If you had the option of outsourcing parts of your life, would you? 

If you had the option of outsourcing parts of your life, would you?

By Ian Child, author of Your Own Personal Time Machine

Life is full of options, and our choices are important – they impact our lives and the lives of those closest to us. We do our best to weigh up options, but sometimes there are options we don’t realise we can choose. I once attended a seminar during which the host asked us all to write down our hourly rate. Apart from the lawyer sitting opposite me—he had written down his answer in about two nanoseconds—the question flummoxed the rest of us, and there was much scratching of heads. Should we take our annual income and divide it by the number of working hours in a year? Or would that sell us short – after all, if we’re only being hired for one hour, then we could probably charge a premium.

But on the other hand, wouldn’t it depend on what we were doing with that hour? If he wanted us to help him with his tax return, then that might command a premium that clearing out his garage or digging up some potatoes would not. It was all rather tricky, yet somehow, we each managed to arrive at our own number, which we duly wrote down.

I’m not a fan of being getting picked out of an audience, so, of course, our host decided that I should be the guinea pig for his little ‘hourly rate’ shenanigans. Happy days. He picked up the piece of paper on which I’d written my hourly value and gave me a look of mild surprise. I immediately assumed my number must be way too high. But soon I was wondering if I had gone too low. 

Our host handed me a separate piece of paper on which he told me he’d written down the exact amount that I valued one hour of my time at. 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.

And then, in an entirely left-field turn of events, he asked me where I did my weekly grocery shopping (Waitrose) and on which day of the week did I do this shopping (Saturday) and how long did it take me (two and a half hours, give or take).

Our host returned to his lectern and pulled up the home shopping page of my supermarket of choice on the big screen so that everybody could see it. He then asked a lady called Susan, who was sitting at the front, to read out how much it would cost for the supermarket to deliver their groceries directly to my front door. The answer, it turned out, was a fiver.

Striding purposefully back to me, our host detailed my shopping options: spend half an hour doing an online grocery shop in my pyjamas and pay five pounds for someone to deliver it; or save £5 and spend two and a half hours doing the shopping myself, in person. My choice had valued my time at £2.50 per hour.

This certainly wasn’t the way I’d been looking at things, but I had to say it suddenly made a lot of sense. 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.

But this outsourcing of our home tasks doesn’t stop at supermarket shopping. How much time do you spend mowing your lawn? Well, there are gardeners that can take care of that for you. What about cleaning the house? Yup, you’ve guessed it, there are cleaners too. There are also people who can launder your clothes for you and do your ironing. You could even hire a personal chef.

If you’re thinking that gardeners and personal chefs is all a bit Downton Abbey, consider Henry Ford’s word: ‘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 right for 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 view.

Think about how much you would pay to spend an extra hour helping with homework, or an extra couple of hours with your kids at a cinema, or an extra afternoon with them in the park. How much for an extra hour in bed at the weekend? How much for an extra couple of hours reading your favourite authors’ books? If that hourly rate matches or exceeds the cost of a cleaner or a supermarket delivery, it’s your choice what you do with this new option.


Ian Child

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.