New research takes a fresh look at this topic. Jennifer Aaker and Melanie Rudd at Stanford University, and Cassie Mogilner at the University of Pennsylvania, published “If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy, Consider Time,” in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2011. They discuss how happiness is indeed a consequence of the choices people make. So what can people do to increase their happiness? Their answer is surprisingly simple: spend your time wisely.
Author Alice LePlant offers a good summary of a collection of research pointing towards the same conclusion. Among several points she brings up, this one is particularly striking for entrepreneurs and small business owners:
We spend most of our time at work. So understanding how we should be spending our time at work is much more important than people think. It has been interesting to observe which companies are doing a good job of creating opportunities for employees to manage their own time. This goes beyond providing opportunities for flexible hours, telecommuting, and independent contractor relationships. Which companies are allowing opportunities for employees to fundamentally design how they spend their time both at work and outside of work — in ways that are creative and innovative? As Millennials enter the workforce, these types of demands will become even more common.
On this last working day of this year, staring 2011 in the face, I’m reminded: Time is the scarcest resource. Don’t waste it.
In the 1987 Wall Street movie, as they board his private jet, Gordon Gekko tells Bud Fox:
Real wealth is not having to waste time.
Meanwhile, somebody suggested to me that we can all tell our real priorities by tracking how we spend our free time.
Sure, like you probably do too, I spend most of my time getting work done, sleeping, eating, traveling, and so on (no Gordon-Gekko-like wealth for me). But how much of my free time do I spend on the people and pursuits I value most? How would my downtime like television compare to time for relationships, or exercise, or writing, or reading? How would that look for you?
But that line of thought gets ugly fast. Let’s move on.
And do you allow enough time for settling things? Do you get enough silent time to hear yourself think? How much time are you alone without the txt, email, music, video, or web? How much time are you alone with people you care about?
So what’s my resolution? I’m working on it. Give me some time.
Here I was writing this post about new FTC rules for social media, feeling self-righteous about it, when it occurred to me that Shutterstock.com gives me a free stock photos account, which I use to illustrate this blog. And I’m an Amazon.com affiliate. I accept review copies of books, some of which I’ve reviewed here (although I bought most of the books I’ve reviewed, and I don’t go around asking for review copies, just accepting them, occasionally, when they’re offered). And I’m an employee of Palo Alto Software. So I don’t want to be a pot calling kettles black. Or a wolf disguised as a sheep.
Still, it’s about time. A new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruling aimed at blogging and, I assume, Twitter starts Dec. 1. This is from the New York Times story on it:
Beginning on Dec. 1, bloggers who review products must disclose any connection with advertisers, including, in most cases, the receipt of free products and whether or not they were paid in any way by advertisers, as occurs frequently. The new rules also take aim at celebrities, who will now need to disclose any ties to companies, should they promote products on a talk show or on Twitter. A second major change, which was not aimed specifically at bloggers or social media, was to eliminate the ability of advertisers to gush about results that differ from what is typical — for instance, from a weight loss supplement.
I’m glad they made it specific. I hope they enforce it. The same general idea was previously built into basic journalism ethics and it should have been obvious that it applied here as well. Ethics? I mean what do you think, when people are paying people to blog about their products, tweet about them, and do reviews on social media sites. Making endorsements look like honest opinion, or reviews pretending they’re objective, is ugly. I hope it’s obvious why.
What if some company offered to pay you under the table for talking it up with all your friends? How would you feel to be a walking talking advertisement parading as a person?
But it happens all the time. I got an email last month offering me money to endorse products on this blog. It was blatant and unembarrassed. The offer to shill for money was couched in terms like “business models” and “revenue streams.” But it was pretty simple: if I would endorse products in my blog, they’d pay me. No, thank you.
A company called Izea, which made its name connecting bloggers with firms willing to compensate them for plugs on their blogs, has set up a similar service for the Twittersphere. At a site called Sponsored Tweets, Twitter users can sign in, set the price they want companies to pay them for tweeting an ad on their behalf and wait for the offers to come in. Jocelyn French, the mother of a 2-year-old boy and 1-year-old girl, has tweeted for a parenting website, a college-information site and Kmart, among others, at $1 a pop. “I figure, hey, why not get paid at the same time?” French says. On average, companies are paying Sponsored Tweets users $29 per tweet.
I hope you see the problem with that: first, it’s dishonest, the wolf in sheep’s clothing, because it’s presented as conversation.
Back in the 1970s when I studied Journalism in grad school, the generally accepted ethics were pretty obvious on this. Disguising ads as editorial was clearly out of bounds. But that was way before Amazon.com revolutionized consumer reviews, and then there was the proliferation of blogs and now Twitter blurring the boundaries. But still, put it back onto the personal level: if a company pays you to pretend you’re giving a legitimate personal opinion, that just doesn’t feel good. Right?
Home movie rentals: up during recession. Netflix, Redbox and others are way up over last year. From The Atlantic.
Urban farming: More people grow their own food during recession. “The National Gardening Association has found that 19 percent more people will grow their own fruit, berries, vegetables and herbs this year than last, and 54 percent say they are motivated by the prospect of saving money on groceries.” From Kiplingers.
McDonald’s sales: apparently cheap meals do better during recession. McDonald’s same-store sales are up 7.1%. From the Washington Post.
Going to the movies: normally up during recession. Up 9% for the first quarter of this year, compared to 2008. Kiplinger.
The underwear index: sales of men’s underwear go down during recession. Economizing? They’re down 2.3% for 2009. Huffington Post, quoting Alan Greenspan.
Dating increases during a recession: Match.com is way up. Kiplinger.
The necktie index: sales go up during recession. Job interviews? They’re up 50% this year. From The Telegraph.
(Ugh, I don’t like this one) New York Magazine proposed the hot waitress index: “the worse the economy, the hotter the waitresses.” That’s dumb. It shouldn’t have been included.
Lipstick index: supposedly lipstick sales go up in recession. Affordable luxury? But they’re down this year. The Economist.
The Bed Bath and Beyond Barometer. Proposed by Time Magazine. The explanation is that consumers who can’t go out or away upgrade their home. Ho-hum.