Week 10/2023: Three times a week

Week of 6 March 2023

Tranquility by Tuesday: Chapter 5

Three times a week is a habit.

As well as James Clear’s Atomic Habits, which I’ve been writing about in the last few weeks, I’ve been working through Laura Vanderkam’s book Tranquility By Tuesday.

Planning on Friday, which I wrote about in week four, is still a hit and miss process for me (more miss than hit) and I’m experimenting with ways I can make it work for me.

In the mean time, I moved on to chapter four, Three Times a Week is a Habit.

My first thought on seeing this titles was, what is she talking about? I have to do a habit every day and I have to track it on my fancy habit tracker and be motivated by the unbroken chain of days I did [insert habit I want to do every day here].

Like this. Kind of.

A circular habit tracker with four rows of 31 boxes, two labelled "morning writing" and "massage ball" and days coloured in up to 14
Spacemakers Habit Tracker

Well, yes.

And no.

There are activities that you want to (or used to until the kids came along or some other life changing event happened) do every day but, even with the best will in the world, you simply don’t have the space. So what do you do? Just not do them at all?

Laura says no. She says not doing “a lot” is better than doing nothing at all. There is, she says, a big difference between “never” and “not as much as I want”.

Of course, there are some habits we really need to do every day. For me, these include moving for at least ten minutes, getting outside, brushing my teeth, doing my shoulder exercises (and the massage ball breaks), and going to bed on time.

But, Laura suggests, there are many things that don’t absolutely have to happen daily and don’t even have to happen at the same time every day, to count as “happening regularly”. Doing them regularly is better than not doing them at all. She suggests three times a week counts as regular, and that for many things and for many people, this is doable.

Once or twice a week doesn’t feel like enough because that means there’s five or six days we haven’t done the thing. That’s most of the week, but three is somewhere in the middle.

She also suggests many people consider “daily” habits things they do Monday through Friday, and they don’t count weekends. And, she says, those Monday through Friday habits often only get done three or four days rather than all five. This means many people realistically only do a “daily” habit three or four times a week, yet we have seven days available to us. We need to look a the whole week, not just the work week.

Laura notes that the middle of the week is actually 5 pm Thursday, which to many of us feels like the end of the week. But we have just as many hours left in the week at that time than we’ve just had. So, she reasons, perhaps we have more time than we think to fit in those things we never have time for.

And Laura says there’s no reason why we have to do the thing at the same time every single day. An example she gives is eating regular family meals, which might not be able to happen at 6 pm every day if you have multiple people with conflicting schedules. But, she says, maybe you already have Sunday dinners together, so that’s one. Maybe you make Friday family pizza night and start a Tuesday morning breakfast club. And voilà! You’re a family who regularly eats together.

So let’s say my ideal is to write for an hour every day. Okay, not an hour if I go back to James Clear’s “start with the smallest thing possible”. Half an hour? Fifteen minutes? One sentence? Open Scrivener?

Okay, writing something.

A lot of writing advice says I have to get up early to fit that in before I get on with the rest of my day. That means 4.30 or 5.00 am.

I’ve done this before. It didn’t work very well. I have zero intention of doing it again because I know how important sleep is. I’m not currently in a position to be able to move my bedtime back any earlier so that I could get up at 4.30 and still get enough sleep. I’m absolutely not getting up at 4.30 or 5.00.

Let’s assume that I already have a habit of writing for five minutes every day as part of my morning ritual. Five minutes; one sentence, same thing, really . . .

Ahem. (See the habit tracker above. It’s happening.)

And let us further assume I wish to supplement this with three longer writing sessions during the week, rather than fall into the perfectionist “an hour a day or I’ve failed” mindset.

All I have to do, according to Laura, is find three time slots of 30 minutes to write. Maybe one day in the morning. I can’t do it in the mornings where I have to go to work because I need to factor in travel time. But what about the days I don’t go to work? What am I doing in the time I would be travelling? Or travelling home?

Maybe I could do it another day at lunch time. Maybe one day after work. Maybe I have time on the weekend. That’s four already.

I have plenty of time slots, so what’s stopping me?

And that’s a question for the next post.

Week 10 summary

What was the best thing about this week?

I went out on Sunday morning to make some photos. It’s the first time I’ve been on a photowalk since I was in Sydney in January.

I found a couple of interesting things, wondered what was going on at the old Shiploads site in Sandy Bay, and got home before it started raining.

Site of a demolished house seen through a wire fence with a lime green former supermarket building in the background
There was a house here last week

I know they’re planning on redeveloping the old shop site, which is why Shiploads has gone, but have no idea if the house demolition is related to that.

What did I learn this week?

If I turn off caller ID when I make calls (because I don’t want work related people to get my private number), and forget to turn it back on, people for whom I’m a contact can’t see it’s me calling and don’t answer the phone.

I also learned that external doors on houses swing inwards and on public buildings they swing outwards so that people can get out quickly if they have to evacuate. I feel like knowing this will help me open a door the correct way when I’m going in and out of a public building more than the “push/pull” sign on the door does.

What I’m reading this week

  • A Question of Age by Jacinta Parsons
  • Breath by James Nestor
  • If We Were Villains by M L Rio

Habit tracker

  • Morning ritual (Goal = 7): 7
  • Move (preferably before 3 pm) (Goal = 7): 6
  • Morning writing (Goal = 7): 7
  • The Little Red Writing Book exercises (Goal = 5): 0
  • Listened to writing podcasts (Goal = 2): 0
  • All five physiotherapy exercises (Goal = 7): 6
  • Four exercises (Goal = 7): 6
  • Mental health break outside during my work days in the office (1 day): 1
  • Finish work by 5.30 (Goal = 5): 5
  • Shut my computer down before 9.15 (Goal = 5): 5
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