There are some things we just shouldn’t do, and I am not talking about wearing socks with sandals (although that also qualifies). And Doing less of these things can make us more productive, profitable and happier.
Someone put a request out on Twitter this week for some help with their WordPress site. Immediately I replied suggesting simply to get someone else to do the required work, and this is for two reasons;
- One, because I think it makes sense to outsource certain things to those who know better and will do them more quickly.
- Two, because your time can often be spent doing more “profitable” things.
Of course what to outsource is a personal question based on your own strengths, weaknesses and what is most "profitable" for you (whether you measure this in terms of money, time or happiness).
To me this process usually comes reasonably naturally (although it didn’t always). I am, after all, a partner in a company that offers IT Outsourcing and Virtual Assistants. But to many the thought of handing over money (no matter how small the amount), for a job which is easy and requires “only” time to learn, is a difficult hurdle to overcome.
But I think the key factor is time. Last week I spent half a day messing around, trying to format an ebook, the way I want it, with images, in a complex writing app. Why? Well it was a mixture of stubbornness and stupidity I suppose. In the end of course I gave up, having been generally unsuccessful.
- Unsuccessful because I wasted my time. I could have been doing something profitable.
- Unsuccessful because I didn’t actually take enough time to learn to do the job properly.
- Unsuccessful because I didn’t have a properly formatted ebook at the end of it.
- Unsuccessful because my productivity was zero for half the day.
I decided a long time ago to work with a virtual assistant for many tasks and, although my journey to finding the right one was not straightforward, I am a firm believer in handing over the time-consuming, the repetitive or indeed whatever else you may decide does not fit into your “profitable” tray.
How to decide what is profitable and what should be outsourced?
I think you can apply this simple process to come up with some answers. Firstly you have to define “profitable”. This exercise is not just about commercial enterprises. It could be in your personal life to assess what brings you the greatest feeling of mental wellbeing. By using the word profitable I mean something that you as an individual or company directly profit from. By the same token I use the word "unprofitable" not to mean an activity that loses money or shouldn't be done, but one whose outcomes are smaller than the input.
For example; the time it would take me to learn how to format an ebook the way I want it is in no way balanced by the outcome. In a few days I could probably be pretty good at it, but I do not intend to become a professional ebook formatter, so have I made the most of those few days? It would take a professional a few hours to complete the job. A few hours in which I could be doing something profitable, whether it is earning money or going for a long walk.
A simple test
- Decide which aspect of your life you are assessing (work, personal or everything).
- Make a list of all the tasks / things you do on some post-it notes (or scraps of paper). Be sure to include everything.
- Make a note of how much time you spend on each.
- Now divide them into two piles; profitable and unprofitable.
- Add up the time on each.
Ideally you should be spending much more time on the unprofitable ones, but this is rarely the case. Now ask yourself these questions:
- How many of the unprofitable tasks are repetitive and easily defined?
- How many of the unprofitable tasks are one offs?
Both these scenarios mean there is little to lose in handing them over. Indeed the gain of outsourcing heavily outweighs any perceived loss, a little like the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule) applied to time management.