If you want more time, give it away

HBR recently published this short piece on giving time away. Counter intuitively, people who donate their time doing work for others feel as if they have more time for themselves. By doing something for someone else, people feel more effective and expect to achieve more with the time ahead of them. This was the basic set up. Test subjects were split into two groups:

  • Group 1: subjects donated a small amount of time to helping others (10 minutes writing notes to sick children, or 30 minutes in a soup kitchen)
  • Group 3: subjects spent the time on themselves (watching TV, or simply leaving the experiment early)

Both groups were asked to spend some time completing surveys for money, and were asked how much time they could spend doing it the next week. Those who had spent time on others estimated they could spend more time on the surveys the following week and actually did more too. These are the main findings:

  1. People who donate even a small amount of time to others, feel more capable, confident and useful. Feeling more effective in the time they have, these people felt as if they had MORE time available in the future.
  2. It does’t make any difference how much time you spend helping others, even a small amount of donated time made subjects feel more productive and time rich.

So the next time you have a large stack of work on your desk, schedule in 10 minutes helping someone else. You’ll feel more effective and productive with the rest of your day.


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