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Home // Blog Home // The Right Person for the Job: Real Life Stories

It takes different people different amounts of time to do the identical task.


Once you know you how long it takes you to do something, you may decide it’s a better use of the world’s resources to have someone else do a certain task. A “do-it-all-yourself” mentality can be a big time trap.


Beth, a working, single mother, had this mentality. For eight months, her garbage disposal hadn’t been working. For that entire time, she’d had the manual sitting out on the kitchen counter. She couldn’t believe she was so lazy as to have put off a ten-minute job for eight months. I asked her, “How long will it take to fix the garbage disposal?”


Beth said, “Ten minutes, I guess. I think it just needs an adjustment.” But she didn’t know how to do it and would have to read the manual and learn the procedure.


I asked, “How long will that take? That’s part of the calculation.”


“Reading the manual shouldn’t take more than half an hour.”


I asked, “How long will it take to gather the tools you need for the job?” She didn’t own the tools. She’d have to go to the hardware store and buy them. She’d also have to troubleshoot and clean up.


It wasn’t a ten-minute project! That was why the manual had been sitting on the kitchen counter for eight months. I said, “You have to schedule two or three hours for this project.”


Beth further considered that if things didn’t go right, the project might take even longer. She decided that it wasn’t worth it to her to do it herself. She made a barter deal with her brother-in-law. He was an experienced do-it-yourselfer; he had the knowledge and the tools ready. For him, it was actually was a 10-minute job. Beth reciprocated by setting set up AOL on his computer, a 10-minute job for her that would have taken him hours.

* * *

Gary was a stockbroker with his own business. He decided to create a brochure to attract new customers. He had never done any desktop publishing and had no design training. He had to shop for the right software, install it, and learn to use it. Once he got started, he spent hours experimenting with different fonts, different colors, and different layouts. He spent an afternoon just trying to get it to print properly. This became a huge two-week project. During this time, his main business was on the back burner. The brochure he ended up creating wasn’t so hot, either, since he was obviously an amateur.


I asked, “What is your goal here? Are you trying to save money? If so, did you want to spend two weeks saving that money? Or are you interested in expanding your computer skills? If that’s it, is this the best way for you to improve your skills? This is a brochure intended to represent your business to prospects. This isn’t the place for practice efforts.” 


Gary realized that creating his own brochure hadn’t been a great savings after all, since he had lost so many billable hours. He decided to hire a professional. The graphic designer could knock off the same job in an hour or two.


Remember, it takes different people different amounts of time to do the identical task. Before you invest a lot of time on a project, make sure you’re the best person for the job.

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Comment posted on 11/23/2010 at 10:09 pm
It is hard to let go sometimes, but worth it when you can

Comment posted on 12/01/2010 at 10:38 pm
Wise & so true! We don't have to be able to do everything, and do it well.

Comment posted on 01/01/2011 at 04:01 pm
Love this! So true. Many people don't calculate the "real" time it would take to do something that could easy and quickly be delegated to a professional. Thank you, Julie.

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