3 Tips For Maximizing Your Time & Increasing Happiness, From A Psychologist
Do you ever feel like you don't have enough time in the day? Maybe you're facing burnout at work or a super-stacked to-do list—no matter the demands of your everyday life, it's common to put more joyful activities on the back burner. If only you had an extra hour in the day to finish that mystery novel or catch up with friends…
However, according to social psychologist and award-winning happiness researcher Cassie Holmes, Ph.D., author of Happier Hour, having "more" time isn't necessarily better. "It's not about how much time you have. It's really how you spend that time," she says on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast. In fact, she shares some helpful strategies to maximize your time, become a happier person, and widen your possibilities. We all have 24 hours in the day, but here's how to make each hour count:
Bundle your activities.
"Bundling is based on research1 by a wonderful colleague and friend of mine, [behavior researcher] Katy Milkman, Ph.D.," says Holmes. "It's a simple idea, but it's really effective." Essentially, you bundle an activity you don't want to do with something you really enjoy. For example, if you're commuting to work (an unenjoyable activity for many), you might also spend that time chatting with a friend or listening to an audiobook. That way, the time spent becomes more enriching and valuable.
Not to mention, bundling activities can help you achieve tasks you might not prioritize on their own. See, "if on your commute you listen to an audiobook, you [can] get through a book or two every couple weeks," says Holmes. "All of a sudden, that time that felt like a waste feels worthwhile and enriching. So that is a very simple but effective strategy to make that time more fun."
When you don't feel like you have enough time, you likely don't slow down to help others, says Holmes. However, "Studies show that actually when you do spend some time to help another person, it makes you feel like you have more time," she explains. Specifically, research shows that giving your time to others can make you feel more "time affluent" and less time-constrained2.
"It increases your sense of self-efficacy," Holmes explains. "You're like, 'Oh my gosh, I was able to help this person and accomplish a lot in the time that I spent,' and that expands your sense of how much you can accomplish, generally increasing your sense of time-affluence."
Savor the ordinary.
The key to maximizing your time? Savoring the time you have—even the seemingly mundane experiences. According to Holmes, it's common to experience "hedonic adaptation3" as you grow older, which means that extraordinary events become increasingly more ordinary, so you savor them less.
To offset this natural response, simply pay attention: "Recognize that [these experiences] are not forever," says Holmes. "Actually count the times left and recognize that, 'Holy cow, this, too, is limited,' and that draws your attention and increases your tendency to savor."
Not to mention, if you think back and reflect on which experiences made you feel awe-struck, chances are they're actually quite ordinary. "Maybe it was the awe from noticing an amazing sunset, or maybe it was the awe from seeing your kids' delight the first time they walked into Disney World," Holmes says. "There is so much extraordinary happiness if we notice, and if we don't notice and if we don't savor it, then it's past and it's lost."
Time is a finite resource for all of us, but you can "trick" your mind into thinking you have more hours in the day. Try Holmes' techniques to increase your time affluence, but at the end of the day, not every minute has to be productive—downtime is necessary for your well-being, too.
We hope you enjoy this episode! And don't forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or Amazon Music!
Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth. He has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Vogue, and has a B.A. in history from Columbia University, where he played varsity basketball for four years.