When you’re in the busy years of raising a family and building a career, it can feel like you’re always doing things for other people. One way to combat that feeling of being overwhelmed? Tranquility by Tuesday Rule #7: Take one night for you. Taking one night each week to do something that is not work and is not caring for family can be life-changing.
I often suggest making a commitment to something — joining a choir, a softball team, or doing a regular volunteer gig — because the commitment aspect makes it happen. You can “take one night for you” by taking a bubble bath, but since that can happen whenever (your bath tub isn’t going anywhere), it will get bumped if life gets busy, or if someone would prefer you do something else. If you play in a string quartet, on the other hand, you have to be there for the rehearsals…or they are a string trio.
In any case, the usual question I get about this rule is “how.” People have multiple young kids and no childcare, or they work late or unpredictably, or so forth. The logistics are challenging.
But after I started sharing this rule broadly I started to hear a different question — “what?”
As in, I don’t even know what I’d want to commit to. How do I figure out what I’d want to do one night a week that would make me feel energized and excited about life?
For me this question has been relatively easy, as I’ve always loved to sing. I have sung in choirs for most of my adult life. More practically: I am a regular church attendee, and my church has a choir, so I’m either listening to the choir or singing with it most weeks one way or the other, and active participation sounds better than the alternative.
But many times people don’t know. You can be so busy for so long that you just haven’t thought about it. One Tranquility by Tuesday participant told me that “It’s hard to even comprehend having a night off that isn’t for work.” Another lamented that ‘I really don’t know, which is probably the crux of the problem. What to do, not when to do it.”
So if you, too, are stumbling over this question, try a few things.
1. Think back. What activities did you do as a kid, or as a young adult? People do lots of extra-curricular activities in high school and college. Did you particularly look forward to any of them? Try to list a handful of things you enjoyed.
2. Ask around. Different communities have different options, and often the only way to find out about more off-beat activities is to know someone who’s involved. This is a great use of weak ties. You know what your best friends do for fun. You don’t know what all the posters in your neighborhood parents Facebook page do. So ask them. You may not find a perfect overlap, but you could think broadly. You’d like to sing in an a cappella group, but if there isn’t one, you could sing in a choir. Your first choice sport is softball, but the local adult kickball league is more active, so you go with that.
3. Try something out. Since I want people to get started with “take one night for you” right away, stop gap measures are fine as you hunt around. Nothing needs to be locked in forever. You could take an adult ice skating class for six weeks and just see how it goes. You can also try things out as you wait for other opportunities — taking music lessons if your local community orchestra isn’t holding auditions until next fall.
4. Tune up as necessary. It’s quite possible that your first attempt won’t be perfect. But that’s OK. The point is to get in the habit of carving out time for your interests, and as you do, you will become more aware of what is available and what might be possible. Your music instructor will point you toward a small ensemble that needs a trumpet player, or a friend on your kickball team will suggest you both go play in a softball league that’s starting up one town over.
Over time, you’ll find yourself doing what you want to do. And then you won’t be able to imagine life without taking this night “off” from your other responsibilities. You will look forward to it all week— and that is the point of this Tranquility by Tuesday rule.
Do you take one night “off?” What do you do with it? How did you choose that?
In other news: For some upcoming articles I would love to talk to people who have seen results from trying a few other rules. Have you given yourself a bedtime and want to talk about it? Let me know! I’m also looking for some folks who have leaned in to the “effortful before effortless” rules and have shifted how they spend their leisure time. As always, you can reach me at laura at lauravanderkam.com.
Reviews! I’m loving some of the TBT reviews that people are posting. Yesterday, Elisabeth Frost posted a lovely write up over at her blog (which you should start reading regularly!).