Tranquility By Tuesday (Or Some Approximation Thereof)

As part of my September reboot, I’m looking for ways to refresh my weekly routines. I want strategies that encourage personal accountability, with a healthy dose of flexibility. The older I get, the more I realize there is a sense of freedom that comes from establishing boundaries. And, since I’m an adult, I actually have a lot of autonomy over what boundaries I choose to set – or break through!

Enter Tranquility by Tuesday.


I know some readers here follow – and have even been actively involved in contributing to – Laura Vanderkam’s work on time management. (Sarah is co-host of the Best of Both Worlds podcast and Lisa was recently a guest on that show!)

So the timing of her newest book, Tranquility by Tuesday, is fortuitous as I’ve been feeling a desperate need to “calm the chaos.”

You know this. I’ve talked at length about the challenges of renovations, overnight company, parenting, work, health issues, negative storytelling, and lots and lots of water woes. (I discuss plenty of positive things too, but there has been a liberal sprinkling of chaos and frenzy in my life recently. I’m sure you can relate.)

Most of you only know these details because you read along in my little corner of the internet, which I finally got off the ground – and into the cloud, pun intended – after participating in Laura’s Tranquility by Tuesday time study back in 2020/2021. So writing about her book in this space brings the experience full circle.

(By the way, I’m not being paid or perked to talk about the book, I just really love the message and Laura’s delivery. The fact I make a few cameo appearances – she discusses how one of her rules spurred me on to finally launch this blog and references the giant chalk Chutes and Ladders game we constructed in the driveway during a COVID lockdown, among other things – is just a giant cherry on top.)

Laura starts off by suggesting that “people want…to stop feeling like they’re either racing against the clock or wishing time away.” At the very least, most of us are likely working toward the same goal: increased satisfaction with how we spend our days.

I know I am.

So over a series of weeks, back in 2021, I – along with 149 other people – systematically implemented her nine rules aimed at “calming the chaos.”

TRANQUILITY BY TUESDAY RULES

  1. Give yourself a bedtime.
  2. Plan on Fridays.
  3. Move by 3 pm.
  4. Three times a week is a habit.
  5. Create a back-up slot.
  6. One big adventure, one little adventure.
  7. Take one night for you.
  8. Batch the little things.
  9. Effortful before effortless.

There’s a lot to unpack, which may be why Laura wrote an entire book detailing strategies to most effectively incorporate these rules into daily life.

Every “rule” – and I use that word loosely because she never comes across as a drill instructor – felt doable and broadly applicable. More importantly, several rules were specifically designed to bring more fun/adventure into everyday activities. And I think that final point is key: she’s not just suggesting we alleviate pain points (though she helps with that, too) – she’s encouraging readers to actively schedule time for joyful pursuits.

While all of us have unique challenges and privileges, we share the same time constraints of a 24-hour day. But the stories we tell ourselves about those constraints can make all the difference in how we structure our lives. Tranquility by Tuesday provides practical suggestions for how to prioritize the energizing parts of life, while effectively dealing with the mundane – but largely unavoidable – managerial aspects.

We can participate in a community soccer league and be someone who manages to get our garbage to the curb on Thursday morning.


After I completed the time study a little over a year ago, no one was there to lecture me if I didn’t Move by 3 p.m.; I didn’t get weekly reminders to Plan on Fridays.

In lieu of any oversight, did I stick with the rules perfectly? Not even close. I’ve already admitted to the appalling state of my bedtime this summer. I almost never planned on Friday. I frequently picked away at little things inefficiently throughout the day instead of batching. During one low point, I ate onion rings and chocolate in response to catastrophizing about how long it had been since I had been running – instead of getting up off the couch and, you know, actually going for a run (the epitome of effortless before effortful?).

But her strategies have influenced my thinking. A lot.

I show up here at least three times a week which, according to Laura, makes my writing a habit.

Would I have been as open to packing in so many summer adventures without her One big adventure, one little adventure rule? Unlikely. It was thinking about this rule that inspired me to invite a friend to go out for ice cream one night…without kids. It was delicious and a highlight of my summer. This rule spurred me to pursue a second Broadway show in New York City (which, ironically enough, Laura went to see with her son a few weeks later).

Her Move by 3 p.m. rule was the subconscious nudge I needed to start my daily walking routine (which I’ll do today for the 265th time in 2022).

Last Saturday I got up early and did a gentle yoga video instead of lounging in bed because I knew doing something Effortful before effortless would set the right tone for my day. No onion rings required.

I’m trying hard to Give myself a bedtime. For two weeks now I’ve carved out time to Plan on Fridays, and this intentional “appointment” to structure the upcoming week has felt both efficient and, oddly enough, comforting.

Last Friday, after tackling an outdoor painting project with a friend (a big adventure for me, a self-declared DIY novice), slogging through hours of a work backlog, and making even more renovation decisions, I Batched the little things. I sorted paperwork that had accumulated for weeks in an office drawer, paid credit cards, and completed an online order. I had time to do the painting job because I had Created a back-up slot (I even said “no” to a last-minute meeting pitched to land right in the middle of my Friday morning back-up slot).

I planned an hour-long lunchtime walk with a friend on the first day of school and, later in the week, an evening walk with another friend. So I took time – even if it wasn’t always at night – for myself.


Undoubtedly the fact I got to test-run these rules in my own life has given me a special interest in this project. But as someone who regularly reads time management and productivity literature, I think this is an especially great book in this genre – and not just because of my sprinkling of appearances.

Laura’s writing is practical. It’s also funny and highly relatable. I described the book to someone – both topically and stylistically – as healthy comfort food for my mind. And that’s exactly what I need as I ease into a new season at work and home. She references wanting to be a “good steward of life’s possibilities,” and I feel the same way.

Admittedly, stumbling along with my own application of these rules hasn’t led me to a state of tranquility (I’m thinking I might be too high-strung to ever achieve “tranquility”?). But they have made me feel better about how I use my time. They’ve made me more mindful of my autonomy to choose well. While it’s tempting to consider a complete life overhaul, sometimes what we really need is the inspiration to finally launch a little writing space online or pick up a dusty guitar…or commit to a 10:30 p.m. bedtime (this last one is harder than it sounds).

Early in the book she writes: “I believe the big pieces in your life are probably good. I don’t want to change those. I want to change how you spend an average Tuesday.”

Well, today is an average Tuesday. I’ve written a blog post, I’ll walk the kids to school. I have a slew of meetings ahead. Likely there will have been some little adventure sprinkled in and around the remaining hours. And hopefully I’ll get to bed on time.

Your turn. It’s an average Tuesday for you, too. How do you plan on spending it?


P.S. If you’ve never heard of Laura before, I highly recommend following along with her blog. You can pre-order her book here; it launches on October 11th.

P.P.S. And because you know I love a good quote, here are some of my favourites from the book (I got an advanced galley version because of my participation, and pre-ordered my hardcover copy last week!)

Going to bed early is how grownups sleep in. [Sing it. After the shambles of my summer bedtime routine, I’m recommitting to this rule.]

There is no right way to do a morning routine. A morning routine exists to serve you. [Mornings are not. my. thing. and it’s very nice to not hear “Your life would work perfectly if only you got up by 5 a.m.” I can’t, I won’t, and Laura isn’t trying to make me.]

…strategize ways to ignore, minimize, or outsource anything that you’d like to spend less time on. [This is definitely an issue for me. I tend to crave control over everything, even if holding on to responsibilities that could be outsourced or – better yet, eliminated altogether – is driving me further into the chaos.]

When we don’t take real breaks, though, we take fake ones, which explains how you lost forty-five minutes the other day looking through photos of a high school classmate’s dog on social media and then clicking on ads for stylish pajamas. [I’m not on social media, but I still fall into this trap because, let’s admit it, dogs and cats do some pretty funny things that make for a great diversion from writing a thank you note or taking a walk!]

Tuesday will pass one way or another. All time is eventually just water under the bridge. But thinking about how we’d like to spend future time can nudge the course of the stream toward something more fun, or at least more memorable.

There is a big distinction between “never” and “not as much as I want.” [It reminds me of the wise relationship advice to avoid starting a sentence with “You always…” or “You never…” because, in reality, these blanket statements are typically both unhelpful and untrue.]

We don’t ask “where did the time go?” when we remember where the time went. [I have NEVER felt like a summer lasted as long as this one. And while it’s true that we started things early, I think the main reason this summer has felt so long is because it has been filled with highly memorable adventures – especially our never-ending quest to find public bathrooms on our road trip.]

Seconds tick forward with the steady beat of a metronome, and yet we experience time in vastly changing ways depending on what we’ve done with it.

To plan adventures each week, we have to plan our weeks…with a satisfying emphasis on planning what we want to do, and not just what we need to do. [I do like the spontaneity of heading out in search of unplanned adventures, but there is a special satisfaction of anticipatory delight when we plan adventures in advance. And anything can become an adventure if we make it so; see next quote.]

…adventure is more a state of mind than an objective standard of measurement.

To qualify as an adventure, something needs to be enjoyable, awe-inspiring, meaningful, or at least generate a really good story for parties. [I mostly love this quote for her permission to classify something as an adventure solely on the basis that it makes for a “really good story for parties.” This reminds me of The things that go wrong often make the best memories line I say regularly.]

A lot of time when we feel tired, it’s not necessarily our bodies are lacking energy, it’s that our minds need change. Kathleen Paley [Yes, yes, yes!]

Tasks expand to fill the available space. When we give them less time, they take less time. [Simple but brilliant. And we all know this to be true.]

Ultimately, there are no prizes given for enjoying your life the least. And there are no prizes given for being too busy to get what matters done. If you like how you spend your time, great. If you don’t like it, change it.

She borrows Brigid Schulte’s description of small pockets of time throughout our day as being “time confetti.” [This description made me smile! It sounds like something Ingrid Fetell Lee would say if she were writing on the aesthetics of time. Time confetti = a minute here, two minutes there that we can turn into something that is, if not overtly productive, fundamentally joyful.]

Header photo by Nong V on Unsplash

22 thoughts on “Tranquility By Tuesday (Or Some Approximation Thereof)”

  1. Great summary, Elisabeth! I need to order my copy, too. I enjoy Laura’s books as well. The advice in this one sounds do-able but challenging enough to provide some real structure. I could see how following 9 rules, all the time, could be difficult though, unless you really keep tabs on it (like Laura has been doing her “scorecard” each week, which I assume would help to keep the rules front of mind). I’m glad you recognize that there have been benefits, even if you haven’t been 100% and have not yet turned into a zen master. 😉 I’d say you NAILED the big/little adventure thing. 🙂

    1. I think my nature is to try to follow things 100%, but I’m not enough of a upholder to do this. So I like that Laura’s suggested “rules” have inherent flexibility – even saying that three times a week makes something a habit feels liberating. Other rules I’m trying to tweak for my current situation/preferences. For example: taking one night for myself doesn’t necessarily feel like the right fit for me right now. I did this last year and it started to feel like such a hassle to be locked in to an evening commitment, juggling childcare requirements for that etc. But prioritizing a solo run while the kids are at home with John (which I did last night), or going on walks with friends can be my version of “Take one night for you.”

  2. Thank you so so much for writing this – you are so sweet. I do not follow the rules perfectly either! Always a work in progress. It’s just that in general the week goes better when I do, so I keep working on it.

    Congrats on launching the blog and keeping at it (three times a week at least!). And that Chutes & Ladders driveway game is brilliant.

    1. Hey, Laura! My pleasure. It’s a great book and it’s fun to see it all come full circle.

      The driveway Chutes and Ladders was pretty cool – though I was sore for a week (it takes a surprising amount of squatting to do this much elaborate chalk work) and it rained within 24 hours!

  3. Hahaha, it must be early because when I read this I was like “Plan on Friday to do what?” Finally I realized it’s to make plans when it is Friday, not plan to do x on Friday. What can I say, it was early!
    You were in a book! Yay! That is amazing and that giant chutes and ladders game is really something.
    Those are great tranquility rules! What a lovely and practical set of rules to live by. Those are great quotes too. I heard Lisa on that podcast but didn’t realize there was a book as well!

    1. My planning on Friday is relatively quick and painless. I mostly just scan my calendar for the following week and get a sense for pressure points (e.g. a day with a lot of meetings). Sometimes I schedule things in weeks or months in advance – like next week has an orthodontist appointment that I could easily forget about because I slotted that in back in June! – so it’s a quick refresher so I know what’s headed my way.

      I was in a book!! My name isn’t there (which makes sense since there were 150 people doing this time study), so it’s like an “Easter egg” hunt for me. There were multiple times when I read quotes and thought: I either have a twin out there that thinks/talks just like me…or that was a comment I made. But I knew the website launch + Chutes and Ladders was definitely me. The whole process has been very fun!

      I loved Lisa’s appearance on BOBW! This book is distinct from the podcast, but Laura touches on some of these rules in various podcast episodes, where relevant.

  4. That is VERY cool that you participated in the study for this book! And you’re in it!!! I want to read it. It sounds like great advice on how to make life more fun, which we all need. And believe me… I know how hard that 10:30 bedtime is! I’m not achieving it either. Maybe I will after I read this book. I’m putting a library hold on it right now.

    1. It was very cool! Thanks for sharing my enthusiasm, Jenny!

      And yes, my summer bedtime demerit was horrific but I’m doing relatively well at sticking to my 10:30(ish) goal now that we’re back into the swing of school routines, which concretely require early mornings to get the crew up, fed, and out of the house on time.

  5. i like Laura’s work too although I never read her books but used to listen to her podcasts. they are practical and implementable.
    Monday used to be chaotic for me but by writing my plan out monday morning for the week, it helps me to calm my mind, less overwhelming.
    these rules make sense and I think I naturally follow them like bed time (before 9pm), move before 3pm (I always workout in the morning), batch small things (I like to cross to-do lists first thing monday morning if I can), but definitely more to work on like small and big adventures, one night for myself. I guess it really depends on what brings me joy. I actually enjoy spending time with my family before bed time every day instead of a date night with husband or friend, because before bed time is really when everybody is relaxed and reflective of the day. My girls love to come and hug me and ask me how my day go and what was the best part of it.
    oh.. i need to work on the 3 times a week is a habit, for my blog… hahaha…. it brings me joy and I should keep up.

    1. I can’t remember when I first stumbled upon Laura’s work, but I loved Off the Clock (I think I picked it up randomly off a library shelf?). I find her writing both matter-of-fact, but also gentle, and with lots of flexibility.
      It sounds like you’re already implementing lots of these “rules” in everyday life!

  6. Elisabeth, that chutes and ladders game! Genius! Appreciate your thoughts here. I am someone who struggles with planning and organization despite trying hard, so I enjoy new ways of approaching both.

    1. It was pretty fun! Sometimes things are just more exciting on a giant scale. It’s a bit like the Harry Potter life-size chess board!

  7. I’m not familiar with this book and the advice it holds. I like the rules, presuming I can tweak a few as need be. I’ll be thinking on this during the coming week because I like structure and getting things accomplished with ease. As for my Tuesday, yesterday, I rarely have tranquil ones, but Wednesdays? They seem to flow by without any trouble.

  8. Oh my goodness, I didn’t know you were part of the TBT project!! How awesome!
    I need to order my copy. I’ve read all of Laura’s books and love them, and having you feature in this one will make it extra special.
    That driveway game is GOALS!

  9. I love that you were part of the TBT process and have some cameos in the book! I love Laura’s work, too. I was introduced to her when a friend suggested the podcast when I was pregnant with Paul and I’ve been reading/listening to her content since then and have read several of her books. I plan to read this one, too. I think I’d have to pick from the list of 9 suggestions as tracking 9 feels like a lot in my stage of life. But I could pick and choose depending on what i”m focusing on in my life at that time!

    My Tuesday last week was pretty hectic. I flew to Charlotte at 7:30, landed and immediately went to lunch with a co-worker and then got walked around the floor so I could meet a bunch of people. And then I left around 5, checked into my hotel room and had dinner with a good friend. It was a very full day with LOTS of socializing and being “on” with the exception of the dinner with a good friend. I could relax and catch up so that was the best part of my day!

    So the one rule I would never need to track is ‘give yourself a bedtime.’ Maybe this will be a challenge when my kids are older but right now, I am ruthless about having my lights out by 9:30! But my kids are early risers and we leave the house at 6:45 on week days so I know my morning will be miserable if I stay up too late. I will break that rule very very very occasionally but I’m a stickler about my bedtime!

    1. With those early wakeups, a 9:30 pm bedtime seems like a must!!

      I still can’t remember quite who/what recommended Laura, but I started with Off The Clock and thought it was so practical and promoted positive growth without sounding overwhelming and then started listening to BOBW and reading her blog etc.

      I’m not tracking things too closely (as in every rule every week), but having the general guideline of the rules at the back of my mind is genuinely helpful in this busy stage of life!

  10. This sounds very intriguing – I think I heard about Laura and her work on your blog for the first time and I am now subscribed to her blog. I am intrigued to read her book(s), too. I am constantly trying to “improve” time management (if that is even possible).

    I often feel “rushed” during the daily grind, but there are times when I am able to “slow down time” and I am trying to figure out what it is that makes that happen… (I have a suspicion that some of Laura’s rules could help with that).

    1. I think Tranquility by Tuesday is my favourite book so far; I also really enjoy Off the Clock! Everything just feels very doable. There isn’t anything complicated and there is lots of leeway and no “You must do things this way exactly to get the outcome you’re looking for.”

      I’d love to hear what you think once you read the book – and if you find the various rules help you “slow down time” a little more frequently!

  11. I have never listened to or read anything by Laura Vanderkam, but this makes me think that perhaps her content might resonate with me. Then again, I know what I need to do to take control of my life (so I know the ‘rules’, at least for me) but… implementing them is a whole different story. I’m not entirely sure how to get over that hurdle.
    I hope you are able to maintain the bedtime routine (sleep! you need your sleep!), and that you find more effortful (yet enjoyable!) activities to push out some of the effortless. I love that definition of adventure, and hope to find ways to engage in more adventures… somehow. Again, it’s the doing, not the knowing what to do, that’s the issue!

    1. I really enjoy how she uses practical stories of REAL women (I know because I’m one of them!) to explain the “rules” – I definitely recommend this book.
      The sleep has been going better, though I am still feeling pretty tired at some point each day. Oh well, I know I’m getting caught up on my sleep deficit and hope that translates into daytime energy soon!!

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