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Want To Be Happier? Hire A Housekeeper, Researchers Suggest

Many who have the means to buy themselves more free time don’t do so

For people who wish there were more hours in the day, spending a bit of money to get rid of onerous tasks would make them much happier, but researchers say very few actually make the investment.

A study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has found buying time makes people happier than buying material things.

UBC psychology professor and study author Elizabeth Dunn said although the idea of being happier by having someone clean your home or do other unwanted chores seems obvious, the study found even small investments like shopping at a more expensive, but closer-to-home, grocery store makes a difference.

Protects from time stress

“Theoretically what we think is that buying time protects people from the negative effects of time stress in daily life,” she said. “When you’re rushing around, feeling pressed for time, that seems to take a bit of a toll on people’s day-to-day happiness.”

Researchers gave 60 people taking part in the study in Vancouver $40 to spend on two weekends. The first time they were told to use the money on any material item they wanted.

Dunn said people reported buying a nice bottle of wine, clothes and board games. Researchers then surveyed the group to determine their level of happiness following the purchase of the item.

On the second weekend, participants were tasked to use the money to save them time — such as taking a taxi instead of public transit, have someone mow their lawn, and in one case having a “neighbour boy” run errands.

Better than shopping

Dunn said they compared the group’s level of happiness following both instances of spending, and found people were much happier when they bought themselves more time.

Surprisingly, Dunn said only two per cent of the group reported that they would spend money on things that would give them more time.

“It’s not what comes to mind to people as a way to increase their happiness and the rates at which people are engaging in this type of expenditure are surprisingly low,” Dunn said.

That attitude wasn’t limited to the Vancouver participants.

The study also surveyed 850 millionaires in the Netherlands and found almost half of them don’t spend money to outsource their most disliked tasks.

Many could but don’t outsource

Buying more time requires the means to do so, Dunn said. But a survey of 6,000 people in Canada, the U.S. and Europe showed those who have a bit of discretionary income would benefit from spending it on getting rid of the chores they dread.

The minority of people who do buy time-saving tools typically spend $80 to $100 a month, Dunn said, adding the study shows even $40 can make a difference.

‘Even if you don’t have tonnes of money, using money to get rid of your disliked tasks may be a pretty smart decision,’
– Elizabeth Dunn, UBC psychology professor

“People who don’t feel like they’re rolling in dough may feel like that’s a frivolous way to spend money, but what our research is showing is that even if you don’t have tonnes of money, using money to get rid of your disliked tasks may be a pretty smart decision,” she said.

Guilt factor

The reason behind people’s aversion to treating themselves to time savers is unclear. Dunn said her team’s best guess is that people feel guilty spending money on things they could do themselves.

“People may feel like I can do this so I should do this, and so I hope our research helps to break through that perhaps misguided cultural assumption,” she said.

Dunn said her team intends to do a follow-up study to better understand why people don’t spend money to buy time, and see how age, gender, ethnicity or other characteristics play into the reasoning.

source: www.cbc.ca     The Canadian Press    Jul 25, 2017
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Gain time for yourself by giving it to others

Altruism pays with a sense of ‘time affluence’

 Jul 13, 2012

If it seems as if there’s never enough hours in the day to do all the things you want — try reversing that feeling by volunteering your time to do things for other people.
A new U.S. study suggests that helping others boosts our sense of personal competence and efficiency, which in turn stretches out time in our minds.
And ultimately, giving time makes people more willing to commit to future engagements despite their busy schedules, says lead researcher Cassie Mogilner of the University of Pennsylvania.
“In short, we propose that spending time on others makes people feel like they have done a lot with their time — and the more they feel they have done with their time, the more time they will feel they have,” concludes the study.
The findings were released online Friday in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
The researchers used four different experiments, to test people’s subjective sense of having time, called “time affluence.”
They found that compared with wasting time, spending time on oneself, and even gaining a windfall of “free” time, spending time on others increased participants’ feelings of time affluence.
The authors conclude with a word of caution.
“Despite these potentially multiplicative benefits of giving time, however, there is likely an upper limit at which giving time has negative consequences — for example, when giving time starts to impair people’s ability to be effective in their own lives.”

Giving and receiving

The four experiments included:
1. A total of 218 participants (58 per cent female with a median age of 20) were randomly assigned to one of two five-minute tasks in which they either gave their time or wasted it.
Participants in the giving time condition wrote an encouraging note (which was subsequently mailed) to a gravely ill child. Participants in the wasting time condition were asked to complete a “filler task” that required counting “e’s” in multiple pages of Latin text.
“Although both giving time and wasting time signal that one has an abundance of time, only giving time led participants to perceive their time as more abundant.”
2. A total of 150 subjects (74 per cent female with a median age of 40) were randomly assigned to spend 10 or 30 minutes either doing something for themselves or for someone else that they had hadn’t planned that day.
Regardless of whether participants spent 10 or 30 minutes, spending time on another seemed to expand their sense of time compared with spending time on oneself.
It is consistent with research on the benefits of spending money on others versus on oneself. The amount of the resource spent matters less than whether it was spent on oneself or others.
3. This experiment tested the effect of giving time on feelings of time affluence against an even stricter standard: actually receiving an unexpected “windfall” of free time.
It involved a 15-minute task of editing an essay written by an at-risk student from a local public high school. A total of 136 subjects (58 per cent female with a median age of 20) were randomly assigned to two groups.
Half were given an essay and a red pen for editing; the rest were told that all of the essays had been edited and they could leave early.
Subjects who gave time felt as though they had more time than those who received an equivalent amount of “free” time. Moreover, participants who spent their time helping an at-risk student reported feeling that their time was less scarce.
4. Participants were randomly assigned to vividly describe a recent incident of doing something which was not part of their normal responsibilities — either for someone else or for themselves.
Consistent with the previous experiments, participants who remembered giving time felt as if they had more time than participants who remembered spending time on themselves.
The experiment included 105 participants with a median age of 34, 56 per cent were female.
source: CBC