We all have 24 hours or 86,400 seconds in our day. Then why is it that at the end of the day, some of us feel like we still have more time for ourselves whereas others always end up feeling drained out, never finishing what they started and never enough time in their day?
The answer lies in this piece of research done at The Wharton School. Participants were divided into 2 groups. One group was assigned volunteering activities such as writing to a sick child or tutoring at-risk students, while the second group was told to do their own assignments or told they could go home early. The results from the research were indeed surprising – those who completed the prosocial activities perceived their time as being more abundant and spent longer working on additional tasks, while the ones who just kept working on their activities felt like they didn’t get anything done in their day.
Another research conducted by 3 professors of Yale, Harvard, and Wharton suggested that those who spend time on others not only felt as if they had more time but also committed to giving more time in the future. The study found that spending time on others increases one’s feeling of time affluence.
Contrary to the popular notion that time is scarce to be given to others, and as counter-intuitive as it may seem, when you are being generous with your time to others, you feel more effective and accomplished. You increase your perception of how much time you actually have than if you spend your time solely focusing on your to-do list or relaxing by crashing in front of the TV and pampering yourself.
This idea of giving time to others extends beyond just volunteering or doing good things while also ensuring that you clearly establish your boundaries with others so that people don’t rob you of your time and energy.
“For it is in giving that we receive.” ~ Saint Francis of Assisi
The gift of time is often more valuable to the receiver and much more satisfying for you, the giver. It becomes a foundation on which you can build a better life for yourself, create deeper networks and friendships, and learn to act with intention. And, the receiver doesn’t have to be a needy person on the street, a homeless child, or an old-age shelter. Giving time doesn’t have to wait until you can quit your job, take a life-changing trip, or until you’re retired.
Here are some ideas to get started.
- Call your parents. If you live too far apart to visit often, you can still phone your parents regularly without an agenda. How about making a video call so they can see you? Recognize that their feelings matter. Even when you may not agree with their view of the world be sure to tell them that they have your support even when you have different opinions.
- Help your spouse with household chores. Do the dishes, do the laundry, offer to take them to the groceries, make coffee for them, offer to read to your kids while they choose to curl up in bed with a book.
- Greet your neighbor. Introduce yourself to the families who live next door or down the block. Take a sincere interest in their lives while interacting. Care about their happiness and wellbeing. Invite them over for coffee, or offer them some homegrown tomatoes from your garden.
- Help a coworker. Offer your help when you see your coworker buckling under pressure. Ask them what you can do to help. Listen closely to them and provide encouraging feedback. Meet their gaze. Let them know that they’re being seen as well as heard.
- Volunteer in your community. Find something that moves you. Find ways to integrate your skills and interests with the needs of others. Finding volunteering opportunities in your neighborhood and community helps connect you to other like-minded people.
- Chat with a stranger. Give a compliment to a passerby who has a nice smile. Strike up a conversation about the new bakery selections at the grocery store. Focus on whoever you are with and put aside any distractions.
- Go down to the gate to receive your deliveries. Ordered something from Amazon? Or order in your food or online groceries? Walk down to the apartment gate instead of having the delivery person come up to your doorstep.
- Hang out with your friends. Nurture your friendships with regular lunches and potluck dinners. Share laughter and deep conversations.
- Help your neighbor walk their dog. Offer to walk your neighbor’s dog once in a while.
Giving your time to others might well be the secret to making you feel you have more hours in your day. Not only that, but it also leaves you with a sense of a more healthier, wealthier, productive, and meaningful life. So what are you waiting for? Start small, start today!