I listened to a training yesterday afternoon on time management. How to eliminate distractions and become relentlessly focused. I have probably attended and listened to more than a dozen time management trainings during the years. Yet every time, I do well for a week or so and then the bad habits creep back in. Checking emails throughout the day. Surfing the web. Listening to a podcast instead of writing a blog post!
All of these actions are necessary, but I allow them to occur when I am “at my best”, in the morning. Which takes me away from getting my important tasks done when I am most energetic and creative. Which means these important tasks get done later in the day and take time away from my wife. Time I can never get back!
As I was taking notes during this training lesson, I thought about the millions of people who are trying to get out of debt. How many distractions are they facing that knock them off of their plans? What money did they spend today that they can never get back?
This one statement from yesterday’s notes really stood out for me and my struggle with managing my time: “Am I willing to spend the next 30 minutes reading emails instead of writing my blog post? Because I will never have those 30 minutes back again!”
I realized that I have not written any blog posts for weeks. All because I have allowed other things to become more important. Let enough things get in the way and the blog posts moved to the bottom of my to do list. Then realized that two months have passed by with nothing to show for it on my website!
We can use this thinking for gaining control of our debt just like gaining control of our time. Let’s substitute “money” for “time” in my statement from above. “Am I willing to spend this $40 on a movie and snacks? Because I will never have this $40 back again!”
We think we will get that $40 back on our next paycheck. But if we really think about it, that $40 is unique. We control it today because it exists today. We can save it, spend it or apply it towards our debt. But whatever we do with it, we will never have that same $40 again!
I can “steal” 30 minutes from my wife to write a blog post. I can “steal” $40 from my next paycheck to go out to a movie tonight. Or I can get in control of my time and money instead.
Am I saying never go out and enjoy life until your debt is paid off? No way! That is a guarantee for failure! Some few people may be able to eat dog food, use candles for lighting and live a spartan lifestyle the entire time they work their debt plans. But the vast majority (including me!) need to have some level of fun in order to stay on the plan.
Can you go to a matinee? Can you go on a weekday instead of Friday or Saturday night? Many theatres here have $5 Tuesdays where you can see a new movie any time on Tuesday for $5. Can you watch the movie and not buy any snacks? Can you stay home and rent/download a movie for less than $7?
All of these options give you a reward and allow you to save at least half of that $40. You may be able to budget for this once or twice a month and stay on your plan to get out of debt.
Good time management does not mean never open your emails or surf the web again. It means you focus on your most important tasks first, then budget some time later to do those things. Time when you do not need to be at your most energetic and creative. And time that is not budgeted elsewhere like time with your family.
Good money management is the same. You budget your income and expenses but you build in a little bit of “fun money” as a reward for being focused on your budget. You don’t rationalize using money from next week’s paycheck to pay for a night out tonight. But you also don’t stop living life!