Want the secret to greater happiness? Value your time, rather than constantly striving to make more money. At least that is suggestion coming from research recently published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
The research looked at six studies involving 4,600 participants, with a representative sample of Americans and Canadians. Some of the studies asked participants whether they put greater valued on time or money by using real-world examples, such as whether he or she would prefer a more expensive apartment with a short commute or a less expensive apartment with a longer commute. Or, participants were asked a question such as “would you choose a graduate program that would lead to a job with long hours and a higher starting salary, or a program that would result in a job with a lower salary but a job that meant you had to work less hours?”
“It appears that people have a stable preference for valuing their time over making more money, and prioritizing time is associated with greater happiness,” wrote lead researcher Ashley Whillans, a doctoral student in social psychology at the University of British Columbia. Slightly more than half of the participants chose to prioritize their time more than money, the study noted, and the older people were, the more likely they were to say they valued their time over money. “As people age, they often want to spend time in more meaningful ways than just making money,” Whillans reported.
The study went on to suggest that making even small tweaks in your schedule—such as working a few less hours, paying someone to clean your home to ease the pressure on your weekend, or spending time volunteering—can lead to greater life satisfaction. “Having more free time is likely more important for happiness than having more money. Even giving up a few hours of a paycheck to volunteer at a food bank may have more bang for your buck in making you feel happier.”
Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. Her latest book is Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!