It’s a form of “personality hacking” that will give introverts more energy and sanity.
There’s biohacking, where we experiment with our body via fasting and nutrition to create major transformations. Then there’s what I call “personality hacking,” where we adapt our lifestyle to our personality, so we function more optimally.
As an introvert, one of my favorite experiments has been flipping my weekdays and weekends. So, instead of going out on the weekend like most people, I plan my social activities for weekday evenings after work, then block off my entire weekend for myself. Here’s why you should do it too — and how to successfully make the flip.
Why Introverts Should Flip Weekdays and Weekends
1. It groups all your human interactions together.
Many people work a 9-to-5 job and are around people the whole day, so planning all other social activities after work allows you to tick off your weekly “fun hangout” box on days when you’re already socially switched “on.” This way, you don’t have to flip on that switch at all on the weekends, if you don’t want to.
2. Weekday hangouts are shorter hangouts!
Most people won’t stay out late on a weekday because of work the next morning — or at least would not judge you for throwing in the towel early. That makes it the perfect social activity for the introvert, who has energy for only so much “people” time. You only have to be at the group gathering for an hour or two before it’s over and socially acceptable to peace out.
3. The hyperactive energy of weekend events exceeds introverts’ neurological capacity for it.
In general, public spaces are more crowded and noisier on weekends. For an introvert, this activity can be overwhelming. We’re wired to have a lower dopamine threshold and are more easily stimulated than extroverts. So, while the extrovert gets more incandescent and magnetic, the introvert’s energy shrinks.
4. Weekday events mean smaller groups and meaningful activities.
Fewer people are available to hang out on any given weekday evening, and that’s a good thing for introverts. Not only do small groups help assuage the aforementioned problems introverts face, but they also cater toward more meaningful activities — soul food for us “quiet ones.” The introvert brain has a more active right frontal insular; this area is involved in empathy, self-reflection, and emotional meaning. Plus, with larger and thicker gray matter in our prefrontal cortex, we tend to engage in deeper and more abstract thought.
This doesn’t mean we spend all our time philosophizing, of course. Introverts thrive on all sorts of exploration of meaning, from savoring new cuisines with like-minded foodies to attending interesting talks around town. Book clubs and spirituality groups can also satisfy these meaning cravings. What ties all these activities together is they’re better done in small groups and can easily be explored in an hour or two after work — before returning home at a reasonable hour.
5. Weekends become uninterrupted self-care time.
After a long week of work and a few peppered-in social evenings, the weekend then becomes your reward. Because I’ve spent time being social and working, I can sleep in with a light heart — I know I’ve earned it.
The weekends are an optimal time to withdraw and recharge. Introverts notice all sorts of details, especially errors, because our right frontal insular cortex is quite active. This makes us more self-conscious about the mistakes we make, whether real or perceived. Our frontal lobes (which evaluate outcomes) light up, meaning we have a busy mind worrying about what’s going to happen. With these neurological factors in mind, it’s easy for our nervous system to get overwhelmed, even more so if we’re also socially anxious.
But alone time activates a different brain pathway that stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, helping us wind down from all the cortisol and adrenaline that coursed through us during the week. Recharging, whether in the form of reading, sleeping, or cleaning our house, kicks the acetylcholine pathway into place, calming us down and making us happy.
Weekends can provide an extended period of downtime — unlike the snatches of time at the end of weekdays — which allows us to better recharge our metaphorical batteries.
How You Can Make the Flip
Scheduling all your social activities for weekdays involves some finagling and reprioritizing. You also need to convince the people you’re socializing with to buy in. Here’s how to make the flip:
1. Curate your circle.
One question I get is “What if you’re invited to events?” Importantly, flipping my weekdays and weekends doesn’t mean I’m rigidly a hermit. On occasion, I’m perfectly willing to spend my weekends with people who are special to me and with whom I’m happy to share my energetic space.
With that in mind, I teach my introverted clients to draw layers of circles like onions, where you list who’s in your inner, center, and outer circles (and you can have more layers if you prefer!). The people in your inner circles are the ones you’re likeliest to say yes to during the weekends. For all other times, people in your outer and middle circles are those you’ll also say yes to.
Feel overwhelmed “sorting out” your circle? First, decide what kind of people they are: healthy, ambivalent, or toxic. The healthy relationships are the only ones worth keeping, especially for introverts who have limited emotional energy for keeping up with people. And you’ll still have to decide how close the healthy people are to you, meaning which circle they exist in. My friend and fellow psychologist Dr. Jonathan Marshall suggests these questions for deciding who to let into your inner circle:
- Do I feel psychologically safe with this person?
- How does my heart feel around them?
- Do I like myself more or less as a person when I’m around them?
When you curate your circle, it’s important to say no. Sometimes it’s difficult to turn others down because we’ve been taught to people-please or we don’t believe we have permission to do so. Learning to say no with grace is often the first step.
My friend and executive coach Vanessa Bennett says we have limited energy credits to spend every day — so if you spend them on people who don’t enliven you, you’re depleting yourself. You’re doing a disservice to yourself and the people important to you because you’ll ultimately have less energy for them.
2. Embrace the “latergram” wholeheartedly.
In the age of Instagram, there’s a lot of pressure to have an active social life. Even simple questions like “What did you do this weekend?” can make us feel like we wasted our time (even if we know it felt good). Spending time recharging isn’t sexy or cool, and as a millennial, I get comments that imply I’ve done nothing worthwhile or I’ve been in a depressive funk if I’m absent from social media for too long.
My advice: Only post “latergrams.” Especially for introverts, updating your life in real time can feel like a 24/7 spotlight shining on you, and it can compromise your enjoyment of the experience — which you likely already struggle with. Resolve to forget the metaphorical bull’s ring of live Instagram Stories and accept that you’ll almost always be posting later, in your own time, when you have the energy for it.
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3. View your solo activities with pride.
Another way I’ve gotten around the awkwardness of saying I “did nothing this weekend” is to change the script. Because the truth is, I didn’t do nothing. I recharged by engaging in solo activities that I love. I’m proud of my hobbies, be it cultivating my indoor jungle or reading alone in my room for hours. I’ve also found role models who proudly showcase their hobbies, which, in my earliest days of embracing my introvert wiring, gave me permission to live like an introvert.
When someone asks what you did this weekend, don’t be afraid to share all the meaningful things you did at home, alone. Be proud of your ability to enjoy time to yourself.
4. “This is what feels good to me” is enough of a reason.
At the end of the day, you don’t need to make excuses for living the lifestyle that sustains you. By spending time on yourself, you buy back time, meaning, and a healthier wellbeing. You also protect against burnout. Just because some people spend their time in a certain way doesn’t mean you need to follow suit — or that the lifestyle that rejuvenates you is any less worthy.