We’ve been talking about the book, Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, and how these insights on money and happiness can help freelancers. Start with our Happy Freelancer overview to get the basics, but the short version is that if money can’t buy you happiness, you’re spending it wrong.
While time and money are often intricately linked, they promote different mindsets. Our attitudes and actions are different when we think about time versus money.
When we think about time we often prioritize happiness and social relationships. But when we think about money we often think in a cold, rational manner.
So what? Well, thinking about time compared to money impacts how productive we are, how happy we are and can even change choices we make.
- People in a coffeeshop were primed with thoughts about money or time. Those with money on the brain spent more time working. Those thinking about time socialized more, and as a result left the coffeeshop happier than those who were buckling down and getting work done.
- If you ask potential donors if they’re willing to donate time first, they end up giving more time and more money.
- Concertgoers are more excited about the event when they focus on how much time they invested to be there as opposed to how much money they spent.
If work is making you frustrated and irritable, it might improve your demeanor to focus on time. On the flip side, if you’re having trouble getting work done, maybe you need to think about money (though be aware that it might leave you feeling less happy).
But what happens when we link time and money?
Pairing Time and Money
Benjamin Franklin told us that “time is money,” emphasizing the earning power of a worker. Yay for capitalism! While focusing on how much we earn in a certain amount of time might make us more productive members of society, it doesn’t make us happier.
When we think about how much we earn per hour—how much time is worth to us—we have a harder time enjoying ourselves. When you realize you earn so much money per hour—so many dollars per minute—it suddenly becomes a lot harder to sit back and enjoy a few minutes of quiet or a chat with your coworker. You’re wasting time, and time is money.
So if you want to be happier, you need to think less about that hourly wage. You need to ignore Benjamin Franklin.
For freelancers, we’ve been pushing you away from hourly rates and toward per project rates for a while. It’s a way to earn more money. Now it’s a way to make you happier.
Negatives of Time and Money
Another downside to pairing time and money is over-working yourself.
Hourly workers—whether we’re talking minimum wage earners or high-dollar lawyers—are more likely to trade time for money than salaried workers. That might not seem like a big deal—overtime is good, right? But money isn’t everything.
Hourly workers are also less likely to volunteer.
By seeing time as money, these hourly workers are willing to sacrifice things that make them happy for a little extra money. Working an extra hour seems like no big deal—it makes you more money. But it comes at the cost of the rest of your life—your family, your leisure time, your interests—all the things that make you happy.
Time and money have a complicated relationship, especially for freelancers always trying to squeeze more out of the day. But the bottomline is that you’ll be happier if you focus on time and keep from equating time and money. Think about how you spend your time and charge per project.