The Drawbacks of Putting a Price on Time

by Susan Leem, associate producer

RIMG0032 Photo by Ofer Deshe/Flickr, cc by 2.0

The saying “time is money” may ask us to think carefully about the quality of our experiences, but the association of “time” with “money” can also diminish your ability to feel pleasure.

Researchers from the University of Toronto showed that, if participants thought about their income as an hourly wage, they felt as if they were wasting time while surfing the internet or listening to a pleasant song. The reasoning behind it? When there is no money to be made, we feel impatient doing leisure activities knowing that there is a price on our time. And when the scientists paid the participants for their leisure activity (for example listening to music), they didn’t feel as impatient about the experience, and thus enjoyed it more.

The authors conclude, “thinking about time in terms of money is poised to affect our ability to smell the proverbial roses.” And even the roses smell sweeter when we’re getting paid to do it.

How can we keep the urgency of the phrase “time is money” without losing our ability to value our (non-monetary) life experiences?

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