Hacks to Make Life More Tranquil, More Fun and More Outdoorsy (Laura Vanderkam, time management expert)

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On the one hand is time management — using steps to get the most out of every hour. On the other hand is energy and having the bandwidth to get it all done. So what happens when you’re great at time management but always find yourself energy poor? You’ve got time to do everything you need to do, but lack the energy to get around to the things you want to do. Instead you feel rushed at best, or simply exhausted at worst.

In her new book Tranquility by Tuesday author and time management expert Laura Vanderkam lays out nine guidelines that she has found make a measurable difference in how satisfied people feel about how they spend their time. In this episode she digs into two of the nine and gives tips on how we can make them work for us.

Some of the good stuff:

[3:39] Laura Vanderkam pretty much just writes books for me

[4:50] Laura’s favorite outdoor space

[7:13] What is tranquility?

[9:37] What are the ‘Tranquility by Tuesday’ rules?

[12:44] Why is ‘three times a habit?’ And what does that mean?

[17:28] Intensity vs. consistency

[21:00] All about ‘one big adventure, one little adventure’

[24:15] There are no adventure police

[27:00] We’re back to intentionality again

[30:30] Overcoming inertia

[33:57] ‘Police the muscle’

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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.

Amy Bushatz: No matter who you are or where you go, heading outside even for just a few minutes is well worth it. Welcome to Humans Outside where we’re using the Humans Outside 365 Challenge to build a life habit around spending time in nature while learning from. Fascinating outdoor-minded guests. I’m Amy Bushatz.

I’ve let curiosity be my guide as a journalist for 19 years. But life, including my husband’s injuries from military service had us looking for a better way to live. So we moved sight unseen to Alaska to see if an outdoor focused life was the answer. Since September, 2017, I’ve spent at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single day, no matter what to explore, how nature can change my life. Ready to hear from experts and outdoor lovers who make heading into nature just a part of who they are while we work to do the same? Let’s go.

My personal obsession with productivity and time management started when I was a teenager in the nineties. In an effort to keep herself from going insane while homeschooling me and my many brothers and sisters, my mom turned to time blocking. I don’t know where she got the idea or who, if anyone, taught her the skill. But there it was one day, a color coded schedule of how I was going to spend every hour of my day from the moment I woke until the time I was supposed to have lights out. But it wasn’t until I met Laura Vanderkam in 2010 and read her newly published book, 168 Hours that I really understood what this meant for me as an adult. I, like many people, was leading a hectic life with a kid, spouse, career goals and hobbies that constantly got pushed to the side.

The idea that I could find time for all of that stuff was a huge relief and just the kind of challenge I find exciting. Practicing that by following Laura’s advice on how to manage my life and time was one of the key things that helped me understand that yes, I really could find time to go outside every day for that at least 20 minutes, something, you know, I’ve been doing every day since September, 2017. Laura has since become one of the leading experts on productivity and time management in the US and a prolific author on the subject. I’ve watched her advice and practice grow to answer the challenges as they come up in my own life. More and more I am finding that my problem isn’t about having enough time for things. I’m great at time management. It’s about having plentiful energy for the things I want or need to do, and matching my time to that energy. Which is why I was delighted to learn of her new project Tranquility by Tuesday, and very surprised that she wanted to include my 20 minutes of daily outdoor time as a plus up challenge to one of her recommended life tranquilty rules. In case you’re counting, yes, this does make two books by people whose advice I deeply value that I’ve had my own experience included in this year. Laura and Melody Warnick, who you can hear on the Humans Outside Podcast as well. So of course today Laura’s joining us to talk about her new book and give us her best insights on building a life with not just more time for doing things we love like getting outside, but the energy and forethought to make it happen without feeling constantly time and energy poor. Laura, welcome back to Humans Outside.

Laura Vanderkam: Thank you so much for having me back, Amy. I appreciate it.

Amy Bushatz: Well, I’m stoked to talk to you today about this. It is one of my favorite subjects in no small part because of your work. And so I really appreciate your time and I feel like you’re just writing books for me now. Thank you.

Laura Vanderkam: I am really, I mean, I It’s true. It’s true. I think What would Amy want to read? Yeah. And then that’s my next book.

Amy Bushatz: My therapist says that my energy lack is just my time of life, and I don’t really like that explanation. I think it’s just that I’ve gotten so good at the other thing that that now I need to get good at this thing. What say you?

Laura Vanderkam: Yeah. Well, I mean, we all do go through phases of life that seem a bit more taxing than others. And, and certainly many people when they are in the busy years of building a career, raising a family, it can in fact feel like there is just an overwhelming amount of stuff to be done that, every minute we have is spoken for.

And so, yes, it, it does become a question of not, not just, can you keep the, the trains moving on time, but can you actually enjoy the ride? Right? Yeah. Like, can you, pause in, in this hectic life to think about, well actually this is, this is good. Like, I’m enjoying myself. There are things I’m looking forward to, I feel energized to, to tackle my responsibilities.

And I think that’s the next level beyond just sort of figuring out who needs to be where, when.

Amy Bushatz: Right. Well, let’s uh, kick off our conversation today imagining ourselves in your favorite out outdoor space. Like we’re hanging out, having a conversation somewhere you love to be. And we’re of course with you. Where are we with you today?

Laura Vanderkam: So we are sitting on the porch of a beach house that we have rented several summers in a row for a week. It’s a great porch, big, room for everybody. So all, all your listeners can come too. Not really. We, we would run out of room, but it overlooks the ocean. It’s not a quiet beach there. It’s uh, in a town, so there’s a lot of people watching to be done at the same time. But it’s just always a good breeze right off the ocean. And it’s just my happy place.

Amy Bushatz: Awesome. Well, I love some good people watching, so sign me up for that. Well, rather than hear about how you became someone who loves to go outside, which is something we often ask, I actually wanted to ask you about your own Humans Outside 365 challenge. You kept the at least 20 minute habit for a while there and that’s of course what we are all about here. How did that go for you?

Laura Vanderkam: Yeah, so I have set that as a goal usually for the first quarter of the year. Uh, So I know you live in Alaska, so you’ll laugh about my feelings about cold and snow and all that, but I am in Pennsylvania where we do in fact have all four seasons and winter can we be just a wee bit dreary.

Obviously it’s cold, it’s often wet. And, and so, getting outside when it’s dark most of the day as well is not inherently an enticing proposition. But on the other hand, as you and many of your listeners have discovered, when you do go outside, you almost inevitably feel better afterwards.

You feel more energized. You get new ideas, you feel ready to tackle the rest of the day. So I have set that as a goal for myself for q1. For a couple of years to get outside for 20 minutes a day. And I’ve generally been able to stick with it, you know, to appreciate the wonders of the world. I mean, sometimes it’s just the wonders of the airport parking lot, when that is where you are for 20 minutes and that is the time you can have outside.

But there could be a really good sunset in an airport parking lot. The sky can look amazing even if you’re, you know, surrounded by people’s like rental cars. So, you know, it’s, it’s great. It’s I, I, I heartly endorse it as, as a challenge. .

Amy Bushatz: That’s fun. Well, listen, the the upper deck, it has less exhaust fumes too.

Laura Vanderkam: Yes. Although you’re less like, and you’re more likely to get snowed on if you leave your car there. So, it’s a, a give and take sort of thing.

Amy Bushatz: Pros and cons. All right. So talk to us about the idea behind Tranquility by Tuesday, which is the title of your book, your new book. Maybe first tell us what tranquility is, and whether it’s the missing piece that when we think about in time management, talk to us about that.

Laura Vanderkam: Yeah, so, I mean, honestly I was going for alliteration, so I guess we could have been wellness by Wednesday, thriving by Thursday, Serenity by Saturday. Uh, But I like Tuesday because Tuesday is the most normal day of the week, right? If you think about it, the other days all have various other things that we, you know, Mondays have their own baggage We’re thinking about, thank goodness it’s Friday. Weekends are entirely different. Tuesday is where, life happens. That is what the normal daily grind of life is. And so if we can change our feelings about Tuesday, we’ve really achieved something. Um, tranquility it means serenity uh, feeling calm amid the chaos. And you know, when I first heard the word and thought about things like serenity and tranquility, I kind of pictured like, monks on mountaintop uh, the silent retreat or something like that. But then I realized there’s other usages of the word too. If you think about like the famous serenity prayer that uh, recovering alcoholics pray. It’s, you know, about, the chaos of life and granting the serenity within the midst of that. And so that’s what I sort of see Tranquility by Tuesday as being about like, life is hectic. There are all these moving parts, but within that we can’t just tell ourselves, Hey, life’s gonna be more calm next week. Life’s gonna be more calm next month. And then I’ll do X. Like, it is not gonna be more calm next week. Like life is not gonna calm down. Life is not gonna be next busy it, it won’t be ne less busy next year, right?

Amy Bushatz: No.

Laura Vanderkam: So we need to figure out ways to achieve this calm amid the chaos now. And I, you know, the strategies in the book aimed at that. And, and are not the sort of typical things of cutting everything back. You know, I’m not interested in that sort of tranquility. I’m, I’m interested in active life enjoyment. And, and so that’s what this is about.

Amy Bushatz: So I, I have to say, I, like I mentioned earlier, love this stuff. Study your work. I study other people’s work. I like to think that I’ve kind of studied a lot on this and, and have some level of expertise in, in implementing this in my own life. And even I, who feels that way, learned some new tools and tricks in your book. So I really hope that people pick it up and, and check it out.

Those tricks and tools came from a list of rules. And I’m a rule lover. So here we are. But uh, that you’ve developed for achieving this, would you tell us what they are?

Laura Vanderkam: Yes. So there are nine Tranquility by Tuesday rules. And if you like rules, we can call them rules. If you are a listener who doesn’t like rules, let’s just call them strategies or suggestions, guidelines, nine suggestions that you just might wanna consider.

And the, the reason to consider them though is that I do know they work. So I had 150 people try out these nine time management rules over nine weeks, and I measured various changes in their life over the course. Um, Just, I mean, you want me to run through them? Like,

Amy Bushatz: Yeah.

Laura Vanderkam: So, okay.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah, Yeah. Give us what they are.

Laura Vanderkam: The first one they’re is to give yourself a bedtime. Second is to plan on Fridays. The third is to move by 3:00 PM. The fourth is three times a week is a habit. The fifth, create a backup slot. The sixth one, big adventure. One little adventure. The seventh, take one night for you. The eighth batch, the little. The ninth is effortful before effortless. And these are obviously all catch phrases that get at sort of bigger concepts, which are explained in the book and that I taught people, you know, how to actually implement in their lives.

But you know, in my study for the book, people would learn a rule, they would answer questions about how they planned to implement it in their lives. Then a week later I would check back in and answer, you know, they would answer questions about how it worked, did it work? Like what was difficult, what wasn’t like, what changes did they see in their life?

We kept doing this for nine rules, nine weeks. Measured at the beginning, measured at the end and turns out that people’s time satisfaction levels rose to a high degree of statistical significance. So that is very exciting. I, I, write self-help for busy people. I don’t wanna waste anyone’s time, so I’m glad to be able to report that following these rules does in fact work.

Amy Bushatz: Very nice. And it’s always nice to be able to tell someone you have statistically significant outcomes from your work .

Laura Vanderkam: So Yes, I know ,

Amy Bushatz: it’s a beautiful phrase.

Laura Vanderkam: It is beautiful phrase. My key values are good .

Amy Bushatz: Yeah, right, Exactly. Exactly.

Hey humans, if you wanna build your own outdoor habit, the Humans Outside 365 challenge is a great way to get started. You can even score some really cool and exclusive challenge swag, including a finisher, decal, and metal in the process. All you need to do is visit Humans Outside.com/challenge. You’ll also get an outdoor challenge guide written by me for you, an exclusive challenge tracker and insider info all year long.

You don’t wanna be left out of this. Go to HumansOutside.com/Challenge to learn more now. Okay, back to the show.

So I really want to focus on two of the rules today: three times is a habit and one big adventure, one small adventure. And the these, by the way, are not where the 20 minutes uh, Where you’ve included my 20 minute daily challenge as part of a sort of a plus up challenge that’s in a, in a different rule. That’s in move before 3:00 PM right?

Laura Vanderkam: Yep. Yep.

Amy Bushatz: But I think that these two are actually um, almost more interesting to somebody who’s already interested in keeping this habit going. So let’s start with three times is a habit. Can you give us sort of the basic rundown of what that means? What’s the guiding light there?

Laura Vanderkam: Yeah, and so I love daily habits. I love going outside for 20 minutes a day or various other things we can do every day. But for great many things you don’t actually have to do them daily for them to be a part of your life. So three times a week is a habit, was just what it sounds like. If you do something three times a week then it can be a part of your life, a regular part of your life. And you can adopt it as part of your identity. And the reason I think this is important for busy people is one, it gets you thinking in terms of a week, right? You don’t just look at your life in terms of a day. You look at a whole week and say, you know, there is this thing I wanna do. Can I do it three times? Three times is also doable. Oftentimes when people have various things that they would like to do, let’s say, running or lifting weights, or practicing the piano, or eating family meals, connecting with their partner. They, they start out with like daily and then it doesn’t happen daily because life is crazy and, and then they feel defeated.

But if you are aiming for three times a week, often you look at your life and notice that you are already doing this thing once, maybe twice a week. So getting to three times is just, a small tweak. It’s not a major lifestyle overhaul, it’s just finding maybe one or two additional spots in the week to make it happen.

And when you do like voila, it’s part of your identity. I am a person who plays the piano. We are a family that eats regular meals. It didn’t happen every day. But it doesn’t have to. So this is a very important mindset shift because it gets people out of this notion that, they have to wait for some time in the future to have this desired identity, you know, when life calms down. It’s like, no, no. We can probably find three times a week now.

Amy Bushatz: The part of this chapter that really resonated with me was this idea of consistency versus intensity. Okay. So when we talk about this idea of changing how we think about what we wanna do as everything to something uh, you know, we’re very interested in here in going outside every day, but the logic behind that really applies here too, which is we tend to sacrifice consistency because we’re so caught up in going hard, intensity. Um, But what you’re saying is essentially that something is better than nothing. Um, And that part of that mind set shift is so we’ll use, growing closer to your partner, date night as a example. When I think about it, spending time with my partner, I think about going out to dinner or dinner and a movie. No one has time for this three times a week. I mean, if you do, great, but I don’t, or the money, right? I’m not gonna spend, go out to dinner three times a week, although it sounds nice. But I do have time to spend purposeful time with my spouse if I think about it in terms of any time is time doing that. Any dedicated time counts towards that goal versus it has to be this event, it has to be this, you know, um, extravagant thing that we call date night. So talk to us about why this is important to remember from a whole life perspective.

Laura Vanderkam: Yeah, because I mean, oftentimes individual things that we might choose to focus on don’t really take that much time.

I mean, you know, if you think about 20 minutes, right? Like you could practice the piano for 20 minutes three times a week. That is one hour out of the 168 hours we have in a week. Like we’re, we’re talking small quantities of time, and yet the consistency is what makes it then part of your identity, like it is happening fairly frequently in your life. And, and so you can look on that and, and know that it is a habit. But yeah, I am a big fan of consistency over intensity. I have done a couple of reading projects, for instance, over the past few years where the whole point is you just read a small amount every day. But because you are doing that regularly, you don’t have to read an intense amount, and it is easier to stick with it.

So that’s a, that’s an example of a daily habit. I, I do that daily. Um, you know, this year I’m reading through all the works of Shakespeare. Last year I read through War and Peace of one chapter a day, 361 chapters to get through the entire year. This year, I’m only, you know, I read three to four pages in a play per day, but at the end of the year, I will have read through everything at that pace. So consistency I, and doing small amounts each time just tends to be more doable. We don’t wanna set up this, dichotomy where the perfect is the enemy of the good. Like good is great, like good, Right? Good is happening. Um, Whereas, whereas intensity is just by its nature hard to sustain that. So, you know, if we’re interested in sustainability, intensity and sustainability are, are pretty much opposites.

Amy Bushatz: And I have this sort of nasty habit of thinking about intensity first. And so when that, when it is about going outside, for example, I don’t try a new sport. I try, I like do the new, like I go all in and I’m not gonna try it unless I think that this is something I’m going to love. And that’s, that’s a pitfall for me. I would be much better off if I thought I, and gave myself permission is really what it is, to say I can try, let’s say snowboarding, okay, I can try to go snowboarding. I can rent a snowboard from the ski shop. I can book one lesson. And I can try it. And if it’s not for me, I have the permission to stop.

I can try things outside. I can um, let’s say I don’t love a particular outdoor activity, but I enjoy it. Like I don’t love it enough to like buy all the stuff, but I, I like it enough to try it several times. Well, I can try it several times, but I don’t have to go all in. And I just lean towards this go hard all the time kind of thing.

And the truth is that that really keeps me from enjoying what’s what’s in front of me. You mentioned War and Peace, and I’m thinking I would never read War and Peace. Why? Because I’m thinking about it as the whole book, you know, of like all 361 chapters. Why would you do that? But maybe it would be enjoyable and something that I would actually like and perhaps you would find that you like it so much you read two chapters. I’m not so

Laura Vanderkam: Well, no. No. You should not read if you’re gonna read it over the course of year. Don’t read to that. That’s the thing you wanna know that you want to read the next chapter the next day, right? So you stick with the habit and if you stop yourself at one before you go to the next, like you actually, wanna see sure what happens next.

But, but actually I, it’s funny that you bring it up that it, it makes it hard to sustain. The thing is, aiming for, for daily, which I would say would be the intensity for, for a lot of these things um, that people, think they should do or go all in, like hours and hours is it actually keeps them from doing it at all. And and you know, so some people go all in and then um some people never start at all because, and, and there’s a, there’s actually a bit of a psychological safety aspect with that because , you know, for busy people um, if there’re, particularly if there’s like creative aspirations, they might have people sometimes set this up in their head like, Oh, I have to do it for at least an hour, or I have to do it every single day, and if I’m not doing that, then I’m not really doing it, so I should just not bother.

Right? But what that allows us to do is say, Well, of course you can’t do it every single day for an hour or two if you are a busy person with a job and a family. And so, it lets you off the hook. Like, well of course I can’t do it. Everybody knows you can’t do that. No one has time for painting or practicing music or whatever, if you’re raising a family, building a career, and, and so then people let themselves off the hook as opposed to saying, Well, could I find 20 minutes three times a week? Cuz the answer to that is yes. And then you do it and it’s bad. Like, you’re not good at it at the beginning. Like, you’re not great. You’re not writing the amazing novel, You’re not painting this amazing painting. Your piano sounds like crap. You will get better, but you’re bad at the beginning and many people just don’t wanna accept that. And, and so, you know, by holding out that perfect of like doing it daily for hours, they, they never have to deal with not being good at. something.

Amy Bushatz: Right. Right, right. Absolutely. So the next uh, one I wanna talk about, your next rule is big adventure, little adventure. And I have to admit, like, this scared me a little bit because again, because of the way I’m thinking about things. Okay. So talk to us first about what this rule means. Big adventure, little adventure.

Laura Vanderkam: Yeah. So one big adventure, one little adventure is that every week you should do two things that are memorable and out of the ordinary. So a big adventure could take three to four hours. So I think half a weekend day. Okay. Not sailing around the Norwegian fjords like a Viking, like that does not have to be your one big adventure. I, anything that takes, yeah, what, what you do on a weekend morning or, something like that.

A little adventure can be less than an hour. So doable on a lunch break. Doable on a weekday evening, just as long as it is different and is something that is not kind of the normal routine. And the reason to do this rule is, especially as we get older, time can become very similar day to day, we tend to do the same thing like getting up and getting everyone ready and out the door.

And then we do our work and then we collect everyone at the end of the day. Do you know dinner? If there are kids around, it’s homework, baths, bed, tv. Do it all again. And there’s nothing wrong with routines because they make good choices automatic. Mm-hmm. But too much routine can mean that nothing stands out and so your brain isn’t creating any new memories. And our thickness of memory is how we judge length of time. So this is kind of an interesting concept in in time perception. But if you think about like, why did the four years of high school seems so vast and long. Like even in retrospect now looking back on it, it’s because you were making a lot of memories, doing a lot of things for the first time, things that were novel or intense.

Um, young adulthood in general seems to be longer than the same span of years in middle age, and it’s because we tend not to be doing things that are different, interesting, novel, intense um, getting out of our comfort zone. So I find that this rule strikes a good balance. Like again, we are not going to go relive those years of say, 18 to 25 once you are 45 years old. Like you just can’t do things for the first time ever again.

But you can recreate some of that newness and intensity by building little adventures into your life. And having one big adventure and one little adventure is enough to make things interesting, like, Oh yeah, that was the week. we went mini golfing as a family. That was the week that I visited that sculpture park that’s 10 minutes from my office on my lunch break, as opposed to being like, Yeah, that week was the same as everything else.

But you know, two adventures- one big adventure, one little adventure -isn’t going to exhaust or bankrupt anyone, right? Like it’s not enough to throw everything else off. But it is enough to make time just a little bit more interesting.

Amy Bushatz: So, when I think about this, I immediately get caught up in the details, which I’m can’t imagine you haven’t heard before. So, it’s things like, Oh man, a big adventure. And then I, now I’m like, panic planning and trying to think of something that fits this description of big and and, and what if it’s not the first time I’ve done this thing and on and on so, help me out.

Laura Vanderkam: So yes, adventure is more a state of mind than any objective measurement. Like there are no adventure police um, judging whether you are big adventure.

Amy Bushatz: I always think there are. I don’t know.

Laura Vanderkam: Yeah. The adventure police are not coming to see if what you did was adventurous enough or was different than what you have done before. I mean, if you’ve done it the past, if it you don’t do it that often, it can still be an adventure. And, and certainly something to think about is the people who participated in this project of mine did it in the spring of 2021, and a lot of places in the US were sort of coming out of lockdowns and all that, but other places still had them. So in many cases, people’s available adventures were limited, but it still did inspire a fair amount of creativity. Like, creating a giant game of shoots and ladders on your driveway like that is an adventure. Exploring a new trail in, in the woods that you’ve never taken before. Somebody was like building bridges over a stream with their kids, like that was their adventure. Um, Trying a new ice cream place or something. These can be big adventures if that is what is available to you if you treat it as a big adventure. What I’m, you know, it’s just trying to get outside of your comfort zone just a little bit. Thinking about what could be new and different and memorable. Um, and and again, people are like, Well, I like my life. Great. I like your life too. Twice a week. You can do one little adventure like one weekday evening. You still have four other weekday evenings to get straight into your pajamas when you come home from work. Right? Like it, it’s not an all or nothing sort of thing.

Amy Bushatz: Mm-hmm. So, there are two things I wanna touch on here. One is, I think this bigger thread of all of these guidelines, let’s call them guidelines um, and of time management in general, which is intentionality. What you’re doing is saying none of these things are going to happen unless you stop and think them through them. And if you don’t have intentionality about how you spend your time, your time will just disappear. And then you’re gonna be back wondering where it went and why you don’t have time for things.

Laura Vanderkam: Yeah, that’s really time management in a nutshell, is that we have time that keeps passing. No matter what you do, like, there is nothing you can do to stop it. There’s nothing you can do to actually slow it down. And because of that, we have to make active choices about how we direct our time. Because I mean, even if you did nothing eventually the next week would be gone. Like, so it’s gonna be filled with something. The question is just what is it going to be filled with?

And I think that there are a lot of upsides to thinking through that question, and to moving beyond the question of like what you have to do. Even those are still choices to some degree. They’re the result of choices you made in the past, choices that are still ongoing, and you probably wanna stick with most of those choices.

But by acknowledging that we still are making choices, we can empower ourselves to make other choices with the discretionary time that does exist. So yeah, I’m, I’m always encouraging people to be more mindful of where the minutes go because when we are mindful, we have a better chance of directing them toward things that bring us and the people around us joy.

Amy Bushatz: And if you are panicking about having nine rules to follow, or even two rules, or even some, you know, guidelines it’s helpful to me because I too, you know, I love rules, but I still, I’m like, Oh my God, I’m not following the rules. Okay. It’s helpful to think about them in the frame of intentionality that, as you said, this is disappearing whether we like it or not, time is gone. And my choice is to be intentional about it or not. And the suggestions you’ve made here are ways to do that.

Laura Vanderkam: Yeah, and they build on each other too because, I mean, one of the reasons people feel like they don’t have enough energy for thinking about their time is that they are not sleeping in an orderly fashion. But if you give yourself a bedtime, you will start sleeping in an orderly fashion and you will feel far more energized as you will by moving every day by 3:00 PM, That is another thing that will add drastically to your energy levels when you plan your weeks on Fridays or whatever time you choose, but as long as you have a weekly planning time, during that time, you can think through many of the other things like, when could I make sure we have three family meals? When could I plan in one big adventure, one little adventure?

What night or other chunk of time am I taking for something that I am passionate about? Um, So, so some of them are, core habits, foundational habits that allow us to then take control of our time, and then others are things that when we have that ability to think about our time, we can start building in as we in, start shaping these hours.

Amy Bushatz: Yeah, Okay. So, one more thing that you talk about in one big adventure, one little adventure. Um, And as a aside I think, obviously there are implications for going outside. Because if spending time outside is something you wanna do regularly, building your adventures around it is a great way to make sure you’re keeping the habit, but also having the space to try new things.

But you address this really important thing in this chapter that is one of the keys that I find keeps people from having a daily habit at all or keeps me from doing, I mean, I literally have a list of big adventures I wanna do, and I keep coming up with reasons to not go do them. Okay. And it is this: inertia uh, It is, it is my pajama pants. Okay. So what, what does that mean? Talk to us about that and then how to get through that. Yeah.

Laura Vanderkam: Well, I mean, we are creatures of inertia. I mean, things take energy. They take effort and that’s ok. I mean, what are you First I would say like what are we saving our energy for? I mean, honestly, I can think of no better use of energy than like living an exciting and fun life. We’re also talking again, two adventurous a week, which is many days that you don’t have to do anything, right? Like, but if you wanna put in two adventures a week. It just sort of shifts the balance just a little bit.

Um, There’s a couple things I, I kind of do to talk myself through it, cuz sometimes I choose adventures and then it’s like, woo, that seems like I’m tired. Or that’s gonna require some effort to make it happen.

Amy Bushatz: And this is an even bigger struggle. I think if you identify as an introvert or as an or as an introverted person. All of a sudden everything sounds exhausting. So keep going.

Laura Vanderkam: It’s always easier to just stay home. But I, what I often tell myself is, like on a few, in a few hours, I’ll be on the other side of this adventure, right? Like, time is gonna pass one way or the other. So, for instance, one night taking my kids ice skating at an outdoor rink downtown and like, you know, it was gonna be a lot of logistics to get four kids down there and like it had snowed during the day, so I had to go at a different time and, you know, everything, it’s just going on.

It’s like, look, three to four hours from now I will be back at my house. Like I will be there if I didn’t go tonight, or I will be if I did go , right? Like I will be looking back on this time and all things being equal, would I prefer four hours from now to be looking back and saying, Hey, I had this really fun experience of, you know, ice skating around and the cold night, with the twinkly lights overhead and seeing the kids whip around the ice and all that. And probably yes, I will be happy to have that memory.

So picture yourself on the other side if you are looking forward to something. And you think you will be happy to have done it, all you have to do is convince your current self to get with the program, to help those anticipating self and remembering self be happy.

So, I mean, yes, that’s tricky, but it is also kind of the essence of discipline, and this is discipline toward having a fun life. Like we do this for things we have to do, or we do it for a work project. Like Mm, I don’t wanna give that presentation, but in two hours it will be over and, I’ll be, probably a good thing I do it rather than walk out the door and disappear from my job.

So we can get our heads around it for things that we think we need to do, but it’s a little bit harder to do that for things we want to do. So just, you know, but ask yourself, will you be happy to have done it? And then if you would, consider that you will be in that place in just a few hours.

All that stands between you and being that person who is happy that you did that thing is getting through the next few hours of it and probably you’ll be fun have fun while you’re doing it too. I mean, that’s why we choose these adventures.

Amy Bushatz: Type two fun, maybe Type two.

Laura Vanderkam: Type two fun.

Amy Bushatz: No, I, Two things I often think, and by the way, this pops up in my brain while I’m running. Okay? So the situation here is that I didn’t wanna go run cuz I knew it was gonna be hard or the weather was going to be bad, but I know I’m going to feel happy after. Because I’ve practiced this over and over again. I go running. I do not want to. I do it anyway. And I consider it something of a superpower at this point that I can make myself do things that I don’t wanna do in the present.

Laura Vanderkam: Yeah.

Amy Bushatz: But what I struggle with is when that comes, when that is about saying yes or no to future things that maybe are not things that I’m going to enjoy. You talk about present, past, these sort of three selves. Um, I always think about it as Past Amy, Future Amy and Current Amy. And Past Amy? Very optimistic about the energy level of future Amy. So she plans things for Future Amy, that Current Amy really wishes weren’t on the schedule. And I have to be very careful to police myself. And these are not necessarily in this big venture category, these often things that, you know, volunteer commitments or things I’m doing for other people that I think sound really smart in the moment, but are simply not good time management for me. And so I think this comes, in my experience, this goes both ways where you have to learn how to have that muscle, but then also police the muscle.

Laura Vanderkam: Police the muscle. Yeah. For sure. I mean, so with, with things that you don’t necessarily want to do, I think a lot of times the adventures actually do sound fun, right? It’s just that when you get to the moment, like going on that hike in that gorgeous place, you know you’re gonna be looking at the photos and showing everyone on Instagram afterwards. It’s just that you have to get up off the couch and do it. Right. Right. Like, that’s, you did look forward to it, it’s just the inertia in the moment. There’s a difference between that and like, do you want to run this, volunteer project and you’re like future, Amy’s gonna have tons of time. Yeah, sure. Future Amy can totally take that on at as long as Current Amy doesn’t have to do that, but Future Amy is like a totally different person.

Amy Bushatz: So well rested, so, so well fed. Sticking with her, clean eating that one. She is, she is that

Laura Vanderkam: Future Amy is just kicking it. In those cases, it helps to always ask yourself like, would I do this tomorrow? And I, I think that that’s a useful question because we tend to understand the opportunity cost of time tomorrow in a way that we just don’t for months from now. So, that could be a helpful question as you police that impulse.

Amy Bushatz: No, and I think that’s, I think that absolutely applies to this adventure thing, especially if you are somebody who has already started doing this in a way of keeping this outdoor habit. Things that maybe uh, things start to sound like very good ideas that are perhaps in now good ideas for later, but when you get there, less good idea.

My friend and I joke that we always make these fantastic running plans on very sunny days. And then it’s like we, we come up with all sorts of things we’re gonna do in January in June. And then January rolls around. And while in June we knew that January January’s cold and snowing and negative 10 and windy.

Like we knew that, but we didn’t know it. And so, and so in January we realized that all of these plans were made upon some not misguided information so much as optimism. Yes, absolute optimism. And that it’s okay to get to January and say, and ask yourself like, will I be glad that I did this? Or will I just be cold. Or will I be regretful? And I will say like all of the optimism of June imply applied in January, usually I am glad that I did the thing, but it is harder to go and do it than I thought it would be.

Laura Vanderkam: Yep. Pretty much. Pretty much.

Amy Bushatz: All right. Well Laura, thank you so much for joining us on this episode of Humans Outside. I really value your time and your time management tips. So I encourage everyone to buy your book um, Tranquility by Tuesday, which is sold wherever one finds books.

And you have a couple podcasts as well. Why don’t you tell us about those?

Laura Vanderkam: I do, I do. So I have Before Breakfast, which is a short, every weekday morning podcast, about five minutes. I give you a tip that will help you take your day from great to awesome. So a lot of people find that encouraging to listen to as you’re making your coffee, putting on your makeup or whatever it is you’re doing in the morning. Um, And then I have one called Best of Both Worlds, which is I co-host with a friend of mine, Sarah Hart-Unger. And we look at issues of work and family from the perspective of people who really enjoy both. Um, So we’ve got a great community of listeners who are also building careers, raising families really enjoying both aspects of life and don’t see them as being at odds with each other.

Amy Bushatz: Awesome. All right, everybody, check those out. And Laura, thank you so much for joining us today.

Laura Vanderkam: Thank you so much for having me.

Amy Bushatz: Thanks so much for listening to this week’s episode of Humans Outside. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, take a second to leave a rating or review wherever you get your podcasts. That makes it easier for others to find the podcast, too. Your positive review makes a huge difference. Now go get outside. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.

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