Delegation isn’t just for the office

Photo by Open Democracy // CC BY SA 2.0 Caption: Invest in a timer and perfect your pomodoro technique

By Ian Child, author of Your Own Personal Time Machine

Whether you’re an employer or an employee, you will have an interest in hourly rates. A while ago, the host of a seminar had me and my fellow attendees write down our hourly rate.

I’m not a fan of being picked out of an audience, so, of course, our host decided that I should be the guinea pig for his little ‘hourly rate’ game. He picked up my piece of paper, looked at the number I had written, and handed me a separate piece of paper on which he announced that he’d written down the exact amount I valued one hour of my time to be worth. He asked me to read this out to the rest of the audience: you value your time at £2.50 per hour.


And then, in an entirely left-field turn of events, he asked me where I did my weekly grocery shopping, and on which day of the week did I do this shopping, 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.

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.

But surely all this outsourcing malarkey is going to cost you a small fortune? I mean, gardeners and personal chefs – it’s all a bit Downton Abbey and frankly not exactly a priority for you at the moment. Perhaps you’ll wait until you’ve got a few million in the bank before you think about splashing out on the home help.

However, that’s rather missing the point. 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 your view of the world 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 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? How much for an afternoon playing tennis or golf or hopscotch? If the rate you would pay is at least the same as the cost of a cleaner or a supermarket delivery … well, the choice is yours.


Ian Child is the author of Your own peronal time machine: a guide to getting your time back, available exclusively from in paperback and e-book.

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