Laura Vanderkam on How Parents Can Find Tranquility by Tuesday
Would you like to have tranquility by Tuesday? My guest, author, productivity guru, and mom of 5, Laura Vanderkam, is going to tell us how. Laura is the author of several time management and productivity books, including the one we are discussing today, Tranquility by Tuesday: 9 Ways to Calm the Chaos and Make Time for What Matters. I’ve long been a fan of Laura’s books, and so I was excited to talk with her about Tranquility By Tuesday, and honestly, since reading it, I’ve started incorporating some of her strategies into my world as I try to be more mindful and aware of how I spend my time. The results have been pretty great. I know so many of you are dealing with overwhelm and burnout — my hope is that you’ll take away one or two nuggets that you can play with in your daily life to move the needle closer to tranquility.
During our conversation, Laura shared her definition of tranquility, the common myths that get in the way of building more peace in our lives, and why it’s so important for families to have adventures together. She also shared multiple strategies that I promise are easy enough to implement. And again, even though they might seem like small shifts, they can have a big impact in your world.
About Laura Vanderkam
Laura is the author of several time management and productivity books, including the forthcoming Tranquility by Tuesday: 9 Ways to Calm the Chaos and Make Time for What Matters. She is the host of the Before Breakfast podcast and the co-host, with Sarah Hart-Unger, of the Best of Both Worlds podcast. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and five children.
Things you’ll learn from this episode
- Laura’s definition of tranquility and pushing back against the perception of not having enough time
- Advice for parents who want to better manage their energy and find tranquility by Tuesday
- The barriers and myths that get in the way of building peace and tranquility
- Strategies to poke holes and reframe the stories that we tell ourselves
- Why it’s so important for families to have adventures together
- Simple “rules” or guidelines that can be game-changers in your daily life
Resources mentioned for Tranquility by Tuesday
- 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam
- The New Corner Office: How the Most Successful People Work from Home by Laura Vanderkam
- I Know How She Does It: How the Most Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time by Laura Vanderkam
- Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting Stuff Done by Laura Vanderkam
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Debbie Reber 00:00
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Laura Vanderkam 00:24
I think when people hear self care, they’re like, Well, I’m going to take a bubble bath. But the problem with the bubble bath is you can do it whenever. And your bathtub isn’t going anywhere. And so you’re taking that bath winds up being contingent on life not being busy, or somebody else not wanting you to do something else, which means that it just doesn’t happen. But if you are in a choir where your attendance is expected, right? Then you go like you go even if life is busy, and you go even if you’re a little bit tired, and you go even if your kid is waiting for you to drive them to the mall, like you will go and they’ll get to the mall some other time, and you’re gonna be feeling more energetic by doing this thing. So that’s the upside of making a commitment even if you do have a very busy life.
Debbie Reber 01:09
Welcome to Tilt Parenting, a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. I’m your host Debbie Reber. My guest today is author, productivity guru and mom of five Laura Vanderkam. Laura is the author of several time management and productivity books, including the one we’re talking about today. Tranquility by Tuesday: Nine Ways to Calm the Chaos and Make Time for What Matters. Laura is also the host of the Before Breakfast podcast, and the co-host with Sarah Hart Unger Have the Best of Both Worlds podcast. So true confession, I have long been a fan of Laura’s books. And so I was really excited to talk with her about Tranquillity by Tuesday. And since reading it, I’ve started incorporating a few of her strategies into my world as I try to be more mindful and aware of how I spend my time. And honestly, the results have been pretty great. So that’s why I wanted to share Laura’s work with you because I know that so many of you, like me are dealing with overwhelm and burnout. And my hope is that you’ll take away one or two nuggets that you can play with in your daily life to move the needle closer to tranquility. Because these days every little bit helps. During this conversation, Laura defines tranquility for us the common myths that get in the way of finding more peace in our lives, and talks us through some of her nine ideas for creating more tranquility and joy in our lives, including things like the power of planning on Fridays, why three times a week is a habit, creating backup slots for priorities, planning, family adventures, and more. So I hope that you experience what I did and learning about Laura’s strategies for creating more tranquility. Again, even little tweaks can make a big difference. And when you’re raising a differently wired child, bringing more tranquility into our lives can truly benefit our whole family dynamic. Before I get to that, if you are newer to Tilt Parenting, and you haven’t yet taken my Differently Wired 7-Day Challenge, I invite you to join nearly 4000 other parents and caregivers and sign up. When you do, you’ll get a two minute video from me every day for seven days highlighting one practical, actionable thing you can start doing right away to make a real change in the way that you think, feel and act in relation to your child. You also get a mini downloadable workbook to keep track of your progress. And again, it’s totally free to sign up visit tiltparenting.com/sevenday. Thanks so much. And now here is my conversation with Laura.
Debbie Reber 04:03
Hey, Laura, welcome to the podcast.
Laura Vanderkam 04:05
Thank you so much for having me excited to be here.
Debbie Reber 04:08
Yeah, I am looking forward to this conversation. I read your book, as I was telling you before I hit record on the beach. And so I was really in a great space to absorb all of an already feeling quite tranquil, frankly. So it was a really good match for learning more about what you’re going to be sharing with us today. But before we get into that, I always ask my guests to introduce themselves in their own words and connect that back to their personal why.
Laura Vanderkam 04:33
Yeah, so I’m Laura. I write books on time management and productivity, this new one tranquility by Tuesday, but I’ve also written several others such as 168 Hours and I Know How She Does It. I’m also raising five kids. So experiencing the fun of parenting children who are all very different from each other, which is, you know, fun to figure out as they get bigger and see where their personalities develop just a constant like Get detective case, you know, how do I work with this particular one? And how do I work with this one, and I’m not sure I’ve entirely figured that out. But keep working at it. And of course, you know, having this professional work that I enjoy doing, because I love talking about issues of time and how I spend it. And then also figuring out how to manage my own time as I run a household of seven people, that’s my why, like, I want people to feel like they can do things that have an impact professionally, and also really enjoy their family life as well. And I know that sometimes it can feel challenging. But I think that in the 168 hours we have each week, we can make space for everything that matters to us.
Debbie Reber 05:44
Yeah, I love that. And I, again, I think that’s why your overall message. And this book in particular is so important for my community. First of all, you know, I’ve one child, so the whole time I’m reading your book, I’m like, Oh my gosh, this woman has so much credibility, because you really are in it. And I love that. But I also just love the positivity. I mean, one of my bigger goals is to help parents find confidence in joy, and peace and raising their kids. And so again, it just really resonated with me, and I’m excited to share your message. So can you tell us about the book we’re talking about today, Tranquillity by Tuesday? What was that spark that made you say, I have to write this book?
Laura Vanderkam 06:23
Yeah. So Tranquillity by Tuesday came out of the realization that as I’ve given all sorts of people, time management advice over the years, people in all different walks of life, a lot of it boiled down to the same ideas, I found myself giving similar advice, even to people whose lives were wildly different. And so at some point, you know, amid the pandemic, as we’re all figuring out what we’re doing, I started holding it down, and figuring out well, what, you know, could I make a list of this advice that I give people most often, and so I wound up with nine time management roles that I think are pretty close to universally applicable, anyone who feels like they’re doing a lot in their life will probably feel better if they follow these rules. But because I write self help for busy people, I really don’t like to just say, Hey, I have an idea. You might want to try my idea, because you know, people have lots of ideas thrown at them. So I wanted to test it out a bit more empirically. So I recruited 150 people to try out these nine rules. And for what I began calling the Tranquility by Tuesday project, people would learn a rule, they would answer questions about how they plan to implement it in their life. A week later, I would check back and they would answer questions about how it went, you know, any challenges they faced, that they expected or didn’t, and I could measure them in various ways all through the nine weeks of this project before and after. And I’m happy to report that the people who did follow these rules, or at least tried to follow these rules, who humored me for nine weeks, did see that their time satisfaction scores rose to a significant degree. So I feel like these rules do in fact, help people. And that’s why I’m sharing them with the world.
Debbie Reber 08:13
Yeah, I love that you took this research approach to it, I really appreciate it. So for every rule, you share, you give feedback, specific feedback, why this worked, how it changed how it impacted different people. And I, just as a research geek, I like to go down the rabbit hole, I really appreciated all the kinds of data that you included. But before we get into talking about some of the rules there are a couple of concepts. I would love to hear your definition of the word tranquility, because that might be interpreted as something completely different for everybody listening.
Laura Vanderkam 08:47
Yeah, and tranquility is kind of a tricky word. And I will admit that I first chose Tuesday, as I was coming up with a title. I first chose Tuesday because to me, Tuesday has always been the most normal day of the week, like Monday has its own baggage of starting the week Friday. We’re always like, you know, thank goodness, it’s Friday weekends that are different from weekdays. So I guess looking at that it could have been wellness by Wednesday are thriving by Thursday, but we wound up with tranquility by Tuesday, tranquility, you’re looking it up in the dictionary, the various synonyms are things like serenity, and they kind of have this context of almost being up on the mountain tap and you know, in their silent retreat. So I first just saying I like that it doesn’t really work does it? But then I thought about some other definitions. If you think about like the famous serenity prayer that recovering alcoholics play, it’s not about like, yeah, life is going great, right? Everything’s working. It’s about finding peace in the middle of life that is challenging, crazy, hectic, occasionally chaotic. Can I still find calm in the midst of all that? And I think many busy people you know, particularly if you are ready As in children, you know, managing family life, we always say this phrases to ourselves like, oh, well, next week when life is less busy, I’ll do this or next month when things calm down, or maybe after the holidays, when things are calm, then I’ll get to that. It’s not gonna happen, like life is not going to be less busy next week. So we need to find ways to achieve whatever calm, whatever orderly way, we can have a sustainable joyful life right now, even in the midst of all the chaos. So these rules are aimed at allowing us to do that.
Debbie Reber 10:29
Yeah, I love that piece in the middle of life. As you were talking, I’m thinking about this idea of acceptance, which is a concept I talk with my community a lot about. And because I used to chase this vision of acceptance, accepting, you know, my child’s unique wiring, and all that comes along with it as reaching this state of kind of Zen bliss, where nothing fazes me. And, of course, what I have learned is that place does not exist. And it really is about being in the moment, and being able to find the bright spots in the moment, being able to come back to presence when things get hard. So I like this idea of tranquility because it’s finding that peace, that calm even in the middle of chaos, and not all the time. But knowing that we can come back to it. I’d also love to just briefly touch upon the concept of time. So again, you mentioned your book, 168 hours, you have more time than you think which I read, you know, back when it came out. And I know that the lack of time, or the idea that there’s not enough time is a huge barrier for a lot of parents in my community, especially when I talk about things like self care and things like that. So I guess, when we’re talking about time, what would you want listeners to know about time that they may not realize?
Laura Vanderkam 11:45
Well, for starters, that there are 168 hours in a week, that’s a number that a lot of people do not know, which is interesting, because many people will say 24/7, and yet multiplying it through, I guess, is one extra step that we don’t do. But it’s an important number, because it tends to show us that time is a bit more abundant than when we are looking at it from just a 24 hour perspective, like things don’t have to happen daily, nor do they have to happen at the same time every day in order to count in our lives. So oftentimes, if people are thinking about something like, you know, exercise, and like, I’m gonna need to go to the gym, but they’re like, but wait, I can’t go to the gym for an hour every day at you know, 7am or 7pm, or at lunch, or whatever it is, I can’t do it every day, and then you talk yourself out of it. Because you know, there isn’t a perfect time that works every single day. But if you accept that things just have to happen a couple times a week, in many cases, well, then that’s a different story that’s like, well, maybe one morning, you know, I go work out and maybe one night after work or after family responsibilities, I can trade off with my partner, if I have one and maybe just do something on the weekend. It’s like, hey, you know, you exercise three times a week, which is a reasonable amount. So I just think thinking in terms of 168 hours in a week allows us to look at our lives more holistically and often more compassionately. And so that’s, that’s something I would really stress people start to thinking about.
Debbie Reber 13:12
Yeah, I love that. And just to touch upon what you mentioned three days a week, that’s actually one of your rules three times a week as a habit. And I really appreciated that. Because I think we do live kind of in an all or nothing culture in so many ways. And there’s so much messaging, like it takes 30 days to build a habit, and you have to do it every day. And so even just having you say, actually three days, and you show us how we can kind of squeeze something in in three days or find the time and then it doesn’t have to be at the same time. And that just felt very freeing to read that, you know.
Laura Vanderkam 13:44
Yeah, I’m a big fan of sustainability over intensity. And because my experience is that intensity is, by its nature, hard to sustain, those words are kind of opposites. And so we’re better off finding things that we can stick with for the long run. And the funny part about that is with the 30 day challenges, or the daily habits or whatever, is oftentimes when people will tell you that they have a daily habit. They don’t do it Monday through Friday, but that is not daily. That’s five times a week. Right? And so you know, and if people don’t do it on holidays, or vacations, or if they’re sick or whatever else, like then we start the number starts getting a lot closer to three times a week anyway. And so why not just accept that from the get go like we are aiming for three times a week for many things, not everything, you know, you should probably brush your teeth more often than three times a week. But a lot of habits can become part of our identities as long as we are doing them regularly. And I think three times a week is a defensible mark for regularly it’s also very doable because often when people think about the things that they would like to have be part of their lives, be it practicing a musical instrument or like I said going to the gym or having family meals, you know, they feel like they’re never doing these things but they look back Over the past few weeks and find that maybe they are doing them, sometimes they’re just doing them not as much as they want, but not as much as I want. It’s a very different story from none. And if you see that, well, hey, we do generally eat together once or twice a week, it was like, Well, can you get to three? That’s a very different question, then can we all sit down at 6pm, Monday through Friday to a fully cooked dinner? That’s not the question. The question is, can we add one more time that we’re eating together as a family? And then hey, you’re the kind of family who eats meals together, which is pretty exciting.
Debbie Reber 15:28
Yeah. And it’s non judgmental, and it’s also self compassionate. So I really just appreciate that reframe. I also wanted to just talk about the concept of energy. Same question, what do people not know about time, a lot of parents raising differently wired, kids may be burned out, they may feel like they’re just energetically tapped out from the demands of their kids, or absorbing their kids energy or trying to co regulate all the time. So what would you want listeners to know about their energy management?
Laura Vanderkam 15:57
Well, there’s a couple of things that we can realize about energy management, some ways we can add to our energy levels, holistically, two of the rules are about doing that, giving yourself a bedtime, because there is nothing in life that is improved by sleeping less, right, so many adults cannot change what time they wake up in the morning, because we have to get up for work or family responsibilities at a certain time, which means the only variable that can move is the time you go to bed the night before. So we want to set that time, at a certain time, that you can then build your evening around getting into bed at that time. And when people do this, they get the amount of sleep they need every single night. Like you approach your days entirely differently, you’re not constantly either exhausted or crashing, and then having to you know, have your body devote time to sleep that you really would have preferred to devote to other things. And then you know, another rule is to move by 3pm. So this is, you know, I said, you go to the gym three times a week, but just walking for 10 minutes, you should do 10 minutes of physical activity in the first half of every single day. And it doesn’t have to be crazy, it can be walking up and down the stairs at your office, it can be walking around the block at home, like if you walk your dog that counts. You know, you walk your kids to a bus stop and back briskly that can count, but just something to get yourself up and moving. And doing that consistently, will also massively increase your energy levels too. But once we’re doing those sort of holistic things, energy is really about the stories we tell ourselves. Oftentimes, when we feel exhausted, it’s not that our bodies necessarily are exhausted. I mean, they may be if we’re not sleeping enough, but you know, if we’ve got that in place, it’s often that our minds need something different. Like we’re doing the same thing all the time. That’s what we’re burnt out on. So can you put things in your life that you are genuinely looking forward to? One of my rules is to take one night for you. And I know that self care sounds like dippie, and whatever, like I hate the phrase, too. So I’m thinking of this as more of like active self care, like commit to something once a week, that is not work, and is not your family responsibilities. It is something else, I sing in a choir. I know people who play in like a tennis League, people who volunteer somewhere regularly like serving in a soup kitchen, you know, every Thursday night, whatever it is, but something that energizes you, and is different from your other responsibilities, like you wind up looking forward to this sort of thing all week, and it just completely changes your energy. So you know, just consider doing something like that. I know, the logistics are challenging. I know. But honestly, I think it’s important for parents, especially those caring for children who may have, you know, particularly profound needs to have a little bit of resilience in your caregiving here that you are not the only person who knows how to manage them. And because something could happen to you, right, like, and if you fail, you know, you’ll figure that probably your extended family and community would figure something out if something absolutely terrible happened to you. Okay, but then they can also figure something out for two hours on a Tuesday night. Right? So let’s try to take advantage of that.
Debbie Reber 19:03
Yeah, after reading your book, I will admit I signed up for but I have not gone to. I live in Brooklyn and I just found out that there is a kind of a rock choir group like a pop rock choir group and there’s no auditions, you just show up for rehearsals. And so that is I have signed up for it last night was the first night so I’m just putting this out there listeners you can ask me you can email me if I’ve gone that will give me some accountability because I really respond well to pressure in that way.
Laura Vanderkam 19:31
You should go and here’s the thing, it might not be perfect. Like it might not be life changing when you go to this particular thing but it’s the idea of doing it because as you start doing it, then you’ll figure out well if this isn’t perfect, let me find another I’m there. I’m pretty sure that Brooklyn has dozens of choirs if that’s what you want to do. Or if you want to play in a rock band like you can find that like you’re you’re going to find something and being in the mindset that you can take that time and that you are entitled to that time will get you thinking about What would be the exact right thing to do?
Debbie Reber 20:02
Yeah, exactly. And again, I use the term conscious maintenance, I talked about this a lot, that it really is not an optional thing for parents to do. And you’re not talking about a full day at the spa, you’re talking about this little window, something to look forward to, something that’s doable, something that’s just for you. So I really like that strategy.
Laura Vanderkam 20:23
And ideally committing to it, can I just throw that out there, because I think when people hear self care, they’re like, Well, I’m going to take a bubble bath. But the problem with the bubble bath is you can do it whenever, and your bathtub isn’t going anywhere. And so you’re taking that bath winds up being contingent on life not being busy, or somebody else not wanting you to do something else, which means that it just doesn’t happen. But if you are in a choir where your attendance is expected, right? Then you go like you go, even if life is busy, and you go, even if you’re a little bit tired, and you go even if your kid is waiting for you to drive them to the mall, like you will go and they’ll get to the mall some other time. And you’re gonna be feeling more energetic by doing this thing. So that’s the upside of making a commitment even if you do have a very busy life.
Debbie Reber 21:12
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Debbie Reber 22:04
Before we get into a couple more rules, are there any other myths that you frequently find yourself kind of busting that get in the way, just maybe excuses would be another word, but when talking about these concepts, and how to build more peace and tranquility into your life, and people are like, Well, I would love that, but like any other things that get in the way?
Laura Vanderkam 22:25
Well, certainly we just talked about this story. Many of us tell ourselves that either our workplaces or our families could not function in our absence. You know, I’ve certainly had people say things like, Well, what, I can’t just go out for the evening, I’ll just come home to a mess, like, okay, but you could work that out too. But you know, maybe it would be worth a mess on occasion just to do something different. Instead of, you know, hating your life. But having a pristine house, I don’t know, maybe that’s something we could think about. But there’s also other issues that come up, we talked about that, that three times a week is a habit mindset. And this churned up some interesting issues for many people who wanted to maybe do creative aspirations, you know, for a couple of times a week, right? Like, so somebody have in their mind, like, I used to love to paint, let’s say, and so I’m going to try to make time three times a week to paint and then it would surface this issue that they had been telling themselves for years, well, unless I’m going to spend three hours in front of my easel, it doesn’t count or you know, a real artist would be at her easel every single day. And clearly as a busy person with a job and a family, I can’t do that. So therefore, it’s not my fault that I’m not doing it. And so you sort of put it out there as like, oh, well, I can’t do it anymore, as opposed to saying like, Okay, I could do it for 30 minutes, three times a week, and see how it goes. Because when you do it 30 times, minutes, three times a week, another thing happens, which is that it isn’t any good. Like the work that you’re creating is just not great. And I mean, that’s just reality. I mean, you haven’t painted for 20 years, and you know, you start doing it for just a little bit like you’re not going to produce a masterpiece. And I think that’s totally great. Like, it’s just about doing it. But people who are holding themselves to this standard of like, if it was going to be daily, it’s gonna be three hours a day, and I need to make a masterpiece. Like that’s really hard. That’s really hard to accept that it’s just kind of junk and just doing it a little bit. And so, you know, people had to really work through that and be like, well, you know, a, it’ll probably get better. But if I truly enjoy it for its own sake, like who cares? Like, who cares? I’m doing this because it’s fun and because I plan to exhibit in the Louvre.
Debbie Reber 24:33
Right? And so, when people have stories that they’re telling about what’s possible, or what maybe is impossible because of their unique life, circumstances, their family makeup, what’s happening with their kids. Do you have strategies or thoughts on how to kind of maybe poke holes in that or create evidence to reframe, is it just trying to take these little steps and then capitalizing on them having this inner monologue about what we’ve done and just kind of trying to be more present in those moments.
Laura Vanderkam 25:02
I think it’s Yeah, I mean, one of the reasons I have people just work through these rules and try them out, is, you know, I’m not saying you have to do this for the rest of your life. It’s a suggestion. Like if people don’t like the word rules, like try strategies, try any, you know, suggestions that you might see if it works out. And so just saying, Well, I’m just working through these rules, we’ll see how they go. You might be surprised. I mean, you might hate it too. I don’t know. Like, I don’t know how you’ll react to it. But it might be worth just experimenting, and seeing if there’s something you like, or something you don’t and keep an open mind, right? Like, maybe you do come home, from your first choir rehearsal to a giant pile of dirty dishes in the sink, does that make you so mad that you never want to do it again, or you can be like, hey, you know, nobody’s going to bed until this is put away, like, so everyone get back down in the kitchen and get it done in the next 10 minutes. And then we’ll go from there. And you know, people know, they’re not going to get out of it, just because you’re not there. Eventually, they’ll make their peace with it, too. So you know, keep an open mind. And if you find yourself feeling more joyful when you do something, it might be worth pursuing. Even if there are some challenging logistics, and maybe people will push back on it. But yeah, that also might not I think we often tell ourselves is certainly I just can’t do X because I am, whatever, well, probably there’s somebody in your life that is doing X and has similar circumstances. So you know, if it’s not destroying their world, maybe you can just try it out as well.
Debbie Reber 26:30
Yeah, I think a lot of this is disrupting patterns. And that’s something that reading your book in general made me just kind of be more conscious about how we spend time, even though I haven’t set a bedtime. My sleep is you know, since I hit this perimenopause, joyful phase of life, my sleep has been crap. But I have been working on it. And even just being more mindful about when I go to bed and trying to make them more regular. I haven’t set the bedtime yet, but I am going to do it since I have already made some shifts. And one of the other strategies that I really like, and not only my doing it, but I’ve looped my 18 year old into doing it, as well as planning on Fridays, can you talk about that strategy or that rule?
Laura Vanderkam 27:14
Yeah, so this is rule number two is to plan on Fridays. And sometimes people you mentioned, the five kids asked me the question of how you do it. And I really hate that question. But if I was going to give an answer, the Friday planning is the crux of it, which is that I take about 20 minutes on Friday, at some point to sit down and think about my upcoming week. And I think about what is most important, and what is most important in three spheres of life, career, relationships, and self. So these are often steps toward larger goals. Or maybe it’s something that I already have on the calendar that I want to be aware of, and note and make sure I’m fully prepared for and mindful of because I have identified it as a top priority. So after I’ve done that, then I go through and look, what else do I need to do like what needs to happen next week, I make sure there are things that I am looking forward to over the course of the next week. And then you know, see if there’s any logistical problems that need to be solved. But by taking a few minutes to focus not just on what’s happening, but what’s important, I find that things keep moving forward. And I can usually spot large problems ahead of time, with enough time to solve them or come up with other solutions that I might think of. So yeah, I suggest people try doing this Friday. Everyone needs a designated weekly planning time. Because then you get in the habit of having this regular time where you know, you will think about your life. So then you can even start sending notes to yourself at that time, you’d be like, I’m gonna think about this, that and then you think about it, then and think if you want to do it or not, or whatever. But it also, you know, Friday is a good time. Because for starters, many people are not doing much like at least by Friday afternoon, they are sliding into the weekend. It’s really hard to start anything new, but you might be willing to think about what future you should be doing to turn what might be wasted time into some of your most productive minutes of the week. But beyond that, I think even people who you know, enjoy their jobs, for instance, a lot of good stuff in their life, they can get sort of a little bit of trepidation towards Sunday night people call the Sunday scaries and what that tends to be is that you know, there’s all these projects waiting for you you know, there’s there’s various problems you have to solve, you know, there’s a lot of work coming up, and you don’t have a plan to deal with it. And until you have a plan your brain is going to keep churning through it thinking about different possibilities. But if you have ended Friday, knowing what the plan is for Monday, then you give your brain a chance to just relax and you might be able to enjoy your weekend more.
Debbie Reber 29:45
Yeah, for me that was the game changer and in talking with Asher about it as well. And for a lot of our kids Sunday’s suck by Sunday morning like anxiety and the dread of the coming week or school or whatever is starting To creep in. And so having that conversation on Friday, we’re only a few weeks into it. But the idea is, and what I think is happening is that it is making our weekends more enjoyable, and especially Sunday. And so we can just kind of enjoy Sunday because we know that we’ve already planned things out. So I really love that strategy. One of your rules is one big adventure, one little adventure so, and we did a little. I’ll just say that our family did a little adventure. This past weekend, we went to a park that we had in visited called Shirley Chisholm Park, and they have a bike library. So we got some bikes out of the library, when we biked around, just beat the rain, but it was just a little outing, we were there for an hour. It was like perfect, new sights, new, all the things. And I just loved that morning. So I thought of this rule. We did that. But can you talk about why it’s so important for families to have adventures together?
Laura Vanderkam 30:54
Yeah, so this role is one big adventure, one little adventure. And what that means is each week, due to things that are sort of memorable and out of the ordinary, a big adventure can be just like three to four hours. So they Kapha weekend day, little adventure less than an hour, you know, so doable in a quick morning thing, or you know, even on a lunch break or weekday evening. And the idea is that in adult life, we tend to have our routines and many days look exactly the same. And there’s nothing wrong with that, like, you know, routines make good choices automatic, so I don’t want to disparage routines. But too much routine stacked up means that our brains stop making memories, like there’s nothing to remember, there’s nothing that distinguishes one day from the other. And so these whole years can start to disappear into memory sinkholes. And people always think that time goes faster as you get older. Well, time marches along at the exact same rate all the time. But we were creating more memories when we were say, age 16 to 25. Like for most people, that is the height of memory making in their lives, everything is new, exciting, like you’re doing stuff you haven’t done before things are out of your comfort zone. And so your mind is laying down all these memory tracks. So we’re not going to relive that, of course. But I find that doing two memorable things a week creates a good balance between everything being routine. And this idea of you know, life being crazy. Two adventures a week is not going to exhaust or bankrupt anyone. But it is going to stop making time feel always the same. The phrase I use for people is that we don’t say where did the time go, when you remember where the time went? Right. So create a memory, that’s what people are going to remember is if you have specific memories and memories are formed by doing something that is in some way, novel, or intense.
Debbie Reber 32:45
Yeah, and when we’re doing things on autopilot, it’s harder for us to be present, it’s harder for us to just be attuned to what’s happening in any given moment, because we are in this kind of default mode. So that’s also what I really love about this is and I also do in a slow down time. So I know, and I’ve read studies about how even just like drinking your glass from the opposite hand or like changing things up will kind of make time expand as we get older. So I really appreciate that. There’s two I want to just touch on and then we’re gonna wrap up. So rule seven is a waste less time. And I kind of want to connect it with rule nine, which is the one that really impacted me which is effortful before effortless. When you say waste less time that again, something I’ve really been mindful of since reading your book. So just explain what you mean by that. And how we might do that.
Laura Vanderkam 33:35
Well, waste of time was kind of the umbrella thing to sum up rule eight and rule nine was rule eight is to batch the little things, which is about making sure that you know all the paperwork that parents wind up doing all that forms and invitations and everything else like choose a time for it, designate a time for it rather than having it always be an option. Because you want to leave time open for deep work or relaxation or anything else that you might want to do the effortful before effortless rule is about flipping the automatic order of how we tend to experience our leisure time. Like, you know, if you look at how leisure time often occurs for people who are raising kids, you know, in the busy years of their lives, it tends to be in these small chunks through the day, you know, like five minutes while you’re waiting for a phone call or you know, 10 minutes while you’re waiting for the carpool to show up. Or it’s at night, like after the kids go to bed, for instance. And then you have very low energy. So we’re talking about time that is either uncertain and shortened duration or time where you have low energy. And so screentime fits these constraints incredibly well like you can be scrolling around on social media for two minutes or two hours like it’s still there. Right You know, it doesn’t make any demands of you. And the same with like, you know, binge watching TV shows or whatever. This is passive leisure. It is effortless fun, and there’s nothing wrong with effortless fun. Like you know, there’s a lot of great shows out there. I’m not going to say anything about that but The problem is that because it is effortless, it tends to consume the bulk of our leisure time. Even though there are other forms of leisure that in the abstract people claim they would like to do more. So things like hobbies, reading, crafting, talking with friends, anything along those lines, those are effort full fun, like they require a bit more effort. And because they require effort, we don’t automatically do them. So the rule to do effortful before effortless, is to challenge yourself to just do a few minutes of some form of effortful fun, before you switch over to the effortless variety. So if you are picking up your phone in a five minute chunk of time, where you have leisure, instead of automatically going to Instagram, for instance, put ebooks on your phone, and like read an ebook for two, three minutes before you switch over to Instagram. And then you can do Instagram for the rest of your time. Or at night, if you are going to watch TV, before you do that, spend 15 minutes doing a puzzle. And then you can watch you know selling sunset for the rest of the night. But it’s just a flip the automatic order because it does a couple things. One, it’s like often you just keep going with the effort for fun because it is more pleasant than whatever you are going to do. And screens you get into your book. And so you keep reading it or you know, you make progress in your puzzle. And so you just keep doing that rather than, you know, starting to stream something. But even if you don’t, you’ll get to do both. And you will make some space in your life for the kind of leisure that people definitely feel they do not get enough time for.
Debbie Reber 36:35
Yeah, and again, this is the one well, a lot of them have kind of been playing in the back of my mind. And I’m definitely again being more conscious and mindful of certain things. This is the one for me, because I am so good at time management in multitasking and doing all the things but I have a stack of books that I just don’t ever get to. And so what I’ve been doing after I clean up my husband cooks most nights, and then I clean up and then rather than just sit on the couch, I say listen, I’m gonna go read for a bit. And I have this orange chair that I never used to sit in in my bedroom, and I go there with the book, and just doing that for like a half hour. And then I still get the other time. But I feel so good that I’ve made progress or that I’ve attended to this other need that I have that I most of the time ignore. So I really love that strategy.
Laura Vanderkam 37:25
Oh good, I’m glad you’re making more time for your reading, then that’s wonderful. Glad to find that.
Debbie Reber 37:29
So am I thank you for that, Laura. So before we say goodbye, I just want to know, again, like I know that so many of my listeners are on the brink of burnout, or maybe are in burnout. They’re just feeling overwhelmed. And how do I manage all of this and any kind of last thought word of wisdom about why this is so important, or how this doesn’t have to be a huge thing, how we can kind of even make a change with making some little tweak some words of inspiration there.
Laura Vanderkam 37:59
Yeah, I’m really coming to see it. I think the opposite of burnout isn’t doing nothing like it’s engagement, like it’s engagement with life and finding something that you are genuinely looking forward to, that feels energizing to you. And it might take a little bit of effort to think about what that is, or maybe you know, but maybe you don’t, but it’s worth trying to even just change an hour a week. Like if you can, you know, find one hour and the week that you are genuinely looking forward to that can change the entire experience of time. And then once you start making space for that in your life, you are going to be motivated to try to scale it up a little bit because it’s just going to feel so different. So it is totally fine to start small. You know, I always say like, people who read my books, they’re not dysfunctional people like sitting on the couch mitad stuff like disaster. They’re functional people. They get stuff done. They get people where they need to go. It’s just they don’t want life to feel like a slog. They want things that make life feel better, and it’s fine to take daily steps. I don’t want to change your whole life. I want to change, like some of the ways you spend your hours on an average Tuesday. And if I can convince you to make these little tweaks like doing the effort for fun before effortless fun or going for a walk in the first half of the day or getting enough sleep or maybe planning a little adventure for Tuesday evening. I think your experience of a Tuesday is going to be entirely different. And since our lives are truly lived in Tuesdays, that’s how we change our lives.
Debbie Reber 39:34
Yeah, that’s great. Thank you. Thank you so much and listeners. I will have links in the show notes for Laura’s book and books, various books if you want to check those out. The book again is Tranquility by Tuesday. The subtitle is nine ways to calm the chaos and make time for what matters and I would love to hear from you about what resonated and if you make a commitment to that one hour I love this idea that one hour out of the 168 just one out Work can make a big difference. I believe that I’ve experienced it. And I really encourage listeners to play with the concepts in your book. So, thank you so much for everything that you share today, Laura, it was just lovely to chat with you.
Laura Vanderkam 40:13
Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.
Debbie Reber 40:18
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