Three times a week part 2

Tranquility by Tuesday

Three times a week is a habit: Part 2

Last time, I talked about Laura Vanderkam’s wonderfully freeing idea that rather than beating yourself up because you can’t do [xyz wonderful thing] every single day so you don’t do it at all, by doing it three times a week, you’ll still achieve a lot and it’s streets better than doing nothing.

Laura suggests one way to identify potential time slots in which to do [xyz wonderful thing] is to track your time for a week.

Laura is, I believe, the Queen of time tracking, and she runs regular challenges where people can time track along with her for a week. She says that if you want to use your time better, the first thing you need to do is work out where your time is going now, so you can make changes at the right places.

Her method involves recording what you’re doing every 15 minutes (or 30 minutes). I used Laura’s 15-minute paper tracker because I could carry that around with me more easily and fill it in on the go more easily than I could an Excel spreadsheet.

A table headed "Maanage your time - 168 hours time management spreadsheet" with columns Monday to Sunday and rows 5.00 am to 12.45 pm in 15-minute increments
Laura Vanderkam’s time tracker

I managed to stick with it for about three and a half days.

I didn’t identify any great chunks of time available for me to do my [xyz wonderful thing] that I didn’t already know about. However, I did notice when I was making myself write down everything I did, I spent a lot less time scrolling social media. At least for the first couple of days. It was like I didn’t want to look back over the week and see huge blocks of time where I was mindlessly scrolling. (Like 45 minutes on Friday morning . . . )

So let’s say I’ve identified the potential time blocks for my wonderful writing habit. I thought about that in the last post. Some of the time slots are more doable than others but I think I’ve got at least three slots that should work.

What’s stopping me doing it?

Back to Laura, who suggests there are two big reasons. I think they’re both pretty spot on.

  • Avoidance: I don’t want to do this because I might fail. If I have no time and can’t do it, it’s not my fault I’m not doing it. If I’m not doing it, I don’t need to take the risks associated with doing it. I can just complain I never get time to do it, knowing I’m safe never having to do it and, therefore, never failing.
  • Guilt: I don’t deserve to do the things I want to do because there are so many things I have to do. I’m wasting time on something that’s negotiable when I could be doing some “must do” task.

How can I address them?

Avoidance due to fear of failing is a mindset thing. There are entire books written on this subject. It’s one of my favourite excuses.

You and I both know what a shit excuse it is.

The only way I know of how to deal with that is to acknowledge the fear and do the thing regardless. If I wait for the fear to disappear before I take action I’ll still be waiting in 50 years time.

Just sit down and do the thing and don’t worry about failing because, at the start, I’m going to. In order to get good at something, I have to be bad at it first. Cringeworthy even.

Something I read the other day from photoartist Sebastian Michaels summed this up beautifully. You have to make a lot of bad art before you can make good art. There is no other way, so, he says, you might as well get the bad work over as soon as possible. That is, get in there and do it. There is no ‘Art Police’ (or writing police, or photography police, or music police . . . ) lurking around your house to give you a ticket for bad work.

We all know this, right?

And as for the “guilt” excuse, I probably waste more time than 30 minutes three times a week on social media (last Friday, for example . . .).

If I can do that and not feel guilty about it, it’s a pretty shit world if I can’t waste the same hour and a half doing something I want to do for me.

And it is not impossible to find this time. I’ve already found it.

Doing the work

The first step is to work out which activities you want to do more frequently and choose one to focus on for the next week.

I have a few things, including Sebastian’s Photoshop courses that I’ve made up every excuse under the sun not to do, photo walking, and writing for myself (including working through the courses I’ve signed up for).

For this exercise I chose writing, which I last did over the Christmas break.

Then you need to find three times (of about 30 minutes) in the next week you could do it. You could use your week of time tracking to identify blocks where you didn’t use your time well that you could repurpose for this. Or you could look on your calendar and see where you have free time. Or you might already have an idea of times when you don’t have anything planned and could do this activity.

I’ve got a good idea of some general times when I don’t have much planned and I’m going to experiment with some different time slots to see what works. This week, I’m going to try 11-12pm on Sunday, 2-3pm on Tuesday and 8-9 am on Wednesday. I’d normally have time on Saturday afternoon too but next week I won’t.

The last part of the exercise is to think of things that might prevent you from doing it and figure out how you can address those challenges.

I think the main ones for me are

  • Something completely unexpected comes up and takes out an entire day or half day. I think having a backup time slot would cover this.
  • I get distracted by online distractions—which is the whole reason I signed up to Freedom. So I need to pre-set that to kill my internet at those times.
  • The time comes and I don’t want to do the thing because I hate schedules. I suppose the answer to that is to ask myself what do I want more? To avoid the schedule or to actually make some progress on work I say I care about.

[Deep thought emoji]

That’s the plan. Now watch me try to get out of it!

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