Businesses are experts at knowing what their employees’ time is worth to them, but few individuals know how to correctly analyze the value of their own time.
With “Time Smart: How to Reclaim Your Time and Live a Happier Life” by Ashley Whillans, author and assistant professor at Harvard Business School, there are no longer acceptable excuses for not understanding and practicing the process that has evaded individuals for so long.
Whillans has devised a system for discovering “happiness dollars.” The initial shift is in changing one’s mindset from valuing money to knowing the value of one’s time. The most basic example is understood by most and is categorized as outsourcing.
Some may think paying others to do one’s undesirable chores, such as cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping and cooking, is a frivolous entitlement for the privileged, but if outsourcing one’s most undesirable chores frees a person’s time to engage in more personally beneficial activities, that spending is no longer a frivolous waste of money.
Whillans shows readers how spending up to $18,000 per year for outsourcing can be turned into happiness hours.
Another example shows that socializing, as evidenced by people who take friendly, casual breaks during the day, leads a person to accomplish more than a person who sits diligently alone all day, plugging away at work or chores.
Spending just 30 minutes a day on exercising, volunteering or doing any activity categorized as active leisure can be worth approximately $1,800 per year. If one engages in passive leisure, such as watching TV, the happiness hour value reduces to $1,000. It is determined by what activity each person chooses to enjoy.
The key to valuing happiness hours is to identify one’s time traps, which are different for each individual. Some people get caught up in technology and spend countless hours online searching for deals. The average time searching for deals is 32 minutes before any purchase is made.
Another strategy shared by those who chase pennies or dollars is driving far out of the way to fill a car with gas, unaware that the time it takes seeking the lower price per gallon may not be worth the money saved. Once a person becomes aware of the value of time equaling happiness hours, he or she can now see how driving farther to save a miniscule amount of money takes away from those hours.
Vacation planning and vacation time can also become a shocking misuse of time, and one that’s easily resolved. Most companies offer two weeks of paid vacation to regular employees, but many employees don’t take their given time. To increase happiness hours, all they have to do is to take the paid time due to them and forgo the excuse that they have too much work. They would return refreshed and accomplish more than if they had stayed working.
Another situation to reconsider is the time spent in obligatory lunches with co-workers. It is never too late to change a routine, even if an employee has fallen into the habit of regular lunches. Rethink how you would prefer to spend those one to two hours, and act on it. Your co-workers are not paying for your time, so consider a politically acceptable way to replace those habits with activities that bring you happiness.
“Time Smart” offers the process to finding time traps, the steps to finding time and the toolkit to track that time. It will likely be a new way of thinking for most, but replacing the old thinking for new ways will lead to more enjoyable habits and saving money as one has never previously considered.
Whillans explains, “There is no one-size-fits-all solution.” Everyone “has different values, needs, and priorities” and people “respond differently to time choices.” But with this new way of thinking, Whillans has opened up a world of new choices that can lead all to happier lives.