Stress and Anxiety

A surprising way to feel less time-stressed

 (iStock)

Here’s a novel suggestion for those who feel they are in a constant race against the clock to get things done: Make some time for others.

While it might seem counterintuitive to sacrifice some of the very thing you think you don’t have enough of, our research shows that giving a bit of time away may, in fact, make people feel less pressed for time and better able to tick things off their to-do lists.

With Americans feeling starved for time to such an extent that scholars have declared a “time famine,” we began searching for a cure by asking: When people feel pressed for time, what activities are they most likely to forgo? And, could the very activities people are quickest to cut be the ones most likely to cure their famine?

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We found that when people are feeling time-constrained, they tend to buckle down and focus on themselves at the cost of focusing at all on others. In fact, feeling time-stressed can mean running right past opportunities and requests to help others, since that would require slowing down.

One classic study showed that even people you would expect to be among the most compassionate—seminary students—literally ran past a coughing man clearly in need of assistance when they were told that they were late for the next part of the study and needed to hurry. It makes sense that when we lack enough time for ourselves, we cut back on time for others and direct the scarce resource where we need it most.

Click for more from the Wall Street Journal.