It may sound incredible, but making time for others can make you feel less stressed about time.

Sounds counterintuitive, right?

When you feel like you have too much to do and too little time to do it, you probably limit your activities. I know feeling pressed for time can make me cut back on seeing friends, enjoying lazy time between dinner and bedtime, or even having free weekends. The tendency is to focus on yourself and not on helping others.

A study has shown that “people who spent time on others reported feeling like they had more time than those who spent time on themselves,” according to Cassie Mogilner Holmes, an associate professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, and Michael Norton, a professor at Harvard Business School. One Saturday, the researchers told people to spend some time doing either something for themselves or for someone else. Some took a bubble bath or got a pedicure. Others read a book or completed items on their to-do list. Others spent time on others. One cooked for his wife. Another helped a neighbor clear snow from his porch. And another wrote a letter to his grandmother, who was feeling lonely.

Those who spent time on others reported feeling like they had more time than those who focused their time on themselves.

Why was that the case? The professors’ results show that spending time on others increases feelings of self-efficacy, or that feeling that we are able to accomplish everything we set out to do. Curiously enough, cossetting oneself doesn’t move the dial on self-efficacy or make us feel like we can get things done.

Helping another person can give you the feeling that you have made a tangible impact. That feeling can reduce the stress of not having enough time. It seems that how you perceive you feel may be more important than the reality.

To learn more, read about the study in The Wall Street Journal.