By Ian Child, author of Your Own Personal Time Machine
Let me share with you the moment the outsourcing penny dropped for me. It was at a seminar where my fellow attendees and I were asked to write down our hourly rate. The group included a lawyer, and he had no trouble writing down his answer, but for the rest of us, it took a bit of thought. Should we take our annual income and divide it by the number of working hours in a year? Or do we need to know what we would be doing? If we were to help with his tax return, then that might command a premium that clearing out his garage or digging up some potatoes would not. But eventually we each arrived at our own number, which we duly wrote down.
Our host picked up my piece of paper and gave me a look of mild surprise. Had I gone too high? He handed me a separate piece of paper, declaring that he’d written down the exact amount that I valued one hour of my time to be worth. I unfolded the paper: you value your time at £2.50 per hour.
He asked me to read this out to the rest of the audience, all of whom soon looked as perplexed as I felt.
I was then asked where I did my weekly grocery shopping (Waitrose) and on which day of the week I did this shopping (Saturday) and how long it took me (two and a half hours, give or take).
Returning to his lectern, our host pulled up the home shopping page of my supermarket of choice on the big screen so that everybody could see it. A lady sitting at the front (her name was Susan) was asked to read out how much it would cost for the supermarket to deliver their groceries directly to my front door. Susan revealed that it would cost me a fiver.
My shopping options were spelled out: spend half an hour doing an online grocery shop in my pyjamas and pay £5 for someone to deliver it; or save £5 and spend two and a half hours doing the shopping myself, in person. My choice to eschew technology and shop old school had valued my time at £2.50 per hour.
We assume that it’s only the time we allocate to work tasks that has any financial value, yet the reality is it doesn’t matter which hour is involved. The question is simply what value we put on them. And, of course, what we do with them.
Supermarket shopping is just one example of home tasks that take up our time. How much time do you spend mowing your lawn, or vacuuming, or doing laundry, or ironing, or cooking? There are gardeners, and cleaners and even personal chefs who are willing and able to take on those tasks for you. That may seem a bit Downton Abbey, but you don’t need to go full Lord Grantham – you could take baby Bonneville steps.
Henry Ford famously said, ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.’ In other words, your fate is determined not by what you do, but by what you believe. If you believe that doing all the shopping, gardening, and cleaning tasks yourself is good because it saves you money, then that’s a view of the world that is right for you, and good luck to you. On the other hand, if you think doing all these chores yourself costs you time that you could otherwise spend doing something better, then that’s an altogether different situation – one that now includes some new options and fresh opportunities.
Outsourcing the washing up may gain you an extra hour in bed, and if that is all you want, enjoy. But you could also gain an extra hour helping your kids with homework, or an extra couple of hours with your kids at a cinema, or an extra afternoon with them in the park. You could gain extra hours to read more of your favourite authors’ books, or to see friends more often, or to take up a hobby you’ve always fancied having a go at, or to actually make use of that gym membership. These are the types of things that can enrich your life, and the better your life is outside of work, the more likely you are to be refreshed and raring to go when you return to work.
Of course, outsourcing parts of your life can create extra time for work activities too. You can find that you have time for networking events or taking up that client’s offer of golf/tennis/drinks. Perhaps you could move to offices charging a lower rent because you’ve delegated enough time to allow for a longer commute. Or the extra hour you can stay at work cuts your overtime bill. The ways outsourcing can help you are limited only by your imagination.
So, I would urge you to imagine all the things you could be doing if only you had the time and then weigh up the benefits of a little outsourcing so you can start to fit them all in. After all, your clock is ticking, and whatever value we assign to our hours, none of us know how many of those hours we may have left.
Ian Child is the author of ‘Your Own Personal Time Machine, a guide to getting your life back’, available exclusively from amazon.co.uk. in paperback and e-book.