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!