What do you do best? (Home Edition)

I’m finishing 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think by Laura Vanderkam this week. Time is such a finite resource and I, like you, probably, try to use mine effectively, though constantly battling my own nature to procrastinate and waste time. 

vintage kitchen things
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Vanderkam offers an important tip for using time wisely: focus on what the business world calls “core competencies.”

Your core competencies are the things that you do best, and other people cannot do nearly as well.

According to Vanderkam, “effective people outsource, ignore or minimize everything else” (25).

By spending more time on strength areas and minimizing time spent on things you find tedious, boring, or difficult, you make more progress in areas that matter to you and contribute more to the people around you. Developing strengths is more fun and effective than overcoming weaknesses. 

We all have things we don’t particularly enjoy and aren’t particularly good at that just have to get done. Chores and errands fall into this category for most people, which are secondary to nurturing and investing in your marriage and family relationships.

It’s easy to get caught up in the minutia of long to-do lists and miss out on the rewarding, eternal work of nurturing loved ones. Crystal Paine captured this so beautifully when she wrote: “Only one person can be your husband’s wife or your childrens’ mom.”

Reality dictates that we all eat and wear clean clothes, so how do we focus on core competencies while still executing the to-do list?


Here’s a question I asked myself to clarify my core competencies at home:

“With unlimited funds, what could I hire someone else to do at least as effectively as I do?”

Things someone else could do:

  • laundry
  • grocery shopping
  • cooking 
  • cleaning
  • ….you get the idea

Things only I can do:

  • encourage Mike
  • pray and read my Bible
  • talk to my parents and sister
  • budget
  • exercise
  • sex 
  • read
  • …and more

Even though I haven’t outsourced anything, noting which activities are uniquely mine helps me prioritize those (do them first) and minimize or ignore the others.

I’ve streamlined my grocery shopping system. I don’t cook every night. I combine dishes and laundry with higher value (or at least more entertaining) activities, like listening to podcasts, talking with Mike or watching TV. (Indulging in TV at least feels less idle when I fold laundry while I watch.) Cooking is a core competency for Mike, so he cooks at least once a week, and will cook more when he finishes his PhD.

In the past, I would often leave an entire Saturday open for housework if I didn’t have other plans. Laundry, dusting, dishes, and sorting through the mail pile would stretch out all day while I wasted time online and puttered around between tasks. While important, I don’t enjoy or excel at any of these tasks so each would leave me feeling drained.

I also spent way more time than necessary. Working together, Mike and I can accomplish the major cleaning jobs in about an hour and a half each week. When I don’t let these jobs expand, I can do more fun and productive things that I “didn’t have time for” in the past.

My new strategy is to start unscheduled Saturdays with something that gives me energy and that I uniquely can do, like praying, talking with Mike, writing, or exercise. Chores still take me longer than they should, but at least they come second to higher value activities.

What are core competencies at home? How can you make more room for them?

Feel like your time at home evaporates without you realizing where it’s gone? Take a cue from dieters and track your time. You can find an Excel version and printable time sheet here.

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