Tranquility by Tuesday Challenge, Rule #9: Effortful before effortless

Welcome to the last week of the Tranquility by Tuesday Challenge! This next week’s rule is Rule #9: Effortful before effortless. This rule is all about making leisure time feel more satisfying.

Even the busiest people have some leisure time. The problem is that it is often unpredictable, short in duration, or happens at low-energy times (like at night after the kids go to bed). Screen time fits these constraints incredibly well. Most people have their phones with them at all times, and you can scroll online for 2 minutes or 2 hours. You don’t have to plan ahead to watch Netflix.

The result is that screen time winds up consuming the bulk of people’s leisure time. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a little online or TV-style fun. But many busy people also lament that they have too little time to read, do hobbies, etc. So there needs to be some way to repurpose low-quality leisure time for these higher quality pursuits.

The answer is Rule #9: Effortful before effortless. Commit to doing just a minute or two of “effortful fun” (reading, hobbies, crafts, connecting) before switching over to “effortless fun” (generally social media, scrolling, TV, etc.).

A few minutes doesn’t seem like a huge ask, so this strategy can feel pretty doable. But one of two things winds up happening. Often times, people get so into their effortful fun that they never switch over. You want to find out what happens in that mystery novel and you never wind up over at Facebook. Oh well! It will still be there next time.

But even if you do read for ten minutes and then go binge watch something the rest of the night, at least you’ve gotten to do both kinds of fun, and that can make leisure time feel far more balanced.

So, this week, think about what sorts of “effortful” fun you like to do. I enjoy puzzles, reading magazines, and reading books (not all great books…plenty of mindless fodder in there too). I try to keep ebooks on my phone so I can read those in little bits of time. I’ve set up my dining room table to be a puzzle station and generally have a 1000-piece puzzle going at any point.

Figure out how you can make your fun accessible, and then, when a spot of time opens up, challenge yourself to do one of these effortful forms of fun for just a little bit. This seems simple, but it can have a huge effect. In the Tranquility by Tuesday project (the subject of my most recent book), agreement scores with the statement “Yesterday I didn’t waste time on things that weren’t important to me” rose 32 percent over the course of the study. Not bad — especially for people whose lives didn’t suggest a lot of wasted time in the first place!

In other news: Wondering why the TBT week starts on Friday? It’s because of Rule #2: Plan on Friday. You can read more about that here.

Check out this TBT In Real Life video of how one busy woman decided to spend more time on effortful fun, rather than the effortless variety.

6 thoughts on “Tranquility by Tuesday Challenge, Rule #9: Effortful before effortless

  1. “I’ve set up my dining room table to be a puzzle station and generally have a 1000-piece puzzle going at any point. Figure out how you can make your fun accessible”
    I realize this is important and yet I struggle with it. I don’t have that much space and I don’t want my home to look cluttered. But if these things aren’t out in the open, I literally forget it’s what I want to do.

    1. @Maggie – I wonder if there’s a way to make your effortful fun of choice look more purposeful and part of the decor. Like someone might create an actual music spot in a home office, or an official “puzzle corner” or anything along those lines. A reading nook, a craft nook…

      1. and maybe @maggie could experiment with just leaving out one or two things associated with the activity as a visual trigger that looks nice and doesn’t create clutter.

        1. Yes, that is a good point I’ve thought about too. Like placing photos for a photo album I wanna make somewhere a little more prominently…

  2. This is another great rule. I really suffer from post-dinner fatigue. My default is to read – for me this is effortless fun. My more effortful fun things are playing the piano, going for a walk, doing some drawing, working on a creative project (e.g. journaling, photo album, textile project, etc.) and I NEVER feel enthusiastic about these after dinner. So I really like the idea of doing them for just a short time, because I’m sure I will get a bit of momentum to keep going longer. A 10-15 minute segment will work better for some activities (piano, drawing, journaling) than others (hard to get much done in 10 minutes with an online photo album), but I’m keen to give it a go and see what happens.

    1. @Cynthia – let us know if you try it, and if you manage to do any of those things. Sometimes keeping the time goal very short is key. It’s like, well, it’s only 5 minutes…

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