Bartering for Time Can Facilitate Creative Ways to Get Things Done

It’s hard to imagine a simpler time when bartering was commonplace to acquire the goods and services needed to survive.  We are accustomed to paying for goods and services or doing things ourselves. As we get busier and busier, budgets still remain tight and time has gotten even tighter. Technology and social norms are cajoling us towards even more productivity.  Not only are we called on to strive and innovate at work, we’re also tasked with the healthy, happy, running of the family. Each family member often having their own complex schedules to consider and support. Not to mention the business of running a household.  It can be overwhelming. As dedicated and as efficient as we strive to be, it does seem nearly impossible to accomplish all that we feel we need to, at times. Today, the hottest commodity is our time, so trying to re-capture some of it without breaking the bank makes bartering relevant. There is no magic wand to add hours to our days.  However, with a little planning and using some of the tips below, you can increase your odds of crossing items off your list by bartering for time to develop creative ways to get things done.

Begin by assessing your bartering skill set

What do you like to do?  What do you do on a regular basis?  What task could you expand a bit for someone else without creating an unreasonable time-suck?  This we can call your bartering skill set---something you have to offer someone else. Maybe you enjoy walking your dog every morning before work.  You’ve often seen your neighbor out with her dog at about the same, but she looks really rushed and irritated. This could be a bartering opportunity.  You could walk the neighbor’s dog in exchange for some good or service. Do you and a co-worker dash out to the same dry cleaner at lunch? Or frequent the same take-out?  Barter for those trips out to save time.

Consider your bartering wish list

What tasks, when removed from your list, really lighten your load?  Or tasks that you really dislike or stress about? Maybe you detest mowing the grass, while your neighbor loves it, but he hates to wash cars.  That could be another bartering opportunity. Here are just a few bartering ideas to consider. Get creative.

  • Dog walking

  • Pet sitting

  • Deliveries/pickups:  kids, dry cleaning, prescriptions, etc.

  • Carpool:  Important caveat-- If you are planning to capture that commute time and make it productive, rather than chatty, hash that out beforehand with prospective carpool members.

  • Lawn maintenance

  • Car washing

  • Handyman services

  • Special talents:  tutoring, coaching, mentoring, baking, hemming/tailoring, flower arranging, jewelry design, woodworking, painting, haircuts, photography

  • Babysitting

  • Meal prep:  Ok, so this definitely requires real coordination. But, if you and a neighbor both like to cook and can agree on a few meals, trade meal prep time.  That could be simply the chopping and slicing and pass the prep foods along for cooking OR full meal prep and deliver it prepared.  Obviously, lots involved here, but it could work.

Don’t forget you could get the kids involved in bartering too  

Your time is valuable...something kids too often forget.  Maybe you have a tween at home who’s not yet driving. Maybe that drive to the movies can turn into a chore done for you at home. Bartering with your child can help them understand the importance of your time.

When considering bartering, be honest with yourself

If you really can’t make it happen, don’t commit.  Earmark reasonable goods/services that you can produce without adding stress to your life.  

Pick bartering buddies carefully

You’ve identified the goods or services you feel confident in offering and those you’d like to receive in return.  Now it’s time to select the right bartering buddies. Bartering is a symbiotic relationship. It’s only as viable as the commitment of the two partners.  Ideally, a bartering partner should be someone you already know well. Maybe a close neighbor or co-worker. The ideal partner is very reliable, a good communicator and in close proximity.  So even if you have a good friend, who, for instance, is an amazing baker, but who is scattered and unreliable, that’s not an appropriate choice. Clear communication, planning, proximity, and commitment are critical.

Technology can help make bartering work

The ancient system of bartering can benefit from 21st century technology to keep things running smoothly.  Once you’ve established some bartering relationships with trusted partners, you’ve got to make it happen.  Your smartphone will be invaluable. The iStratus DayPlanner app for iPhone is an effective tool for integrating multiple schedules and calendars, creating tasks lists, creating recurring events at uneven intervals, and more.   Get creative, reach out to the right people, and leverage technology to re-capture more time into your life.

Phil Matrone