Life is made up of a million little victories. While I’m all for the big victories too, I think there’s something uniquely divine about celebrating the successes of our daily existence. Rather than view the quotidian chores and paperwork of life as arduous, I’m trying to reframe these tasks as triumphs. After all, every large milestone is the sum of many small accomplishments.

I’m A Certified Time Optimist

Me the time optimist
Me: certified time optimist

I’m perpetually guilty of being what my friend C describes as a “time optimist.” When she first explained this concept to me, I thought YES! That’s me! Essentially, I continually labor under the delusion that I’ll be able to achieve more in any given timeframe than is possible. Or rational. Or even remotely within the realm of reason. A time optimist to a tee!

The upside of being thusly accused is that I usually get a lot done in a day. The massive downside, however, is that I used to feel inadequate in my accomplishments. No matter how much I got done, I always wished I’d done more. Not a pleasant way to live, as all of my fellow time optimists can commiserate.

Mr. Frugalwoods is fond of joking that I wouldn’t be satisfied unless I’d cleaned the entire house, done a full day’s work, run every conceivable errand, completed all of the laundry, and written a book… all in one afternoon. While I can laugh at the ludicrousness of the expectations I set for myself, it also used to be a very real problem for me. Not feeling satisfied with your work–no matter what you do–is not a great way to go through life.

Time optimism is a driving characteristic that causes me to succeed; but it’s also one of my most pronounced flaws. It’s interesting that a single facet of my personality yields both pro and con. In many ways, I love being a time optimist. I relish the way my brain races through tasks. But in other ways, I hate it. It’s challenging for time optimists to relax because we’re constantly scanning the horizon for the next thing to get done. And a life in which we’re never content with our efforts is frustrating and ultimately, unfulfilling.

A very real component of our goal to reach financial independence and move to a homestead in the woods is to have a less stressful life. Additionally, we want to practice gratitude as a habit, not an exception. In order to bring this element of our plan to fruition, I discerned I’d have to overcome my perfectionist drive for incessant productivity. After all, the pursuit of perfection is utterly futile and quite contrary to the frugal life.

I’ll never do everything on my “list”–probably because my lists seem to propagate and spawn off new generations of lists. And that’s OK. I’m a person with endless ideas and projects, but I can’t let that be a source of irritation and pain. Rather, I’m choosing to see it as a sign of a full life. I don’t want to hinder myself by judging my productivity; instead, I want to feel pride over the things I do complete.

The Tyranny Of To-Do Lists

Get fur in the back seat? Moi?
Get fur in the back seat? Moi?

Back to those lists of mine… I used to include things like “attain financial independence,” which is patently ridiculous to enumerate in between “pick-up Frugal Hound’s dog prescription” and “clean inside of car.” Did I think I was going to unearth a million dollars while vacuuming dog fur out of the back seat?!? Sidenote: please tell me if this has happened to you and I’ll totally redirect my efforts. I’ve come to realize that articulating huge aspirations in such a flippant manner is a self-defeating proposition. Don’t list things that’ll take years to accomplish next to things that’ll take hours.

Instead, I spell out my higher-order hopes on a separate list that comprises the milestones of life (ok yes, I do now acknowledge why I have so many lists… ). I find it imperative to have larger aims not only to guide our finances, but the very trajectory of our existence.

Sharing goals with Mr. Frugalwoods is a cornerstone of our marriage–without mutually agreed upon dreams, it would be tough for us to feel connected. I need something overarching to work towards–I need something bigger than mere survival to motivate and inspire me. And that’s all well and good. However, on a granular level, on the day-to-day and hour-to-hour, I’ve discovered that I’m much happier if I take life in less grandiose bits and pieces.

Learning To Enjoy

Your gratuitous photo of Babywoods
Your gratuitous photo of Babywoods

Recently, I’ve started the process of changing my time optimist approach to one of delighting in the joy of each little achievement. I’ve found this is especially imperative now that I’m a parent. My days are no longer about powering through to-do lists, they’re about balancing the pleasure of raising Babywoods with the requisite duties of life. Going to the grocery store is a win! Doing laundry deserves a medal!

Experiencing life as successful is, in many ways, a mindset. I can choose to think, “if only I’d also made it to the post office and Costco and taken Frugal Hound on a five mile walk!” or I can instead think, “it’s so awesome we went to the grocery store and got all the food we need for the week!” Same task, entirely different mentality. It’s amazing how much control we can exert over our experience of life. Of course there are myriad events that happen to us, but there’s also the inherent truth that how we react to these events is what largely dictates our well-being.

When we’re in the thick of busy-ness, it’s hard to see the larger picture. It’s difficult to remember that incremental progress is just that: progress. There’s usually no glamour in accomplishing mundane daily functions, but they’re necessary all the same. There’s also a temptation to glorify busyness. To wallow in the “I’m too busy and important” attitude. But busy does not equal productive. And busy often does not equal happy or content.

Previously, I was an inveterate busy person. I was too busy for just about everything. And I’m still tremendously guilty of this. But, I’m slowly starting to see the wisdom of savoring the incremental gains I make each day. Establishing opportunities to experience success with mid-term achievements is crucial because most objectives worth pursuing don’t occur in a day, or a month, or possibly even in a year.

The Grace Of Arriving At Enough

We can apply this very same lens to our finances because there’ll always be another monetary level to strive towards. We can always save more money or earn more money or put ourselves in a more stable financial position. But this endless striving starts to feel very much like greed. Or, very much like the vapid consumer carousel of stuff that we work so hard to avoid. Just because we’re able to successfully not buy things doesn’t mean we’re infallible in our conception of having “enough.” Enough constitutes not just money or things, but also the notion of achievement and the notion of what comprises a fulfilled life. At a certain point, we must surrender to the grace we’re imbued with and simply feel surrounded by enough, because it’s at this juncture that gratitude overwhelms us and our happiest selves emerge.

Are you a time optimist? How do you find your “enough” in a world that glorifies the constant acquisition of more?

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  1. Your Babywoods is so very cute.
    I have been reading your blog for quite awhile and really enjoy.
    My wife and I moved from your area to Maine almost 40 years ago.
    Helen and Scott Nearing was the kind of life I envisioned. Didn’t happen.
    I taught at Cambridge and Rindge. We made our move opposite of you.
    We moved up here with $0.00 and really started over. Your way is much smarter.

  2. I am definitely a time optimist, and it has gotten worse as I have gotten older. I work a full day, but I am always multi-tasking several things outside of my work hours – running laundry while doing dinner, doing crunches while the kids play, picking weeds or leaves out of the yard while the kids ride their bikes. I am a very productive person, and I like it that way, but I also drive myself crazy sometimes. I wish I could just sit on the couch and not do anything and be happy about it. Sometimes I feel guilty if I’m not doing something productive or worthwhile.

  3. I posted about my struggle with perfectionism the other day, and I think this fits right in. For most of my life, I’ve relished to-do lists. Now, I realize that my happiest days are the days in which I can slow down some. This year, I’m really trying to commit to doing one thing at a time. Even if it’s something that’s not a requisite part of my day (reading, for example) , I’m trying to devote 100% of my focus to that single task. It’s very challenging. I think partly because of my constant desire to accomplish something every day, but also because it’s all I’ve ever known. A lot of people blame technology–it doesn’t help the focus issues, IMHO–but I’ve always been a multi-tasker. Thanks for the motivation!

  4. Oh my gosh – this is so me! I could’ve written this post. Two comments:
    Re reframing accomplishments – I recently purchased a new Day Planner (the Passion Planner) and through its process I set 3 long-term goals for myself. One is to make my home a restful sanctuary. That perspective makes me look at day-to-day chores much differently. Instead of “uggh, I really have to clean this living room …”, I get it done, and I celebrate that I’ve moved a step forward in reaching my goal of a lovely home.
    Re time optimism – I probably could’ve reached a goal of financial independence much sooner if I did not have time optimism. It extended to my hobbies, which I have invested a heck of a lot of money in. I have been overly optimistic about my available time. Now that I’m approaching 60, I look at all my “toys” and wonder if I will even live long enough to bike / hike / kayak / workout / do yoga etc enough to actually *use* all the toys/books/DVDs/hobby stuff I’ve purchased over the years – simply by thinking I’ll have plenty of time to use them.
    Thanks for posting about your journey – I enjoy your blog!

  5. I read this article with wonder as I am so different! I always think there will be enough time later/tomorrow/next week etc and so I never get anything done. I would love to figure out how to motivate myself on a daily basis to do what needs doing instead of doing everything at the last minute and causing myself stress/anxiety. Really interesting read and you are right as a mother just going to the supermarket deserves a big pat on the back.

  6. I love the point you made about endless striving could become a kind of greed. I have been thinking about this a lot lately — about how frugality for the mere sake of accumulating more and more can be greed. I’ve been trying to be more mindful of my activity and purchases. For me, at least, mindfulness leads to frugality, as I question the need for purchases and focus on being satisfied with what I have. As a time optimist myself, mindfulness helps me in this aspect of my life, though I continue to struggle with being a multi-tasker and always wanting to accomplish more. Another aspect of this I have discovered is learning to say no to other people who have come to see me as this person who always gets a lot done. It’s a delicate balance.

  7. I didn’t know what this was called! But I am absolutely a time optimist and I too believe it is both my greatest and worst strength. I am always forgetting that I should concentrate on the successes of daily tasks – thanks for another reminder! And it’s a bit of a relief to know that I’m not alone in this. 🙂

  8. Wow, you have some energy Mrs. FW! I feel good if I can check off a couple of to do items on my list. One of the benefits of early retirement is that I can always postpone to tomorrow chores that must not be completed today. The yang of that yin is that I’m able to allocate a huge chunk of time to leisure pursuits. 3-4 mile round trip (along the creek through the park) to the voting place yesterday? Sure! Stop and chat with neighbors along the way? Sure! Get home 3 hours later and continue enjoying life? Sure!

  9. Ha! I’ve never heard of the term time optimist, but it would definitely fit me. No matter how much I get done, there are rarely days when everything on my list gets crossed off.

    Like so many things about me that have both positives and negatives, this is another one where Mr PoP helps normalize me. He’s much more focused on allotting time rather than tasks and has no problem with relaxing when items are unfinished if he’s already worked hard at them for several hours that day. It used to frustrate the daylights out of me because I would keep working while he rested and get upset about that. Now, I try to take his breaks as cues to relax and slow down and enjoy the moment a little more. Because being able to truthfully say, “I was on the move nonstop and getting things done from 5am to 9pm today and still haven’t gotten it all done” is not a sort of moral victory.

    1. Oof, yes. Not a moral victory. I’m totally guilty of this. Links in with martyr syndrome which I’m trying to fully grow out of!

  10. Great post and great points to think about. This hit home for me.

    It’s also called being Type A. *Raises hand!* We are definitely in the same tribe. I’ve written cookbooks & kids’ books, run marathons and qualified for Boston Marathon and the harder-to-qualify-for NYC Marathon–all while I was working full time plus and running my house solo. I’ve been accused of being hyperactive and of not taking time to relax. While I am trying to spend more time sitting still (coloring books for adults help!) I realize that, at age 51, this is pretty much how I am and I actually LIKE being this way. I’ve been this way since I was little.

    I don’t see it as greed, although I do get how anything out of balance can become a compulsion. I see it as living my life to the fullest, accomplishing what matters to me — whether it’s baking a loaf of bread, running errands, or going for a long run in the woods (which is also relaxing to me; accomplishments can also be relaxing!).

    I ENJOY challenges. I enjoy having goals and working on them. I enjoy putting in a hard day’s work–or play, as the case may be–and sleeping a well-deserved sleep. Different strokes for different folks.

    (Incidentally, I am staying in a hotel in Cambridge during the Boston Marathon I am too frugal to stay downtown where prices are like $600 a night!….any good suggestions for a cheap Italian restaurant where I can carb load the night before?!)

    1. You’re awesome! Yeah, I’ve been called hyperactive before too ;). City Girl Cafe in Cambridge is a delightful local Italian joint with delicious food and an adorable ambiance. Enjoy and good luck in the marathon!!!

  11. Good post. I’ve wondered about this as well periodically in the last year or so when I’ve made a conscious effort to be more productive with my time. Is it really that great to be listening to podcasts while doing the dishes so I can do a chore and learn something? Answer some emails in my spare minutes? Or am I missing out on the crucial reflective times when I can let my mind wander?

    Also for those who like lists but want to do less in the day, just make a not-todo list, write down a number of things you don’t want to do that day and then check it off with satisfaction

  12. I’m guilty of this as well; the constant act of looking for things to do ahead of time so I’ll never fall behind on anything. It is fear of making any mistakes, e.g. missing out on a good deal, mistiming an opportunity, being unprepared, getting caught in a semi-emergency or an uncomfortable situation, etc. that drives my perfectionist self to plan ahead, do ahead and multi-task.

    Actively and mindfully reminding myself to mono-task and not switch between 6 tabs on my internet browser while doing a handful of other tasks as my mind races a mile a minute has been challenging. The resistance I feel deep inside and the inner monologue of “there’s some time now, let me just (insert action)…” have not ceased their hold on me. However, simply being aware of my tendencies has helped chip at this powerfully innate and nurtured habit of doing more. I find maintaining sustained eye contact on whatever task is at hand helps me stay focused and in the zone far better than if I let my eyes wander about the room. Isn’t that a trick in kindergarten? 🙂

    Thanks for reminding us fellow time-optimists the art of living a fulfilling everyday life, Mrs. FW.

  13. I’ve been guilty of this, too! I will make lists of things to accomplish during the 3 hours Little Brother is in preschool that would take twice that long.

    Instead of feeling guilty about what I didn’t get to, though, I try to judge my effort level. Did I use my time effectively? Did I keep futzing to a minimum? Did I stay off the stupid parts of the Internet? If the answer is “no,” well, tomorrow is another day.

    I also use triaging. Yesterday, I got a lot of cleaning done, but a full-scale scrubbing of the admittedly disgusting master bathroom was just not going to happen. I did have time for the parts we really notice–the vanity/sink area and the toilet. The floor and tub are less urgent and will just have to wait their turn!

  14. This is one of the reasons that I am in love with The Remarkable Year ( A to-done list. It makes me appreciate all the things I do get done, despite it being so, so much easier to focus on the things that remain outstanding. Very helpful when I feel like I’m spinning my wheels or that I am never going to get my to do list done for the week.

  15. I manage it by living a minimalist lifestyle: minimal stuff, simple dishes, limited hobbies, etc.. I can clean the entire house in under 2 hours (bathrooms, sweeping, mopping, dusting, beds, dishes, vacuum) and I can make a wholesome meal in another 2. I find that as long as I’m motivated and organized I have several hours of unplanned time in the day… so I garden, waste time on social media or do yoga. I don’t really put expectations on myself other than to keep the home and family clean, comfortable, well-fed and content.

  16. I’m so glad there is a name for my condition, time optimist! I truly believe I can get more things accomplished than humanly possible in the allotted time. I have been diligently working to become more of a time realist and it takes a concerted retraining of the brain. I am making progress and you are SO correct that it makes you feel more optimistic and not be so hard on yourself for net getting done what you think you SHOULD have. There is hope!

  17. I’m a Type A personality in the body of a depressive with chronic fatigue. I know aaaaall about being overly optimistic with goals. Even striving for a healthy person’s abilities is being unreasonable for me. But it took me years to come to terms with that. And by “years” I mean lots of therapy and my husband’s pleas for me to be nice to myself rater than angry — which is the main effect I contended with.

    I avoid this now by setting no more than two goals a day. Obviously, there are a few days here and there where I can’t whittle it down that far, but by and large I’m able to stick to it. It involves lots of planning out ahead of time. I leave myself reminders weeks before an important deadline so that I can work up to it without feeling like a bad person for not getting it done immediately.

    It’s still tough. Arguably two people with multiple chronic conditions have even more to do than many healthy people (like, say, countless doctors appointments). But we’ve scaled our lives to help with that, and I finally learned to scale my goals. And to delegate as many as possible to my husband.

    I agree that life is a lot better now that I’m not constantly beating myself up about what I can’t do — and realizing that it’s an issue of “can’t” rather than laziness or lack of will. Just like you said, being upset at never doing enough is an exhausting, disheartening and ultimately draining way to live.

    1. I struggle greatly with thinking about whether I’m lazy or whether it’s my illness. My to do list can be 27 tasks long and I find it really hard not to focus on the ones that don’t get done. My baseline constantly shifts to the next thing so I never take time to appreciate what I have achieved. I also tend to look at tasks and beat myself up about whether a ‘normal’ person would have done it better/faster/with more spunk

      1. It’s very tough. I used to just say “lazy” all the time. One therapist asked me to, for one week, substitute “sick” or “tired” each time I wanted to say “lazy.” I thought it was stupid, but by the end of the week I did notice at least a slight difference in thinking more positively about myself.

        I know what you mean about being stressed out by having a ton on your to-do list. Both my husband and I have chronic, debilitating health problems. There’s always something more to get done. I don’t know whether you can manage the two-things approach, but it helped me greatly. I think it’s just because then there are two things to focus on for the whole day. It doesn’t matter what else needs to get done — these are the things you’ve decided really matter (and that you’re truly capable of) that day.

        When you get even one of them done, you’re 50% of the way through your goal. You feel like a rock star! (Well, it takes a little adjustment but EVENTUALLY you learn to feel pretty good about it.) And if you can knock them both out early in the day, you feel even more awesome. Then, if you so choose, you can always decide to tackle a third thing. Meanwhile, if you only get one of the two things done — or if it’s one of the days where nothing is going to get done — the stakes feel lower. Rather that getting 0 of 27 things done, it’s 0 of 2. It feels a lot more like you can just tackle them the next day.

        Setting achievable goals is really what turned things around for me. Accepting that — yep — a “normal” person would absolutely have gotten the task done better/faster/more spunkily (totally a word) made it easier for me to stop trying to keep up. It reminded me that I’m not healthy, and that it’s okay to modify my life around that fact. A person in a wheelchair wouldn’t take a 2nd floor apartment in a building without an elevator. So I, with chronic fatigue, shouldn’t try to get as much done each day as a healthy person.

        Don’t get me wrong, there are still days when I’m frustrated. I still get envious sometimes. But then I realize I’m wasting my limited energy on it, so I try to focus on something else.

  18. I can *completely* identify with this post! I LOVE making lists–I think I should have been a taxonomist!–and have completely geeked out over creating what I call my Absolutely Everything List which is color-coded according to whether I can accomplish the task soon/later/independently/with help. 🙂 One thing I have noticed after reading Getting Things Done by David Allen is that taking the time (lots of it!) to record every possible thing I need or want to do in one place with categories and (for me) color-coding has meant I don’t need to try to remember all those things, a surprisingly HUGE relief. I used to be a time optimist, but then I realized I was upsetting myself with too-high expectations. Walking most places rather than driving now has helped me slow way down and notice more of Life. When I’m not speeding through tasks on my list, I’m kinder and more open to what Life has to offer. Not an easy feat for those who like to achieve! Thanks sooooo much for blogging about your life and your choices. I’m in a different situation–no husband, adorable baby, or plan to live in the woods!–but I’m gaining so much from reading. My two sweet tabby cats, Lewis and Clark, are my companions. Living simply is a wonderful thing! 🙂

  19. I have found the older I get, the faster time seems to go. I have learned how to slow down and enjoy the moment, it is a mindset what was hard to learn and takes lots of practice. I have a dear aunt, who has been a Hospice nurse for 30 years, she has taught me that her patients usually wish they had taken more time to “smell the roses”…. this is profound. We all need to watch more sunsets, smell more roses, spend time with the people we love. We need to stop the endless cycle of materialism, stop trying to keep up with the “Jones”, stop equating financial wealth with success and step away from all electronic devices !!! Carpe diem !!!!!!

  20. This post spoke directly to me; I am 100% a through-and-through time optimist! Everything that you wrote here describes my experiences; the ongoing, multiple To Do lists, the multi-tasking, the lack of satisfaction unless every little task is complete (and rarely, if ever, achieved.) The struggle is real! Just last night I had a moment of awareness where I forced myself to sit down and read (something I love doing, but typically only do just prior to bed) even though the x, y and z tasks weren’t ticked off the list. It was extremely difficult; I didn’t get that rush of completion like I usually get when I tick off various tasks to make a productive evening. But, I also didn’t go to bed feeling completely exhausted and wishing I had done something more self-care oriented than dishes and putting away laundry. In fact, I actually went to bed early and turned out my light on time, because I wasn’t trying to jam eleventy-billion tasks into the time for two. Thank you for this post!

  21. Yes, I am definitely a time optimist. I often start the day with so many aspirations, but then it’s suddenly night and a lot is pushed over to the following day. I will take your advice and try to relish the victory of accomplishing each task.

  22. Love this post (especially your philosophical questions at the end–great to ponder!). I feel like I’m on this really obnoxious pendulum swing between time optimism and time…pessimism. For half the week I’m exactly as described above, and completely stress myself out trying to get too many things done. During these times I find it very difficult to relax and enjoy the benefits of my productivity. But then wait a few days, I can’t keep up with myself, and so I’ll swing to the other side: laziness! I just put everything off and don’t want to deal. Does anyone else have this problem?

    1. I sometimes notice I will have a surge of energy and be extremely productive. When the pendulum swings back, for me it’s not so much laziness as the need to calm down and go more slowly. Sometimes *not* being in that extremely productive mode can make me a little apprehensive. I used to think I had an actual time disorder–I went around calling it chronophobia: the fear of the passage of time. Which actually does exist. But it was funny. In my case, once I changed my lifestyle to be slower, more purposeful, more aligned with my values, the “chronophobia” lessened. What I needed to stop fearing the passage of time, was to *live* the time and stop creating abstractions. Maybe your pendulum swing isn’t productivity and laziness but hyper-productivity and the need for rest. 🙂

      1. Yes, that could be it. It’s also funny how resting and relaxing is so much easier when someone tells you to do it. It’s almost like we need permission to slow down? Well, i’ll take your comment as my permission! Thanks 🙂

  23. This! : “Just because we’re able to successfully not buy things doesn’t mean we’re infallible in our conception of having “enough.” Enough constitutes not just money or things, but also the notion of achievement and the notion of what comprises a fulfilled life.” Nicely put.

  24. Funny! My husband is a time optimist and I try to rein him in – sometimes. Usually he accomplishes way more than I do though so I can’t be too tough on him! I always say that he’s Type A and I’m Type Z. Yin and yang . Opposites do attract.

    1. I feel opposite of this. Maybe because I’m the type A and my hubby is type Z as you say. I feel like I am doing all the work and have no time to play while he hangs out with friends and watches tv. He does stuff too but more slow, and takes longer and it drives me crazy! I think I would totally be happy if I was in your shoes though. I just have to back off and let stuff go so I can enjoy life too!

  25. It’s really interesting to me to see this new (to me) take on frugality. My husband and I have always been frugal but it has always been just another facet of our approach to life that is not very focused on maximizing productivity (this comes much more naturally to us since we are Mediterraneans). I really appreciate all that you and others are doing to elevate the frugal approach to life but don’t quite know what to do with the side that seems to treat it as a competitive sport.

    I really do hope that you guys will be able to slow things down now that you have lots of savings and your first little one. It is so gratifying to live this kind of life with children – for us and them!

  26. Babyhoods is growing so fast! I too find myself unable to relax until everything is done and off my list and out of my mind. This means I’m always focusing on preparing for the next thing instead of enjoying the present. I’ve been making an effort to practice more mindfulness although, sometimes I end up just trying to optimize my time more so I have more time for mindfulness, haha. Time Optimizers unite!

  27. Estelle is so cute, and growing! I was guilty of the above and have just mellowed out with time. At 50, I can let the dishes sit on the counter, glaring at me, while I opt to relax and enjoy my life.

  28. I love this article along with all your protectionism articles. The fact that this is a mental challenge for some of us is real! I started meditating literally to soften this part of myself. Total work in progress, but I love having a new label for it, lol. Thank you to your friend! (P.s I haven’t commented in a while, but baby woods is THE CUTEST! :).

  29. Wow. Love your writing. It gets keeps getting better and better.

    Have you ever read The Underachiever’s Manifesto? Fantastic little book. It helped to realize I don’t have to constantly achieve things to make myself feel good. Of course, I still accomplish things, but maybe at a slower healthier pace. Highly recommended for recovering Overachievers and busy-holics.

  30. I’m just reading it for the baby pictures now 😛 She is looking so sturdy and healthy! Do you laugh all the time at her?

  31. I can relate. I’m getting better about it. I am reading a book called Essentialism that was mentioned on the MM site, which has a lot of good points about prioritizing and narrowing down our list to those most important to us. I got very sick for about a month last year and could not do anything – that pretty much changed my outlook, although I don’t recommend it to anyone! Both Frugal baby and Frugal hound are adorable.

  32. Yes! I am 100% a time optimist and it is totally a blessing and a curse. My boyfriend always scoffs at me when I complain about lazy I feel on the weekends. “But you cleaned the house, cooked breakfast, put together a grocery list, and went hiking- all before noon” he says. “I could be catching up on my work, reading all 3 books I have checked out of the library and volunteering though! Ugh, I am so lazy” I reply.

    I really love the idea of celebrating the small victories and making the time to reflect on all that you have done rather than lamenting on what is left to do.

    Wonderful post!

  33. Time optimism comes in the form of making an unrealistic list for the day. My hubby looks at the list and chuckles, knowing full well it’s quite impossible! That’s where prioritization comes into play!
    It always cracks me up when people are too busy and others need to cover for them. Is your busy busier than my busy, and if your busy is certainly busier, then, perhaps I’ve built a life where I don’t need to be that busy! A life that has trade offs and perhaps sacrifices. I’m not willing to cover for your busy when you aren’t making the sacrifices! Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now! Ha!

  34. Well, I have definitely found my “tribe” among all you type A’s or “time optimists” or whatever we want to call ourselves! Yay!! I have tried to re-wire my inclination to live by my to-do lists, but I just can’t. I am 64, so I have come to fully embrace the way I am #:-> Yay for us!
    One additional quick comment…to homestead is to put a mountain of tasks on your plate (and Mr. FW’s) every day. Your intentions are to fly solo and, while that is a grand goal and I do fully admire you for it, your lists of things to do will be long. And, you now have a child to care for, who will sometimes pull you away from your to-do list. So, with great respect and admiration, I suggest that you begin to think about what is ahead…a lot! Learning to let some stuff go is hard, but it will be the trick to feeling pleased at what you HAVE DONE.

  35. Freakishly adorable Babywoods photo!!

    I was a hardcore time optimist like you described. I have subsequently reformed my ways.
    Once I stopped working 60 hours a week, I really began to savor life more. Becoming a patent definitely helped, too. Time with our son was way too precious not to enjoy. Sometimes that meant 90 minute playground stops on an errand filled Saturday. I could tell he definitely enjoyed our less harried pace.

    I still have to-do lists, but they are more realistic. I’ve streamlined certain errands, and have come up with ways to stop all my nuttiness!!

  36. I am a time optimist as well. What has helped me stay positive is keeping track of things I’ve done as well as things I need to do. This way, I don’t always get discouraged when I have a long to-do list and not enough time.

  37. I am amazed that you figured this out so soon in your parenting journey. It took me several years of making myself and everybody around me crazy before I finally understood time limitations.

  38. Funny, in Swedish time optimist has another meaning, it means someone who is perpetually late or even a procrastinator. Because they always assume that when they finally do things, they think it will be much quicker than it actually is. I’m not a time optimist in that sense, I’m always on time for instance. But the person you describe I can totally relate to!

  39. Haha. So true. I once estimated that staining our fascia boards would take 30 minutes. took six days! Also goals are good and very motivational. I used them. a log home, have a family, live in the country. motivate me and it worked …done at 36 (should have included FI…but live and learn, many thanks to your writings 🙂 now i have a new goal though). I then went through a crisis of aniexty, many weird symptoms etc (too much for here), and i think some of it had to do with having achieved what i set out to do and had been focused on for so long. I went to therapy and kept saying “I’ve got every thing i want” but i felt adrift. It took me almost two years to work through it and having a set of twins at two weeks shy of 42 to finally learn to enjoy it and not worry about not making progress towards some goal. I have a different mindset towards my goals now. Goals are still there. Ie FI, but taking the time to enjoy life and know that achieving goals is nice but not the point of life. Needed goals and motivation to achieve but then had to really learn how to enjoy a period of unfamiliarity, with no goals, just life.

  40. My problem is I am just like you, constantly busy and trying to get all the chores done while working a full time job and trying to spend time with my 3.5 year old. My hubby is opposite. He is content watching tv. I hate that he isn’t like me, so it bothers me that I’m doing all this work while he is enjoying himself. I wish we were both on the same page. I wish I was more like him; not worrying that there are dishes in the sink or laundry to be done. Or that he was like me, wants to get things done so we can enjoy the rest of the day. I just hate seeing things dirty and if we both worked together we could get stuff done in half the time! I wish I could say I enjoy keeping busy but its such a burden when you feel as though you work 24/7 with no free time. No time with friends, no activities, no time to do the things you really love. RIght now, my fun time is being with my son and watching tv with my hubby before bed. I know I need to ease up and make time for myself. That is my current goal!

  41. This is totally random, but I’m a pediatric nurse and my husband is an optometrist. Babywoods could not be cuter, but it is hard for me to see if the light reflection of the flash is in the same spot in both her pupils. It is squarely in the center in her right eye, but I can’t tell if it’s in the center of her left. Not a sign of anything overly worrisome, but could mean that her eyes “cross” slightly. It might be worth asking your pediatrician, or taking advantage of the free InfantSee program many eye doctors offer for babies under a year as a vision screening. Just my two cents- not to be nosey or overbearing. She’s darling, and I’m sure she’s fine, the light can just be off depending on the angle of the photo.

    I’m a time optimist also!! I’m so disappointed if I can’t cram an extrodinary amount of stuff into the day, plus still have a few minutes to relax. Thanks for the article. I enjoy your blog.

  42. An often-overwhelming schedule packed with a seemingly endless set of tasks has also led me to develop a purely optimistic attitude toward each day. Sometimes it feels as if that’s the only way to cope. I’ve learned that it’s not necessarily about how much you didn’t finish at the end of the day. If I don’t get through a list of priorities, I don’t beat myself up. Instead I look for the small wins and ask myself – what was I able to accomplish? Many small wins work together to create a bigger picture.

  43. I can relate to this so much! I feel the same way, perpetually dissatisfied with my efforts yet feeling my scarcity of time so deeply. It very disheartening honestly, and my friends and family bear the brunt of my whining. I’ve been trying to not whine quite so much lately but it’s a struggle. I’ll have to focus more on maintaining a positive mindset. Hopefully I won’t feel the need to whine so much!

  44. This really speaks to me. If I have 15 extra minutes between appointments I need to do something productive with it. I have been trying to be less so as I grow older, but, I really don’t know how people make it thru fulltime jobs and families without the fill every minute mindset! We mentioned something to friends about getting our drivers licenses renewed in December and our Birthdays are in January. It was a foreign concept to them to do something ahead of time! One of the problems of always doing something mindset is that you are always living in the future instead of the moment. Always afraid you will drop the ball and miss something of utmost importance (to you and probably not to anyone else). I wish I had not felt that a clean house was so important! It isn’t and Babywoods won’t ever say I’m so glad my mother got everything done on her list:)

  45. I’ve been catching up on your blog from the beginning, and I said I wouldn’t comment on anything that wasn’t current, but I’ve never related to a blog post more in my life…So here I am being the weirdo that’s commenting 2.5 years after the fact!
    I’ve never heard it described as “Time Optimism” before, but that’s exactly what it is. And I, too, see it as both a pro and con in my personality traits. I mean on one hand, I always have a variety of To Do Lists to keep me organized and know what task I can accomplish next, but then again, I’m disappointed when I have 15 To Do Lists that are partially completed. Take this weekend for example. I had the entire farm to myself (this NEVER happens), and I know I’m much more productive when I’m by myself, so I had my To Do list ready to rock and roll. And then it rained. All. Weekend. Long. Don’t get me wrong, I still got a crap-ton done, but not everything I had wanted to, so instead of celebrating all the shit that got marked off the list Sunday evening, I was explaining to my husband all that I didn’t get accomplished because of the weather.
    Thanks for putting a name to it, now maybe I can recognize it more in my every day life, and make a conscious decision of if its my best interest to be a time optimist in that situation.

    1. Thank you for reading and for commenting!! I so feel you on the to do list aspirations–it plagues me to this day 🙂

  46. Hej people, well done everyone on recognizing your struggles and working hard on improving your lives and well being!
    Some of you may want to check out for anxiety. I struggled with much of the above for a long time. At 56 I was diagnosed with a anxiety disorder (GAD), which has helped me a lot for getting myself back on track. I now know why I can feel dissatisfied with my accomplishments, either because of perfection quests or time optimism. It hasn’t made the “always need to be productive” push go away completely, but at least now I can stop myself in my track and realise what’s going on.
    Love to everyone in the community and to a motivating blog. ❤️

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