The words “You value your time at £2.50 per hour,” were scrawled across it. At first, I thought I’d completely misunderstood the original question. I mean, even my meanest assessment of my hourly rate hadn’t come close to dipping below Minimum Wage. He asked me to read his words out to the rest of the audience, which I duly did, and was somewhat relieved that they all looked as perplexed as I felt.
And then, in an entirely left-field turn of events, he suddenly asked me where I did my weekly grocery shopping. There was a pause while I simultaneously thought, ‘what the heck has that got to do with anything?’ and ‘will people judge me if I say Waitrose?’. Then he asked what day of the week I did this shopping on (Saturday) and how long it took me (two and a half hours, give or take).
He then asked if I’d ever heard of something called internet shopping, and I could suddenly sense a few pennies starting to drop around the room. He went back to his lectern and pulled up the home shopping page of my supermarket of choice on the big screen so that everybody could see it. He then asked a helpful lady called Susan, who was sitting at the front, whether she could kindly read out how much it would cost for the nice supermarket people to deliver their groceries directly to my front door. The answer, it turned out, was a fiver.
He strode purposefully back to me and told me that I’d already made a choice. I could have spent half an hour doing an online grocery shop in my pyjamas and paid five pounds for someone to deliver it. But no. Instead, I’d spent two and a half hours doing the shopping myself, in person. The net position was that I’d chosen to spend two hours more but saved myself a fiver in return. Or, in other words, I valued my time at £2.50 per hour.
This certainly wasn’t the way I’d been looking at things, but I had to say it suddenly made a lot of sense. We assume that it’s only the time we allocate to work tasks that has any financial value, yet the reality is it doesn’t matter which hour is involved. The value of every single one of our forty-two million minutes is exactly the same. The question is simply what value we put on them. And, of course, what we do with them.
But this outsourcing of our home tasks doesn’t stop at supermarket shopping. How much time do you spend mowing your lawn? Well, there are gardeners that can take care of that for you. What about cleaning the house? Yup, you’ve guessed it, there are cleaners too. There are also people who can launder your clothes for you and do your ironing. You could even hire a personal chef.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’ve caught my drift, but surely all this outsourcing malarkey is going to cost you a small fortune? I mean, gardeners and personal chefs? It’s all bit Downton Abbey and frankly not exactly a priority for you at the moment. Perhaps you’ll wait until you’ve got a few million in the bank before you think about splashing out on the home help; thank you very much.
But that’s rather missing the point. Henry Ford famously said, ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.’ In other words, your fate is determined not by what you do, but by what you believe. If you believe that doing all of the shopping, gardening, and cleaning tasks yourself is good because it saves you money, then that’s your view of the world and good luck to you. On the other hand, if you think doing all these chores yourself costs you time that you could otherwise spend doing something better, then that’s an altogether different view.
So, I would urge you to imagine all the rather wonderful things you could be doing if only you had the time and then weigh up the benefits of a little outsourcing so you can start to fit them all in. After all, your clock is ticking, and none of us know how many millions of minutes we may have left. In fact, the only thing we know with any certainty is that the answer is currently a lot less than forty-two.