Starting this new year off with a bang, I listened to Happier Hour: How to Beat Distraction, Expand Your Time, and Focus on What Matters Most by Cassie Holmes, PhD. Holmes provides readers with actionable strategies and reflections to make when considering how much time you have, how you use your time, and how to make your time spent more enjoyable.
For an example of the latter, if laundry is your least favorite chore or you hate getting on the treadmill, can you pair it with a podcast or audiobook that you've been waiting to read/hear? Happier Hour is full thought provoking suggestions that offers readers small changes to make big improvements in daily life.
A key concept in Happier Hour, and one that I want to hone in on, is time poverty. Holmes notes that "time poverty" is the "acute feeling of having too much to do and not enough time to do it" (1). And the feeling of time poverty leads us to increased stress, less confidence, less kindness and thereby less happiness. Consider a day where you feel time-poor, what is the first thing you would skip? For myself, I would easily give up exercise or self-care rituals, despite knowing what a positive impact they make on my mood and how they decrease my stress. In research, Holmes found that people in a rush are less likely to help someone in need, even an action as simple as holding the door open becomes too much. Her research finds that this not only manifests physically but mentally, in students who are told they have less/more time to complete a task in class later feel that they have less/more time in the day to get things done. "Time poverty" is moreso a state of mind than a truth, considering we all have the same 24 hours in a day.
So, how do we address time poverty? Should we let exercise and self care go by the wayside, and stop going out of our way for other people? Actually, Holmes suggests that doing more may help to increase time affluence. She proposes that exercise, acts of kindness and experiencing awe (connecting deeply with others, spending time in nature, going to museums or concerts) are all ways to improve happiness and recognize that we do, in fact, have the time (1).
In the book, Holmes suggests those feeling time poor use her time tracking pages to identify areas in which they may waste time, and to figure out where they are experiencing the most joy in a day. While I'm currently between contracts, I am hoping to begin a new job within the month and will attempt to time track so I feel that I am making the most of my time at home with my family. In addition to the time tracking pages, that link also provides discussion questions from the book, but you don't necessarily have to read the book to ponder them. A personal favorite of mine is question 9, "What routine in your day-to-day life could you turn into ritual to make it feel more special?"Answered in this January 2023 blog post by myself: Turning Mundane into Ritual inspired by Eckhart Tolle's, The Power of Now.
I would suggest reading or listening to the book to anyone interested in the psychology of happiness and time, and plan to explore a few more key points from the book in future posts.
Interestingly, the book has timely relevance to the idea of resolving to be happier in the New Year. Holmes touches on this in a recent (Jan 2, 2024) Opinion Piece for the LA Times, in which she explores concepts and assignments within her book to help readers identify when they are feeling most fulfilled.
Cheers to you, to a New Year, and to Getting Better all the time.
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