Knowledge at Wharton features the research of Wharton Professor Cassie Mogilner and her colleagues, Harvard business professor Michael J. Norton and Yale postdoctoral associate Zoe Chance. Through a series of experimental studies, they find that, "by taking time to help others, we can help ourselves by creating a feeling of expanded time." In other words, perhaps we should reconsider when we feel stressed and reject invitations to help someone else out at work, at church, or in our neighborhood. The scholars found that "although people's objective amount of time cannot be increased (there are only 24 hours in a day) ... spending time on others increases feelings of time affluence. The impact of giving time on feelings of time affluence is driven by a boosted sense of self-efficacy -- such that giving time makes people more willing to commit to future engagements despite their busy schedules."
While I find the work compelling, I think we should take great care acting on the conclusions. We might feel better if we help others, but we also have to remember that trade-offs exist. There is no free lunch. Will our effectiveness at all activities suffer if we take on too many tasks? Many students, for instance, struggle with time management in their early years in college. While taking on extracurriculars has many benefits, I have definitely seen many students become stretched too thin. Not only does schoolwork suffer, but their effectiveness in their social or community service work tails off as well.