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See Inside Scientific American Mind Volume 23, Issue 2

To Enjoy Free Time, Forget Your Hourly Wage

When we think of time as money, leisure activities fall flat



Skip Odonnell/iStockphoto

We commonly treat time as a commodity. Or at least we have since Benjamin Franklin said that “time is money.” Even so, thinking of time in terms of money keeps us from sitting back and enjoying it, according to new research in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. Sanford DeVoe and Julian House of the University of Toronto gave subjects a short time to listen to music or putter around on the Internet. The subjects enjoyed their leisure time much less if they had first been asked to calculate their hourly wage at work. This effect resulted from increased impatience, as indicated by a short follow-up survey. If you start equating time with money, you get itchy about any time not spent earning cash. Better to think of time as priceless, at least while on break.

This article was published in print as "Time Well Spent?"

This article was originally published with the title "Time Well Spent?."

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