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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

The Fun Little Secret to Adding More Time in the Day

We know you’ve wished that there was just a little more time in the workday (if you’re like us, you wish it every day around 4 PM).

But while adding a few more hours on the clock is never going to happen, researchers have found a way to make us feel like our time is being extended.

Counterintuitively, it’s not by pushing things off your plate, thereby getting more free time back in your day—it’s by giving away some of your hours and minutes away to others. As iDoneThis recently reported:

Cassie Mogilner, from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, found that spending time on other people, instead of wasting time or spending unexpected free time on yourself, expands your sense of present and future time. For example, in one experiment, participants had to either write a short letter to a seriously ill child or count the number of times the letter ‘e’ showed up in some Latin text. The letter-writers reported that they felt like they had more time.

In a follow-up experiment, Mogilner and her colleagues asked some people to spend 10 or 30 minutes ‘doing something for yourself that you weren’t already planning to do today.’ Others were assigned the task of spending 10 or 30 minutes on someone else, doing something that hadn’t been planned. The duration of the time spent didn’t matter but what they spent it on did—spending time on others expanded people’s sense of the future.

The lesson? If you’re feeling like your days and weeks are flying by, stop stressing about how fast the clock’s moving, and start thinking about ways to give back. Here are a few ideas that you can easily build into your daily or weekly schedule to find more time in the day:

  • If you see a stressed-out co-worker, ask if there’s something you could take off of his or her plate. Even offering to sit in on a brainstorming (or venting) session can be helpful.

  • Take five minutes to recommend a co-worker, client, or old intern on LinkedIn. (Seriously, use our template and it’ll only take five minutes.)

  • Look for a volunteer opportunity that allows you to do a little bit of something here and there—like reviewing resumes for college students or a women’s organization—or dedicate an hour after work one day to a volunteer opportunity.

  • Reach out to a job-searching friend and offer to look over over her cover letter, contact people in your network, or practice sample interview questions. Want more ideas? Here are 41 simple ways you can help.

  • Offer to take one of the interns out for coffee to share your words of working wisdom. As a bonus, you’ll get out of the office—which might not make the day feel longer, but we bet it’ll feel a little nicer.