Introducing the TBT Scorecard

My next book, Tranquility by Tuesday: Nine Ways to Calm the Chaos and Make Time for What Matters, will be published in early October. The “nine ways” in the subtitle refers to nine rules that I think can be broadly helpful for feeling better about time and life, especially for those in the busy years of building careers, raising families, or both.

(I did a study in which 150 people learned and implemented these rules over nine weeks, and their levels of time satisfaction did rise by statistically significant amounts!)

Anyway, in anticipation of the book, I’m going to start doing the occasional Tranquility by Tuesday (TBT) Scorecard here on the blog. I track my time, so I can look back on a week and see…how did I do? How many rules did I follow? What was the effect on my life?

My first rule is to “Give yourself a bedtime.” Since I have to wake up at 6:30 a.m. on weekday mornings (for kid getting ready/shuttling) and I need 7.4 hours of sleep/day, my bedtime has become 11 p.m. It used to be earlier, but in the new house the baby and I are both sleeping better…sometimes it helps to be a little farther away…. Over the past week (April 18-24), I was in my bedroom by 11 every night, and asleep at 11 every weekday night. I did stay up until 11:15 p.m. on Friday and Saturday night (horrors!). As a result of observing my bedtime, I was up a few minutes before my alarm 5 out of 7 days last week (the alarm was set for 7:30 on Sat/Sun and I was up before then, plus three of the weekdays I was up closer to 6:15). I really hate being sleep deprived and so I’ve become pretty fundamentalist about this rule, though I should note that getting in bed by 11 p.m. isn’t that challenging. We’ve also made some family choices (like driving the high schooler to school) so no one has to get up before 6:30.

My second rule is to “Plan on Fridays.” I plan my upcoming weeks on Fridays no matter what (well, unless I plan on Thursdays because I’m gone on Friday or something…), so I anticipate this being a boring entry in my scorecards…

Next up is “Move by 3 p.m.” This means to get some form of physical activity before 3 p.m. each day. I went for walks outside M, T, W, and F, and did a morning run on Saturday. On Sunday the time that worked for a run was 5 p.m. Thursday I did not do any particular physical activity. My life in general tends to feature a lot of running around, but I’m sure I can aim for 7 days in the future.

Rule #4 is “Three times a week is a habit.” Things don’t have to happen daily to count in our lives. For many fun/meaningful things, three times a week can make something part of our identities. In general these days I’m aiming to run three times a week, though I only did twice last week — I’m dealing with some IT band issues and so I had taken 2 weeks off of running. I would like to practice the piano three times a week, and I did that twice last week. I could put singing in this category, though that’s structurally built in twice (rehearsal + church service). I suppose I could combine piano + singing and pat myself on the back for doing music four times per week, but I actually want to aim to do each of those three times (adding in a singing practice session and another piano one) so that’s a goal for the future.

Rule #5 is to “Create a back-up slot.” I tend to leave Fridays as open as possible in order to use this time as a back-up slot for anything important. I didn’t really wind up needing it though I did wind up having a back-up slot for a kid activity. The 7-year-old was supposed to go to karate on Tuesday and somehow that did not happen. I took him on Thursday instead, so it was good that Thursday was fairly light for activities.

Rule #6 is “One big adventure, one little adventure.” This week’s big adventure was a Saturday trip to Hawk Mountain. (For 6/7 of us — the middle schooler was on a Boy Scout backpacking trip.) I saw that they were showing documentaries in their outdoor amphitheater so we went up in the afternoon to do a 1-hour hike, watched the documentary (well, some of it…some of the little ones had to go off and play in the woods) and then we ate at Olive Garden on the drive back toward home. My little adventure could be one of a few things — I went for a short walk on Friday at Stoneleigh, a historic grounds/garden a few miles from my house. It’s open to the public and free, but it always takes an extra nudge to do something like that. I put it on the list for the week and did it! But I could also have chosen the happy hour I went to Wednesday night – I hadn’t done something like that in a while so it was a different sort of adventure.

Rule #7 is “Take one night for you.” My weekly choir practice fits this nicely. Whatever is happening with work or with the family on Thursday, it’s nice to know that in the evening I will be focusing on something else entirely. It’s like a mental cleanse.

Rule #8 is “Batch the little things.” I make a “Friday punch list” during the week of things that are not terribly important but do need to get done. So on Friday I was a busy bee hanging curtains, repairing a mug, mailing checks and change-of-address notes, paying for field trips online, filling out forms for a fundraiser, etc. It doesn’t take that long, and it’s nice to not have these things cluttering up my mental landscape the rest of the week.

Finally, rule #9 is “Effortful before effortless.” The idea is to do some form of “effortful” leisure (reading, hobbies, etc.) before screen time. And here I pretty much failed miserably. What can I say. I’m having trouble finding books I want to read right now on my Kindle app in small bits of time. On one level my reading life looks really good this year, as I’m reading through all the works of Shakespeare. I’m currently on Act IV of Hamlet. But that takes 10-15 minutes at the pace I am reading, and then there are a lot of spots to fill during the day. I did listen to Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring in the car, so I guess that was something.

Anyway, stay tuned for more of these over the next few months!

6 thoughts on “Introducing the TBT Scorecard

  1. Just a thought about your reading from my personal experience. I am 100% a momentum reader. If I don’t have something ready that I’m excited to read as soon as I’ve finished a book I just stop reading & it’s hard to get the motivation back to start again. So my personal trick is to borrow a lot of books at once. I have the max (20) holds on my Libby app & typically have 3-10 books checked out at once, even though I am only reading one at a time. I had to get over the mental hurdle of checking out books I might not read before returning, but having a wide variety available at all times has made a huge difference for me. I’ve read 57 books so far this year!

    1. I do that too! Only your mindset about not reading everything you check out is really refreshing. I always feel bad when I don’t finish something before it gets returned and I have to wait again to finish it. But its so much more helpful to think about it as a way to always have something on hand it.

  2. If you’re looking for a book that will really grab you in a good way, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood is the best book I’ve read since before the pandemic (during which, like many people, I was unable to read much at all). Riveting psychological suspense (not dystopian fiction) that’s spectacularly well-written and insightful.

    I’ve also enjoyed recently The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, both of which explore, in very different ways, the different possible lives that could have unfolded for the main character from different choices made along the way.

  3. I constantly feel like a “reading failure” when I compare myself to many of the bloggers I follow who read dozens of books per month. I read every day (usually), but often just 10-20 minutes per day. So, when coupled with the fact that I choose to read slowly and carefully (I just prefer to savor books slowly), I don’t exactly fly through the books on my shelf. And then it can be frustrating at the end of the month to see I only read…1 book. Or maybe 2. Despite the fact that I did read almost every day! I’m trying to just let this comparison game go and be happy that I have re-established a very consistent reading habit in my life (after a pretty long hiatus when the boys were little). And, 10-20 minutes a day is better than 0 minutes! And 1-2 books a month = at least 12-24 books per year. I also remind myself that I have many other daily habits that take up time, too- and we can’t do it all. I walk most days, I exercise most days, I blog most days, I journal most days….I suppose if I swapped some of those things out, I could read more. But I like doing those things, too. 🙂

    Love this “scorecard” idea, too! Looking forward to reading the book!

    1. Maybe you’d feel better if you counted “reading minutes” or days instead of books completed? I tend to read quickly (especially if I’m not that into a book) and I miss stuff all the time. I have been trying to read more slowly and savor, especially if it’s a book I am really enjoying, vs. trying to just quickly get to the end so I can count it on my Goodreads list. This year my goal is actually to read 20 min daily, which encourages me to read stuff other than books because I’d skip that so I could meet my book # goal in past years. I love long form journalism and have gotten so much out of it, so I wanted a way to make that reading “count”, too.

  4. Great list! We use weekly scorecards at work, and I like the idea of having a personal one. When I review my team’s scorecard with them during our weekly meeting, we talk about “wins” and “lessons” from the previous week. If you weren’t able to hit your goal of effortful before effortless, we’d look at what made that challenging and what steps you could try the following week. You can also learn from what areas are going well and how to make those wins repeatable. All this to say I love scorecards.

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