Project Design: The most rewarding way to approach outsourcing

Back on the subject of what you can outsource following my last column, I recently stumbled across an outstanding outsourcing model that probably wouldn’t have made it on the TV show Dragon’s Den.

This is a subscription service called Blinkist, which is basically outsourced non-fiction reading. Yes, you read correctly, this service reads books for you and then delivers a summary of the main points of the book called ‘blinks,’ that you can read in only about 10 mins. With this service anyone, even the busiest of people, can easily read a book a day in a spare few minutes.

I recently signed up for a trial and the first book I ‘read’ was the Pomodoro Technique by Francesco Cirillo. It only took about 10 minutes to read over breakfast but this book had a profound effect on my day: I was already using the Pomodoro timer built-in to toggle my desktop, a time tracker I use to keep track of my day, to remind me to take a break every half an hour… yet I didn’t actually know what its real purpose was or why it was even called a ‘Pomodoro’ timer!

The Pomodoro technique is actually a method of breaking up your day into 25 minute chunks called Pomodoro. This helps you stay focused on the task at hand, as you blank out everything, including emails and phone calls for just 25 minutes while you focus on your task, knowing that you can come back to the things you blank out after the time is up.

This technique works just as well for longer tasks as it does for things that actually fit in a 25-minute slot. In fact I now think of each task in terms of how many Pomodoro blocks I need to complete it.

The great thing about this technique is the way it helps you maintain focus on a task that could actually take you the whole day, or even longer. By breaking your focus up into bite-sized chunks, minimising interruptions and giving you structured breaks, it’s amazing how much more productive you become. That day my productivity went up by at least 30% and it all happened in one day after 10 minutes reading!

Like I said, the service puts a lot of power at our disposal by summarising an entire book into carefully designed, easily digestible blinks. By outsourcing my non-fiction reading I have been able to read a book a day since I started my subscription to Blinkist, and as I read a lot about productivity and time management it has transformed the way I think about and approach my work. (All this for about £70 per year or £5.85 a month, making it actually cheaper that buying the books that I don’t have the time to read in the first place!)

The pricing structure of the service makes having it a no-brainer for me, as long as I read more than a book a month, it’s cheaper than actually buying books. This is a great point at which to come back to considering how to approach the costs involved in outsourcing and the decisions on what to outsource:

As I said before the first step is to calculate how much an hour of your time is actually worth.

Anyone can do this very easily by taking your yearly earnings and dividing them by the amount of hours you work in a year. Then ask yourself, is what I need doing within my skillset, if it isn’t you are probably better off outsourcing it. If the task in question does fall within your skillset, try to work out the time that you need to complete it and then multiply this by your hourly rate. If the total for you to do it is cheaper than someone else doing it then there is no reason to outsource. If on the other hand it works out more expensive for you to do the job, then consider outsourcing it.

I realise that this is starting to sound like an advert for a book-reading service, but that is not the point at all. The point is it is a great example of modern outsourcing.

It has taken something that is seemingly impossible to outsource, reading and with a bit of thought and a clever plan have turned it into a business that can actually be of huge benefit to its target market.

Being an avid fan of outsourcing myself when I stumbled across Blinkist and its radical model of outsourced reading, it was this along with the CEDIA group’s interest in the subject that I mentioned in my first article in this series that inspired me to start writing this section of my column.

I am grateful for being able to diversify my articles to discuss this topic, and I can’t wait to find out what else people are outsourcing and what other services there are out there that I haven’t discovered yet.


Keith Jones studied Product Design at Central St. Martins where he graduated in 1996. Since then he worked in numerous high end audio outlets, culminating in owning and running his own successful AV installation company from 2001-2008. After a career break he started Jones designs in August 2009 which morphed into a Ltd. company called designflow, in 2015. Designflow aims to increase awareness of design in AV and help installers win more jobs and create proper documentation for them.

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