Want More Time, Then Give It Away?

So I’m currently taking an online course at Coursera.org on behavioral economics and last night I watched a lecture that has stuck in my head.  It was a guest lecture by Mike Norton from Harvard on money, time and happiness (a wee bit of an obvious hint on why I’m taking the class, eh?).

Now what struck me about his work was he first confirmed what I’ve know for a while.  Making more money doesn’t make people much happier (each additional amount has a declining increase to your happiness). That first job earning less than $10,000 feels really good, you feel a bit better when you get your first career job after university, but after a decade of work the next $10,000 is sort of what ever.  Yet he also commented that making more money tends to make people more selfish, which had not occured to me.  He argues when you win money what is the first thing you think about: what you can spend the money on, not giving it away or spending it on other people. Yet to combat this, they also ran some experiments that if you give money away or spend it on others you feel happier than if you spent it on yourself.

Interesting results, but what really blew my mind was the idea that exact same results apply to time as well. What the #@$?! How could spending your time on others make you more happy?  Won’t that cause you to feel ever more stressed about your time?  Apparently, what happens is if you spend either resource on others it causes you to feel a sense of abundance, so you feel better about your time even if you actually have less of it.

So while this sounds good, I want to actually try this out.  So here is my plan, from April 15 to May 15 I will spend more of my time and money on others.  To be exact I’ll put half of my spending cash or $100 towards spending on others and I will spend at least five hours a week on others.  I will then track my happiness daily on a five point scale and then sum of the results and present it back to you guys.  I’ll spend the next few days before that constructing a baseline of my current happiness.

Insane? Perhaps, but let’s field test this idea prior to writing off the idea either.  Anyone want to join me?

3 thoughts on “Want More Time, Then Give It Away?”

  1. I love the idea! Spending time helping people has always given me a level of happiness that cannot be replicated or substituted. Not to mention it teaches you a lot too.

  2. “Yet he also commented that making more money tends to make people more selfish”

    That’s an example of someone making stuff up to ‘prove’ some point. There’s simply no basis for that statement.

    However, that doesn’t discount the idea that each of us should be volunteering in some fashion – either through giving of time or money. One or the other of those should be part of living in a fortunate society. Plus, volunteer orgs are screaming for help. Go ask at your local public school, they are in dire need of volunteers for tutoring, organizing, running the hot lunch programs, etc etc. Or find a community event and help organize it. Or take your favourite hobby and help run a local club. It’s gratifying, fun, and very social.

  3. I think you’ll enjoy the experiment. I’ve done lots of volunteering in the last decade. It’s rewarding, although sometimes it just feels like you have multiple full-time jobs. A lot can depend on the people you work with on a volunteer gig. Sometimes it just becomes another annoying pain point.

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