Here’s a 3 bullet summary of “Tranquility by Tuesday: 9 Ways to Calm the Chaos and Make Time for What Matters” by Laura Vanderkam. Through a time diary study of 150+ people, she shares that…
- You have more time than you think
- You should be more deliberate with your time
- You have time to get things done (and still enjoy life)
I enjoyed “Tranquility by Tuesday” as a nice year-end read in the same way that I enjoyed “Four-Thousand Weeks” by Oliver Burkeman to end the year last year.
It’s a reminder that there’s plenty of time to do things and that we should be more deliberate with time.
Where “Four-Thousand Weeks” points out how pointless it can be to try and completely control time (unless you also want to entirely remove relationships from your life), “Tranquility by Tuesday” shows how to be deliberate with the time you do have left.
You probably have time for that thing you want to do (if you’d just quit staring at your phone)
First, it’s worth looking at where your time is going in the first place.
To calm the chaos, we need to think about how we’d like to spend our time. We need to think about any stretch of time before we are hurtling through it. We need time to pause in the calm shallows and think about what we need to do, and what we want to do.
Vanderkam has tracked every half hour in a spreadsheet since April 2015.
You don’t have to do the same—but it can be good to track closely for a couple weeks. Similar to tracking calories and macros for a few weeks, you’ll get the slap of reality and also get a better grasp estimating things. That 5 minutes snacking mid-day was actually 400 calories.
That 2 hour writing session you were looking forward to actually ended up in only 30 minutes actually writing. That chore you were dreading taking hours only took 20 minutes. Etc.
I shudder to think of how much time I spend on the couch (not wanting to floss)
Vanderkam points out something that probably sounds stupid to many people but which resonates deeply with me:
…people mentioned the difficulty of mustering the energy to begin the bedtime process; one person wrote of being “too tired to get ready (stupid as that sounds).” But silly as it seems, the struggle is real; some research has suggested that we become less disciplined as the day goes on. Turning off the TV and going upstairs to brush teeth takes energy at a time when most people are depleted. It is easier to push the decision later, and then crash on the couch.
I’d wager a guess that I spend maybe 2 hours a week in this pre-floss state. Not all hours are the same. This is one of the worst states because it’s just about the least deliberate state to be in. It’s not leisure, it’s not productive, and it’s actively cutting into sleeping time.
It might be worth actively practicing getting out of this state.
One step forward: I have floss in all rooms—traditional thread in the bathroom and floss picks in the other room to just get things kicked off.
Plans have benefits even when the plans don’t happen
Plan, plan, plan:
There is a famous quote from Dwight Eisenhower (who himself called it a statement he had heard long before in the army) that “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” In a normal life context, just as on the battlefield, things seldom go exactly as planned. However, when you have thought through the logistics, you can pivot more easily than if you’ve never even pondered the possibilities.
One great practice from the book for longer-term planning: one big adventure one small adventure.
Each week, plan one big thing and one small thing to do that is out of your ordinary routine. Without this, multiple weeks can blend together and you’ll look back and the time has vanished/ With this, you’ll have more memories when looking back on the year.
It takes effort but it’s worth it.
Effortful fun is the best use of time (that people often don’t make time for)
Leisure is important. But we often default to spending free time on things that aren’t actually recharging. They take some effort but they’re worth planning for:
It might help to think of your favorite effortful fun as a quest. How can you find a handful of moments through the day to advance in this adventure? This nudges the mindset toward curiosity, rather than forced productivity. No one needs to use every minute. But on the other hand, I believe that even mere minutes are worthy enough not to be wasted. Anything we want to do in life takes time. Being willing to use the little bits opens up possibility—and far more joy than we might have imagined.
It doesn’t need to be skydiving to be effective.
These are more like suburban adventures. Try that workout class. Meet with the same friends but in a different location. Take that book you want to read but go to a coffeeshop to read it.
Go on the weekend hike with your dog, but pick a new hike each month.