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Is Task Outsourcing The Enemy of Personal Development?

Is Task Outsourcing The Enemy of Personal Development?

Every day you learn something new is a good day — that’s what my mother taught me.

As someone who grew up with ADHD (and still dealing with it), I was not overly successful at getting things done at school. My inability to sit in one place and do one action at a time prevented me from focusing.  Often, sitting at class led me to doodle in my notebook or, worse, being asked to leave the classroom all together.  For me the result was the same: missing a lot of classroom material.

For me, the gods of fortune smiled at me and sent me a persistent mother that knew a thing or two about how to raise a kid like me (she has ADHD too).  So I learned everything I needed to learn again at home, surrounded by my own favorite distractions in a protected environment.  It was one of the best things ever to happen to me.

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Why was it such a good thing?

Because someone who fails in one environment (i.e. class) needs to compensate with little victories in other environments (i.e. home) to remain stable and develop. I gained my little victories at home, studying both from encyclopedias and history books, gradually getting addicted to auto-didacticism and the ensuing benefits.

The passing years taught me to manage my time better and segment my work more effectively, ultimately helping me get more done. I have also learned to harness people around me.  Hey, if someone can do a job as well as you, why not let him do the job for you, right? …Ah, the hubris.

So, I started to manage more and do less, outsourcing most of my tasks: one after the other, small tasks, big tasks, short tasks, long tasks…you name it. I figured out that if I don’t work on mundane tasks, I’ll have more time to explore my more creative side and work on those things that matter to me the most.

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…Big mistake.

Why?

Sure, it worked at first; I was able to get more things done, but there were a few things that I didn’t take under consideration that hurt my ability to continue doing so effectively over time.

1.  All my life I made sure I learned something new each passing day.  When I began to outsource tasks, I experienced a steady decline in my motivation to learn because I thought to myself that someone else can do it for me… and probably better.  I was hiring people to do professional tasks for me instead of learning how to do them myself.

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This developed my managerial skills for sure, but prevented me from developing new capabilities. Today you can outsource just about anything, so why should I keep learning what to do when there’s a cheaper, faster option waiting a few clicks away?

2.  I started missing out on opportunities — not only learning opportunities, but also opportunities related to my projects and goals.  Being out there, doing things, experiencing them first hand — there’s no substitute for that. If someone else does that for you, you’re probably missing out on a lot of things without ever knowing.

3.  Outsourcing most of my tasks left a vacancy that I filled with leisure activities.  Instead of personal development, I spent more time on leisure activities.  Don’t get me wrong, leisure is great, but too much numbs your mind and makes you lazy.

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Outsourcing is a slippery slope; you don’t want the success of your project hanging on someone else’s shoulders.  Too much reliance on someone else is a sure way to fail.  If knowledge is power, you’re giving up that power, hanging your hopes on someone else and making yourself irrelevant.  You can remain in your managerial comfort zone for a while, but as I mentioned, something will eventually flush you out.  If you’re living an easy and comfortable life because someone else is slaving for you, when things will change (and they usually do), you’ll find yourself facing reality’s cold blank stare.

So learn how to outsource and manage your projects without losing touch.  Make sure that when you’re leading, you’re in the trenches and not shouting commands from afar.

Until next time.

More by this author

Haim Pekel

Haim Pekel is an entrepreneur and shares tips on productivity and entrepreneurship at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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