."
Both women and men say that their time off is “extremely” important, according to Project: Time Off’s report, State of American Vacation. But, too often, high stress, guilt and workload concerns keep us in the office. While it may seem like Wednesdays of all days should especially be spent in the office given that to-do lists tend to build up by mid-week, a mounting workload could be reason enough for working from home. That's because a host of research has been done to prove just how efficient employees can be if they work remotely.
"At Doximity, Wednesday has become the GSD/GLD Day," Shari Buck, co-founder and chief product officer of Doximity wrote in Forbes. "On one hand, after two days in the office, often overwhelmed with meetings, the to-do list has likely grown rather than shrunk. Wednesdays are collectively our Get Sh*t Done (GSD) day. It’s the day we tackle tough problems with fewer distractions. For me, that means sitting at my dining room table with printouts of product specs and a red pen. Wednesday also is a Get Life Done (GLD) Day when we schedule teeth cleaning and take the car to the mechanic. For many of us, it’s a day in which we reclaim upwards of three hours of commuting time that can be used way more productively than singing along to the radio in traffic."
For those who choose to take off entirely, the advantages of a day's getaway midweek include quieter beaches and parks, as well as emptier restaurants and movie theaters — plus cheaper prices on parking or passes to experiences like museums that may be more expensive on the weekends.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.