The Benefits of Outsourcing
The number of everyday tasks that you can outsource to be done by other people is not only mind boggling, in particular in large cities such as New York, but is also growing by the day. In addition to traditional tasks like arranging for a housekeeper come clean your apartment, apps are popping up all of the time that promise to make your life easier.
Someone can pick up, wash, fold, and drop off your laundry. Your groceries can magically appear at your doorstep and your dog can be walked three times a day – all while you’re busy at work. Someone can even come to your apartment to give you a massage or a personal training session (sorry, this last one can only be outsourced to an extent – you still need to put in the work, although if someone comes to your apartment to wake you up to make you exercise, that is certainly winning at least 95 % of the exercise battle!).
And the list goes on and on. Some law firms and companies even offer their own outsourcing help right at the office, such as connecting you with a concierge who will book your medical appointments, a travel consultant who can help book a personal vacation and a shoe shine who walks around the office shining shoes right outside of your door while you continue to work.
Modern conveniences are amazing and with the amount of income you will have as a Biglaw associate or other similar job, and the corresponding lack of time you will have for a personal life, I think it’s great that these conveniences exist.
You should definitely take advantage of these offerings. If you hate to clean your kitchen, by all means hire someone to come once a week and turn it into a sparkly haven for you on Fridays so you can spend the weekend cooking up a storm. Or if you hate doing your laundry, pile it up into one of those dry cleaner’s laundry bags, call them up, and have them come pick up your dirty clothes every week to be dropped back off on Sunday afternoon to start the workweek out fresh.
But…A Caveat On Outsourcing
My advice (that you should take advantage of these conveniences) is not a novel concept at all and is in fact advice that people who are working demanding jobs have probably heard countless times before.
However, I have a slightly different take on the concept of outsourcing. A caveat to add to this advice, which is something that I had never heard when people were singing the praises of house cleaners and meal delivery services to me. Some of these routine, normal activities are actually really pleasant and make you feel productive, happy, fulfilled and part of society!
Bear with me here – I am not saying that you will feel better if you skip the housekeeper and spend your free time on Saturday afternoons at home and scrubbing toilets. What I am saying is, if you outsource absolutely everything in your life, you start to lose what makes it a real and fulfilling life.
I remember how luxurious it felt to place my first FreshDirect grocery order and how cool it was that my weekly groceries appeared at my door at the exact time I wanted them. And how weird, which quickly turned into amazement, it felt to come home after someone else had cleaned my apartment during the day while I was out. After a while, though, I realized I missed some of the things I had given up in the name of convenience.
Like golden handcuffs (read more about that in my Golden Handcuffs post), outsourcing can start out small and creep into your life over time. Before you know it, someone else is doing everything for you. For some people this might be ok, but many will miss the day to day activities.
By the time I left my Biglaw job, while I had never ended up outsourcing everything I could have, I realized I had slowly given up too much. I was craving the normalcy of taking an actual trip to the supermarket, with my grocery list in hand, picking out food that I was actually going to use and cook with (instead of throwing away and wasting because I never got around to using it).
A Happy Outsourcing and Insourcing (Self-sourcing?) Balance
Balance is an elusive concept in life, especially in the life of a law firm associate or other busy professional. So how can you try to find it? I think it starts out with keeping (or bringing back if you’ve already let them go) the little tasks in your life and making sure you plan efficiently to get them done.
Going to Trader Joe’s on a Sunday afternoon might sound like a nightmare to you (and it does to me too, even though I actually like to grocery shop), so plan ahead and go at 8am when it opens. When I quit my Biglaw job and finally had time to clear my head and my schedule, it was the everyday things that I realized I had missed so much.
I genuinely enjoyed spending my days grocery shopping, cleaning and organizing my apartment, and doing other things I had long-ago outsourced. I realized that even though FreshDirect comes in handy in a pinch, you do not need to give up the normalcy of grocery shopping forever just because you can.
If you have a dog, presumably that means that you love spending time with him. Instead of having a dog walker take care of everything, try to come up with ways to get in at least a walk in the morning and the evening, long walks on the weekends or trips with your dog during your vacation time.
Otherwise, you are simply the owner of the dog but not its true caretaker and Biglaw has taken yet another thing away from you. Keep track of the things you are missing out on and if the scales tip too far into the “taking away” direction for you to enjoy your life, it is time to reevaluate.
Lastly, I want to note that I am not even going to venture into the more complicated topic of childcare here. In a way, childcare must also be outsourced to someone else if you are a Biglaw attorney (unless you have a partner who stays at home, but even so, you are still “outsourcing” those duties to someone else, and those duties might be ones you desperately want to keep for yourself).
What I am talking about here are the more day to day tasks that most non-Biglaw people happily do themselves.
The bottom line is – just because you can outsource something does not mean that you have to, or that you have to do it on a weekly basis. Some of these outsourcing apps are life savers in a pinch, but do not necessarily have to be used every week. Keep them as fallback options when you are about to go to trial or close a mega deal, not as your automatic go-to.
Ultimately, mastering outsourcing is about mastering the balance between outsourcing what will truly help you and make your life easier and outsourcing even the things you wish you were doing yourself.
What About You?
What do you outsource? Take a look at all of the things you pay others to do – are they worth it? Are you getting real value for these or are you just outsourcing them because everyone else does and because you can?
Do you miss doing any of these things for yourself? Even if you don’t miss them, do you miss the fact that you don’t have time to do them, if you wanted to? That time could be filled up with something else too (remember when you used to have hobbies?).