What makes successful people, well, successful?

Certainly it’s a combination of lots of different habits, skills and approaches. But authors and career coaches have found in talking to high-achievers that the way they handle their weekends is one element.

Most aren’t using those days to cram in more work. Instead, they’re using them for what is, ostensibly, their intended purpose: recharging, resetting and relaxing.

“[Successful people] know that they need that day or two to reset and to nurture the other components in their life,” said Brandon Smith, a career consultant and executive coach who also teaches business students at Emory and Georgia State universities. “What these people realize is that life is like a report card: it’s not about doing well in one class, it’s about doing well in all aspects of life.

“So they invest time and effort on that other stuff on the weekend to keep them balanced and better.”

Smith said that may mean spending more time on personal relationships.

“That’s my bias; I’m a relationship guy,” Smith said. “If you don’t nurture them on the weekends, you’re going to have a real problem down the road in that part of your life.”

That means making the effort to spend time with kids, spouses, family and friends.

Smith said something as simple as getting more sleep on the weekends also can help set the stage for success.

“For whatever reason, we as Americans can’t seem to get this in our head: eight hours [of sleep each night] is really the target,” he said. “We try to steal from that sleep to do other stuff, and what happens is it costs us concentration, it costs us health, it costs us performance.”

Smith said finding a passion and focusing some weekend energy pursuing it can help successful people reset for the week ahead.

“It switches on another side of your brain. It actually can allow you, when you come back to work, to think more creatively,” he said. “You’re seeing [work] differently.”

Weekends are a great time to “clean off the runway,” Smith said, and thinking ahead to what has to be accomplished in the coming days.

“What a lot of really successful people do is they dedicate maybe an hour or two over the weekend to clean up their inbox and their email or other things that have piled up [so] when they start Monday, it’s clean,” he said.

He pointed to fast-food chicken chain Chick-fil-A’s booming growth. The restaurants are closed on Sundays because company founder Truett Cathy believed it was a day of rest. He has said the decision was practical as much as spiritual.

“Many business people argue that’s why Chick-fil-A is so successful, because they have that one day to reset their business ‘clock,’” Smith said.

“When you talk to people who own other franchises that are open seven days a week and longer hours, they are so incredibly jealous of Chick-fil-A because they’ve got that one day to reflect on the week and plan for the next week.”

Brandon Smith teaches about leadership, communication, and workplace culture at Emory University's Goizueta Business School. More of his advice is on his blog and at theworkplacetherapist.com. While you’re there, ask him your workplace or career question. We might answer you in a future radio segment.

Tags: career counseling, Brandon Smith, workplace, working, career, weekends