How Breathing Life into a Decrepit Bathroom Changed My World

BathroomTowards the end of my career in the glamorous world of New Jersey state government, I was moved back to the main office building where I started my career. In fact, it was the very same floor where I began working for the state 30 years earlier.

Although the building had been improved through major renovations over the years, I noticed a few things that bothered me.

First, I realized that the ladies’ restroom was exactly the same as it was when I was in high school! It even had the same big lounge chair that people would lie down on if they felt sick.

This whole scene made me a little sick. The entire bathroom was disgusting.

The next thing I noticed was that the women who used this ancient bathroom didn’t talk to each other. They didn’t even say “hello.” We saw each other all of the time, but we didn’t really know each other.

Even though I knew I was reaching the end of my rope with the state, I was determined to not let this situation bring me down any further.

I made it my mission to make my work environment friendlier. My idea was to liven up and brighten up the ladies’ room.

I brought in baskets, toiletries, lotions, creams, hair sprays and even artificial plants and flowers. These were small, inexpensive items, but they made a huge difference in an awful bathroom that was screaming for a fresh start.

Within an hour, people started stealing stuff.

I was livid. The few people who knew I was doing this told me I was wasting my money and time because things would never change.

But I kept telling myself that they weren’t going to win. I had a giant box of supplies in my office. When stuff would disappear from the ladies’ room, I would quietly walk in and replace what was missing.

I finally decided to put up a sign in the room that said these items were being purchased and given to you by a co-worker, not the state. In other words, if you’re stealing stuff to stick it to your boss, you’re wasting your time.

It took a long time – probably months – but people eventually started talking to each other. Not just small talk about the weather, but real conversations. By the time I retired, other women in the office were buying things for the bathroom.

It may not seem like much, but getting people to simply acknowledge one another’s presence was a big step. Getting people to be nice to each other was a major cultural shift.

Why am I telling you this story?

Admittedly, I wasn’t exactly happy at my job when I retired. But I would have gone crazy if I let other people bring me down to their level of misery.

I was persistent. I wasn’t afraid of failing. I refused to accept a miserable environment as my everyday reality.

I didn’t change the world, but I took it upon myself to make small changes that made a big difference. It didn’t happen overnight, but it did indeed happen.

This is one reason why I launched Time Well Spent in the first place. I figured that if I could do little things to help people value and enjoy their time, it would make a big difference in their lives.

If you feel like you’re not enjoying life as much as you could be, hand over some of the things that take up your valuable time to us. Everyone deserves to be happy, right?

Let us help you spend more time doing the things you love with the people you love. That’s Time Well Spent.

You’re Given Vacation Time for a Reason. Use it!

Parent and Daughter wading in oceanAt the beginning of the summer of 2013, I wrote a blog post about why you need to plan a vacation now. Now, with summer 2014 winding down, it looks like there will be a lot of vacation days left on the table. Again.

According to a study from GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications and the U.S. Travel Association, four in ten employees will not use all of their vacation days. And people wonder why they always feel tired and stressed.

So why aren’t people taking vacations?

  • 40 percent of respondents dread returning to a pile of work after vacation.
  • 35 percent say nobody else can do their job.
  • 20 percent are worried that taking time off will make them seem replaceable.

That last one infuriates me. People shouldn’t feel like their jobs could be jeopardized because they take a week for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, this type of insecurity is often driven by the company culture.

95 percent of senior executives claim to recognize the value of vacations, but two-thirds of employees say their company discourages or sends mixed messages about paid time off, or managers say nothing, which makes employees wonder.

Because nearly half of managers respond to emails during a vacation and 29 percent return calls, they could be sending a message that says completely detaching is unacceptable – whether they mean to or not.

Another culprit is the policy that allows employees to roll over vacation time. 84 percent of employees with “use it or lose it” policies plan to use all paid time off this year, compared to less than half of those who can roll over or get paid for unused days.

The problem is even worse for small business owner. According to a study from OnDeck, nearly half of surveyed small business owners will go vacationless this year. 61 percent take just five days per year, about half of the average American employee.

I have two messages.

First, to employees. You were given vacation time. It’s yours to use. In many cases, you’ve earned additional days for years of service to the company. You deserve to take every minute of vacation that you’re entitled to, and so does your family.

Second, to employers. Stop talking out of both sides of your mouth. Discouraging vacations and incentivizing the non-use of vacations is selfish, and it endangers the physical and mental health of your employees. If you want them to perform, they need to recharge their batteries.

Fortunately, there are still four months left in the year. Plan a vacation now. Use the time you’ve earned!

If you need someone to handle tasks at home while you’re gone, or the boss needs someone to help pick up the slack at the office, that’s what Time Well Spent is here for. But don’t let fear or anxiety prevent you from enjoying some time to yourself.

Are you hesitant to use all of your vacation time? Why?

What Is the Deal-Breaker that Causes You to Quit Your Job?

What is the Deal-Breaker that Causes You to Quit Your Job?Towards the end of my career in state government, I was forced to take a pay cut. After 30 years on the job, civil service decided my job title didn’t match my job description. As much as I felt like I was being screwed, it was something else that put me over the edge.

The way I and other employees were treated by management ultimately made me decide to move on. We were micromanaged. There was no flexibility. Even in this age of productivity-enhancing technology, management was clinging to this “be at your desk from 9 to 5” mentality.

My experience mirrors the results of a recent study from BambooHR, a human resources software provider. Not surprisingly, the most common reason for leaving a job is career advancement.

However, the biggest deal-breakers that affect employee happiness and retention were all related to work-life balance. The top four deal-breakers were:

    1. Managers who don’t trust or empower employees.
    2. The expectation that employees should be accessible and responsive outside of work hours, including on sick days and vacations.
    3. Managers who pass the buck when things go wrong.
    4. Lack of flexibility in allowing employees to tend to family responsibilities.

A lack of flexibility with family issues was considered a deal-breaker by one out of four women compared to one out of eight men. Complaints about money are much more common among employees in the 18-29 age group and steadily decline as employees get older.

The clear message here is that employers need to do more than offer a competitive salary. If you want to retain your best employees, you need to create a culture of trust and respect, and recognize that employees have lives outside of the office.

You hired these people for a reason. Hold them accountable, but let them do their job and care for their families, or they’ll find another employer who will.

I want to hear from you. What was the deal-breaker that caused you to leave your job? What are you dealing with now that is causing you to consider making a move?

What You Should Know if You Plan to Hire a Handyman


Handyman services are becoming more and more popular in New Jersey as homeowners seek to save time and money on repairs and upgrades. If you need to replace a window, repair a fence, fix a few loose tiles on the bathroom floor and paint the living room, a good handyman should be able to handle all of these tasks.

However, you need to be very careful about who you hire to perform work in and around your home. Here are three key points to keep in mind.

    1. In New Jersey, anyone who is paid for home improvement work, including a handyman, is considered a contractor and must register with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.
      There are very few exceptions to this. Registration requires the handyman to complete an application, show proof of insurance, and disclose any prior criminal convictions. Never let anyone perform any kind of work in your home if they don’t have insurance.
      If you hire an uninsured handyman and he is injured on your property, you can be sued for medical bills and lost wages. If an uninsured handyman damages your property, there’s a good chance that it won’t be covered by your homeowner’s insurance unless your policy includes a clause for this type of situation.
    2. A handyman who performs services as an architect, engineer, land surveyor, electrician or master plumber must be licensed as such in New Jersey.
      The license serves as proof that the person has met industry standards in a particular field. If a handyman offers to make plumbing repairs, for example, but isn’t a licensed plumber, he’s breaking the law. And you may end up with shoddy repairs that lead to more serious and more expensive issues down the road.
      Just remember, anyone can put “fully insured” on a business card. Get proof and confirm it yourself.
    3. Any project costing more than $500 still requires a contract.
      Suppose you ask for a written agreement and the handyman says, “I’m just a handyman. I don’t get into all of that.” Don’t fall for it.
      It doesn’t matter how you label yourself. Legally, you have to put all terms and conditions in writing, and all parties must sign off on any changes. Without a written contract, you and the handyman will both be rolling the dice.

At Time Well Spent, we don’t advocate for contractors or handymen. We just believe in hiring the right person or company for the job at a fair price. If you’re planning a home improvement project, large or small, and you’re not sure who to hire, contact us for help!

To Delegate or Not to Delegate? “When” Is the Question

A few weeks ago, I received a call from one of our regular clients with a very simple task. She needed someone to go to her mother’s house, pick up a diamond ring, and bring it to her so she could wear it for a special event.
A simple task, but with high stakes. Let’s just say the diamond ring wasn’t purchased for a few hundred bucks at a pawn shop. That’s why I decided to handle this errand myself.


There are certain tasks that you need to do yourself. Others can be delegated. But when should you delegate, and when should you do it yourself?

From an economic perspective, some will say it pays to delegate when you can make more in the time you save than the amount you pay the person who saves you that time. That could mean hiring someone full-time, part-time or per project.

In other words, if hiring someone for $100 allows you to make $200, you delegate.

But the decision to delegate isn’t as simple as managing time and money. That’s why so many people struggle with delegation.

For example, if you choose not to delegate and end up in a lousy mood all of the time because you overwork yourself, wouldn’t you say it’s worth it to delegate more often?

In the example I mentioned previously, my client couldn’t be bothered with that kind of task. It takes her away from her job and adds to her stress level.

From my perspective, I didn’t decide to pick up and deliver that diamond ring because delegating would have cost me money. I did it myself because the stakes were high and I felt more comfortable taking care of it myself.

In this case, delegating would have stressed me out.

Of course, some people take this too far. They try to do everything by themselves because they’re incapable of turning over any kind of responsibility to someone else. Maybe they’re impatient, they were burned in the past, or they believe in the old “if you want it done right, you have to do it yourself” mantra.

The problem with that thought process is that it’s difficult if not impossible to break the do-everything-yourself cycle because you never make any progress.

These are my general rules of thumb for delegation:

From a business standpoint, if you devote too much time to simply keeping the lights on and not enough time on strategic growth initiatives, you need to delegate.

Day-to-day administrative tasks and maintenance should not prevent you from growing your business. Also, keep in mind that delegation enables employees to gain experience and expand and improve their skills. The more they learn, the more responsibility they can assume, and the more value they bring to your company.

From a personal standpoint, if your to-do list is so long and time-intensive that it prevents you from doing the things you enjoy and seeing the people you love, you need to delegate. What makes you happier, going to your child’s soccer game or grocery shopping for your elderly parents?

If you need to delegate a task or errand, or you need help deciding which tasks and errands should be delegated, contact us at Time Well Spent. Our goal is to help you make every minute as valuable and enjoyable as possible.



5 Ways to Become a Smarter Packer for Your Next Vacation

GirlSuitcase For most of us, the worst part of going on vacation is trying to get work done and dealing with the monstrous pile of work that will await us when we return. The second worst part of going on vacation is the packing. Fortunately, packing doesn’t have to be as difficult or stressful as we make it out to be, especially if we make technology our friend and think a little differently than we have in the past. Here are five tips that will make life much easier as you get ready to fly, drive or set sail on your next getaway.

  1. Use a packing app.
  2. A packing app does more than enable you to edit and add to a list while on the go. By sharing lists with fellow travelers and checking off items, you’ll avoid duplicate items. Also, you can create separate lists for each bag, so if a bag is lost or stolen, you have an exact inventory to report to the insurance company. Some apps will even create a starter list for you based on who is travelling and the type of destination (weather, domestic or foreign, etc.). Packing Pro and Triplist are two popular packing apps.

  3. Roll your clothes.
  4. Clothes tend to fit better in your suitcase, especially tight spaces, and wrinkle less if you roll them into tube shapes instead of folding them. If you can do a load of laundry or two while on vacation, you can save even more space and leave room for souvenirs.

  5. Pack outfits, not individual garments.
  6. This is especially valuable for kids. Instead of bringing a certain amount of shirts, pants, socks and underwear, pack full outfits in large sealable bags. You can even label each bag (dinner outfit, amusement park, beach, etc.)

  7. Use TSA-approved locks.
  8. If your baggage is opened for a random search and has a Transportation Security Association- (TSA) approved lock, TSA personnel can open it with a universal key. Otherwise, the lock may be cut off, and you’ll be left with unlocked baggage for the rest of your trip.

  9. Know the rules.
  10. What does your airline charge for baggage? Do you know the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule for carry-on luggage? If you’re driving, does your destination allow rooftop carriers? A few minutes of research can help you save a lot of money and avoid major headaches.

    What are your tips for smart packing? Share them here!

This entry was posted on June 24, 2014. 1 Comment

Managing Email: Why the Brain is the Best Tool You Have

Managing EmailI’m a huge fan of using technology, especially mobile apps, to save time and make life easier and simpler. However, the human brain, especially the part that controls common sense, is vastly underutilized when it comes to managing and simplifying our lives.

Email is no exception.

All of the email tools in the world will never completely empty our email inboxes. But there are simple steps we can take – most of which originate between our ears – that can dramatically reduce the number of emails we have, making email easier to manage.

Here is a list of Time Well Spent’s best practices for managing email.

Delete. The first thing you should do in the morning when sifting through email is delete those emails that you have absolutely no use for. This could represent more than half of your inbox. Also, keep only the last email in a thread to avoid confusion and keep your inbox tidy. Continue reading