Tranquility By Tuesday #9: Effortful Before Effortless

Tranquility By Tuesday #9: Effortful Before Effortless
Disclosure: some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Affiliate income allows me to keep producing free content for this blog.

Doing meaningful things doesn’t require more time. It requires better use of time. We all know that mindless scrolling and social media are not a good use of limited free time. (But they’re so enjoyable!) By applying Tranquility By Tuesday’s* Rule #9, Effortful Before Effortless, you can have your meaningful and your social media.

I Do This, Don’t I?

When I first read this chapter, I felt kind of smug. Because after giving up social media a few years ago, I don’t waste my time on it.

But after really looking at how I spend time, I find that I have other effortless activities that are crowding other things out.

For instance, I am prone to play endless word games on my phone. As a result of this, I have strict limits set on my phone.

Another example: I have a tendency to get lost in a book (and not one that does anything other than provide pure entertainment). A the worst, I can lose 3 evenings a week. As a result of this, I have limits set on my phone and tablet for Kindle.

And there are other activities, which were shown up by a time audit.

Just because I don’t do social media doesn’t mean that I don’t lose large chunks of time to effortless activities.

Forcing Myself To Do Effortful Activities Backfires

This is where my inner child comes out with a case of the “won’ts”. I have tried to schedule more meaningful activities in place of my effortless ones, and after about three days the inner kid pitches a fit.

Even scheduling an evening for nothing doesn’t fix this.

Weeks still go by without me engaging in things like puzzles, crafting, reading non-fiction, listening to podcasts or reading articles.

The only effortful activity I regularly engage in is Duolingo. And I think that is because the app reminds me relentlessly to use it.

Effortful Before Effortless

This rule turns these things on their head. It doesn’t say “give up all social media and television”. It doesn’t say “you have to limit your effortless activities.”. It definitely doesn’t say “choose better things do with your time.”

All it says is that you engage with something that requires a bit of effort before you engage in those effortless activities.

What This Looked Like For Me

After I thought through this, I decided that I would give it a try. I’ve been spending a large chunk of my leisure time since the new year reading mysteries or crafting while watching television.

I figured out a list of 17 things that require a little bit more effort and I now engage in those first.

Some of the things on my list are practicing percussion; walking to the corner and back; listening to a podcast; reading a saved article; reading a non-fiction book; organizing a drawer or a surface; and exploring a new technology.

None of these take very long. In fact, the longest, listening to a podcast, sometimes is what I end up doing when I am crafting.

But what I have found is that I am getting more things done that have meaning. I can say “I knit a scarf last month” or “I read 3 non-fiction books so far this year” or “I learned about ChatGPT”. All the bragging rights, and I still got to watch my British murder mysteries.

Keeping It Going

For me, having the list of choices was crucial. But like so many other things in my life, out of sight out of mind.

To combat this I put my list of 17 things on piece of paper and laminated it. I look at it after my tasks are done and before I engage in anything else.

It doesn’t mean that some nights I choose to just vegetate. I still do. But more often than not I will work something effortful in first.

* Denotes affiliate link