As free time shrinks, along with our tolerance for time-consuming, unpleasant household tasks, one recent study may have an answer: buy back your time.
Results of the study appeared recently in PNAS, a scientific journal devoted to “cutting-edge” research. It was a collaborative effort by researchers from Harvard University, the University of British Columbia (UBC), and two Netherlands research institutes. The question: Would you pay someone to take over daily tasks you find disagreeable and a waste of time? The result: Those who paid others to save their own time were more satisfied with their lives than those who didn’t.
This was not a decision made by those with high incomes who could easily afford to pay someone to take on these tasks. And it didn’t correlate with number of hours worked or size of family; satisfaction levels were high among people of all incomes, family size, and work responsibilities. Interestingly, however, the study also showed that few of us consider spending money this way. Why? One thought is that many of us believe that household drudge work, such as grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning, is something we need to do for our families. Spending money to free up our time may be associated with guilty feelings.
In an npr.org report, Elizabeth Dunn, UBC psychology professor and a study author, suggested, “Contemplating paying somebody else to do something you’re perfectly capable of doing yourself may provoke feelings of guilt.” But for those without enough hours in the day, it’s a feeling they may be willing to accept.
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