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Ashley V. Whillans, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, spoke about her new book, “Time Smart: How to Reclaim Your Time and Live a Happier Life,” as part of the “Books@Baker” speaker series Tuesday.
At the online event, Whillans noted the challenges of prioritizing time. She argued that financial security only goes so far, and emphasized that time, not money, is a better indicator of happiness.
“Time affluence, this feeling of having control and feeling like you have enough time on an everyday basis, can promote happiness,” she said.
She described her research, which suggests that those who value time over money tend to be happier, more civically engaged, and more inclined to pursue activities they are passionate about.
Whillans said her inspiration for the book stemmed from the fact that, as a first-year, tenure-track professor at HBS, she would give talks about the importance of leisure time, even though her research did not translate into her own life.
“And so I really embarked on this journey of writing this book to put what I was learning about in my academic research into practice,” she said.
Eighty percent of working Americans feel “time poor,” or feel as though they lack sufficient time to fulfill all their responsibilities, according to Whillans.
“These feelings of time poverty are associated with misery, sometimes to the same extent as being unemployed,” she said.
Whillans suggested four strategies to alleviate the feeling of being “time poor,” including prioritizing time over money, blocking off leisure time, outsourcing unwanted tasks, and considering leisure time just as essential as working.
“We want to be reframing our time to see leisure as something that’s productive and restful, and an end to itself,” she said.
During a question-and-answer session after her presentation, Whillans discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the pressure to constantly work as many people continue to work from home.
“We’re finding that breaks and boundaries exist less, so it really is as if we’re living at work because we don’t have this clear separation between work and home. So it’s critical that we all build in a buffer or commute right now to help with that mental separation,” she said.
Whillans emphasized that people should prioritize their time now more than ever.
“Focusing on time is not selfish,” she said. “It’s really in making enough time for ourselves that we’re able to have the energy and attention to best serve those that we cared about.”
The Books@Baker series hosts events for Business School faculty to present their latest work. Books@Baker will host its next live Zoom event on Nov. 18, when Business School professor Joseph L. Badaracco will discuss his book, “Step Back: How to Bring the Art of Reflection into Your Busy Life.”
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