Can You Make Time?

It’s happened again.  I begin each year with an optimistic list of goals, “nice to do’s” and bucket list items to guide my time. Schedules are made, deadlines set. Run, run. Faster, faster.  Time becomes scarcer, something to be carefully allocated. The days, weeks, and months race through my life. December arrives again. I look again at my optimistic list. Some things checked off, but not enough. Another year where time wins again.

Help is on the way, just in time for 2013! New work from a trio of researchers from The University of Pennsylvania, Yale and Harvard suggests that I can change my perception to make me feel like I have more time. How? According to Cassie Mogilner, Zoe Chance and Michael Norton, the secret is to give time away instead of hoarding it.

The research categorizes people in two ways. Those in the “time famine” category feel like they never have enough time to do all they want to do, so they manage scarcity. Those in the “time affluent” category feel that they have more than enough time to do what they want to do for themselves and others.  The “time affluent,” who give away time to volunteering, mentoring, or spending more of it with those they love, develop a deeper sense of well-being, competence and efficiency. This sense of efficacy carries over into their perception of time; that they will have enough of it for the truly important.  The good news is that we can move from the “time famine” to the “time affluent” category simply by being more generous.

I get it.  The “time affluent” feel more in control of time. They spend it on people and causes important to them, which results in feeling better about accomplishments and optimistic about possibilities. Important stuff gets done and silly stuff doesn’t.  The time affluent feel more effective, which usually means they are more effective.

In 2013, I hope to have the same 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days and 8,766 hours. But I’ll be giving more of it away. How about you?


Association for Psychological Science (2012, July 13). Giving time can give you time. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2012 from

4 thoughts on “Can You Make Time?

  1. Susan–

    I like the way this study labels the way we view time—I’ve never thought of it that way. I’m wondering, is there a downside to being “time affluent?” It seems I fall in the “time affluent” category–I “give away” a lot of my time to others; I’m always adding more to my plate (typically things I enjoy), thinking I will figure out how to fit ten pounds in my nine pound sack. But, i have nagging concerns about my time management skills—do I FEEL like I am getting a lot done or am I REALLY getting a lot done. And don’t ask me to log my time for the next few days/weeks to get my answer. I just don’t have time for THAT!


    • Hi Gaye,
      Boy, you always ask the good questions. To me, the key takeaway from the research is that while actual amount of time is fixed, our perception of time is flexible. If we look at time as scarce and “never enough”, we decline things that could be helpful and add to our lives. On the other hand, if we view time as abundant, we give it away to things that bring us joy. This makes us happier and increases our self efficacy. ( And, may broaden our network to find more ways to get things done.) It’s the latter two that changes our perception of the amount of time available.

      I sense that this explanation may still not answer your question, but it’s all the further detail I have. You might want to check out the Science Daily site for more info about the research.

      Take care!

  2. This is a fascinating study Susan..and ironically I emailed two organizations over the weekend expressing an interest in volunteering. I think that our perception of time, and our awareness that it is limited and therefore precious, makes us think frantically that we don’t have enough. Actually, we don’t have time not to do the things that enhance our soul and enrich our lives. Great post, as always..

    • You nailed it, Mimi. Everyone has the same 24 hours. It’s whether we seem to view time as abundant so are generous or scarce so we are stingy that drives our level of calm.

      Hope that you are feeling better.

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