Buying Time: Rely on services that can help you maximize your time
Jan 21, 2015 09:41AM
By Laurie Fox
Your time. It’s a precious commodity in our go-go-go society. Stretching time and using it effectively is a universal struggle. From strung-out executives to harried moms, more time is the one thing we all seem to need.
Technology has provided some shortcuts like online gift-giving and smart phone apps that refill our medications. And companies can come to our homes to mow our lawns or wash our cars. But there are still some necessary and personal chores that we are accustomed to doing ourselves. Cooking dinner, laundry, running errands and cleaning the house are just daily facts of life.
But what if you could find a way to buy some time, even on those specific tasks? What if there were people who could help with things that we still can’t get to (or don’t want to do)? After all, even Santa has an army of elves to help a guy out.
If you’re willing to delegate some of those routine chores occasionally there are entrepreneurs out there to pick up the slack. Who couldn’t use more time to spend with family or doing other things that matter to you? Meal preparation, cooking and grocery delivery, laundry service, house cleaning and post office and drug store runs are only some of the areas of your life that can be hired out.
“Because people are busy doing things for everyone else, they often don’t get everything done for themselves,” says Laurence Rogers, who runs a Mansfield errand and courier service with his wife.
Billed as a “personal concierge,” Enchanted Errands does it all. From package delivery to grocery store stops to notary services, Rogers says they fill in the gaps of daily life. “We just step in when people need the help,” he says. The service charges $30-55 an hour depending on the task and the expediency it needs to be completed.
Rogers notes that while technology has in some ways made life easier, it also has made our days longer because people are always connected. “We still have to run our errands,” he says. “Gadgets can’t solve all of our issues.”
Rachel Drury knows all too well the limits of technology. While today’s washers and dryers are state-of-the-art, someone still has to sort clothes, treat stains and take care of the delicate items that must be laundered. That’s where she comes in.
Drury works as an Arlington-based franchisee in Laundry Care, which pairs associates with residential and business customers across the country. She’ll take your family’s laundry, wash it and return it clean and folded.
Doing the laundry is one of those never-ending tasks that people just can’t seem to stay on top of, she says, and many of her clients were sending as many items as they could out to the dry cleaners for convenience. Drury works for bachelors and college students as well as busy families.
The flat-rate residential service costs $35 for a regular bag, which holds up to three loads or about 20 pounds. An extra-large bag that can hold up to six loads or about 40 pounds costs $65. Add-ons like ironing and rush service are available.
“In the beginning, there’s a sense of apprehension because you’re giving away your clothing, something you’ve made an investment in,” says Drury. “But I’m just another mom and there’s a lot of comfort in that. I form personal relationships with clients because I give their things the same love and care that they would.”
Drury says it’s sometimes hard for people to let her help. But the feeling of empty laundry baskets can be very freeing.
“Once someone finds out this is a possibility, they realize that it’s something that they really need,” she says. “We spend a lot of our time on laundry.”
Meals on Wheels
Chef Deb Cantrell says that by the time families or busy professionals realize that they need her, “we are like firefighters. They want us yesterday.”
“People don’t call us until they’re desperate to eat healthy again,” says the Fort Worth personal chef. “They’re tired of eating out all the time.”
Cantrell estimates that her company, Savor Culinary Services, has tripled its business in the last few years. By working with families on their meal planning and shopping and preparing food for them, she says they’re not only healthier but she saves them an average of 20 hours per week. The service prepares meals in-home or delivers food in disposable, re-heatable containers. Personal chef prices start at $200 plus the price of groceries.
Cantrell, who also cooks for special dietary needs, says client e-mails report “big smiles around the dinner table.” She says those families wanted home-cooked meals but couldn’t find the time to plan, shop for food and prepare them.
“You have to ask yourself what else you could be doing with your time and what your time is worth,” says Cantrell. “We give people back their quality of life.”
Cantrell says that more and more, people are letting go of the worry of not doing everything themselves.
“Whatever doesn’t get done, you hire it out,” she says.
And for those providing the services, there’s a sense that they’re working as a partner with their clients.
“There’s a great satisfaction in helping other people with something you’re already good at,” says Drury.
So before you hoist another load of laundry, tackle dirty windows, or trudge to the grocery store, consider another way: hire yourself an elf.
Want Peace of Mind and Health in the New Year?
Make Time for Yourself
Your 2015 calendar may not be as overcrowded as it was during the holiday season. But just give it time.
Soon it will be chock full of commitments and before you know it, you’ve returned to that scattered state of mind. Mansfield therapist Teresa Franklin sees it all the time in both adults and children: the busy world has run us over.
“We don’t know how to sit and just be still,” she says. “Just slowing down—taking a walk with a friend, having a cup of coffee—is something that we have to make time for.”
So how do we do we screen out the noise and slow down? By setting some boundaries and making ourselves the priority occasionally. It’s about pushing out the things that drain us and making a place for things that fill us up, advises Franklin.
Franklin, a former school counselor who saw first-hand the toll that stress and over-scheduling takes on our kids, offers the following tips for finding better balance:
Family meals, board games and movie nights—are these familiar activities? If not, there could be too many things cluttering up your scarce free time.
“Maybe only one extracurricular activity is enough for the kids,” says Franklin. “We want our children to have more than we had but what if we’re over-stimulating them in the process? If they don’t have any down time, they can’t figure themselves out. We need to teach our kids that it’s OK to be quiet. They don’t always have to be the center of attention.”
Just say no
Franklin says that people pleasing is the behavior that gets us into trouble the most often. “When people want to make plans with us, we’re conditioned to not say ‘No’,” she says. “We’ll spend time saying ‘Yes’ to please other people before we spend time on ourselves.”
Change your thinking
“We get into this state of thinking ‘I have to do that’ and then the more we think, the more we do,” says Franklin. “We need to write down the things that will really better us and do those. Schedule that time. Or something else will take it up.”
Turn off the technology
“We all need more quiet time to think and to reason,” she says. “People used to sit around and talk. Building bonded relationships and friendships is important. They’re lifelines and that’s part of taking care of ourselves. When people come to talk to me they’re happy to just be still and have someone listen to them. They need time to unplug.”
Find a way to decompress
Whether it’s yoga, exercise, meditation or a daily devotional or inspirational reading, make time to consciously de-stress, says Franklin.
Check out your work/life balance
Is your job out-of-sync with your life? Are you bringing work home with you and never “off?”
“How many things do we put on ourselves related to our job that we really don’t have to?” she says. “You have eight hours—do what you need to do in that time and leave the rest. It will be there tomorrow. When your job becomes more important than your family and your health, you need to look at that,” says Franklin.
Pursue your passion (or find one)
It could be an art project, taking photographs or learning to cook. Whether it’s a long-abandoned passion or a new skill you want to learn, go for it.“Do something that feels good for you,” says Franklin. “Finding hobbies is important. It often helps us find ourselves.”