If someone gave you $40, would you spend it on stuff or on a service that helps you save time?
One of those purchases will make you happier than the other one, a new study has found. And it’s not the one you might think.
Researchers assigned the study participants to spend $40 one weekend on something to save them time. On another weekend, participants had to spend $40 on material items. They reported more feelings of satisfaction after their time-saving purchases than when they bought new stuff.
It’s NOT Lazy to Hire Help
While spending money to save time makes us happier, it goes against some people’s instincts. The researchers noted another survey in which only 2 percent of working adults said they’d spend an extra $40 on something that saved them time.
“People who hire a house cleaner or pay the kid next door to mow the lawn might feel like they’re being lazy,” study author Ashley Whillans of Harvard Business School said in a press release.
But as a longtime productivity trainer, I can tell you that spending money to save time is hardly lazy. It’s actually one of the most productive things you can do. You’ll free up time and energy you can instead devote to your most important goals.
Don’t Should On Yourself
To decide which tasks you can hire out, a prime place to start looking is for things that are not urgent, and maybe not even that important, but that you would really like to get done. I call these task “the shoulds.” These are the things on your to-do list that you just never seem to get around to. Your “shoulds” don’t require your unique expertise or insight. You don’t especially enjoy doing them, and they won’t necessarily have a huge effect on your work or your life. So they’re easy to constantly put off. A good example of a “should” for many people is a minor household repair.
Even though your “shoulds” aren’t the most important tasks in your life, they take up a lot of mental real estate because of how they tend to linger without getting done. As a source of constant, low-grade stress, they steal mental energy you could better use elsewhere. That’s why they’re the ideal tasks to hire someone to help you with.
Where to Find Assistance
Spending money to save time doesn’t require a big commitment like hiring a regular housekeeper or virtual assistant. Today, you can buy help in smaller increments and for less money than you might imagine. There’s a lot of buzz about newer companies like TaskRabbit and Instacart that help customers outsource nagging or routine tasks.
But don’t forget familiar standbys as well. If you have a neighborhood email list, it probably has notices from teens who live near you and who’d be happy to help with your errands or chores for extra cash. These lists are being overtaken by a popular app called NextDoor.
Encourage Employees to Outsource
If you’re a leader in your workplace, the research on the happiness benefits of time-saving services has extra relevance for you. Besides hiring out your personal “shoulds,” you can enhance morale and productivity by giving your employees resources to knock out their own routine tasks. For example, maybe you could partner with a company in your community to give your employees discounts on food or grocery delivery. Or you could offer gift cards for services like TaskRabbit as appreciation gifts, or have your office headquarters be a pick-up/drop-off location for a local dry cleaner.
Helping your employees take care of their personal responsibilities might not seem related to their workplace performance. But it actually makes a huge impact. It removes sources of distraction, lowers stress and enhances their sense of control and wellbeing. All of that pays off in greater productivity at work.
Think about some ways that you could spend a little money to put time back in the day for you or your employees. It’s worth the investment. And if you’re looking for more strategies to save time and enhance productivity, check out my books: Work Without Walls (which has a list of timesaving companies in the index) and Personal Productivity Secrets.