If you feel like you have too much to do and too little time to do it – you’re experiencing a time famine. Are you starving for a few more hours every day? Hungry for more downtime, me-time, or quality time with your family - or all of the above? Has this been going on for a while?
Everyone gets busy now and then, but feeling like you’re always pressed for time is a time famine. Being in a time famine can make you unhappy, but it's possible to buy your way out of it.
You Can’t Buy Happiness, But You Can Buy Free Time
A 2017 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that spending money on time-saving services made people happier than spending the same amount of money on a material purchase. Paying someone else to clean your house, mow your lawn, or deliver your groceries helps to negate the bad moods caused by time stress. It also helps you to feel like you’re more in control of your time – and therefore, your life.
Data from the study showed a direct correlation between spending money to buy time and greater life satisfaction, regardless of income level. In the past, time-saving services were seen as the realm of the rich. But now with services like TaskRabbit and Angie’s List, it's more affordable to find help for the busywork of life. Grocery stores will shop for you and deliver your bags to your car. Meal delivery services bring dinner to your door. Hiring a housekeeper, driver, delivery person, or landscaper is easier than ever.
Busyness Is a Badge of Honor
But surprisingly, very few people spend their money on time-saving services. In the study, only 2% of respondents reported purchasing time-saving services on their own (including the very wealthy). There’s a certain guilt that goes along with hiring someone to do the work you could do yourself. Instead, people spend their money on things. We keep our free time so full that busyness becomes part of our identity and our self-worth.
Staying busy may make us feel important, but it’s not making us happy. It’s hard to be present and enjoy the moment when you’re hashing out your to-do list in your head. There will always be more to do. There will always be something to clean, someone to call, some goal to chase after. Time famine makes you hungry for sleep, rest, and peace of mind – and it can lead to emotional and physical burnout. But it doesn’t have to. In fact, some of the data suggest that time famine is all in our heads.
Replace Time Famine with Time Affluence
There IS enough time in the day. You just have to reframe your perspective and step outside the cultural conditioning that tells you that life should always be busy. Reclaim your personal time and rediscover your happiness. Here’s are some tips to help you:
- Stop commiserating with friends who moan/humble-brag about their busy lives. Listen politely but resist the urge to join in.
- Choose to wait. Instead of automatically reaching for your phone when faced with a red light or a line at the ATM – just wait. Exhale. Embrace the awkward discomfort of doing nothing. You might even like it.
- Go to a park with no plans, no route to walk, and no time allotted. See where the day takes you.
- Chart your free time. Chances are, you have more free time than you think you do. You’re just spending it watching TV or scrolling on social media. Dare to discover exactly where your hours go each day.
- Hire time-saving services. While you may not be able to afford help with everything, identify the one chore that you really hate (or that just takes forever) and buy your free time back.
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