The feeling of time passing: peaks and endings



kitchen sink

Last March felt short. Even though there were fewer days in February, March flew by and February felt more substantial. ¿Does my logging substantiate my feelings of time duration? Did I log less during a month that felt shorter? The short answer is yes, and that I logged less because I worked less.


My March had fewer events than January or February of this year, but mostly on the work side (see Table 1). That was probably due to Easter vacation, so overall, work events decreased by about 60. I graphed the events per day in March, compared to Jan and Feb (Figure 1), and also noticed that there were no large peaks in March either. The busiest day in March had 19 events, while January and February had days with 20, 30 and even 40 events (but mostly work related). So I worked less in March, which produced less events, more personal events (propotionally) but also made me feel like I accomplished less. Technically I did do less, but the crux is that is made me feel worse.


That reminds me of a kind of law that I read about recently in the book “Being Mortal” (Atul Gawande), about how our memory focuses on the peaks and endings. He refers to people facing death, but Daniel Kahneman also found it with the average Joe, i.e., . when remembering things, we recall the best and the worst events, the peaks, and our overall feeling about an event is strongly influenced by how it ended. That’s partly why people on their deathbed are very worried about their final hours and days, despite having lived great lives, we want it to end well too.

So, to anwer my own question, my logging suggests that March, which had fewer peaks of events per day than the two previous months, seemed less substantial, and it also happened to end with an Easter vacation, making it seem even less busy.

Two other comments from event analysis in March:

Event categories: When I scanned my excel indices of my log books and assigned each event to a category, I found that assigning was much easier to do for work events. Personal events were more varied and unique, while work events fit more easily into one of few categories.

Favorite events from March: I chose 17 favorite events from March, out of the 341 in total, and most of them were from the personal side. The favorites included a meet up about quantified self, new things read (H.G. Wells , Chekhov, Borges, Lydia Davis, and several interesting science articles), going to an art exhibit (Chagall), listening to music, new ideas, time with my kids, and a surprise bird sighting right next to my house (a European kestrel near my doorstep). Kestrels are so nice.




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