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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 July 8, 2020

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

    It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

    This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

    Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

    When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

    This is why setting priorities is so important.

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    3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

    There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

    1. Eat a Frog

    There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

    Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

    When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

    2. Move Big Rocks

    Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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    You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

    If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

    For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

    To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

    In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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    3. Covey Quadrants

    If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

    Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

    1. Important and Urgent
    2. Important and Not Urgent
    3. Not Important but Urgent
    4. Not Important and Not Urgent

      The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

      Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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      You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

      Getting to Know You

      Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

      In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

      These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

      More Tips for Effective Prioritization

      Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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