We live in a world today where we can outsource almost everything in our lives. Think about it. There’s SHIPT for groceries, Uber for transportation, meal prep services Hello Fresh and Blue Apron for getting dinner on the table, and TaskRabbit for everything from putting together furniture to setting up electronics. Not to mention the tried and true services that have been around for decades, like housekeepers, lawn maintenance, and home repair and upkeep contractors for things like painting walls and cleaning gutters.
Indeed, our modern society is full of specific conveniences for almost every segment of life. While not an entirely new concept, it is a new spin on an old classic. All the way back in the 1700s, Adam Smith touted the notion that efficiency is a surefire way to business success. So, is “life efficiency” a path towards greater life success; i.e. happiness? Intuitively, it seems like the answer could be yes.
But don’t take my word for it. A recent research article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that opening our wallets to save time may reduce stress about the limited number of hours in a day, and therefore improve our overall happiness.
What’s more, people who instead used their money to buy new material goods did not have the same increase in overall happiness and contentment.
Study author Ashley Whillans, a Harvard Business School professor, found that folks who spent money to buy themselves more time – by using services for everyday tasks like the ones outlined above – reported greater life satisfaction.
Based on surveys of almost 4,500 people across the U.S., Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands, the results showed that paying for services like delivery or takeout food, a cab ride, housekeeper help, and paying someone to run an errand resulted in decreased daily stress and increased happiness. One interesting finding was that it didn’t matter if the respondents were wealthy or had lower incomes – everyone benefited from buying time, no matter where they fell on the income spectrum.
It makes sense: When we put our money to use for us, we turn time doing things we don’t enjoy into an opportunity to focus more on the things we love. If we have a housekeeper, that’s a handful of hours freed up from weekly cleaning duties that are now completely ours. We are, in essence, buying ourselves more time, more freedom. And we can turn this purchased time and freedom into more happiness for ourselves.
Of course, we don’t have to outsource everything on our to-do lists. Some of us may enjoy grocery shopping and cooking, while others love working outside in our yards and gardens. Whatever the case may be, it distills down to a matter of keeping the tasks we truly get enjoyment from and outsourcing the rest. Another researcher from the recent study, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, remarked that if a task that fills you with dread (gutter cleaning, anyone?), then it’s worth it to consider buying your way out of it.
To determine if there is a direct cause-effect relationship between buying ourselves more time and happiness, the researchers conducted a simple experiment. They provided study participants with $40 for two weekends to spend. The participants were told to either use the cash for time saving purchases or to use it for material purchases. At the end of the day after spending the money, these folks were asked to record their mood.
So, what did they say? Interestingly (and not surprisingly to the researchers), those who spent the money to save time reported reduced time-related stress and increased well-being. Those who used the money on material goods did not report the same feelings.
Ready to start outsourcing your daily life tasks? I know I am. But there’s an important question to consider before diving in and offloading all of the day’s mundane chores: When does it make economic sense for me to pay someone to do a task, and when is it better to do it myself. Or, put another way, just how much is my time worth?
Don’t worry – there’s no need for you to sit down with a calculator and do this one by hand. There are online tools that help folks calculate exactly how much their time is worth.
As the old saying goes, time is money. Why not start by figuring out how much yours is worth? Using a calculator like this one will help you make a smart decision about when it’s worth it to hire help. From there, you can plan how to divvy up everyday tasks. And if you’d rather binge on Netflix and let the teenager next door make $20 cutting your yard, do your thing. I’ll be at home waiting for my Instacart order while my housekeeper finishes up.