Sydney Gideon, LSW

It’s important to begin by asking yourself what happiness means to you. Each of our definitions of happiness will likely be different, however, it’s important to have an image in mind of how you view happiness. Many individuals believe that money is essential to happiness, and maybe it is! However, investing most or all of our time, energy, and resources into making money, with the belief that it will lead to happiness, actually leads to the exact opposite. In a study of working adults across 79 different countries, “people with more free time are actually happier, healthier, and more productive than people who work all the time and make more money…”.

The feeling of having so much to do and not enough time to do it, or just never having enough time in general can lead to exhaustion and burnout. In the U.S we have glorified burnout culture causing individuals to believe being tired, exhausted, and unhappy are part of the daily normal. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. While day-to-day decisions may seem small, such as whether to stay longer at work or socialize, the choices we make add up to an immense amount of time. Time being invested in either work or personal life. These decisions have the power to determine our overall happiness. Below are six research-based strategies to utilize our time wisely, efficiently and allow us to enjoy the hours in our day instead of rushing from one task to another.

1. Work is Work

While this may seem silly or repetitive, we’re not necessarily working the entire time we spend at the office (or at home in 2020). In today’s world we’re surrounded by distractions, especially as we spend more time at home. Limiting social media usage, outside phone calls, and personal emails during this time can be incredibly helpful when trying to save time. In a survey of more that 700 working adults, 99.9% of individuals reported being “routinely asked to complete unimportant tasks that were time-wasters, sch as unnecessary phone calls, emails, and paperwork.” Interruptions are frequent and normalized in office culture which can lead to important tasks taking up more time than necessary. Block off time on your calendar when working on important tasks and projects to allow you to focus and work efficiently without being interrupted. Lastly, normalize saying no. It is not necessary to say yes to unplanned, last minute requests of your time. Frequently these last-minute questions are to benefit someone else or help with a separate project. Normalize saying no.

2. Speak Up

Many individuals are apprehensive about asking for an extension on a deadline when needed. We assume this will cause the higher ups to think less of us and our abilities in the office. However, research has shown the exact opposite thought process to be taking place. Higher ups “… tend to view those who request extra breathing room as highly motivated employees who are intent on producing better results.” Salary and benefits aren’t the only thing we can negotiate for at work. Negotiate for your time as well.

3. Lean into Your Earnings

Money can be used to buy you more free time. Utilizing some of your income to pay for house-cleaning, grocery delivery, babysitters, or takeout are great ways to free up time that would be spent doing disliked chores. While this may not be something incorporated in your day-to-day, when time periods arise that feel more strapped for time, lean into the money earned from the work you’re doing to give yourself some hours back in the day.

The next three steps will be discussed in part 2 of this blog post.

If you or someone you know is struggling to implement strategies to foster overall happiness, it may be useful to connect with a therapist. Visit symmetrycounseling.com or call 312-578-9990 to make an appointment with one of our skilled Chicago counselors today!
https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/want-to-be-happier-make-more-free-time