Happy 2013, everyone!
It’s time to take yourself a little more seriously and step up your game. My cousin, a year younger than me, had major heart surgery a couple weeks ago and nearly lost his life on the operating table. Not to be all melodramatic, but it was another close-to-home reminder that time is a finite beast. If you’re going to leave your mark on the world (or just on your little private Idaho), 2013 is the time to make changes.
Here’s the gameplan we’d use when practicing financial planning with clients back in “the day” and it’s also what I’m using this year to shift up a gear:
1) Write out clear, actionable goals. I like Maria at The Money Principle’s post about themes. Start with an idea generally of what you want to do, then drill down toward specific tasks.
My 2013 theme is about tying up loose ends and focusing harder on core tasks. I haven’t yet crystalized completely the theme (it should be more succinct than what I have so far), but that’s not bad news. I’ve been thinking about it constantly, and this action gets the right thoughts in my little noggin’.
My main goals are simple: I have the first draft of a book written, and I’ve let it sit for about 9 months. Why? I have no idea. Other priorities. But now’s the time to finish that project. I’ve run marathons now for two years. I’d like to run one faster than ever. I’d also like to try an ultramarathon. I need to focus on cooking healthier food at home and have a more regimented plan. On the website side, we’ve talked about creating some products. These need to be launched in 2013.
2) Direct deposit to your savings account. Everyone direct deposits money into their checking account…and immediately drains it. Reconfigure your system so that you direct deposit to savings. Manually move money to live on over to your checking account.
While this seems like a little step, it’s a huge change. Now you’re saving automatically and having to think every time you spend money. You’re a conscious consumer, rather than an auto-spender.
3) Protect your downside. I know this for a fact: bad stuff that you don’t expect will happen in 2013. I don’t know where it’ll come from, so the best course of action is to look for Achilles Heels and apply duct tape. Do you have an emergency fund? Is your insurance up-to-par? Is the budget tight?
I need to adjust Cheryl’s life insurance (adjusted mine in 2012). Our will is now six months from being out-of-date (my children will be 18 years old…how the hell can that be? They were just babies yesterday….). I also have to begin “landing the plane” with my kid’s investment funds, so they’re ready when and if I need them for college expenses.
It’s also time for me to get home and auto quotes again. For some, checking out Insure 4 a Day may be a good idea. They offer a variety of cheap short term car insurance options dependent on your requirements.
4) Focus on energy, not time. I agree with Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz in their book The Power of Full Engagement on this one: the key to optimum performance is to manage your ability to crank stuff out. As workers, we’re like tennis players: we compete year-round. It stands to reason that we can’t be great every moment of every day. We should gear up for those times when there are “big tournaments” in our life and focus on those days.
I’m working on a model day that better uses my energy and shelters that time I need for key tasks. I generally experience great creativity in the morning and low energy around 3 pm, so I’m reconfiguring my day to take advantage of that morning time and guard against the afternoon letdown. I’m also focusing more on my diet to avoid those crashes (just as soon as I finish these chocolates….).
5) Create surround sound. The best way to stay motivated is to surround yourself with people, books and podcasts that keep your mind on those activities that’ll help you achieve your dreams. Schedule meetings with your planning partners, spouse, and close mentors. Don’t just say “I’ll talk to people more often about my plans.” That doesn’t happen, does it? Set a time in your calendar and stick to it.
We created the podcast for this reason. I enjoy casual talk about subjects I’m interested in, not hard core discussions. I couldn’t find many chatty money podcasts (Planet Money is probably the closest I’ve found), so we created one. If you’ve listened to our show you know: it’s more about equating money with fun and less about deep drilling.
Biographies work well for me, too, to create surround sound. I don’t know why, but I particularly love books about chefs. Maybe it’s because they have to be in-the-moment so much. I loved Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bordain (don’t read this book if you don’t like foul language and discussions about illegal activities). Currently I’m polishing off Restaurant Man by Joe Bastianich. Both of these are great looks into the world of business, written passionately by someone who knows their craft inside-out.
This list could be 100 points long, but if you practice those five above as you walk into 2013, you’re going to move faster, with more energy, and with fewer distractions.
ON that note, how about $100 Amazon money or cash to start your year off right! That’ll buy a bunch of groceries, books or mp3 players…..