Week 11/2023: Three times a week is a habit part 3

Week of 13 March 2023

Three times a week is a habit part 3

I wrote about Laura Vanderkam’s idea that “three times a week is a habit” earlier in the week. This approach is based on her view that people often don’t do “daily habits” seven days a week, and that, even if you wish you could do a thing every day, for a lot of activities, “something” is better than “nothing”.

Laura says doing a thing three times a week is enough for it to count as a regular thing, and this is something most people can manage.

One way you can identify blocks of time (she suggests around 30 minutes) to do the thing is by tracking your time for a week and seeing where you might be using your time less wisely. I did that last post.

Another way is to build a “perfect week” on a calendar. Laura suggests using the blank time tracker sheet, or setting up a digital calendar template.

The perfect week

You put in the way you wish you could structure your day: when you’d work, when you’d sleep and wake up, and then you see if you can tweak your actual week to make some of it happen.

That sounds like fun! You could set up a blank calendar on Google calendar and turn all your other calendars off and go crazy.

Or make a schedule that looks a bit like this which I know I would never actually do (and completely removes any family or social interaction!)

A weekly plan
The perfect week

But you get the idea.

As well as eliminating family and friends, I’ve replaced my day job with writing and photography, gone to bed an hour before I actually do, and built in a buffer time after lunch in case I need a nap. I could also move the days around if the weather wasn’t so good for outdoor things. And because most of the things are in three-hour blocks (the movement breaks within those are just assumed), I could shift afternoons and mornings around.

I could live that life. I could never have any appointments, would have no human contact and I’d get zero money so I’m not sure how I’d survive, but it looks kind of nice. Especially the 9.15 bedtime part.

I don’t think this is what Laura meant.

I think she actually meant to plan perfect week where you meet your real life commitments (going to work, doing your daily tasks, making dinner, visiting family, getting regular treatment for your sore back, shoulder and arm) and get to do “the thing” as well. And give yourself enough down time, rest and sleep.

I tried this too and ended up with a 21-hour paid work week.

A weekly calendar with time blocked out for personal projects
A more realistic perfect week

That’s 70 per cent of my current hours. It cuts my working in the office days back to one (like that’s ever going to happen), builds in buffer time for my ever-increasing medical appointments, has some spare time to connect with people and do stuff I haven’t thought of, and still gives me at least an extra 18 hours a week to work on my personal projects. That’s like a part-time job enough time!

Phased-in early retirement?

I’m sure I’ve missed stuff out from this week too.

I could play around with this for hours and not actually ever do the thing, and I don’t think Laura meant for anyone to do that.

So, back to reality and my real week.

As I said last time, the first timeslot I identified of my three was 11.00 to 12.00 on Sunday morning. It ended up being 11.15 to about 12.30 but it worked well. It was time for lunch after that so I had an enforced break. Breaks are important because of my injuries. I’m not meant to sit down for more than 30 minutes at a time.

The next two time slots to try are on Tuesday afternoon after work and Wednesday morning before work. Saturday afternoon is also a possibility but I’ll be out this Saturday so it isn’t going to happen.

So far, so good.

I also need a thing to track this new habit. Because it’s not a daily habit, using my daily habit tracker isn’t useful as it makes it look like there’s lots of gaps.

I think Cal Newport has some kind of method for tracking the hours he works but I can’t find that. This will do!

A table setting out three writing times with check boxes to mark off when I do the thing
Writing tracker


Week 11 summary

What was the best thing about this week?

Lots of good things happened this week. One in particular was watching Honeychild on Adam Liaw’s Cook Up on SBS on Friday night. She cooked her Spam musubi bowl, and I never thought I’d ever want to try a recipe involving Spam, but now I do!

Another good thing was it was a public holiday on Monday.

What did I learn this week?

I wrote a post for my photoblog on my adventures in Sydney, and I learned that there is a granite called Rob Roy. It comes from quarries in Sodwalls, near Lithgow, NSW.

What I’m reading this week

  • If We Were Villains by M L Rio
  • The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill
  • The Writer Laid Bare by Lee Kofman

    A book cover photo of a skull with the title If We Were Villains M.L. Rio
    If We Were Villains

Habit tracker

  • Morning ritual (Goal = 7): 7
  • Move (preferably before 3 pm) (Goal = 7): 7
  • 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): 7
  • Mental health break outside during my work days in the office (1 day): 1
  • Finish work by 5.30 (Goal = 4): 4
  • Shut my computer down before 9.15 (Goal = 5): 4
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