Tranquility By Tuesday #4: 3 Times Is A Habit

Tranquility By Tuesday #4: 3 Times Is A Habit
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When I first started Tranquility By Tuesday*, I was sure there was going to be nine things I had to do in addition to what I was already doing. The first three rules bore that out. But rule #4, “3 times is a habit”, actually took things off my plate.

The Trap Of Personal Development

I’ve done a lot of reading and trying of new systems over the years. And the one thing all of them had in common was to tell me I needed to additional things – or at least do things differently – in order to reach whatever they were promising.

Some systems advocate doing everything every day. The thought is if you work on something, even a little bit, you are making progress. All it did was make me frustrated and frantic when things went off schedule.

Some programs tell you to figure out your big tasks and let the little ones fill in between. For those who do not have a staff [insert link] this means that things important to our lives don’t get done.

So the first three rules of Tranquility By Tuesday* (Give yourself a bedtime, Plan on Fridays, Move by 3pm) indicated that this would be a similar trek.

When Daily Habits Aren’t

As the book points out, most things that people consider daily habits really aren’t. They get bumped for other things, or completely change on the weekends.

Is it really a daily habit if you don’t do it every day?

I drove myself crazy, telling myself that I needed to find time to exercise, read, practice music and learn a language every day. I had been taught early in life that these things have to be done every day, or my skills would backslide.

I know this to be false. I have gone years without playing my main instrument, and I can get back to where I was in a couple months of targeted practice.

Daily Habits as a Cause of Guilt

The problem with the mindset that certain activities (excluding hygiene) have to be done daily is that I developed an all-or-nothing attitude toward them.

I can’t exercise today? I might as well skip it for the rest of the week and start again next week.

I can’t play music for an hour today? I might as well skip it. (And this is really bad, because practicing correctly for 10 minutes is as good as an hour incorrectly)

Through the years I had developed a heavy all-or-nothing attitude, coupled with a heave dose of perfectionism. This is not a good way to be tranquil. Or productive.

3 Times A Week Is A Habit

Tranquility By Tuesday looks at the daily habit issue and gives a pass: anything you do 3 times a week is a habit. So I can claim exercising regularly if I do it 3 times in a week. Same with practicing music, reading, crafting, or studying a language.

Once I read that and internalized it, something shifted inside me. Looking at what I had done, I could see that I was doing most of the things three times a week. And I didn’t need to feel bad about not doing them more.

Using the Weekly Plan

It got even better when I started incorporating time into my weekly plan.

I could easily fit in 3-4 sessions of exercise. Using the lunch hours of the days I worked at home, one after-work session when I was in the office, and a Saturday morning block.

I could fit in half hours of music practice, sometimes 5 a week.

Following this, I found that not only could I fit in the habits, but I also didn’t feel like a failure when I had a super-busy day and couldn’t manage to do things.

3 Times Is Enough

By applying this rule, I found that I could ease up on myself. I didn’t have to eke out time every day to do the things I considered habits (again, hygiene excepted). I could schedule the time and know I was still going to be better than doing nothing.

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1 Comment

  1. Mike

    Thank you for this series; I’m really enjoying how you’re engaging with the book and sharing what you’re learning. I’ve bought a copy for myself now.

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