Another Real Simple stunner: what would you do with a free day?

Those of you who are long-time readers of this blog know that I am both obsessed with Real Simple, and like to make fun of the magazine. In 168 Hours, I spend some time in Chapter 1 pondering the absurdity of a question the magazine posed to its “time-starved” readers in January 2007: If you had an extra 15 minutes in your day, how would you use it? People daydreamed about various soul-restoring pursuits they’d undertake if their calendars opened up.

This is, of course, funny, because the average American watches several hours of TV per day. If you’re not trying your hammock, or writing thank-you letters, or writing in your journal, it’s not because there’s no time.

But anyway, in the July 2010 issue, Real Simple is at it again, with a new question: If you were suddenly given a free day this summer, how would you spend it?

As the editors elaborate, “Imagine 24 glorious hours with zero obligations. Maybe you would go skydiving, or watch every episode of Glee, or take that long nap you’ve been craving since, oh, 2008. Here’s a sampling of the mini-vacation fantasies on the minds of Real Simple readers.”

The answers show a shocking similarity to those given to the 15 minutes question.

In 2007, one reader reported that she would spend some time “chopping, prepping, and cooking large, healthy meals ahead of time.” In 2010, a reader fantasizes about “cooking my family an ambitious meal.”

In 2007, one reader wanted to “get back to reading;” in 2010, “catching up on my reading” makes the list.

In 2007, one reader fantasized about spending that extra 15 minutes kissing her husband; in 2010, one reader reports that she would spend the free day “in bed with my husband.”

In 2007, a reader spoke of extra time to “snuggle with my young daughters.” In 2010, another reader fantasizes about “getting dirty in the garden with my 17-month-old daughter.”

Yep, from organizing the house to organizing the photos, it doesn’t seem to matter if you’re given another 15 minutes or another 24-hours. In this alternate universe you’ll get it done.

But, of course, it raises the question: why do we need an alternate universe? Even if we’ve got little kids, most of us could probably call in a few chits and get extended family to take them for 24 hours (or trade off with our spouses). We could take a day off work. We could deal with bills and other things ahead of time so we could get 24 hours on our calendars mostly cleared. Within the 2016 hours of summer, we could probably scrape together a spare 24.

The point is, if you’re not doing something that sounds wonderful to you now, like gardening with your kids or kissing your husband or reading, you’re not going to do it if the universe grants you another 15 minutes or another 24 hours. There is plenty of time to live the lives we want in the 168 hours we’ve got. It just requires leaving fantasy world, and making plans and setting priorities in this real one.

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