Small Business

How your to-do list could be a source of happiness

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If your holiday break seems like an eternity ago, take comfort in the growing stack of paperwork on your desk, the incessantly ringing phone, the high turnover of the contents of your coffee mug – these could be an unidentified source of happiness previously unrealised.

A study conducted by the Association for Psychological Science shows that people prefer to be busy and it could even bring more happiness than those who are idle. The report, ‘Idleness Aversion and the need for justifiable busyness’, notes a strange paradox in that people prefer to be busy but are more likely to be idle if there is no justification to be more active.

“People dread idleness, yet they need a reason to be busy,” the reports states. “Accordingly, we show in two experiments that without a justification, people choose to be idle; that even a specious justification can motivate people to be busy; and that people who are busy are happier than people who are idle.”

Experiments involving American university students found that in a situation, 32 per cent of participants chose to be busy when there was no reason to be, compared with 59 per cent when a specific reason was given. And, those who chose the busy option reported on average happiness levels of 81 per cent, compared with 54 per cent for those who remained idle.

Interestingly, the higher happiness levels of busy participants was consistent whether they chose to be busy or were forced to be – an interesting insight for those must-do tasks at work.

The study drew conclusions on the results, stating that the relationship between a desire to be busy for a reason may stem from evolutionary survival tactics.

“We speculate that the concurrent desires for busyness and for justification are rooted in evolution. In their strife for survival, human ancestors had to conserve energy to compete for scarce resources; expending energy without purpose could have jeopardized survival,” says the report.

The report points to one modern-day invention to keep people busy.

“Airports have tried to increase the happiness (or reduce the unhappiness) of passengers waiting at the baggage carousel by increasing the distance between the gate and the baggage claim area, forcing them to walk far rather than wait idly,” it says.

So, while there may not seem enough hours in the day, a long list of things to do could be proving a greater satisfaction than an hour twiddling your thumbs.

If you’re looking to work on your business rather than being stuck in it, book in for a complimentary business assessment today with Switzer Business Coaching.

Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.

Published on: Friday, March 11, 2011

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