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How to Use Time to Boost Your Well-Being

by Beth on January 9th, 2023

“It’s not about being time rich, it’s about making the time that we have rich.”

In her book, Happier Hour, UCLA professor Cassie Holmes argues that time is the most important resource for our well-being. One of the best ways to increase joy and meaning is to be deliberate about how we invest our time. For starters, we should track how we currently spend our time and rate how we feel during that time. Holmes suggests doing this in half-hour increments for one or two weeks.

Most people find that the happiest hours of the day are those shared with friends or loved ones. The unhappiest times are typically doing things we feel we have to do, like household chores, or things that feel like a waste of time, like commuting. For many of us work is meaningful, but not fun, watching TV feels fun, but lacks meaning, and social media is neither fun nor meaningful.

The next step is to use time crafting to intentionally plan how you will spend your time to maximize well-being. After identifying the activities that bring you the most joy and fulfillment, you want to make sure to block time each week for those activities. We experience the start of an activity more intensely, so spreading out activities that you enjoy will give you more happy hours to look forward to. Instead of binge-watching TV once a week, plan to watch TV in several one-hour sittings throughout the week.

You will also need to include tasks that you dislike, but that need to be done. Holmes offers suggestions for how we can make our least happy hours more fun and meaningful. One is to bundle things you don’t enjoy or that feel like a waste of time with something that makes you happy. Play your favorite music while washing dishes or listen to a podcast on your commute. Instead of sending an email, meet a colleague in person to make work more social.

Another tip is to increase the meaning of a task by connecting with the why of what you are doing. Remind yourself who benefits from your work. Think of cooking a healthy meal as caring for your loved ones. And just as spreading out happy experiences gives you more occasions to look forward to, consolidating your chores into one block of time will give you fewer beginnings to dread.

A final piece of advice is to reframe your time-spending decisions from questions of whether to questions of when. Consider what you are achieving over a week or a month. You are less likely to feel guilty leaving work early to pick up your child if you consider all the hours you have devoted to work over the past months. Happiness is heightened when we take a broader time perspective. How you spend a single hour doesn’t define your life. You can do it all! Just not in one day.

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