Richard Ryan, one of the behavioral scientists whose research figures prominently in Drive, thinks you might be, according to a recently released paper.

But the reason for this “weekend effect” isn’t leisure, he says. It’s autonomy most of all — as well as the satisfaction that comes from emotional relationships.  On Saturdays and Sundays, he tells USA Today, “there’s more connection with other people and more self-direction.”

What’s interesting about these findings is that they span across age, education, and profession. Ryan says it seems to be true even among people who generally enjoy their jobs. On weekends, he says, people have greater freedom to do what they want than they do during the work week. And many also feel greater competence.

It’s interesting stuff that makes me think slightly differently about the value of building this sort of time into our lives. What’s more, it raises a question: Why can’t work itself be like weekends — autonomous, self-directed pursuits that lead toward mastery and are animated by connection and  purpose?

Do that — and maybe people can be more satisfied and productive the other five days of the week. Here’s hoping at least. TGIF. And have a great weekend.

11 Responses to “Will you be happier on Saturday?”

  1. I teach in Mexico and just brought up the term TGIF up to my students this morning. The funny thing is that on the weekends I do feel this “bump” in energy and such on Saturdays … but on Sundays. Perhaps the reality of returning to the workweek … but I think it is more that (esp here in Mexico) many businesses close or open late and close earlier for religious/family reasons. So the energy in the city is a little dead and somewhat boring. That somberness does effect me.I am the kind of person that is very connected with his environmental surroundings… a little like “tsaheylu” in the movie Avatar.

  2. Wendy Woods says:

    Interesting post re Saturdays. Perhaps that is why I love working for myself despite it’s many challenges. Having my own company allows me the freedom I never experienced in corporate life and not just freedom of time. I also have tremendous flexibility in expression and creativity which gives me greater satisfaction and, as a result, greater happiness.

  3. George says:

    Hi Dan,

    Yes, people are happiest on Saturdays, and angriest on Monday mornings. I think that you are 100% correct: if we can create the drive towards our dreams, then anything becomes possible.

    By the way, I loved your talk at All Saint’s Church. I am going to talk about it on my blog tomorrow, and share your ideas.


  4. Susan Zoë Greenwald says:

    Hi Dan,
    I wonder the same thing.

    Perhaps it’s the language of labor that needs to be changed. “Work”, signifying effort, exertion, stale coffee in styrofoam cups, cubicles, intensive blood, sweat, and tears, feelings of exhaustion, for some resentment, a self imposed incarceration in fact. Alas, when the weekend arrives, it’s a pure liberation, freedom from clocks, minutes and deadlines, obscure personalities and gray interiors lacking windows.

    Perhaps “work” should be entitled “purpose”. Maybe then we’d fall in love with “work”, and feel weekends without ends.

  5. John Nack says:

    Ah, this may help explain something for me. With two little boys under 2, I have to say I feel *less* relaxed about the weekends than about work weeks. It makes sense in a way: while chasing toddlers I have less autonomy, and I probably experience less mastery, than I do at work.

    J. (the guy to whom you gave a sandwich today; thanks again!)

  6. Phil Ruse says:

    There’s certainly a surge on Saturday but on Sunday I’m the complete opposite. Sunday is the worst and all because I’m thinking of Monday!

  7. Dan Ward says:

    Great post. It reminds me of something the late John Boyd wrote: our “basic aim or goal, as individuals, is to improve our capacity for independent action.”

    It seems that for many of us, our capacity for independent action is greater on weekends, when we have more autonomy than during the work week…

  8. Julie Baylor says:

    I had an interesting realization when I read this. I am doing project work from home, which is very autonomous; yet I look forward to working on Saturdays, as I am relatively sure I will have freedom to work without interruption. I tend to mentally put myself in the 9-5 box during the week, and allow myself more creative freedom on weekends. I never realized it this before.

  9. Well, one thing I discovered is this: I used to work for myself. I owned my own small law firm which I grew dissatisfied with. I did hate Mondays because I felt all I was doing was getting up to go solve other people’s problems.

    Now, with my business coaching, I love that everyday is Saturday.

    Truly, three day weekends pass me by and I love the sensation of it but I know that it is for others.


  10. Saturdays spent reading, thinking, learning and sharing with my family. Bliss! Need to work on doing more of that on the weekdays at work. Thanks for the renewed inspiration of reading Drive. It will be shared at work too.

  11. Good timing: I’m just getting to the autonomy chapter in Drive. 🙂 I would chime in to point out that it’s important that one’s perception of autonomy, in a given situation, be a positive one.

    For example, when I first read this, I immediately thought of Mr. Csikszentmihalyi’s research on flow, where he found that Sunday mornings were actually a low point for single people who didn’t go to church. In that scenario, a stretch of autonomy without structure or interaction w/others could actually be more enervating than motivating.