Time: your most valuable resource
Through autonomous driving, Volvo Cars is working towards the goal that, by 2025, it will give its drivers back a week of time per year.
A whole week – you could go on holiday with that time.
It’s part of a sustainability initiative Volvo calls Omtanke – a Swedish word that means “caring” and “consideration”, and just as importantly “to think again” – and reflects our belief that we should consider the potential environmental and social impacts of our decisions.
That makes time a part of sustainability.
But what would you do with a bit more time? Many of us have felt that an extra half hour in the day wouldn’t go amiss. The industry for time management self-help books is thriving. But if someone actually made it happen for us, can we honestly say we would use the extra minutes to do something we enjoyed?
Think about the feeling of satisfaction you get when an hour of genuine free time opens in the middle of the day. You’ve done all your work, the dog’s been walked, the house looks great, and you’re up to date with your life admin. Suddenly, the opportunities stack up quickly. Maybe you could call someone you haven’t seen for a bit?
Make an experimental sandwich. Go for a run. Catch up with your favourite TV series. A series of recent studies showed that time and happiness are clearly linked. But we could also argue that there needs to be a shift in attitude for us to embrace this – that we can learn to see the potential for enjoyment in any free time we earn.
People have long been treating time as a kind of currency. “Time banking” is a thing. But maybe we should see our little extra morsels of free time as something like pocket money. If you get a bit extra, you can use it to treat yourself.
Although many still think of sustainability as “green” behaviour, the concept has shifted in the last couple of decades to include human behaviour and financial efficiency. The Triple Bottom Line concept, developed by author John Elkington in 1994, re-wrote corporate sustainability as a three-part concept, best summarised as “people, planet and profit”.
It’s also believed that if you remove one part of the puzzle, the whole thing becomes compromised – even useless. With the Triple Bottom Line, people come first. Companies address this by making sure that their employees are happy, fairly treated and successful.
But a good company also makes its customers happy by giving them something they find genuinely useful and enjoyable. Like an extra week, for instance. As futuristic as Volvo owners getting a week of time back sounds, like something out of Back To The Future, it doesn’t call for flux capacitors in the car and hitting a speed of 88mph in a thunderstorm.
Rather, it means that your car will itself take care of things that previously you’d do yourself. Like warming up the engine, for instance, or even driving. These developments will make the cars better, safer and cleaner. But they'll also give you the opportunity to be calmer, less stressed, more mindful, and more considerate about your actions. They'll also let you do more of what makes you happier.
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As far back as the 1930s, economist John Maynard Keynes was predicting that automation would take over to such an extent by 2030 that we’d all be working 15-hour weeks. And, as a result, we’d be dangerously bored. Because it’s true that when we have very little free time, it becomes an enjoyable luxury, whereas if you’re given plenty of free time and no obligations, it can feel a bit empty and scary.
Keynes, though, didn’t bank on us living in a world where we can take our own cars to the forest and stream an audiobook into our ears via our phones, or where we can leisurely cook dinner and invite strangers to share it via an app. Or any of the countless distractions available to people all over the world – whether they want to be alone or with their loved ones.
Ultimately, you decide how to spend your extra week. But think about putting the emphasis on pleasure instead of necessity. Volvo Cars can work out how to give you more time. It’s then up to you to spend it – carefully or carelessly, but on things that bring you joy.