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Is Task Outsourcing The Enemy of Personal Development?

Is Task Outsourcing The Enemy of Personal Development?
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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.

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Haim Pekel

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

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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