In Life Management, Managing Priorities, Time Management, Tips and Tools

Today is my 22nd anniversary in business. One of the reasons I started my own business was that I wanted to have more control over my time. Over the past 22 years I have learned some valuable lessons about how to do that through the fine art of delegation!

Can money buy happiness?

They say money can’t buy happiness, but according to a recent Los Angeles Times article by Karen Kaplan, science has proven otherwise in a study that was just released last week.

An international research team determined that you can feel happier by paying other people to do some of your time-consuming chores that stress you out.

The new study suggests that if you feel pressed for time, your life satisfaction can be improved. By delegating tasks that you don’t enjoy doing, aren’t good at, or simply don’t have the time to do, you create space in your schedule to enjoy more free time.

The researchers, led by Ashley Whillans–a professor at the Harvard Business School–began with a review of survey data collected from about 4,500 participants from the United States, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands. Survey-takers were asked whether they paid other people to do “unenjoyable daily tasks” in order to “increase their free time.”

Participants in 28% of cases answered yes. They spent an average of $148 per month to buy themselves extra time by hiring others to do things for them.

Whillans and her colleagues found that people who traded money for time were more satisfied with their lives than those who didn’t. By delegating tasks, they felt less time stress, which increased their level of life satisfaction.

The researchers conducted a second survey, asking more than 1,800 Americans whether they spent money to buy themselves “more free time.” This time, half of the survey-takers answered yes. They spent an average of $80 – $99 per month, hiring others to handle chores like cooking, shopping and household maintenance tasks.

As before, the people who delegated some tasks were more satisfied with life than those who didn’t. Those who didn’t hire others to do tasks were generally less satisfied with life; their lack of free time created more stress in their lives.

A luxury just for the wealthy?

You may think that delegating tasks is a luxury just for those with higher incomes. The researchers noted that “People across the income spectrum benefited from buying time.” Even those on the lower income spectrum reported more satisfaction and less stress by paying other people to do some of their time-consuming chores that stressed them out.

Whillans and her colleagues conducted an even more direct test with the help of 60 working adults in Vancouver, B.C.

For two consecutive weekends, researchers gave each of the 60 study participants $40 to spend. For one of the weekends, the volunteers were asked to spend the money on a material purchase. For the other weekend, they were asked to spend their $40 on something that would save them time. Researchers checked in with the volunteers after each weekend to see how they felt after they had spent the money.

The study participants reported less time-related stress in the week when they made a time-saving purchase than in the week when they bought a material item. They also reported more positive feelings (joy and enthusiasm) and fewer negative feelings (anger, fear and nervousness) in the week when they bought themselves time.

Researchers noted that “Making a time-saving purchase caused improvements in daily mood. Improvements in daily mood should promote greater life satisfaction.”

So, it appears that money can buy happiness, depending on how you spend it!

If you struggle with delegating tasks to others, access my free tips here.

If you are on a tight budget, consider ways that you can trade time and expertise with others. For example, let’s say that you do not like to cook but you are gifted at yard landscaping. Your neighbor loves to cook but has no idea how to landscape her back yard. You offer to help with her landscaping project and she offers to double the size of some meals she prepares and share them with you. You can also barter business services.

Next week is Simplify Your Life Week. Watch for my blog about The NOT To-Do List.

What tasks or chores stress you out? What can you hire out or barter with someone else to do, so you can let go of more stress-inducing activities in your life? Please comment below.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Terry

    Hi Kathy- great article! I have a few issues re delegating time- classic example today. 2 hours on one client- money mess I created- why I retired- I like doing it all- just not enough time.

    • Kathy Paauw

      Terry, I encourage you to think of the things you are either not good at or do not enjoy doing, and delegate those as much as possible so you can do all the other things you love. We all get 168 hours a week…no more, no less…so the feeling of “not enough time” is in direct correlation to one’s ability to prioritize, say yes or no, or delegate.

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