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But a new study suggests that you can feel like you have more time—by donating some to others. The research is in the journal Psychological Science. [Cassie Mogilner et al, Giving Time Gives You Time]
There really are only 24 hours in a day—seven or eight of which are (ideally) spent sleeping. And a time commitment does take time. But researchers found that if people felt like they had done something for others, their perception was that they had gotten more done than people who killed time, spent time on themselves or got unexpected free time. And that made them feel like they had more time overall.
You don't even have to spend your whole Sunday volunteering. The helping tasks in the study took only about 5 to 15 minutes. They included things like editing a student's essay or writing a note to a sick child.
Time donators also felt like they could do more with their time, making them even more willing to give time in the future.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast]
giving time to friends or strangers increases perceptions of having time – in both the present and
the future – by increasing feelings of self-efficacy. This is welcome news in light of research
showing the detrimental consequences of time pressure on happiness, stress levels, and prosocial
behavior . Although feeling starved for time generally leads individuals to prioritize spare hours for themselves over giving this precious resource away, our results suggest that if people instead spent time on others, they would feel less timeconstrained and more able to complete their myriad tasks and responsibilities.
Moreover, giving time to others not only increases the giver’s sense of subjective time
but can also increase the recipient’s objective amount of time, such that giving time contributes
to the well-being of both the self and others.
self-regulation shape the experience of time. Our results demonstrate that the way time is spent can also impact time perception, and identifies a specific choice individuals can make to lessen their experienced time pressure: be effective by doin something for others. To be sure, decompressing in front of the television and getting massages are certainly fun and relaxing, but activities like these are very unlikely to increase feelings of self-efficacy. Indeed, people’s choice to spend additional leisure time on themselves may partly explain why the increase in leisure time in modern life has not increased people’s feelings of time affluence; our results indicate that spending time prosocially is
more effective in relieving the pressure of time. When individuals feel time-constrained, they
should become more generous with their time – despite their inclination to be less so.