Weekday evening vibes (and an apology note about time tracking emails)

Weekday evenings are hard to use well. For some people, they can become a tedious second shift, filled with chores and counting down minutes until kid bedtimes (or at least until kid activities are done). For others, they involve a lot of passive screen time and other leisure that doesn’t feel particularly restorative.

People are tired after work. But this chunk of time after work and before bed is not insignificant. Someone who finished work around 5:30 p.m. and went to bed at 10:30 p.m. would have 20 hours between Monday and Thursday — for family, leisure, and time at home.

I’ve been playing around with rebranding this time, aspirationally, as the “Golden Hours.” No, these hours can’t all be magical (I can recount plenty of bedtime battles…) but what would it feel like to actually treat this time as worth thinking through? Some of the Tranquility by Tuesday rules cover evening hours, such as “Take one night for you.” Little adventures can switch things up as well.

But broadly, most of these Golden Hours are going to be spent at home. No one will have much energy. So I’ve been pondering, within those constraints, what little at-home activities might make any given evening more enjoyable.

One idea: Spend a night on memory lane. Many of us have old albums or photo books sitting around somewhere. Every few days it could be time to pull out another one and reminisce about some past time period (perhaps with bonus calls/texts to other people who were involved!)

Old albums can conjure up memories too. Play one through and suddenly Tuesday night has brought back memories of band camp, or that trip to Prague.

There is, of course, Time Outside After Dinner (TOAD time). This is harder as it gets darker earlier, but if you have any brightly lit spot outside, it can be good.

I am a fan of doing a seasonal puzzle. I’m currently working through a covered bridge fall scene, but it’s a little more challenging than some of the others I’ve done lately, so we shall see if I stick with it…Puzzles that are collages of posters, book covers, or commercial items tend to be pretty brainless.

A good old-fashioned baking project means that a normal night now ends with delicious cookies. If you always have the ingredients for something simple on hand, this doesn’t need to be a big production.

These days we can watch any show at any time, but that makes live TV more exciting. Plenty of baseball and basketball games happen during the week during their respective seasons (as do some professional football games) and one can choose to become a more dedicated fan of a particular team, have special snacks for games, and text with friends and family who are watching the game at the same time.

Reading is a great way to spend time, but sometimes our brains can’t summon the energy for anything sustained. I’ve been trying to deal with this reality by checking out scores of design books from the library — home design, garden design, etc. These coffee table books are often beautiful (and expensive, hence the library part). It’s like flipping through a magazine without the ads. Speaking of which…

I find magazines are dirt cheap per hour of entertainment. I now subscribe to a great many and they are fun to read on a weekday evening. Sometimes I end the evening with grand plans (“I should go visit Harpers Ferry, West Virginia!”) that are probably not going to happen but a little dreaming makes any Tuesday better.

We can also actually use our homes. I suspect a number of people reading this post have lovely houses with various attributes that feature prominently in real estate ads, and then don’t get touched much after purchase. So, if you have a free standing master bathroom tub, or a porch swing (or even just a porch! or some sort of balcony), or a sauna, or a pizza oven (indoor or outdoor), or a movie room, or a fire pit you built during Covid, maybe it’s time to make a schedule of using these things.

It’s fine for evenings to be free form. Not all can be planned intensely, or even loosely. But I find that setting just a few intentions for these 20 hours can increase the chances that they start to feel more like they happened — rather than that they were wished away.

In other news: If you signed up for a time tracking challenge in the past year and you are receiving repeat emails from me about the challenge this week I AM SO SORRY. My email program appears to have some sort of zombie in it which has resurrected a past campaign. We are trying to sort this out with them (as pausing/deleting campaigns has so far not worked). Please delete the emails and accept my apologies for the fact that you’re having to delete them. I know it’s wasted time and I feel really bad about it.

16 thoughts on “Weekday evening vibes (and an apology note about time tracking emails)

  1. No apologies needed on the email glitch! They’re a good reminder for me, especially since after signing up for the challenge again this year, I didn’t complete it after the first day. Lots of travel and a basement flood overwhelmed my capacity for tracking.

    I love the idea of Golden Hours. I find I’m too tired for some reading before bed, so I keep a “light” book that is entertaining but that I don’t have to grapple with too much for this period. Right now it’s At Home by Bill Bryson, which is a lot of fun. (My other current books, A People’s History of the United States and Early Retirement Extreme, require too much of my brain for nighttime reading.)

    1. @Carrie – thank you. It’s annoying me to get the extra emails, so I’m just worried it’s annoying everyone else too! I need to read At Home. It’s on my list…

    1. @Karen B – fascinating stuff! Cool to see that women with modest-sized families were publishing as much or more as those without children. Sometimes we forget in the narrative that children reduce productivity that plenty of people without kids aren’t all that productive either…

  2. We are huge lifelong fans of Liverpool Football club (my husband was born there) and watch them whenever they are live on TV, which luckily is quite often. Our two daughters are now at university but will often watch as well and we message on WhatsApp throughout the match. Always look forward to an evening with live, shared football.

    1. @Katherine – so fun to have a team everyone in the family roots for. It becomes more of an event and even if someone isn’t so into sports they can get into the shared experience. My husband’s family are all big Texas A&M football fans, so they’re always texting each other about the games, and they go to see one each year together.

  3. I really like this post’s topic. I took my toddler to a new library and grocery shopping one week night. It was very memorable for us because everything was new (while being very accessible).

  4. I have a 3YO and 1YO and live in Massachusetts where after dinner is getting chilly and dark… but we’ve still been managing a “camp fire” around our fire pit once a week or so on a weekday when the kids are otherwise just exhausted and weepy and need to kill time until we can pour them into bed. Even my super active toddler is pretty content to sit on a lap in an adirondack chair and just get cuddles and watch the fire for half an hour, and then a great time is had by the preschooler when someone gets to (safely help an adult) aim the hose at it before we go inside. I had previously thought of “nights around the fire as something that took hours and planning, but it turns out its a perfectly great way to enjoy the challenging 5:30-6:30 slot!

    1. @Courtney – I love this! Yep, it doesn’t have to be an ordeal, and that hour needs to be filled somehow…

  5. One thing that has helped a lot is keeping really good longish kids books on hand. My son’s homework includes 15 minutes of reading, and it makes it way more fun to have something I want to read, and also for bedtime we read these books. Graphic novels mostly, but also some novels and funny picture books. So far Amulet was good (well, the art is good), and Harry Potter, and Loki: A Bad God’s Guide to Being Good, and Blue, Barry, & Pancakes, Max Meow, Dogman, and Hilo. I can think of others if anyone else is interested. It’s a really bright point in my day, listening to him giggle. But this takes time to research them and request them from the library; it doesn’t just happen, so I have to make time to do it. Even if you don’t have the mental energy to get yourself to read, somehow it can be easier getting yourself to read to your kid, or to read over their shoulder to help with big words.

    This is a bigger effort, but I’ve also started trying to create the things that I want to do in my town. For example, the price of coding classes went up and the quality went down, and I really felt like we should have a free kid’s coding club at the library, so with the help of a former student and the children’s librarian, I started it, and now we get to code with other kids in the evening and make video games. I’m really lucky to be in a town where other people do things like that, too: see something that they think should exist, and then they make it, and people show up for them. You can be the fun you want to see in the world. And it doesn’t have to be perfect to be fun. One mom’s club member hosted a Hocus Pocus movie night for Mom’s Night Out. She pushed the kids toys over to the side of the play room after bedtimes and opened a bottle of wine and invited strangers over, and it was awesome.

  6. Another thing we do with week night hours – which might be a good sponsor for Best of Both Worlds! – is Kiwi Co boxes. My sister bought my 7 year old a subscription a few years ago. They come to your house, and there’s little science things you can build inside, and little booklets with stories and more science info. They help time feel richer because they are always different.

    1. @Laura C – they are a sponsor! And yep, that can be a fun way to spend the evening – or a rainy Saturday for sure.

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