9 Practices to Make Time for What Matters

As part of my 2023 goals, I chose a book to read for each month of the year. January’s book was Tranquility by Tuesday: 9 Ways to Calm the Chaos and Make Time for What Matters by Laura Vanderkam.

In the book, Laura shares 9 steps that can help you in being more intentional with your time. I’ve included those below and also added a few ideas for implementation.

1. Give yourself a bedtime. Go to sleep at about the same time every night unless you have a good reason not to.

  • Figure out how many hours of sleep you need. Maybe it’s 7, 8 or 9. Then work backwards to figure out when you need to be asleep. Then add some buffer time to actually get ready for bed and fall asleep. For me, if I want to be up at 5:30, I need to be asleep by about 9:30 for 8 hours of sleep, and I need about 30 minutes to wind down before bed. This means 9 PM I need to be actively getting ready for bed. Setting an alarm on your phone can be a helpful tool to recognize when you need to start to prep for bed.

2. Plan on Fridays. Think through your weeks, holistically, before you’re in them.

  • This is one of my favorite tips because it’s been so impactful for me. A few months ago, prior to reading this book, I started to set aside about 15-30 minutes at work on a Friday afternoon to prepare for the following week. I also started to plan out meals and to dos for the week at home on a Friday evening. The benefit of a Friday over a Sunday or Monday is that you are still “in it” enough to know what really does need to happen the following week and can plan accordingly. You also then save yourself time on a Monday morning by doing it on a Friday. It doesn’t take a long time, but makes a huge impact.

3. Move by 3 p.m. Do some form of physical activity for ten minutes in the first half of every day.

  • I am a night owl by nature. But 5 or so years ago, I started to understand how impactful a morning routine that works for me can be. It’s changed my entire life. Getting some version of movement in during the morning is key for that. I can genuinely tell the days when I didn’t work out in the morning and my mood is very dependent upon it. I am a much better version of myself when I move in the morning. if for some reason a morning workout doesn’t happen, then I really try to make sure it happens over my lunch break. A 30 minute walk or bike ride or strength class is so helpful for that afternoon slump that can happen.

4. Three times a week is a habit. Things don’t have to happen daily to become part of your identity, and “often” can be more doable than “always.”

  • Something Laura shared in the book was that your “3x a week” doesn’t need to be weekdays. Many of us can have this mindset that if you work out on Friday – Sunday but not Monday – Thursday, it’s somehow less of a habit. That’s totally not the case. She encourages you to choose a 3 times a week schedule that will actually work for you. And then stick to it. Small progress compounds – so even if you don’t think three times a week is “enough” I assure you it is.

5. Create a back-up slot. Make a resilient schedule where your priorities still happen, even when life doesn’t go as planned.

  • Fridays are my back up slot at work and I keep an evening each week open from anything specifically to make sure I have buffer in my week when I need it. I schedule both ahead of time so that they are intentionally set aside for when I need it.

6. One big adventure, one little adventure. Each week, do at least two things that will be worth remembering.

  • This is the most impactful rule for me when it comes to mental health and joy. I never had a phrase for it prior to reading this book, but something I try to be really intentional about each week is making sure I have things to look forward to. A little adventure is something that’s maybe 1-2 hours that you enjoy. It could be going to a bookstore during an evening, a coffee shop, trying a new spot for dinner, having a movie night, or going to a sporting event. A big adventure is usually 4+ hours to a full day. I often use my big adventure for the Sabbath, or rest day, that’s planned during the week. This is usually a hike where Teddy and I will stop for lunch after. Sometimes it’s going antiquing and grabbing breakfast and going on a walk with the dogs. Whatever it is, we plan it in advance and have something to look forward to for the week.

7. Take one night for you. Commit to an activity you love that is separate from work and household responsibilities.

  • This one may overlap a bit with your big or little adventure but it doesn’t have to. You could play a sport in a local league like tennis, take a class on something you’ve been wanting to learn more about like calligraphy or photography, do something with a group of friends like join a book club, weekly game night or Bible study. There are so many options but what’s important is that you choose something you want to do.
  • The deal is, your partner gets a night for themselves as well so this may be an opportunity to switch off with them for dog or kid duty to ensure you each get a night to yourself to do things you genuinely enjoy.

8. Batch the little things. Keep most of your schedule clear from unimportant tasks.

  • Another simple but impactful rule. When I plan out my week, I try to batch any calls I need to make for the same day. Same with email responses that aren’t urgent. Or errands. Even certain cleaning will get batched. Rather than doing quite a few small things over varying days and times, it saves you time and effort to do them together.

9. Effortful before effortless. Do active leisure activities before passive ones whenever time opens up.

  • This has been a great one before we relax for the evening. So it can be dishes need to be done, or a certain room needs tidied, or something else around the house needs taken care of before we just hang out and relax. On weekends it can be that the errands need completed or meals need prepped before do the fun things you want. Some evenings, it looks like reading for 15 minutes before watching a show together. Doing something effortful, even for 15 minutes can make such a difference in how you feel before you do the effortless activity.

Think about which of these 9 ideas would be the most impactful for you to implement. Choose 1, yes just 1, and implement it for the upcoming week. See how it goes and then add a second in when it becomes more of a habit. By focusing on just 1 thing per week, it will make it easier to implement. I genuinely see how valuable each of these 9 ideas are, so I hope that you find them helpful as well!

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