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How Productivity Leads to Happiness, According to Harvard Research

resilience time management Jan 14, 2020
How Productivity Leads to Happiness, According to Harvard Research

In the quest for happiness, you may not think to look for ways to boost your productivity. In fact, productivity can sometimes be associated with a rushed, task-focused way of life, devoid of fun and relaxation. But with an updated definition of productivity, the opposite is true because increased productivity gives you more time.

And more time will make you happier than most anything else you could buy and even more than having more money. Happiness doesn’t just improve your personal life either. It improves key business metrics, boosting productivity by as much as 10 percent.

The Relationship Between Productivity and Happiness

As an example, for an article published earlier this year, Harvard Business School professor Ashley Whillans asked thousands of people whether they valued time or money more by asking them to choose between this hypothetical vignette of Tina and its opposite:

Tina values her time more than her money. She is willing to sacrifice money to have more time. For example, Tina would rather work fewer hours and make less money than work more hours and make more money.

When participants were asked about their happiness, those who chose Tina over her money-loving counterpart were happier by 0.5 point on a 10-point happiness scale. This may not seem like much, but as Whillans points out, 0.5 point amounts to half the effect created by getting married— which she says is known to provide one of the biggest bumps to happiness.

Further research by Whillans confirms that people who use their money to buy more time are happier than those who use their time to make more money. In fact, people who feel “time-poor” – they don’t feel they have enough time to do everything they want to do – experience higher levels of depression and anxiety and are less healthy and productive.

According to Whillan’s research, time poverty is reaching record highs as it affects people of all economic levels. Gallup surveys reveal that 80 percent of people don’t have enough time to do all they want to do each day.

Entrepreneurs, as one example, mitigate their risk of experiencing time poverty by spending their days doing work they love. However, they’re also more susceptible because they generally end up doing some of everything at their company. While this can be necessary, it leads entrepreneurs to spend a lot of time doing work they neither like nor excel at.

3 Ways to Boost Productivity and Happiness

Here are several ways you can spend money to buy yourself more time, thereby increasing your productivity and happiness:

Offload more work to your team and freelancers.

Through interviews with 45 knowledge workers (those who primarily add value through problem-solving and thinking, as opposed to physical labor), researchers from the London School of Business found that on average, respondents felt it would be possible to easily offload 41 percent of the work that they currently did themselves and that they found just over a quarter of their work tiresome.

Many resort to doing this work because they don’t feel confident in their delegation skills or they worry they won’t find good help. For example, a Stanford executive leadership study found that 72 percent of chief executives said they either need to improve their delegation skills or are currently working to improve them.

A few hours spent learning how to delegate would repay itself in less than week. To find good help, entrepreneurs can look to today’s ever-growing gig economy. Freelance hubs like Upwork, Fiverr, Credo, and Freelancer enable you to get tens of qualified applications within hours.

Outsource personal tasks.

You don’t need to reserve delegation for the office. Much of the increased leisure time people enjoy today goes toward managing the increased complexity of their personal lives. Here again, you can pay others to do a bulk of the household chores you probably don’t like to do anyway. Platforms like TaskRabbit, Porch, Thumbtack, and Zaarly make this simple.

Invest in time management skills.

Most people assume that if you are good at your job, you must be good with your time. Yet, this is commonly untrue in part because you probably have received little to no training on how to manage your email, prioritize, use a to-do list, develop work plans, or manage interruptions.

As a result, professionals at all performance levels have significant opportunities to save time. In fact, results from our Time-Finder Diagnostic show that people can save an average of three hours and 18 minutes per day by making changes to their behaviors.

Spend less time commuting

Commuting eats up an average of 52 minutes every workday. Yet, growing acceptance of remote work, flexible hours, and increased access to affordable transportation options make this less necessary. If you’re not already, consider taking public transportation or a ride-sharing service at least once a week so you can use your commuting time. Take advantage of these perks by heading into the office after rush hour, ducking out of the office before the crowds, or working from home one day a week.

In an interview with Charlie Rose and Bill Gates, Warren Buffett famously said, “I can buy pretty much anything I want, but I can’t buy time.” While Buffett’s point about the importance of time is good, the reality is that you can buy yourself more time. Make an investment that will make even the legendary Oracle of Omaha jealous: invest in getting yourself more time.

This article was originally published on Inc.


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