Feature

Help others and get more done

There is a simple fix for your hectic, time-starved schedule.

Gareth Cook
The Boston Globe

There is a simple fix for your hectic, time-starved schedule, said Gareth Cook. “Spend more time doing things for other people.” It may sound crazy to add yet another task to your to-do list, but Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton says that how much time you have matters less than “how you feel about what you can get done.” In a series of experiments, he asked participants to devote time to others—by writing to an ill child, for instance—or to do something for themselves. Those who did a good deed consistently “felt like they had more time.” Even those who stayed late to complete tasks of kindness reported feeling less pressed for time later. The reason is rooted in the fact that “people are extraordinarily bad” at estimating how much time and effort a task will take. We frequently overestimate, which heightens stress. Doing something for someone else shows us “that we can get things done,” and makes us feel effective and in control. However busy we are, it turns out, we can break down our own “potent illusions” simply by lending a hand to others.

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