Fixing Your Anxiety Potholes: 5 Strategies for a More Efficient and Less Anxious Life (Part Four)

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This is part of a five-part series dedicated to Fixing Your Anxiety Potholes.  Click here to read the rest of the series.

So far you’ve been able to slough away stress by managing your email, finding your focus and creating a brand-spaking-new to-do list. Now you’re going to get a bit more aggressive with the stress by actively handing it over to someone else with the next topic.

Selling Your Stress: The Magic of Personal Outsourcing

You’re probably familiar with the general term “outsourcing” from the corporate arena. Big-bucks enterprises often use it as a handy-dandy way to send work overseas to get it done cheaper than they’d have to pay in America. While such a connotation may instantly put the term in a negative light, especially if you know someone out of a job because of it, the concept can be a very positive thing when used in our daily lives. Productivity consultant and blogger Aaron Lynn sums up the concept: 

Applied to our personal lives, outsourcing is about taking things that we would normally have to do in our day-to-day lives, and having someone else do it at a low(ish) cost.

Outsourcing can apply to someone else doing the chores or tasks we find unattractive or a waste of our time, but it can also apply to automating tasks or otherwise streamlining chores so they don’t clog up our path of productivity. Taking the tedious tasks off our agenda frees us up to work on other things, instantly giving us more time to do what we must or even what we love.

Yes, it can indeed be magical.

When outsourcing works

Outsourcing can be a great way to get rid of common tasks that eat up large portions of your time. You can outsource your laundry, your housecleaning, your gardening and even hire someone to run everyday errands like that dreaded trip to the post office or the annoying wait to get your annual emissions test on your car.

When you trust the job will be done to your acceptability standards

Of course, that means you’d have trust someone else to do what you would consider an acceptable job for the price you’re paying. You also have to trust the person doing the job would not actually steal your car on the way back from the emissions test or empty out your piggy bank and jewelry box while cleaning your house.

When you can automate tasks

Deliveries can be considered a form of outsourcing, and it can work for a number of other time-sucking tasks you absolutely hate to do on a regular basis. Options may include some prescription plans, appliance parts and even grocery delivery. Some stores may let you shop online or by phone and have items delivered, automatically delivered every few months, or ready for local pick-up when you can hire someone to swing by.

When outsourcing doesn’t work

Although outsourcing can be magical, practical and feasible, there are times when the concept just won’t work. You can’t really hire someone to attend your sister’s wedding, for instance, especially if you promised you’d be there. The same applies to work situations, when you are put in charge of a task but decide it’s too boring, monotonous or otherwise “beneath you.” That’s when you can get into trouble.

When it’s not ethical

Our buddy Lynn says there is an incredibly blurry line when it comes to outsourcing your own work. Let’s say you’re in charge of updating the office holiday card list and find the task revoltingly tedious. So let’s say you find an assistant overseas who is willing to do the work at a much lower cost than your hourly rate. Outsourcing the task is cool, right?

Not always. Lynn mentions the issues of responsibility and professional accountability that come rearing up. You also have the potential danger that the assistant will screw up the task or make mistakes that are more bothersome to correct than doing the task yourself would be.

And then there’s your boss. If she entrusted you to do the tedious task, not as a punishment of sorts but because she knows she can trust you and your work, and you send the task overseas without her knowledge, you might be blurring your way right into the unemployment line.

When it’s not cost-effective

Another time outsourcing may be ineffective is if the cost of outsourcing is more than the cost of doing the task yourself or you simply don’t have the money to pay someone to do it. You can always try the barter system for certain tasks, like offering to walk the neighbor’s dog all week if he can babysit for you on Friday. That tactic doesn’t necessarily free up your time, but it can give you time to use in another manner.

Trading one of your homemade pies for babysitting is another option, but you still have to factor in the time it takes you bake the pie and the cost of ingredients. When the scales are tipped against you and outsourcing a task ends up more costly or bothersome than it would be to do it yourself, it may be better just to do the dang thing yourself.

How to value your time

The only way you’ll know for certain if something is worth outsourcing is to put a value on your time and then figure out if its economical for you to pay someone else to do the task. You can calculate your hourly rate with a bit of math.

Let’s make it easy and say you make $52,000 per year working the usual 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year. That gives you $1,000 per 40-hour week. Divide the $1,000 by 40 to get an hourly wage of $25 per hour. While this equation does not factor in work commute time and other potential expenses, it does give you a general guideline.

Anything that costs more than $25 per hour to outsource may not be worth the monetary cost, although money is only one factor involved when putting a value on your time.

Other things to consider include:

How long it takes you to do something versus how long it takes someone else to do it. Lynn uses the example of doing your taxes, which may take you hours on end, or even a few days. Let’s say it takes you two weekend to do your taxes, spending at least 10 hour per weekend to do your taxes. Using the $25 per hour model, it cost you $500 to do your taxes yourself.

An accountant may be able to do them faster, charge less than the $500, or both. He may also be much less likely to make an error, which could cost you more time and money down the road if you’re ever stuck getting audited.

You also must take into account that you typically don’t work on weekends and the money for an accountant may not be readily available in your budget. Giving up your free time to do your taxes yourself is a big cost, but so is rearranging your budget or doing without something to pay off the accountant for his work. Say goodbye to your Tuesday shopping spree or that new coat you’ve been eyeing.

What you could do instead of the task you’re outsourcing. If your answer is “Watch the Real Housewives of New Jersey,” you may want to consider doing the task yourself. If you could instead be working, making money, spending quality time with family or friends, or have some other valuable use for your time, paying a little extra may even be worth it to get a particular task off your plate.

How much you really, really hate (or love!) the task.  Let’s say it does take you 20 hours to do your taxes, you could instead be fishing, but you for some reason or another get a thrill playing with all those numbers. By all means, keep the task for yourself!

On the other hand, if you can’t stand playing with numbers and the thought of doing your taxes makes you puke, get it outta there! If something is so distressing or abhorrent to you that you can’t stand the thought of even attempting it, do yourself a favor and hire someone else to do it.

A more precise way to value your time

If the general equation and thoughts on how much you love or hate a task are not enough to decide if outsourcing is worth it, you can always use a special calculator designed for the task. Think of it as outsourcing the math work! Using the calculator is free, and you can find it at LearnVest.com.

Link to hourly value calculator: http://www.learnvest.com/2011/02/whats-your-time-worth/

Final calculations give you an hourly worth based on your income (after taxes), your free time, and how much extra money you have to spend on things like outsourcing.

Practical ways to get started outsourcing

Make a list of chores you do daily, weekly or monthly that would make sense to outsource then divide them into two categories: things you can automate online and things you need to hire an actual person to do.

Online automation for outsourcing

Visit the websites of your favorite stores, your pharmacy, your drug store and even your grocery store to see if they can set up automatic shipments of items you use regularly. Think toothpaste, shampoo, skin lotions, face wash, hair color, air conditioner filters, and anything else you replace like clockwork.

Automate your monthly bills either through a service your bank offers or through the actual utility company. Many have automatic bill pay where the bills get paid with your advanced consent. Another option is switching your bill paying to online but still reviewing the bills each month, which will still save money and a stamp.

Hiring people for outsourcing 

Think of any friends, family members or neighbors who may be up for getting paid to do a task or two. If not, ask if they know of anyone trustworthy who may be. There are still gads of people out of work and you may be able to outsource some of your tasks to acquaintances who would appreciate it.

Check out websites that post “for hire” listings or post your own job listings. Craigslist.com has local divisions and the listings are free. Local newspapers or sites can also offer classified-type listings where you can post a job or look for available workers. Lynn mentions Fiverr,  where you can see what people will do for $5.

Go to professional sites for professional jobs, like writing, graphics, web design or editing services. Lynn suggests Elance.com or Odesk.com.

Find niche sites for specific services, and plenty are available. A random sampling includes Bidmycleaning.com for estimates on housecleaning, oneclickcleaners.com for laundry services and Fancy Hands for random services.

A few more quick tips

Go local when possible. Local people can work face-to-face. Lynn says this makes it easier in many respects, one of which is making sure you both know what the other expects.

Create precise instructions. Instructions are key! Make sure each task is painfully spelled out so there is no room for error, or at least much less room for error than general or vague instructions would offer.

Don’t be afraid to ask. Even if you think a task is ridiculous, horrendous or otherwise something no one in their right mind would do, ask around anyway. You may be surprised at what people are willing to do, even those who are in their right mind.

You, too, should be streaming back to your right mind as another layer of filler just went into your anxiety pothole. Next it’s time to top off the potholes with our fifth and final time-saving and sanity-saving technique: Your Power Hour: How an Hour in the Morning Can Help Squash your Anxiety.

This is part of a five-part series dedicated to Fixing Your Anxiety Potholes.  Click here to read the rest of the series.

Recommended Resources

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