Should you go for that new high-powered promotion even though you'll barely leave the office? Is pursuing your entrepreneurial dream worth it if starting that business means you'll see your kids much less? A new job offer involves a hectic travel schedule but a fatter paycheck, should you take it?
We all face questions like this at some point in life, and while the answers will always be deeply personal, a new study might change your calculus when it comes to hard choices that ask you to weigh more more against more time.
A pile of science already shows the limits of chasing wealth as a happiness-boosting strategy. While poverty is indeed miserable, once you're comfortable, focusing on more money just starts you running on an ever-accelerating consumption treadmill that does little if anything to increase your well being. So what's a better approach to maximizing your joy? Try focusing on time instead.
Prioritizing time is worth half a spouse
That's the findings of rigorous new research out of the University of British Columbia. The team behind the work posed a simple question to various groups of students and members of the general public in the U.S. and Canada -- Do you prioritize having more time or having more money?
To help participants choose they offered two examples, "Tina," who is "willing to sacrifice her money to have more time. For example, Tina would rather work fewer hours and make less money," and "Maggie," who "would rather work more hours and make more money, than work fewer hours and have more time."
No matter who they asked and how they tweaked the phrasing of the question -- sometimes volunteers were given a hypothetical question like whether they'd take a promotion that involved long hours but offered more money -- those who thought like Tina rather than Maggie reported being significantly happier.
How big was the effect? "About half the size of the impact on happiness of things like being married and having more wealth," reports the British Psychological Society's Research Digest.
As with any study that simply identifies two variables that tend to go together, more investigation is needed to prove that a focus on time increases happiness. Maybe happy people just want more time to bask in their psychological health. But for now the authors believe "valuing time over money is a stable preference that may provide one path to greater happiness."
So next time a decision in your life hinges on weighing more money versus more time, you may want to put a metaphorical thumb on scales in favor of time. If your goal is happiness, you'll need a pretty big payout or shot of professional pride to make the loss of leisure worth it.
What would you have told the reDo you prioritize having more time or having more money?