5 Time Management Strategies from World Expert Dr. Whillans

Dr. Ashley Whillans giving a speech on a stage.
Dr. Ashley Whillans giving a speech on a stage.

This article was originally posted on ModernHusbands, and has been reposted here with permission.

Dr. Ashley Whillans is one of the most impressive people I’ve ever interviewed. Her journey from the actress giving Juno the stink eye to a professor at Harvard Business School is jam-packed with research about the relationship between time, money, and happiness.

Her thoughts are of particular importance to our community. Many of us are dual-income families who need to make every moment count, and even then, we don’t seem to have enough moments in the day. We don’t have enough time available after sleep, what little sleep we get. We work and manage our homes, enjoy ourselves socially, and work toward our personal goals. In the academic world, this is referred to as time poverty.

Time poverty is at an all-time high in most advanced economies worldwide, including the United States. (1) People who are time poor are less happy, less productive, and more stressed. (2) They exercise less, eat fattier food, and have a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease. (3)

Yet, since 1950, leisure time has increased in the United States. We might not be working more hours, but we are making decisions to work at all hours and are always connected. (4)

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” – William Penn

We recorded a podcast with Dr. Whillans to be released in the fall of 2022. We summarized many of her thoughts from the podcast and her book Time Smart and shared them in this article. Subscribe to the Modern Husbands podcast to listen to the full interview.

Despite our parents telling us that they did everything on their own after they walked uphill to and from school in the snow, a symbol of progress in our country is our advancement in making routine tasks in the home easier to complete. The dishwasher, washer, dryer, lawnmower, and microwave – all examples of how technology has shaved off countless amounts of time for American families, time that can be used doing other things. This leads us to our first-time management strategy.

Time Management Strategy #1

Outsourcing! Dr. Whillans shared insight into when it is best to outsource things like food with meal delivery services.

In our free customizable budget for couples, we included a line item for outsourcing chores that eat away at your time. Planning for ways to fund your time in your budget is a good start to managing your time more effectively.

Time Management Strategy #2

Time affluence, which is the sense that you have ample time available daily, is a habit. You must invest and work at managing your time daily to make it a habit. (5)

For example, studies have shown that married couples who have planning/business meetings once a week for one hour to discuss what will be accomplished for the week are happier. These meetings allow couples to work around each other’s schedules each week to plan short- and long-term activities. (5)

This advice is consistent with tips provided in the book Fair Play.

Time Management Strategy #3

“Don’t spend a dollar’s worth of time for a ten-cent decision.” – Peter Turla

Consumers spend hours researching things that cost less than $100 (5). You and your partner should reflect on the spending choices you’ve made in the past on frivolous things, and ask yourselves, was it worth your time?

For some, the frustrating trade-off between time and money is a reality, particularly for folks who live paycheck to paycheck. For folks who live in poverty and are facing time scarcity, research indicates that finding time would be more beneficial for their financial circumstances than practical personal finance strategies.

Time Management Strategy #4

Avoid or reduce the six common time traps: (4)

Constant connection to technology. Schedule a time each day that your phone is away and your laptop is closed.

Obsession with work and making money. In other words, please stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. They’re probably fakes who are miserable anyway.

Limited value placed on time. Ask yourself one question. If right now you could change places with 90-year-old Warren Buffett, who is worth $100 billion, would you? Then ask yourself what is more important, time or money.

Busyness as a status symbol. Stop trying to exhaust yourself by looking busy all of the time. Work hard, then play hard.

Aversion to idleness. Disconnect and be mindful of your moments while you’re in your moments.

The Yes… damn! effect. Stop saying yes to every future commitment as if your time is an unlimited resource. It’s not. We have very little time.

Time Management Strategy #5

Find time. Take note of how you spend your time. What brings you misery? What brings you joy?

What is it that makes you miserable? Perhaps it’s doom scrolling or participating in useless meetings. What can give you a burst of joy? Is it taking a short walk and being present in the moment? Perhaps it’s calling a loved one to talk, even for a few minutes.

In other words, be more deliberate about spending less time on the things you hate and more time doing what you love. (4)


(1) Daniel S Hamermesh, Jungmin Lee; Stressed Out on Four Continents: Time Crunch or Yuppie Kvetch?. The Review of Economics and Statistics 2007; 89 (2): 374–383. doi: https://doi.org/10.1162/rest.89.2.374

(2) Kasser, T., Sheldon, K.M. Time Affluence as a Path toward Personal Happiness and Ethical Business Practice: Empirical Evidence from Four Studies. J Bus Ethics 84, 243–255 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-008-9696-1

(3) Mogilner, C., Whillans, A., & Norton, M. I. (2018). Time, money, and subjective well-being. In E. Diener, S. Oishi, & L. Tay (Eds.), Handbook of well-being. Salt Lake City, UT: DEF Publishers. DOI:nobascholar.com

(4) Whillans, Ashley. Time Smart. Harvard Business Review Press, 2020.

(5) Pre-recorded Modern Husbands podcast with Dr. Ashley Whillans