March 19, 2012

How Measuring Your Time by the Hour is Blocking You from being Happy

cloud blocking sunA recent report from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto has shown that reducing your time to dollars makes it much more difficult to relax when away from work. For the study, over 50 undergraduate students were divided into two groups: one was required to estimate their hourly earnings upon getting their first job while the other group was not. During a 10 minute web-surfing break, those having computed their wages were found to be not only unhappy, but also inpatient compared to the second group. Though time-is-money mantra has become the standard mindset in the American workforce, it is now being shown negatively impact self-perceptions and our ability to relax and feel well.

There are many symptoms that become apparent as the “time is money” philosophy runs amok. While using terms such as “overbooked” to describe yourself in order to avoid additional responsibility, it is more typically a result of an emotional state more so than an actuality. Not having the time for personal enjoyment in the name of being overbooked is a strong indicator that your priorities are skewed and that it may be time to rethink the ordering of your life. If you always consider work as your number one priority, consider the value of the other parts of your life – friends, family, hobbies – and how they should compare to the work you do. Learn to say “no” in some circumstances and prioritize your time to focus on what’s truly important, such as your physical and emotional well-being and that of your loved ones.

Envisioning time as money can develop into an overriding perception of the need for perfection; every moment must be perfect in order to generate as much money as possible. Seeking this perfection leads to an inevitable fear of failure which in turn leads to less productivity and hiring levels of stress. Psychologist Debra Condren promotes the use of the mantra “good enough.” When a project is good enough, let it go. The more free space you open up in your schedule and in your mind, the more capable you become of taking on new challenges and improving your outlook.

As much as time-is-money disciples espouse the ideals of efficiency and extraordinary productivity, most of the time it is found that we are actually putting in hours just to look like we are working; so-called “face time.” Examine what you do while you’re “working.” How much time is spent surfing the web, making personal calls, running errands, and other non work-related activities? Simply looking like you are working does not equate to real productivity. Workaholics and pseudo-perfectionists should spend more time improving efficiency so work time is more productive while leaving enough time to have a personal life.

The loss of the ability to relax and enjoy life almost invariably leads burn out. Irritability, headaches, constant dread, anti-social behavior, lack of motivation, and physical and mental exhaustion are all signs of burn out. Job burnout is a direct effect of slaving under a perfectionist mindset. Scheduling free time, much like you would schedule a meeting or other social engagements, should be a top priority.

Read more in Work Life Balance

Joshua Bjerke, from Savannah, Georgia, focuses on articles involving the labor force, economy, and HR topics including new technology and workplace news. Joshua has a B.A. in Political Science with a Minor in International Studies and is currently pursuing his M.A. in International Security.