Building A Stage/Time Affluence
June 28, 2022 (Tuesday) 4 min read
This weekend I built a stage. No metaphor. No play on words. Just literally built a big rectangular thing out of wood. My wife and I are having a party with a band for the 4th of July…so we need a stage. My brother-in-law brought some pallets over, I grabbed some new plywood from the local hardware store, and I was off and running. Building a backyard stage is not overly difficult but it’s not without its challenges and rife with trial and error. This was not the first time I’d built a stage but this time around was by far the most enjoyable. I stopped to think about why.
DR. SANTOS AND HAPPINESS
Dr. Laurie Santos is a head of college and professor at Yale University. She teaches a freshman seminar called Psychology and the Good Life that dives into the topic of happiness and it’s the most popular course in the school’s history. With an initial expectation of teaching a group of 30 or so students, the first iteration of the course had to be held in an auditorium that held over 1,000. Apparently, demand for more happiness was quite high.
Dr. Santos is internationally known for her work on happiness. Gratitude, free time, and social connections were points of focus for her even before March 2020. After Covid hit and the way we interacted with each other was radically changed, the importance and relevance of her work has increased significantly.
One of the topics Santos dives into with her students is the relationship between “time famine” and “time affluence”. Not surprisingly, most students at Yale are time-famished in the sense that they spend almost all of their time on campus dedicated to academics and building their resumes. In short, they never stop and they miss the other important social opportunities that college offers. When asked, they shared that on average they have about 4 hours a day of leisure time (time not focused on school). It is likely they had this same approach as teenagers during high school to give them the chance of even getting into the Ivy League school. But, as Dr. Santos points out, “your feelings of time famine can severely negatively impact your well-being”. These kids are working their tails off…but to what end? I suppose this helps explain why the class on happiness is so popular.
“It used to be more linear…go to work, come home, go to work, come home. Now…I’m at work, I’m doing this, I’m doing that, I sold that, I flipped this…there’s a lot of hustle.”
What Greg is describing is exactly what Dr. Santos is hitting at with her college students, but in an arena that is much more relatable for most of us. You and I aren’t hitting the books and building our resumes per se, but we’re much more active than our parents were in terms of building our professional reputations and financial portfolios. There’s no more 9 to 5. We were raised in a culture that champions the Puritan work ethic, but hell, even the Puritans took Sunday off.
If time famine is being too busy to do anything other than school or work, time affluence must be the opposite. Time affluence is really hard for busy people. It’s hard to find the time to grab a coffee or catch up with an old friend (my phone actually just rang and it was a buddy I hadn’t talked to in months…but I sadly chose not to interrupt my work).
Dr. Santos breaks it down to dueling lenses of people either prioritizing money or prioritizing time. If you’re someone who values money more, you sacrifice your time to create more of it. If you’re someone who values time more, you’ll trade in the ability to earn more money in exchange for more free time. Although I’m guessing most of us are on the hustle after money track, research shows that those who sacrifice money to have more time are much happier. Of course, in reality, we (hopefully) don’t live at one of these two extremes and instead can find some balance, but the point seems clear.
As we begin summer and the kids wrap up their last days of school, this seems important. It’s a good time of year to reexamine our routines and seek balance where we think it can be advantageous. Our core values will remain the same, but maybe we rearrange our priorities a little as family and social dynamics change for the summer months. You owe it to yourself, and those around you, to give it some thought.
BACK TO MY STAGE
In the opening, I’d mentioned how building a stage in my backyard, a task I’d done a number of times before, was especially enjoyable this year. Then I mentioned that I’d “stop to think about why”. Well…being able to pause for the sake of reflection reveals a crystal clear answer. As someone who juggles three jobs, two of which are especially demanding throughout the month of June, I had a rare full day to myself to do whatever I chose. I decided to create with my hands and ignore the world of work. Wood, drill, sunshine,…I stepped out of the office; I stepped away from the computer; I ignored emails and forgot I had a phone…I slipped into a state of time affluence without giving it any thought. And it felt great.