Tranquility by Tuesday Challenge, Rule #3: Move by 3 p.m.

Welcome to the Tranquility by Tuesday Challenge, week 3. This week we’ll be focusing on Rule #3: Move by 3 p.m.

Time management is also energy management. We cannot make more time, but we can do more and show up as our best selves when we have more energy. Some of this is holistic (see Rule #1: Give yourself a bedtime) but it turns out we can also boost energy levels whenever we hit a slump. Even short bursts of physical activity have been shown to massively increase people’s energy levels (in one study, from a self-reported 3 on a 10-point scale to a 9, which then stayed north of 6 for more than an hour). These boosts are comparable to or better than the caffeine, candy, or cigarettes that people might instead reach for. Physical activity is also a known mood booster. People spend incredible amounts of time and money trying to make themselves feel happier and more energetic, and here we have something free that is like a magical reset button for the day.

This brings us to Rule #3: Move by 3 p.m. Aim to get at least 10 minutes of physical activity in the first half of every day. Most people walk, but you can do whatever works for your situation or physical abilities. This isn’t about trying to lose weight or becoming a regular at a 6  a.m. boot camp (unless you want to do that). It’s about taking advantage of the magical reset button. Why 3 p.m.? It’s a natural low point in people’s energy levels during the day, so if you haven’t moved by then, 3 p.m. is a really good time to do so!

Going for a walk (or some other form of activity) is pleasurable and beneficial in its own right, but this rule has a secondary purpose. Planning in an activity break helps develops a strategic mindset. It requires surveying your day and seeing where the space might be, and what times are available and what are not, and asking what you can do with these minutes. Doing this can remind you that you are in charge of your time. Maybe you don’t control every minute, but you probably control some minutes. If you can fit in a 10-minute walk break, maybe you can fit in other things too!

So, this week, commit to doing something, every day, by 3 p.m. I have really found this habit to be beneficial. I’ll be slogging along, realize it’s 2:30 p.m., and go outside for a quick walk (or sometimes a run). I return ready to figure things out. I’m guessing you’ll feel this way too.

Do you move by 3 p.m. each day?

Photo: One wintry way to move by 3 p.m.! 

16 thoughts on “Tranquility by Tuesday Challenge, Rule #3: Move by 3 p.m.

  1. I *try* to always move by 3 pm. This is usually easy for me because we walk our kids to school. But then someone gets sick or we have a string of horrible weather and I have to actively plan in movement. I find it much harder when my default exercise – that walk to/from school – isn’t an option.

    Last year I walked at least 1 km outside for 365 days (well, technically 363 because 2 of those days I walked my 1 km in an airport due to travel). I’d say 85% of the time these 1 km stints were logged before 10 am.

    This year I’m taking a gentler approach to movement and have been more hit-and-miss with outside time. This month I’m doing a short set of exercises each day (pushups, squats, and crunches). While they don’t feel as impactful as a long walk, it does mean I can say I’ve moved before 3 pm…

  2. I think this will be the most difficult rule for me. I’m a teacher, so my time during the day is very structured with almost zero breaks. I have 30 minutes at lunch, but even that is shortened by having hallway duty and the occasional meeting. I already get up early and leave the house by 6:30 each day, so the thought of getting up even earlier to fit in some exercise is not appealing. Does anyone have any suggestions?

    1. Hey Sarah, my guess is your commute might be the window to add movement to – can you park further back in the lot, or a street or two away to add a few minutes walk? It probably wouldn’t be the full 10 minutes, but it would be at least a breath of fresh air! 6.25 is almost the same as 6.30, so hopefully wouldn’t make mornings feel much worse.

    2. @Sarah – good question! I’m not sure what grade you teach or if you’re with older students focusing on a subject. My younger kids get a “PA” (physical activity) 10 min break in addition to recess and everyone walks or runs around outside during that. Sometimes teachers too! Precisely because we do all feel better and have more energy with a PA break in life. But different obviously if you have high school kids. If you start work that early you may be done relatively early too and I think a walk at, say, 3:30 p.m. would be in keeping with the spirit of this rule if earlier isn’t possible. But I like the suggestion of walking for 5 minutes in the morning as well.

      1. Some Scottish schools do a daily mile, and it’s made a huge difference in health, attention, etc. I really want to get on our school leadership to do the same. T went from a nursery with strong forest school vibes, to “normal” school and I think he misses the outside time. We’ve got a solid cycling school run routine but I think some of his classmates could use the opportunity to get the wiggles out.

    3. Sarah, I feel you! I’m ready by 6:30 every morning (then I start my mad dash to get the kids out the door by 7) and then with my commute, I’m not home until 4:30 and my work is mostly sedentary and doesn’t allow for much movement except to and from the bathroom. I get up at 5:10 to get my exercise in. My other option would be after dinner (we try to eat at 5) but that is really not appealing. So morning it is! I try to be in bed by 9:45 to make the 5:10 wake up doable. I would love to be able to take a midday walk but I work in a manufacturing environment so it’s complicated (and requires wearing lots of safety gear!) I wish you the best in figuring out what works for you. Good Luck!

    4. I think you can be gentler with yourself regarding this rule because teaching *is* a very active job. How many steps do you think you log in an average day? Certainly more than most people who have “desk” jobs.
      Also the rule is not about getting outside, just about getting up, which I am sure you are doing in spades.
      I have a job where I’m on my feet all day, and I don’t necessarily feel like I need to “move by 3pm” to get the benefits. More like some days I need to “rest by 3pm” to be able to keep going 😄. I just need ten minutes to myself in a quiet place to recharge. It doesn’t need to be active or outside, though I do that if possible. Sometimes it’s me sitting at my desk with my eyes closed savoring my tea.

      1. @Diane – this is an excellent point – in TBT I give a specific exception to people whose jobs are already very active. If you are, let’s say, leading hikes in the wilderness as a living, you really don’t need to pause to walk for 15 minutes…

  3. This is an easy one for me – I get 3-5 miles on the bike if I’m home and doing the school run (and another 3 in the evening when I go pick him up) and a good 30 minutes walk if I’m in work city. But I want to modify it to a move/get outside at lunch. I’ve let my diary get fully booked on office days (evidenced by today’s lunch at 415, which feels more like an early dinner) and sit all day once I get back from the cycle ride, until I do the school run. I’d like to get out while it’s still light out. So my plan for next week is to go work in the garden for 10 minutes when I’m at home (you can do a lot of pruning in 10 minutes) and go for a walk round the quad when I’m at work.

  4. I mostly do this, especially now that I have the goal of being outside for 23 minutes/day in 2023. I have missed some days recently because it is so bitterly cold. I know I *could* go outside for 23 minutes but when it’s -15F, it’s just so unpleasant! I muscled through it yesterday and was so dang cold. But outside of extreme cold spells, I try to go for a walk after lunch. It has been really invigorating! Plus I rarely take a lunch and instead work while eating so it’s a nice little break for my brain/eyes as I’m otherwise at a computer/on zooms.

  5. Thanks for this Laura. It was just what I needed to hear and I will look to put it into action this coming week – starting today. Walking is very doable and something I could see myself getting myself to do whether Iam working from home or in the office and usually in whatever clothes I am wearing (maybe some days I would have to change my shoes). I think the trick will be setting the expectation at the start of any meeting at 2:00 pm that I need to be out of there by 2:45 pm so I carve out a little time, but usually this is much less of an issue than people expect. In fact a break between meetings is probably very welcome.

  6. I do great on this one on the weekend and the days I work from home. I nearly always work out in the morning in some way. On my 3 days a week in the office I see patients from 7 am to 5 pm. I park and walk from my car but it is tough when it is cold and dark to park more than a few blocks from my office. I already get up at 4:45 am and cannot get up earlier. I eat my lunch in a few minutes between patients. For me this is the hardest rule.

  7. This is maybe counter to the spirit of the rule, but I often do a “cleaning burst” in the early afternoon. I still have a little time until I have to pick up the kids and dive into the afternoon frenzy, but I’ve accomplished my immediate goals for the day and my sense of direction is often wavering. So I spend 10-20 minutes, often with a timer, putting away laundry and toys and dishes. It’s not exactly exercise (I do that at night) but it gets me out of my mental rut and accomplishes a useful task, and I do typically log a few hundred steps. And by the time I get back to my desk, I usually know what I want to do with my remaining time.

  8. I have a little different layout, but still try to keep moving every day:
    Three times a week i wake up early to get my exercise- those are the days i work from home.
    On two other days when i work in the office i have after-school activities for the kids, so i drop them to music/art for a 30 min class and go for a walk around the art school, unwinding after my office day.
    And on the weekends i just try to be active with the kids, whether taking them to the pool or open gym in winter (and playing with them there, instead of browsing through the phone), or doing walks and bike rides when the weather is nice. I learned a very hard way that I can’t do my morning exercise routine on the weekends, because I won’t be able to chase my kids around. The weekend days seem to be longer, and i need to be careful about how i use my energy :))

  9. I love this one – mostly because I already have pretty good habits around exercise 😉 so I feel like “Yes – I got this one!” I already exercise almost every morning before breakfast – running, walking or Pilates. The focus for me is that afternoon slump – when I least want to get some fresh air and exercise is when I need it most to clear my head and re-set for a productive afternoon.

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