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5 Questions That Will Save You Time And Money

5 Questions That Will Save You Time And Money

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    When you’re thinking about productivity, one of the most important questions you should ask yourself is just how much your time is worth. There is no question that there are some tasks you should pay other people to do, but it can be hard to decide just which ones to hand over to trained professional — especially if you are trying to save money.

    Beyond that one crucial question, though, there are plenty of smaller issues that can help you decide which tasks will save you money without inhibiting your productivity and which will end up just being a waste of your time. These questions will help you bring balance to both your spending and to your time.

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    1. Do I have the skills necessary for the task? Sure, I can probably save a boatload of money by fixing my own plumbing.  Just getting a plumber to come out and look at a problem could cost me a hundred dollars. And there’s guaranteed to be a couple hours of my time that gets used up along with my money, while I wait around for the plumber to show. But, unless the problem is extremely minor, I’ll probably hand over my money to the plumber. The fact of the matter is that, even with a home repair guide by my side, I know I don’t have the skills to fix most plumbing issues. And the ones that I can puzzle through will probably take up far more hours of my day. We’re not going to even think about the cost of my making the problem worse.
    2. How much do I enjoy the task? I enjoy gardening, which I could probably forgo in favor of buying vegetables at the supermarket for a lower cost in terms of my time. However, I enjoy my hobby and I’m more than happy to spend a little time on it — even if the return on my time may not be quite worth the time I lavish on my hobby. In contrast, there are a couple of tasks I absolutely hate — like just about everything having to do with cars. I’ll pump gas, but the odds of getting me to do something like change my own oil are slim to none. I’ll gladly pay money to get out of that particular task.
    3. Is a compromise available? So many tasks seem to fall into one of two categories: you either do it yourself or you hire someone to do it. But there are plenty of tasks that you can compromise on: you can do the easy parts of the job and only pay someone else for the parts you don’t find worth your while. A good example might be setting up a website. If you’re a designer, you would probably be very comfortable doing all the design work on the site, and even coding it up yourself. But you might hire someone to write some or all of the website’s content.  And if you find someone you can work well with for paying projects, you can often increase the amount of work you can take on — upping income for both of you.
    4. Can I get this done without spending money? There are plenty of options for getting people to take on tasks without paying cash. There are, after all, other incentives. Students of various types are often looking for experience, such as student massage therapists who while offer free or cheap massages while they’re studying. There are occasions where you get exactly what you pay for, but it’s a strategy often worth investigating. Other options can include bartering — trading something you’ll be doing anyhow for a service from another person is ideal. I’ll often pick up something from the store for my neighbor in exchange for her pet-sitting while I’m traveling.
    5. Is it really practical for me to take on a given task? While I really like the thought of raising my own chickens so that I can stop buying eggs, it isn’t a practical option for me. I’m going to keep buying eggs at the grocery store for a while — at least as long as I have a landlord who would lay an egg of his own if I suggested the idea of keeping a layer or two around. There are thousands of examples of points in our lives when time and other concerns make the effort to save a few dollars entirely impractical. Do-it-yourself doesn’t always make sense, I’m afraid.

    There are lots ways we put value on our time: there’s time we could use to earn money, to spend with our families or to devote ourselves to a hobby. And, yes, we can often save money or make a dollar stretch further by doing certain tasks ourselves. But we must balance between the value of the dollar we might not want to spend on an already-made shirt and the hour we might spend making one. Productivity and personal finance have to go hand in hand — what sense does a budget make if you don’t know how much time you have to spend on both earning money and how much you can spend on tasks that might save you money. As you start planning next month’s budget, it’s worth pulling out the calendar and thinking hard about just how much time you have available in with to do things yourself.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

    The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

    Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    How to Self-Taught Effectively

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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