Time Affluence – Getting Back More of Your Time
The way I have always thought about time has dramatically affected my happiness. Until recently, I didn’t even know it! That is why I want to share this research intertwined with my real-life experiences with you in the following few hundred words.
As a backstory, and if you have listened to my podcast (especially episodes 38 or 39), you know that sleep is one of my highest priorities, and I get a lot of it. I get my rest, no matter what. In reflection, I think it’s made me think about time in a way that I believe there is always enough time in the day for sleep, a solid 9 hours, no matter what. I am not time famished because I indulge in this ritual of sleep — which many people cut to “get more done.” When you think there is not enough time in the day, it stresses you out — you are less “happy.” However, there is a difference between time affluence and time poverty, and easy hacks to get that “time back.”
What is Time Affluence vs. Time Poverty?
Time is such an exciting concept. We think about it in the sense of being present (mindfulness — this moment in time) and productivity (how much I can get done in an allotted amount of time).
How do we subjectively trick our brains into thinking we have more than enough time when we’re running on the hamster wheel of to-do’s, and the list gets longer every day? I get it. That’s the million-dollar question, right?
Let’s dig into time affluence v. time poverty, so we know our guardrails for this discussion.
Time Affluence isn’t about the amount of time you have. It’s the subjective sense that you have time. This is excellent news. This means we can HACK time affluence without objectively giving ourselves more time. Plus, you don’t need to clear the calendar to FEEL like you have more time.
I heard that 80% of Americans say they are time-poor — too many things to do and not enough time to do them. When you are in time poverty, it feels like you are wearing the busy badge. It steals our joy because we feel so pulled to continue doing the next thing, and we feel defeated because so much hasn’t been done. Often times, time poverty is caused by constant connection to technology, and even when we have leisure, it’s fragmented by checking email, social media, or the ding of the incoming text message.
It looks like going to a museum or event with your kids and constantly checking your phone. Time poverty is a goal conflict. You want to be present with your kids, but your mind is always running to the other things that might be on your phone, drawing you away from being present.
This is where I think you can have a tangible impact on your happiness because you can change how you think about your tasks and time.
How are We Using Our Time?
The questions we must ask ourselves first are; how do we spend our time? Does it bring us joy? Can we Marie Kondo our time (you know, her book: the magic of tidying up)? An easy way to do that is to review how we used our time over the last few days. What activities brought you joy, meaning, or satisfaction? And then, ask yourself for each activity, do you want to do that again?
Now, I know I will get messages from readers about hating their job and how they don’t want to do that again tomorrow. If that’s you, I invite you to lean in and go deeper and see if you can find parts of your work that you do enjoy. Perhaps it’s a colleague or a task? If you just can’t get there, then put the job to the side and work through your non-work hours.
Part of happiness, gratitude, appreciation, joy, contentment, whatever you want to call it, is the reflection and identification of the time when you felt joy, meaning, or satisfaction in the day; all of those feelings contribute to our happiness. So again:
1) Did it bring you joy, meaning, or satisfaction?
2) Do you want to do that again?
Time Affluence Hacks
#1: Funding Time
Scientist Ashley Whilans at Harvard Business School says that the research shows that you will be happier spending money to save time vs. buying a tangible item.
Translation -> Funding time!
What does this mean? Essentially, you must ask yourself: “Are there any tradeoffs that I could make now that would allow me to make a different decision and have more time — thus, more happiness?”
For example, I fund time by getting takeout for dinner. You could look at it and say, I’m so busy, I don’t have the time to cook a meal at home, or you could say, purchasing the take-our meal has now afforded me MORE time because I am not grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning up and doing dishes. I just gained 2 hours in my day to do something else more meaningful.
Another way to look at this is through services such as a house cleaner, gardener, or virtual assistant. You are funding time by not doing those activities but by doing something else more meaningful.
#2: Finding Time
This next hack, finding time, is critical because I think it’s so easy not to recognize how we see our days and our time. I like to use a concept called the ideal week, where you block out how you would use your time in an ideal but very realistic way.
So if you work 9–5, you put in work and not going to the beach, you get me. My personal hack, I also add in all the commute time with the activities and meetings because, boy, does that add up.
Finding time tends to be an awareness of how we spend our time. So many times, we go through the day on autopilot. This exercise is to recognize how we spend our time and, when we find those pockets, to acknowledge it.
Your finding time hack shows up like this:
As we said above, you can recognize finding time when you are getting take-out. You just gained two hours by not grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning up, and doing dishes.
When you have things delivered, whether groceries or Amazon, you just hacked finding time because you gained an hour by not going to the store.
If you have a commute, call your mom or a friend — positive connection brings happiness.
When you are exercising, listen to that podcast or audiobook.
Most importantly, notice how you are spending your time. Notice where you get sucked into a trap of email, social media, tv, the news, and things that the research says do not actually contribute to our happiness.
#3: Time Confetti
Time confetti — a windfall of time you were not expecting.
I love me some confetti and some sparkle, and now it’s time to start chatting about time confetti. Time confetti is those little pockets of time that we often waste, like 15 minutes between appointments or standing in line at the grocery store.
The first step is to be aware of this time confetti. Time confetti comes in two ways. First, it’s a little pocket of time between tasks. Second, it was an expected windfall of time you weren’t expecting to have. For example, it could be a canceled meeting; you now have 1 hour you didn’t expect to have, so what do you do?
As a quick reminder, time poverty can be caused by constant connection to technology because it creates time confetti by fragmenting leisure in minute time fragments. It’s this idea that we have 20 minutes for a break, and we check our phone, just out of habit, three times. We’re now creating bits of time confetti where our brains did nothing but multitask and be distracted. The research says that it leads to time poverty because scrolling through Instagram doesn’t actually bring us happiness — scientifically. We usually do it because we think we’re bored. We’re curious. We’re lonely.
So we need to flip the switch, and when we have recognized a time confetti moment, have ready things we can do that will increase our happiness. Being intentional about our activities is where the magic is here.
So, scroll social if you want, but limit it. Better yet, try to consume social media that promotes good vibes. Now, let’s dive into a list of time confetti activities you can start doing right away to boost your happiness in those moments.
Time Confetti Activity List
I invite you to make a time confetti list, things you would do for leisure (not work) in your confetti moments. That way, when it happens, you don’t revert to the scroll hole of social media.
Your list might look something like this to start with:
Move your body for 5 minutes or go for a walk.
Call or text a friend
3 deep cleansing breaths
Read or even review your daily affirmations
Take a moment to meditate or feel gratitude; even send a quick message of gratitude.
All of these ideas will boost your happiness, and the best part is to decide for yourself what you want to do during your time confetti moments.
Time Affluence — Use it or Lose It
Time affluence can be magic. It can be the first step to unlocking your happiness boost because it’s tangible and practical. The basic idea is that time is subjective, and instead of running around thinking we don’t have time to do the things that are required of us, we take a step back and zoom out and recognize when we have more time than we think. That’s where the magic is.
If we can diversify our time portfolio with meaningful and pleasurable activities, even a few Intentional Margins® we may do less doom scrolling on social media (non-pleasure) and instead call a friend that brings us joy.
I invite you to protect your time by adding leisure time to your calendar, building in breaks, boundaries, and transitions into your day.
We often think we need these big chunks of time to do things that bring us joy, but in reality, we’re just stealing moments. We don’t need to wait for the weekend to be happy — we can start today and boost our happiness in our time confetti.
Plus, you can download our free printable PDF today with ALL of these daily gratitude journal prompts.