Time Realism

Heather Nowlin
3 min readJun 30, 2020

Learning what takes up a lot of your time — and what doesn’t

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Do you know where your time goes in a day, a week, a year? If you start any sort of (effective) weight loss program, one of the first steps is to record what you eat for several days, sometimes even weeks. It’s a part of getting to know where your calories come from, and how can get enough nutrients but fewer empty calories. And it’s pretty essential.

Likewise, if you put yourself on a budget, advisors will tell you to pay attention to and record — actually write down — every dollar you spend, and on what, over a given period of time. Most of us know our salaries (if not our actual net pay), but if you don’t know how much is going out in relation to your pay, then how can you budget?

It should stand to reason, then, that if you want to know how much you can get accomplished in a day, that you should start writing down how long each of your daily/weekly/yearly tasks takes. We all know we have 24 hours in a day. But we’re pretty shitty at guessing how much we can cram into those 24 every 7.

Time optimists look at a garage that hasn’t been cleaned out in a decade and think, “I should get that done this Saturday.” Everyone’s situation is different, of course, but generally speaking if you haven’t touched your garage for ten years, you’re going to need more than a single day to get it spic and span.

Time optimists think of an idea for a Medium article and think, “I’ll just crank that out in a few minutes before lunch.” If it’s actually a really good article, then you need to account for time doing research, linking to sources for that research, writing your first draft, editing that first draft a few times… and then proofreading the final product. Oh, and don’t forget to add a photo (like I just did on another story I was writing).

If you’re just a few minutes away from your lunch break, you might be looking at working through lunch if you want to “just crank something out real quick.”

Also, time optimists very often think that they can work out, polish up that presentation for a few minutes before leaving the house, drop the kids off at school, and grab coffee at the drive-thru in time to actually make it TO that presentation… to often disastrous results.

If you’re a time optimist, take a good hard look at what you spend your time on. Write down how long it takes you to finish certain projects. To do your errands. To prepare meals, eat meals, help kiddos with homework, or grab coffee at a drive-thru.

You just might be surprised at how much time you don’t actually have.

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Heather Nowlin

Favorite topics: politics, mental health, travel, business/the office, humans, dogs, empathy, pop culture, movies, books, TV, plays, theatre.