How ‘Buying Time’ For Yourself Can Make You A Happier Person
Greater access to time-saving services is making people happier across the economic spectrum.
To quote some stoner at some party somewhere in the world right now: “Time is just a construct, man.”
I mean, true. But it’s also, y’know, the very concept by which history is defined and the thing that gives meaning to life on earth. It’s no wonder, then, that it’s a universally precious commodity above pretty much anything else, and humans never feel like they have enough of it.
Which is why a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences earlier this week brings some promising news: When you “buy” yourself extra time via services and apps, you reap not only the benefits of having the extra time, but it makes you heaps happier as well.
In order to combat “time famine,” a.k.a. the feeling of not having enough time to live your life, researchers set out to study the effects of investing in time-saving services like paying for a house cleaner, grocery delivery, and even ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.
The study looked at more than 6,000 people in the US, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands, and found that across all income levels, spending money to “buy” more time was associated with greater life satisfaction. Unsurprisingly, it was also linked to reduced stress.
Historically, the notion of “hiring help,” has been one reserved for the wealthy, and to be sure, it still does require a level of disposable income. Yet with vastly increased accessibility via startups and apps dedicated to this very purpose, combined with the fact that we’re all weirdly obsessed with working long hours, it makes more and more sense that it’s providing much-needed relief in our everyday lives.
Take, for instance, meal-kit delivery services like Blue Apron. They save you the effort of meal planning and grocery shopping, and at a price point of $10 per meal, the equation begins to make a lot of sense. Or the task of doing laundry if you don’t have in-house access to a washer and drying.
On the Task Rabbit blog, one user relayed how hiring someone to do the task in its entirety cost $25, whereas the author taking it to a wash-and-fold cost $23—plus the time and energy required to complete the task herself.
Still, for those of us who weren’t raised as Trumps, there can be something of a mental disconnect in the happiness “buying” time can bring and the act of outsourcing. "Guilt might undermine people's willingness to make time-saving purchases," Ashley Whillans, one of the head researchers on the study, told CNN.
“You have to pick up the phone and ask for help from someone that maybe you don't know, and that can bring up a whole bunch of feelings.“
One can’t help but wonder, too, how much gender roles in the home factor in significantly in this respect. If a woman is raised to believe the domestic sphere is her “domain”—and even for women who work full time, this is often still very much true—the notion that she could farm the work out to someone else can especially be difficult to accept, even if the cost is comparable and she’ll benefit emotionally and mentally from it.
All of which is to say: Next time you’re faced with the prospect of heading to the grocery store after work and you’re considering whether the couple extra bucks for Instacart delivery is worth it, say yes. Because we could all benefit from the extra time and that residual dose of happiness, too.
Word: Deena Drewis
Photo: Daria Kobayashi Ritch