How to make time work for you

Time – you can’t stretch it and you can’t control it. Or can you?

I’ve just been reading a research paper, “If money doesn’t make you happy, consider time”, by Jennifer Aaker and Melanie Rudd from Stanford University, and Cassie Mogliner from the University of Pennsylvania.

The paper argues that we ought to recognise the critical role that time plays in determining happiness, and has a rather pithy five principle guide to how to spend your time to maximise your happiness.

Rules 1 & 2, spend time with the right people and on the right activities seems pretty obvious.

Rule 5, be aware that happiness changes over time, is interesting. For example, as people get older, they tend to gain more happiness from familiar friends and family rather than meeting lots of new people. Sounds sensible.

Rules 3 & 4 are where things start to get interesting.

Rule 3 is “enjoy the experience without spending the time”. The joy of anticipating or planning a holiday can be better than the holiday itself. So cut out the annoying booking of tickets, getting visas and packing (not to mention the cost!), and just daydream about it instead! Whilst I can definitely see that there is pleasure in anticipation (I for one am subscribed to several holiday websites so that I can browse the latest deals daily), surely in some cases the disappointment of not actually going on holiday could be significant.

Also, I once read that daydreaming makes you more prone to short-sightedness. But then there’s always some sort of health scare or other.

Rule 4, “expand your time” sounds like an impossible feat. But what the authors really mean is that you should take part in activities that tend to make people feel as if they have more spare time. Paradoxically, taking the time to help other people apparently makes you feel less time-pressured.

The full paper is here.

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