If You Think Your Time Is Money, Read This
A new study finds that monetizing your time isn’t good for you.
Time is money. That’s what we’re told. And if you believe it, you might be stressed even spending five minutes — or however much that is according to your internal exchange rate — reading this. But you should anyway. Because according to a recent study, people who make a connection between their time and their money are more likely to have higher stress hormone levels than those who don’t.
The study’s authors, Jeffrey Pfeffer of the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Dana Carney of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, divided participants into two groups and had them do two hours of paid work for a fake company. One group was told beforehand to calculate their hourly pay, the other wasn’t. The result: the cortisol levels of the group that knew what each hour of their time was worth were 25 percent higher than the levels of the other group. And high levels of cortisol, the hormone released when we’re stressed, are not good for us.
And it wasn’t just about time spent actually working: the money-and-time-focused group didn’t enjoy the two breaks as much. As Pfeffer notes, this has consequences both for our health and for our lives overall. “We’re moving in the wrong direction in many ways, and this is only one,” he says. “People are continually calculating the economic value of their time. And all the research shows that when people are thinking about time and money, they’re not enjoying their lives. They become impatient. They don’t enjoy music, or sunsets. This calculation of what it costs to coach your kid’s soccer game is not a path to happiness.”
My favorite part of the study is the mention that on the Greek island of Ikaria, people tend not to care about time at all — and also end up living a long time. Greece doesn’t have a lot of exports (though democracy and yogurt aren’t bad), but maybe our ideas of time management should be added to the list.
Of course our time is valuable, but it’s valuable in forms of currency that aren’t money — our time is also convertible into idleness, which allows us to be creative, connect with ourselves, and experience the benefits of wonder. It’s convertible into experiences with our children, intimacy with close friends, the perspective and wisdom we get only from reading. Hard to put a price tag on all those.
But the problem is that it’s hard not to think of our time as money when it’s being so relentlessly monetized by sophisticated technology — as part of what Tristan Harris calls the attention economy. Harris is the founder of a movement called Time Well Spent, which Thrive Global is partnering with. The goal is to break the hold that technology has on us so we can use our time — spend our time — more mindfully, by converting it into something that enhances our lives, rather than the bottom line of a company.
“Today’s Internet economy — today’s economy in general — is measured in time spent,” says Harris. “The more users you have, the more usage you have, the more time people spend, that’s how we measure success.” But it doesn’t make us successful. Instead, says Harris, we need a culture shift in which the value of our time is recognized, and barriers are put in place to help us make better choices about how to spend it. “Imagine,” writes Harris, “if technology companies empowered you to consciously bound your experience to align with what would be ‘time well spent’ for you.” Harris offers some quick tips about how to “unhijack your mind from your phone” here.
So give them a try. Learning how to disconnect from your phone will save you a lot of time — which is worth more than money.