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Here’s a secret to being both a high-performing professional and living a considered life: Give some attention to what gives you energy and what drains your energy. And then see if you can pay people to do those things that drain you, freeing you to do the things that boost you.

I had to learn this lesson as I did not grow up knowing it. As my career has grown, so has the number of people I’ve hired to support me. I often joke about the growing payroll of people who do their best for me so that I could do my best for clients.

For me, it began in 2010. At the time, I was living in a Seattle condo and working full time as a stock analyst. I had put little thought or care into my physical home space. One summer day, I looked around and really disliked what I saw. The furniture, the walls, the cheap flooring, it was all wrong. The space drained my energy. And worse, the thought of changing the space drained my energy. Interior design and managing contractors were not something I wished to learn to do. I just wanted a nice space.

And then an imperfect, but often true, Wall Street lesson popped into my head: “You can always throw money at the problem.”

I hired Lindsey Runyon Design to help me and we had a blast doing a budget remodel. The results got written up a few places, with before and after pictures.

Hiring Lindsey marked a shift in my view about money and time. This shift was crucial as I would soon grow to balance my position as an investment bank vice president sell-side analyst with motherhood — a rare combination.

At one point in late 2010, Lindsey was at my place and it was dirty and unkempt. I was embarrassed. I had just returned from a few weeks of business travel to New Orleans, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Boston, and over the next two weeks, I had trips coming up to New York and Minneapolis. Stock analysis involves a lot of travel. I barely had time to open my own mail, let alone clean.

“You need to hire a cleaner,” Lindsey said, without judgment.

I felt a bit scandalized. First an interior designer, now a housekeeper? Who was I becoming? People like me don’t have maids, right? But, I hired one and then I analyzed the transaction as I would any stock:

  1. Hiring a cleaner is supporting the economy and creating a local job
  2. Part of what I am paying for is efficiency and product. A cleaner can do the same job in one hour that would take me five. He or she is just more practiced at cleaning. Some people take pride in it and it’s truly a craft. Also, he or she is using products that are probably expensive but can cut through soap scum without all the elbow grease.
  3. Peace of mind is priceless. Suddenly a crumb on the floor is just a crumb, and not representative of Yet Another Thing I Have To Take Care Of.
  4. It is amazing how knowing that the cleaners are coming in a few weeks would help me to relax about dirt and grime in my home. I knew it would eventually be gone, and so I could just live in my space and relax and not always be thinking, “I should be doing X.”
  5. Marital satisfaction increases. Hiring a housekeeper is an investment in one’s marriage.
  6. Knowing the cleaners are coming forced me to straighten up ahead of their visit. I want their time spent on cleaning, not organizing my mail. So, I got a blast of motivation to organize ahead of the cleaner’s visit.
  7. When the cleaner leaves, it’s heavenly! Coming home to a clean house is such an amazing feeling! I feel refreshed and renewed. I feel happier in a clean space. Energy boost.

And that’s how my life went for the next six years — my personal payroll grew. I hired professionals who have specialized so that I could specialize. For my performance to soar as a stock analyst, I had to streamline my life.

On and on it went until I was at the point where I’d outsourced almost everything mundane or not related to my primary means of making an income. Grocery delivery. In-home au pair for child care. Accountant. Housekeeper.

And then one day earlier this year, I was in my front yard with my little girl and husband, and I pulled a weed. And then I pulled another weed. And another.

And an hour later, the whole family had weeded the yard and we all felt great. I turned to my husband and said, “Why are we paying people to do this for us?”

By this point, work, motherhood, and maintaining baseline fitness took up every spare second of my life. There simply wasn’t time to pull weeds. But I realized something huge about myself: I like digging in the dirt. It clears my mind and it feels productive and good.

After that, we let go of our yard staff and I started putting in fewer hours at work. It was a conscious and considered choice.

I took it to the extreme — hiring out many things, especially certain aspects of child care and our morning routine, that I really wanted to do myself.

My Wall Street predisposition tells me to hire someone to build this Web site. I’m not a Web design pro. But, building my own Web site feels satisfying — so much so that I’m willing to risk having it be not perfect so that I can get the benefit of learning and creating something new. I am spending hours doing something that a pro could do in 15 minutes. But it’s worth it because I love learning. Energy boost.

When in doubt, hire it out — or teach yourself.

What tasks boost your energy? Which tasks drain? What could you outsource? What have you already outsourced that you’d maybe like to do yourself?

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