Buying time instead of things makes people happier.

A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that spending money to save time reduces stress and increases happiness. This is our core business model – using hourly personal assistants to delegate tasks. The title of the New York Times article suggests buying more takeout, which makes some sense. And hiring a maid, which makes more, although almost no one calls housekeepers maids any longer.

Using an assistant provides a unique opportunity to save time, because the list of things they can do instead of you is longer than cooking and cleaning. You can tailor it for exactly what you don’t want or need to do. Like waiting – standing on line or sitting on hold. Filling out forms. Making appointments and reservations. Unsubscribing yourself from unwanted emails. Wrapping presents. Transferring data to your new device. The list is as long as the things that you need to do but can give to someone else.

In the study, over 6,000 people from the US, Canada, Denmark and the Netherland were surveyed. Those who spent money to save time reported greater overall life satisfaction than those who didn’t, regardless of income. The researchers also established a causal relationship between timesaving purchases and mood, and furthermore, found that this helped more than buying material items.

Paradoxically, the number of people who use this strategy is low. Out of 800 Dutch millionaires, only a slight majority used money to save time. We have found similar differences among our clients about how much permission they give themselves to use assistant hours and dedicate the time saved for extra work and fun.

It is deeply satisfying to have this research team provide empirical evidence for our collective observations. When you get an assistant, you gain agency by controlling the quality of your time. We can never get more time, but we can change its texture and impression. We can better manage how it feels as it runs through our lives and us along with it.