Harvard consumer psychologist Ashley Whillans’s cover article in the January 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review considers why the pursuit of money may not bring you joy.
As a society, we really have more time to spend than in previous societies (a result of convenience and mechanization.) Yet, she observes, we tend to use our free time to work yet more and expand our bank accounts, rather than invest that time in things that can provide us with more happiness—meaningful relationships, for example.
The article (and the related podcast) explains how to value your time over money, in particular by hiring help. Here is a précis:
You may not be able to change how many hours you work in a week, but you may be able to change how much of those non-work hours you’re spending on chores.
If you are having a really busy weekend and you have four or five hours of chores to do at home, that means you’re going to have four or five less hours to spend in any other ways that could promote meaning and happiness.
When considering how we can use money to increase our happiness, most of us think of investing it in positive experiences like Hawaiian vacations. But it’s also important to think about how to eliminate negative experiences from our day. Take small actions—don’t do anything too drastic, but just sit down and think about whether there’s anything you can outsource that you really don’t like, that stresses you out a lot, that you can afford.
Idea for Impact: Use your hard-earned money to buy time, reduce stress, and increase happiness
If you feel increasingly strapped for time, use the mental model of opportunity costs and consider earmarking a fraction of your discretionary income to hire a personal assistant. Buy yourself some more of that most valuable of life’s supplies, free time.
Start by asking your friends for referrals for a reliable assistant. Outsource your housework, shopping, errands, and other tasks that you dislike. Use the salvaged time to seek activities that bring you joy—recreation, relationships, spiritual and intellectual nurturance, or even productive work.
However, farm out your personal chores in moderation. According to the aforementioned article, there’s some evidence to suggest that people who outsource too much have the lowest levels of happiness, perhaps as a consequence of indolence.