In the not-so-distant past, aspiring futurists and technological pundits assumed that there would eventually come a point when science and technology would forever change our lives. Robots and computers would do all the boring work and chores for us, and without any responsibilities, we would be able to live more leisurely.
As it turns out, things haven’t gone the way that these idealists imagined. Yes, the workforce is increasingly automated, however, the economy has taken some major hits as companies strip low-income, low-education jobs to the bone. As a result, some individuals work multiple jobs to try and make ends meet – all the while juggling other responsibilities like kids, school, and marriage. If only someone had gotten around to inventing time machines already, we might be able to make up for lost time.
Alas, we’re constricted to the rate of travelling at one second per second, and as a result, people are finding it more difficult to find time for things they may have once enjoyed such as meditation, recreation and entertainment. We never seem to learn the value of what we have until it’s lost, and a lot of young college students and graduates in particular are quickly learning that unlimited free time is a luxury that few people can afford to have later on.
In many countries, the changing economy has given rise to a new psychological phenomenon known as “time famine,” where people become stressed with the daily demands in their lives. A group of scientists in the United States, Canada, and Netherlands decided to figure out if there was more to this time famine than met the eye – and if it could be relieved through money.
More than 6,000 adults in these countries were polled on how much money they spent “buying time” – hiring people to help around the house, ride-share, and doing other things that reduced daily scheduling.
The result? Less than a third of individuals “bought time” each month… and those who did reported greater life satisfaction than the others. Part two involved a real-world experiment where participants were asked to spend $30 on a time-saving purchase, like buying lunches or paying for cleaning services and then they were told to spend their windfall on material goods like clothes, games, or food.
At the end of the experiment, both options were measured and as it turned out, buying time instilled more happiness into the participants than just buying material things. So while time may keep on slipping through our fingers, if we can arrive to the realization that the moments we live are more precious than tangible things, than perhaps we may have enough time to save in a bottle.