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If Money Doesn't Make You Happy, Consider Time (stanford.edu)
137 points by rjb 1066 days ago | 45 comments



After I figured out my priorities (took years of challenging myself and introspection) I figured out how to spend my time.

Now I do what's important and don't waste my time with other things. I don't try to "life-hack" or make myself as efficient as possible because if I'm only working on my most important things I know I'm spending my time well.

I cut my working hours down to one or sometimes two days a week, sometimes more when they need me more. I don't need more money than that -- and I live in Manhattan (no kids).

And my life is better than ever.

Nothing special about me. Anyone could do it.

(I recently had an idea I'm passionate about and may put in long hours for it, which will be following my passions. Making your time your own lets you.)

EDIT: to dragons' question of what I do, I work at the company I founded. My compensation is no higher than anyone else's. Working one-fifth time gives me one-fifth pay.

The more valuable question is how low are my expenses. I've found much more freedom in needing less than in having more. Cutting out what doesn't add joy to my life creates freedom and joy. That's what I meant by nothing special about me. Anyone can cut waste. Not many seem to.

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Since 1981 the real wages have risen with 65 % in Norway, i.e. people can buy 65 % more stuff now than back in 1981. However, if the growth in buying power instead of being used to fulfill materialistic 'wants' was translated into leisure time, that would mean three day working weeks. That put things in perspective, albeit might be considered to be a fallacy since the growth would probably not be as great if people did not increase their consumption since 1981.

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You say to want less; do you have specific examples of how you apply this?

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Here are some examples.

Having less stuff: http://joshuaspodek.com/less_please. By this point I cringe when someone gives me a material gift, knowing I'll want to get rid of it soon. Most friends have learned I prefer a bottle of wine or scotch as a gift to anything to stick on a shelf.

My exercise regiment has me in as good physical shape as I've ever been (including when I ran marathons and competed at Nationals level in Ultimate Frisbee). Here's how I work out every day with no gym membership, cost, or equipment, enjoying it: http://joshuaspodek.com/how-begin-workout-routine and http://joshuaspodek.com/knew-minute-day-workout

Personal development for free, the equal of any multi-thousand-dollar seminar: http://joshuaspodek.com/vipassana-meditation

Lots of other examples if you dig through my blog.

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Buying consumables instead of durable isn't really having less, it's keeping less. It's not necessarily less expensive.

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Sometimes there is a mental expense associated with having more physical items in your life. I find minimalism very relaxing.

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> I cut my working hours down to one or sometimes two days a week

What do you do for your income?

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If I had to guess: make more meals instead of buying them, pay less on medical problems caused by not taking care of yourself and being unhappy, use less gas because you have time to walk or bike, and buy fewer time-saving gadgets.

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What about introverted people? The majority of people are extroverted, so this studies result make sense, but a significant number of people are introverted. A simplified definition of introversion is a person whose energy is drained after spending time with people. So the recipe for happiness for an introverted person doesn't necessarily follow the same pattern.

After all, the number one piece of advice was "spend time with the right people". But maybe it applies for introverted people too. For me, top of the list for right people is my wife. We can be "alone together". Perhaps curled up together on the couch reading.

And introverted doesn't mean that we don't enjoy the company of good friends -- it just means that we need some alone time after to regain our energy. Good friends are often significantly energy draining but are significantly happiness increasing.

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It seems fit to point out that this is the sort of cheese-paring reframed optimization that is only undertaken by people who don't have access to as a great enough level of happiness, money, or span of life as they would like ... and well know it.

To think in terms of "well, at least it was quality time" is to admit that we in fact suffer from a poverty of time. In a world where we had enough time to satiate demand, we genuinely would not care whether we spent it well.

Ditto for happiness. This may not be the forum for a consideration of the Hedonistic Imperative, but you might give a few moments of thought for the serious vision aimed at optimizing some measure of happiness and pleasure, rather than some measure of wealth or a count of seconds.

http://www.hedweb.com/hedab.htm

"This manifesto outlines a strategy to eradicate suffering in all sentient life. The abolitionist project is ambitious, implausible, but technically feasible. It is defended here on ethical utilitarian grounds. Genetic engineering and nanotechnology allow Homo sapiens to discard the legacy-wetware of our evolutionary past. Our post-human successors will rewrite the vertebrate genome, redesign the global ecosystem, and abolish suffering throughout the living world."

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Though it has to be said that I'm firmly in the count of seconds camp - until you get a decent supply of those queued and flowing in a pipeline, you're burning your candle at both ends. Crazy to be playing the game like it's ten to midnight on Doomsday when you could instead be helping to fund ways to turn back the clock though biotechnology:

http://www.fightaging.org/archives/2008/02/what-is-wealth.ph...

In short, debating the value of time spent is the mark of humans who are gnawed inside by the knowledge of their own lack of time. Those humans should give more of their money to the SENS Foundation - that would be the unbendingly rational thing to do.

http://www.fightaging.org/archives/2010/10/the-rational-use-...

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It's unlikely that significant life extension techniques will be developed in our lifetime. In fact all evidence that I've seen is that aging is one of those "classically hard" problems, similar to strong a.i., fluent/human like machine translation, cost-efficient robots with the flexibility of humans, etc. While potentially possible with advanced technology, it's clear that we are not very close at all. It's extremely unlikely that any of those "classically hard" problems will be solved in our lifetime. Even though they would likely be revolutionary if they were.

Better to be realistic and expect that we probably will die, instead of constantly worrying about death and hoping for some miracle cure(IMO).

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Actually, these aren't "hard" problems in the sense that physics disallows them. We have existence proofs of them. It's is just a search problem. You have to set up robotic systems that search the space. So the problem is really one of collective stupidity ie. most people are dumbasses debating they value of time and spending it family/friends, or whether gays should be married, when instead they should be demanding mass industrialization of scientific discovery, or building they it (surplus labor is instead going to youtube/wikipedia/tv watching/novel reading etc.).

Most people think science is done with eureka moments by geniuses, but actually what is needed is a "systematic" exploration.

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>Actually, these aren't "hard" problems in the sense that physics disallows them. We have existence proofs of them. It's is just a search problem. You have to set up robotic systems that search the space. So the problem is really one of collective stupidity ie. most people are dumbasses debating they value of time and spending it family/friends, or whether gays should be married, when instead they should be demanding mass industrialization of scientific discovery, or building they it (surplus labor is instead going to youtube/wikipedia/tv watching/novel reading etc.)

People in the deathbed are worried they didn't demand enough "mass industrialization of scientific discovery"?

Talk about a dumbass idea, especially in an era where 99% of our life is colonized by the industrialization of scientific discoveries.

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So you're saying people should give up on the idea of living to a millions years old and just suck it in by spending more time with the families/friends in the few years they have?

Death is a solvable problem. There are species and cell types that are essentially immortal. It exists in nature. We have the capability to manipulate things at the cell/molecule level.

I'm not sure what you mean by "colonized by industrialization". If you think things are too industrialized, maybe you should give up the laptop you're writing from and go live in the jungle without any plastics r metal. I'm sure after a day or so you'll come to realize the error of your thoughts.

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"Death is a solvable problem"

Really? Last time I checked, the statistics were pretty clear. 1 out of every 1 people die. That seems to be pretty damning evidence. :)

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solv-able, not solv-ed yet.

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If you eliminate aging, how do you plan to eliminate starvation?

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>So you're saying people should give up on the idea of living to a millions years old and just suck it in by spending more time with the families/friends in the few years they have?

People in general (as in "humanity") no. But individual people, as you and me, yes, we should definitely "just suck it in by spending more time with the families/friends in the few years we have". As in, don't waste your life for pie in the sky ideas...

>Death is a solvable problem. There are species and cell types that are essentially immortal. It exists in nature.

Lot of things exist in nature. It doesn't mean they also apply to us, or that we can achieve them in a timespan of 100 years or less. Speed of light also exists in nature. But I doubt we'd see a spaceship approaching 80% of it in the next couple of centuries...

Also, that "solvable" part. As it pertains to humans, citation needed.

>We have the capability to manipulate things at the cell/molecule level.

>I'm not sure what you mean by "colonized by industrialization". If you think things are too industrialized, maybe you should give up the laptop you're writing from and go live in the jungle without any plastics r metal.

Right, because thinking that something has gone too far implies you have to go to the limits of the exact opposite direction, eh?

Actually, I would love to. I've actually lived long stretches of time without internet, or even a laptop.

I like programming, but with a beautiful landscape or a nice beach, friends, women, food, good books, and something to keep me warm, I could care less if I never saw another line of code or another tweet or another phone call.

Which is kinda like 60% of the world's population lives, with the exception that lots of them lack food and water. They could care less for the rest. Take a look at the (subjective but that's the purpose) index of world happiness: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happy_Planet_Index

Given the essentials (ie. no lack of food, water etc as in parts of Africa), it seems the less "modern" life, the better.

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I am 60 and for almost my entire life I have only worked 32 hours per week, first for large companies (e.g., SAIC) then for a few smaller companies, and for the last 13 years as a consultant. Lately I have been trying to cut back and partially retire but that is tough since I usually enjoy my work.

I have friends and business associates who thrive on long work hours.

We all need to figure out what we need out of life.

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One more thing: I have a general problem with not having enough time for everything that I want to do. I find that cutting way back on TV and stop watching movies or reading books that I decide just aren't worth the time helps a lot.

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I'm trying to rein my relationship with work in, and limiting myself to 30 hours a week is one way to do that. Now that I consult, I just have to learn to give myself vacations. :)

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You have two ways to value yourself - time and money. I worked in NYC and had a +3 hour rountrip commute. Moving to Boulder, my roundtrip is 10 minutes. I regained 3 hours per day. That's 750 hours per year or 31 days. IMO, nobody sits on their death bed wishing they worked more or made more money - they all wish for more time with their family and friends. Glad I realized that at 26.

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Here's the thing, what about all those people who sit on their death bed thinking "If only I had devoted more time to the projects I loved. Then maybe I could have been a somebody"

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This is a very very good point

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Oy, I'm moving to NYC

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At least you're moving there, and not moving to NJ and planning to commute 3 hours, eh?

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Living in Manhattan turned me into a horrible person. For a while, I kept thinking everyone is trying to con me or compete with me. Escaped 6 months ago and it is only starting to heal.

I also had a long commute. I've never felt as poor as I did living in Manhattan. People on HN keep saying that you can live there for next to nothing but that is not what I experienced.

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> People on HN keep saying that you can live there for next to nothing but that is not what I experienced.

It all depends on what you value. I could live frugally in Wichita, KS, but I'd probably prefer living frugally in NYC instead.

Manhattan is weird in that even a six-figure income doesn't guarantee you a moderately nice apartment in the trendy neighborhoods, but when incomes are adjusted for cost-of-living, New York is actually relatively cheap compared to many US cities. Part of it is that New Yorkers are incredibly idiosyncratic in terms of what purchases we prioritize.

For example, New Yorkers value location and environment/surroundings over material possessions, like cars (which we rarely own) and even the size/quality of our living space. We spend far less time at home than our suburban counterparts, so we're willing to settle for spaces that might seem less desirable to non-New Yorkers. So if you try to buy the same basket of goods that you'd buy in Wichita, yes, you'll find it very expensive - but most New Yorkers allocate their disposable income very differently.

(Also remember that uptown and/or the outer boroughs are always an option - Harlem is cheap and surprisingly accessible, especially if you live near an express stop.)

> Living in Manhattan turned me into a horrible person.

Living anywhere that doesn't suit your lifestyle will make you miserable. I'm sorry that Manhattan wasn't for you, but I hope you don't hold it against my city, just the same way I wouldn't hold it against wherever you're currently living that I'd likely be unhappy there as well.

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Live in Brooklyn. You'll be fine.

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Faster, better, more happiness! Must optimize time/happiness ratio. Less wasting time. Time lost in the past must be justified. Time in the future must be planned for. Optimal usage is the goal !! (Have you tried sitting on the grass lately? Maybe take a nap in the sun..)

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They discuss how happiness is indeed a consequence of the choices people make.

I completely disagree. Happiness is a consequence of your outlook on life. It has very little to do with choices, and everything to do with how you perceive yourself, and whether you believe that you should be happy.

This TED talk by Brené Brown on the topic is particularly relevant:

http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

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Thank you for this link. I think a lot of HNers with the "life is an optimization problem, I just need to find the correct parameters" mindset can learn from it. It certainly made me uncomfortable for the amount I identified with the speaker.

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I bet a dozen of so developers are reading this, trying to figure out how it can be used in a productivity web app of some kind.

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The app would be a calendaring app where your friends can schedule time to hang out with you, and it locks your phone for the duration of hangout time.

Basically it would force you to hang out with people you know.

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And, in the process, missing the point completely...

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I caught myself doing just that and to force my mind to snap out of an endless train of thought.

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Here is an excellent paper written about a similar premise:

http://dunn.psych.ubc.ca/files/2010/12/If-Money-Doesnt-make-...

HN discussion here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3922794

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I can't remember where I saw the quote, but I am constantly reminded of it in my too-busy life:

Time is the ultimate luxury

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The author of the paper that this article refers to did one of the best Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Stanford lectures in my opinion.

It's an hour but well worth a listen/watch

http://ecorner.stanford.edu/authorMaterialInfo.html?mid=2574

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I've always valued my time more than whatever salary I collected. I designed my life so that my financial and social responsibilities have little effect on the type of job I have to take in order to support that lifestyle. I had to make a conscious choice to get this outcome though.

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One good way of optimizing for time is increasing one's hourly rate to as much as the clients can bare.

It's what I try to do and it's really awesome because it gives you both plenty of free-ish time and plenty of money to enjoy that free-ish time with.

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I wonder how Hacker News fits in here. I suspect that a lot of people frequent this place because having a great conversation is probably one of the best ways of spending time vis-a-vis this article.

But is Hacker News an empty subsitute? It pushes the same buttons, but is missing many of the components that are only available in face to face conversation.

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Pleasure, power and peace. The phases of happiness that change every thirty years, in that order.

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Yeah.. i did a speed read(aka skimming or reading sample lines from each paragraph). Told myself i'll write an article If money/time doesn't make you happy, try awareness/presence in the moment... Unfortunately that kind of article writing seems to make me unhappy..:-)

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Also of note: Your health.

Your time isn't worth so much, if poor health precludes you from doing what you want/enjoy.

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