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Giving time can give you time

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Many people these days feel a sense of “time famine”—never having enough minutes and hours to do everything.

We all know that our objective amount of time can’t be increased (there are only 24 hours in a day), but a new study suggests that volunteering our limited time—giving it away— may actually increase our sense of unhurried leisure.

Across four different experiments, researchers found that people’s subjective sense of having time, called ‘time affluence,’ can be increased: compared with wasting time, spending time on oneself, and even gaining a windfall of ‘free’ time, spending time on others increased participants’ feelings of time affluence.

Lead researcher and psychological scientist Cassie Mogilner of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania believes this is because giving away time boosts one’s sense of personal competence and efficiency, and this in turn stretches out time in our minds. Ultimately, giving time makes people more willing to commit to future engagements despite their busy schedules.

This new research, conducted by Mogilner and co-authors Zoe Chance of the Yale School of Management and Michael Norton of Harvard Business School, is forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

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