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Being Busy Makes Us Happier, but Our Instinct Is to Do Nothing

BPS Research does it again. Check-out this study. The upshot:

Forced to wait for fifteen minutes at the airport luggage carousel leaves many of us miserable and irritated. Yet if we’d spent the same waiting time walking to the carousel we’d be far happier. That’s according to Christopher Hsee and colleagues, who say we’re happier when busy but that unfortunately our instinct is for idleness. Unless we have a reason for being active we choose to do nothing – an evolutionary vestige that ensures we conserve energy.

This research explains nearly 100% of my emotions, actions, and predilections! And it is very consistent with what every parent knows: When the kids are complaining about being bored or are sitting around being grumpy, get them to do SOMETHING no matter how trivial or inane it may seem. This may apply to bosses too, but I have to think about it.

The citation is: Hsee CK, Yang AX, & Wang L (2010). Idleness aversion and the need for justifiable busyness. Psychological science : a journal of the American Psychological Society / APS, 21(7).

Reprinted from Work Matters

Robert I. Sutton, PhD is Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford. His most recent book is The New York Times bestseller The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t. His next book, Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best…and Survive the Worst, will be published September 2010. Follow him at twitter.com/work_matters.

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