I have a birthday coming up this Saturday, so visions of emptying hour glasses are filling my field of vision. So, I was heartened to learn that, while people cannot create more time for ourselves, we can create the perception that we have more time.
I owe this insight to an article in the September issue of the Harvard Business Review, "You'll Feel Less Rushed If You Give Time Away." It describes research by professor Cassie Mogilner, who teaches at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
She assembled three groups on a Saturday morning. The subjects in one group performed an act that helped another person, such as writing a note to a sick child or editing an at-risk high school student’s essay. The control groups performed no tasks or performed routine tasks.
The result? Those who did something for someone else felt more "time affluent," saying their futures felt "infinite." They were less likely to view time as scarce and more likely to say they currently had some time to spare.
Why did they feel this way? Here is the surprise. It was not because they made a social connection. Rather, it was because they felt they accomplished something and therefore believed they could accomplish more in the future.
The paradox is that they actually had less time, because they had devoted some of it to someone else. Here is Mogilner: “Yes, objectively they have less time. But they feel more effective, and that enhances their productivity.”
Here is the bonus: It does not matter how much time someone devotes to another person; it only matters that he does it. So, let the mentoring continue, the notes flow, the blog posts cascade. I have all the time in the world.