How Much is Your Time Worth? (And What’s Not Worth Your Time)

               

When I started working for myself, I stopped taking the regular lunch breaks that I used to enjoy as a company girl. It wasn’t a conscious change nor one that I was even aware that I had made until my business partner pointed it out to me. Incidentally, she and I would have lunch together on a regular basis, and by lunch I mean pick something up and eat it while huddled over our laptops discussing strategy work.

According to a highly unscientific, completely informal Facebook survey of my peers (specifically, other consultants and/or writers who self-identify as self-employed), an overwhelming 64% rarely or never stopped in the middle of the day for lunch either. Although I did not press further, my observation is that when you are in the business of putting an exact dollar amount on your time, you become keenly aware of how every hour should be spent.

It’s all about understanding the “opportunity cost”:  What do you stand to give up in potential earnings when you opt to spend an hour going out to lunch as opposed to generating new business or writing a post? It’s simple to apply this principle to your work day, but what about the rest of your time?

{ MORE: 5 Tips to Making Pumping Work at Work }

When I was a junior member of an account team, my director told me that she sent out her shirts to be pressed each month. I thought that was a gross extravagance, especially when it cost me nearly nothing to iron my own shirts at my apartment that I shared with two other people. Given my paycheck in those days, it’s no wonder! An hour of her time was worth more than whatever it cost per shirt to send her clothes out. Mine was not… or at least, not yet.

Since having kids, I’ve also learned that the value of my time isn’t only about the money. My time also has an emotional worth. Again, with the laundry… Would I rather spend an hour of what precious little time I get to be with my family pressing a weeks’ worth of shirts or would that time be better spent teaching my daughter how to ride her bike? Being home when my son comes home from school and listening to his day? I make zero bucks from being a mom and even less for being a great mom, but enjoying these moments with my children is worth more to me than whatever hourly fee I could have collected from a client.

The working versus life balance is a struggle that we all face, but the “opportunity cost” concept can make it a little easier to decide where to put your energy. So before you dive into another mundane task that has to be done, but not necessarily by YOU, consider the number of things that you can actually outsource for less than you might think:

Grocery Shopping

There are surprisingly many options when it comes to grocery delivery. FreshDirect and Peapod offer online grocery ordering and home delivery, as do local grocery chains like Safeway. Depending on the location, Whole Foods and Meijer will do the shopping for you and have your bag ready to go when you arrive at the store. In San Jose, online marketplace SV Local Market offers in-season produce, locally sourced meats, and artisan foods delivered to you home on a weekly basis. So you can support local farmers and promote healthy eating all in one.

Look into what’s available in your area. The premium on having your groceries delivered may very well offset the two hours it would normally take you to shop for the week. 

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Cleaning Service

Most cleaning services do not have a standard price list because services and rates are personalized for each home. In general, prices for single cleanings of an entire home range from $75 to $400, depending on many factors including square footage, number of people or pets in the home, frequency, days, layout of your home, etc. When I hired a service for our house, I was told that Monday, Thursdays, and Fridays were the most requested days and that mornings were the most sought after times. By willing to hire them on a Tuesday afternoon and limiting which rooms they had to clean, I was able to get a reduced rate that fit my budget.

Errands

Ikea furniture assembly. Pet sitting. Donation pick up. These are just three of the jobs being advertised on TaskRabbit’s homepage upon the writing of this post. The concept is simple. You hire “runners” to handle all of those pesky little errands or one-time projects that you just don’t have time to do. You set a price and a trust-worthy, background-checked person in your area, possibly even in your neighborhood, will do it for you. I’ve heard of hiring someone to stand in line for you at the DMV, wait for the cable guy, or taking holiday returns back to the store. The possibilities are endless!

TaskRabbit is not available is every city, so do a search for a reputable errand service in your local area. There are many individuals running errand services out of their home.

Everything Else, Virtually

Most virtual assistants are contract or freelance workers who do their jobs remotely. Think of them as executive assistant or secretary, but found online. The most popular sites that specialize in this type of contract workers are odesk.com and elance.com. There are thousands of listings for virtual assistants on both of these sites. Many listings focus on administrative tasks, but with the growing number of people looking to fill these roles, the expertise run the gamut from booking keeping to creating presentations to writing code.

Things like online research, industry knowledge prep, and data entry are easily farmed out to virtual assistants. However, have you considered having someone else organize your email inbox, handle your calendar, follow up with clients, or send thank you notes?

{ MORE: Pregnant and Fired: How to Deal When You Need to Find a New Job }

Having some a sense of balance in your life will come with knowing what your time is worth and knowing what is not worth your time.

Are you a working mother? Do you work at home or out of the home? How do you decide what is and isn't worth your time? 

Image via N. Hempeck

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How Much is Your Time Worth? (And What’s Not Worth Your Time)

Grace Duffy is a Dallas-based Digital Strategist and blogger with a passion for connecting people through technology-- be it to a goal, a solution, or simply with one another. She is a Principal and Co-Founder of Splash Creative Media. Her personal blog can be found a FormerlyGracie.com. She is everywhere you tweet her name (@graceduffy) To learn more about Grace, you can find all of her links and social media profiles on about.me/GraceDuffy ... More

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