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How do you tell if something’s worth doing?

Last week, I wrote about How to Say ‘No’ (and rescue your schedule). I’m so happy to hear that so many of you loved the post! I was thrilled to read so many comments!

One question that popped up in the comments was, “How can you tell if something is worth your time?” It’s an amazing question, and one I’ve been thinking about a lot.

let go of tasks that don't serve you

Not everything will be fun…

The tricky thing about this question is that the answer isn’t obvious.

“Only do things that are fun” is bad advice. I mean, you should go to the dentist, right?

“Only do things that are good for you” seems similarly misguided… in real life, it’s okay to have an ice cream sundae once in a while!


The truth is somewhere in between. Something can be worth your time for a variety of reasons, but it’s important to make sure the cost to yourself is not too steep.

Here are a few questions to ponder when considering whether something is worthwhile for you to tackle:

  • Are you the only person who can do it?
  • Is the benefit that comes from you doing it greater than the mental/physical cost to you?
  • Is it fun? And relatively harmless?
  • Is it good for you?
  • Would you feel relieved if you did it?
  • Do you think life would overall be better if you do it?
  • Can you do it without causing immense distress to your own life?
  • Would the cost of outsourcing the task be too high?
  • Is it something you could be proud of doing?

These are really great questions to ask yourself… and I’m sure you can come up with a few questions of your own.

Questions in action

Let me give you an example. This week, I did my taxes. They’re really boring and awful, and there are about a million things I’d rather be doing than my taxes.

woman looking at clock

But, because I run FreshStitches, I’m literally the only person in the world who can accurately compile the numbers for my business. Only I know where the relevant spreadsheets, receipts and forms are in my office. And, really, once I got it done, I felt proud and satisfied. And it only took me a full day to do, which is worth it considering the cost and hassle it would have taken to hire the task out.

What’s a task that I turn down? I’m often asked to design a custom pattern. I know doing so would take more than 25 hours, and involve even more time when you account for emailing sketches back and forth, making changes, etc. It’s not a task that can fit into my schedule without having massive disruption. And I’m not the only one who can do it… a customer has a very high chance of finding another willing designer!

Are you guilty of accepting tasks you shouldn’t?

Or, do you have a really great question you ask yourself when deciding whether something’s worth your time?

I’d love for you to share your experiences!




  1. Susan C Hammond SAYS...

    What do I have to give up to do this task? Will I resent giving up the time?

  2. Dana SAYS...

    I really like your list of questions. I also think having your 5 year plan/goal in mind, or your personal mission in mind, when choosing tasks is important. Years ago I worked for a time management company, and got the quote “The enemy of the best is the good” ingrained in my psyche. It doesn’t help as much with day-to-day stuff, but it certainly does with bigger decisions. If I can weigh something against my long-term goals and plans, or those of my family, it helps me to know whether an opportunity is merely “good” rather than the “best” and prioritize accordingly.

    (I believe the quote is attributed to Goethe)

    • That’s a great idea, Dana! Keeping an eye on the future, instead of what seems like a good idea today, is a great way to sift through tasks. What will make your life better years from now? What’s going to make your life significantly happier or your career really take off? Those are great things to think about.. and will probably get you brainstorming at a better level!

  3. Kathleen SAYS...

    Thank you for sharing great advice in this post and in your “How to say No” post. I struggle with managing my time to focus on what is most important, and these posts offer fresh guidance

  4. kelly SAYS...

    I really love these bits of wisdom that you add to your “regular” posts. They help affirm positive choices in all of our lives.

  5. Hi! I’m Hilda Erro, I live in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and I´m a big fan of yours. My English is awful, so I apologize for the horrible grammatical mistakes I’m going to write.
    I began looking for amigurumis because I wanted to be able to make toys for fun, to give them to any child around me, just to feel happy by seeing them playing with them.
    I got knowledge of you through Craftsy, and I loved your way of teaching in the free video’s peep (sample?, I hope you understand what I want to say) that Craftsy offers to possible buyers of their courses. The first one I purchased was Design your own monster, and I loved you for giving people the possibility to be free to design whatever they imagine, so generously and unburdening us of perfection depressing and paralizing ideals. I love the way in which you show and talk about your own difficulties and mistakes and going-and-comings of your projects and every day’s work.
    Then, I purchased Woodland Animals, and I loved the way you teach how to do those huggable toys. Both courses are wonderful for me, and they helped me to give a real form to my ideas of making toys to be played with.
    I also suscribed to Freshstitches and bought some of your patterns. I live in Argentina, and things are not very easy here to purchase things paying dollars, but, till now, it´s not forbidden to do it, so I purchase anytime I have a little money left.
    One of my daughters (I have three children: Pablo (25), Lucía (23) and Lila (21)), Lucy, works in a pediatric hospital and I gave her one of my toys (your Mr Toothy) for one of the children hospitalized there. So, she began taking your/my amigurumis to other children, and people began to know Lucy’s mother was the person who had crocheted them. Then, I began to have some customers, who want to buy the toys, and the owner of a little shop (here, we have many jobs to make ends meet), who also wanted to buy the toys for his shop. And all this thanks to you and your generosity.
    I also work at home creating crosswords for a lot of crosswords magazines, and I have not a lot of time left, and if I have, I feel guilty for not being making more crosswords (when you have this kind of job, it’s a never ending work, because magazines, fortunately!, have to be ready every week, and they are a lot!).
    Anyway, I’m happy for having the posibility of making extra money, doing something new. But I’m also terrified by the ghost of not being able to accomplish with all the tasks, old and new. Your posts are very helpful for me, because you give us people good advises on how to run a business and how not to get drowned in anguish and guilt.
    So, I want to ask you for help in one subject, and this is how to establish the prize of the finished toys. For example, here in Argentina, we can watch a show, The Opener, in which a famous cook and business man helps and asesses people on how to run their disastrous restaurants, giving them advises and showing them the mistakes they make and the resources they don’t explode properly. Watching one of these shows, I learned that the prize of a dish at a restaurant is established multiplying the cost of the ingredients used to cook it, by four. Is there any similar way to calculate the prize of one amigurumi to be sold?
    I appreciate if you could help with this matter, and I apologize
    for writing so long. I hope I made myself understandable (in gaucho-English language), and I thank you very much for all the support and creativity you give us and inspire in us. Yours lovingly: Hilda

    • Hi Hilda! Thank you so much for your message… your English is fabulous!
      Starting a business of selling animals can seem very scary, but I think the best advice for pricing your amigurumi is to add up the ingredients just like cooking. You should include the cost of your materials, plus compensation for your time.
      You might want to look at the business category of my blog, as it has some resources on this issue.
      Also, I think you may like to join my Ravlery group, and many people there sell their finished animals and can give friendly advice 🙂
      You can do it!

      • Thank you very much for your quick answer. I will follow your advise and I will go to the business category of your blog, and I will try to understand how a Ravelry group works (I’m 52 and some marvels of technology and Internet and social networks blow my scarce and rusty neurons away). Thank you a million times, and have a nice weekend!

  6. Sue Larkin SAYS...

    Yes very guilty if taking on other peoples unfinished projects or jobs that no one else will do, I still do a few though I am trying to be more selective, this year is supposed to be my year. I have done lots more fun projects for me so I feel better and it’s getting easier to say no!