Posts Tagged ‘priorities’

Learning How To Quantify

When you were a kid, you probably didn't think much about what it took to earn money — you just asked for what you wanted and somehow, mommy and daddy made it happen. You didn't worry about what stuff cost, and you didn't understand when someone told you it was too “expensive.” Then you got an after-school job or started working for your allowance — and I'll bet you became a lot more discriminating about what you did with hard-earned cash!

It's the same with time.  Very few people really know what their time is worth, in concrete financial terms. They just go through their day on autopilot, wondering where the hours go. Until you recognize that your time is intrinsically valuable, you will never be able to make informed decisions about where your effort is best spent.  Here's a general guide illustrating how much an hour of your time is worth, and how just one hour a day (spent poorly or wisely) adds up over a year's time:

YOUR
ANNUAL INCOME
WHAT ONE HOUR
IS WORTH
ONE HOUR PER DAY
FOR A YEAR
$25,000 $12.61 $3,125
$40,000 $20.49 $5,000
$50,000 $25.61 $6,205
$75,000 $38.42 $9,375
$100,000 $51.23 $12,500
$125,000 $65.10 $15,884
$150,000 $76.84 $18.750
$175,000 $89.65 $21,875
$200,000 $102.46 $25,000
$250,000 $128.07 $31,250
$300,000 $153.69 $37,500

** Based on 244 working days per year

You can always look at delegating in terms of the biggest financial payoff. When I hire someone to take care of an item on my not-to-do list — and I pay them $25 an hour while my hour is worth $60 — I'm coming out ahead. The same is true when I can hire someone to do a task in a half hour that would take me 3 hours to complete. I can be focusing on higher priorities — things that feed my soul or grow my business or let me know I'm alive — without worrying that the work isn't being done.

Inertia At Work

I've overcome difficult personal situations in the past — career changes, a bad economy, crises of confidence, even the loss of another parent. But never before has my life come to such a complete and grinding halt. Usually, I just keep on plowing along at about half-speed, getting fewer things done than normal, but still accomplishing something while I work through the problem. Not this time. My circumstances were so overwhelming and utterly devoid of hope that I hit a brick wall — went from 60 to 0 in about 10 feet. I experienced sheer physical and emotional exhaustion. It was all I could do to get out of bed in the morning, let alone think about trying to communicate with the outside world or keep my business running. I used up all of my energy taking care of funeral arrangements, legal paperwork, financial paperwork, and plans for the estate sale — I frankly had nothing left to give, not even to myself. I hit absolute rock-bottom in terms of output, and I was forced to simply stop. Not slow down, but stop. For the first time ever.

Newton's first law states that a body in motion tends to stay in motion unless stopped by an outside force — while a body at rest tends to stay at rest unless started moving by an outside force. Translate that into sociological terms, and you will understand why it's so easy to stay productive once you're in a groove, and why it's so hard to get back in gear once you lose that momentum. Exercise is a good example. If you can just allow yourself to be acted on by an outside force (for example, a trainer or a gym class or a piece of weight-lifting equipment), you are set in motion — it takes less and less effort to stay with it the longer you consistently work out. But stop for a while (because you got sick, your schedule became too busy, or your gym closed, whatever outside force you choose), and inertia takes over. Once you've come to rest, it's going to take a lot more effort to get back on track. I can tell you that this is true from personal experience. Wink But I'm not suggesting that it's realistic or even wise to try and keep going when you run into an obstacle. Sometimes, an extended period of inertia when you've run out of gas is a good thing — just what you need to then bounce back even harder.

The Physics Of Motivation

To quote the book of Ecclesiastes (or The Byrds, if you prefer) — “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose. A time to plant, a time to reap. A time to laugh, a time to weep. A time to get, a time to lose. A time to keep silence, a time to speak. A time to build up, a time to break down. A time to dance, a time to mourn.” Nothing can grow and bloom and thrive year-round — every creature on this planet needs a period of rest. There's a reason that plants and animals go into hibernation during the winter —  they take a break during the hard season in order to prepare for the spring. And if you try to force a creature out of hibernation too soon, you can kill it. This was my hibernation, a time to rest and heal. And by not rushing things, taking as much time as I needed, I have come back even stronger in the long run.

Newton's third law says that, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Sociologically (again), this means that when you work hard, you need to to take a break. And conversely, by taking that “time-out” to regroup, you will be more productive when your nose returns to its grindstone. I am certain that, had I continued pushing when I was spent, beating my head against a wall when I should have just quit for a little while, I would be in worse shape than ever. But I recognized my limits and took a powder when it got to be too much — I gave myself the gift of time and space, saying no to all of my commitments until I was ready to return to the world. And I have allowed myself to re-enter the water slowly, one step at a time instead of jumping back in with both feet (and drowning in the process!) I know that not everyone has that luxury, that kind of control over his or her schedule — but if you can swing it, it makes all the difference in the world.

I stepped off the career path for an extended period because I had no other choice — but I worried the whole time that I would lose my place in line and people would forget about me. Now I am returning even more sure of what I want to accomplish and how to get there than ever. I feel calm, full of clarity, and ready to tackle each new day. Thanks to this burst of energy, my business is thriving. And I now realize that I have the power to walk away for a bit whenever I need a little to re-evaluate my position and re-invigorate my spirit. That's the best lesson I've learned all year!

A Faster Way To Get Kids Organized

Contrary to popular belief children were not put on this planet to perpetuate chaos — hell-bent on undoing your housework and leaving piles of clutter trailing behind them. Kids actually thrive on order, but it's not something they can easily maintain until you teach them how — and children have short attention spans, so you can't expect a 6-year-old to stay focused as long as an adult might. You'll get a better response (and your children will experience a greater sense of achievement) if you ask your kids to complete just one small task at a time — something concrete and specific.  With the right action plan, there will be no misunderstanding about what you expect from your offspring, and your kids will soon be picking up after themselves without you even asking! Have your kids:

  • sit down with you to draw up a chore chart for the week
  • help prepare a week's worth of packed lunch “basics” (veggies, cookies, crackers, fruit, etc.)
  • collect up all their scattered pairs of shoes and coats to put away in their closets
  • go around the house, gathering their stray toys from each room into a basket
  • put away any games or toys as soon as play time is over
  • sort their dirty clothes into “whites,” “colors,” and “darks” on laundry day
  • put away their newly cleaned laundry
  • clean out all the broken crayons and used-up paint in their art supplies
  • go through their school supplies and clean out anything they no longer use in class
  • label each of their drawers with a picture of what's stored inside (shirts, pants, undies, socks, etc.)
  • sort their craft paraphernalia into separate tubs (for beads, glitter, markers, construction paper, etc.)
  • pull out any toys that are too childish for them to donate
  • try on last year's school clothes and get rid of what no longer fits
  • go through their art papers and pick only those favorites to hang or put in a scrapbook
  • go through their school papers and pick only those favorites to keep as memorabilia
  • choose their school outfits for the next week
  • gather up everything they need for school the next day and sit it by the front door
  • group their books together by author or type (coloring, picture, story, etc.)
  • put all their CDs, DVDs, and software discs back in the correct cases
  • sort their sports equipment into containers according to the game and label with pictures

See how easy that was? Wink

Your Living Spaces

If youcan manage a deep-clean before you start decorating, great — if not,don't stress yourself out. Just do a quick sweep through each room, carrying a basket or tote withyou, collecting up items that belong somewhere else. While you're at it, putanything that is obvious clutter, that serves no purpose in your life,or that you could easily let go of in a separate container to bedonated this holiday season.  Then simply give each room a quick 15-minute clean each week — a light dusting (or swipe with some disinfectant in bathrooms and kitchens), a speedy sweeping or vacuum (with some pine-scented carpet freshener), and afast tidying up (putting magazines in a basket, hanging up coats, putaway items that belong in a drawer or cabinet).

Decking The Halls

Once the house is tidy, it's time to decorate. You probably have a standard spot for each item (the reindeer goes on the table by the front door, the angel candle holders sit on the mantel, the tree lives in the foyer, etc.) — so separate your holiday paraphernalia according to the room in which those items will be placed. Then tackle one space at a time, either in succession or over a period of days. Either way, it will go a lot faster than pulling one item out of a box, toting it across the house, then going back for another item that lives in an entirely different location. Repack your decorations by room and you'll skip a whole step when you do it again next year!

Cooking And Entertaining

It's your choice how much cooking you do during this festive season — but whatever the plan, taking a minute to think things through in advance is guaranteed to make everything go smoother. Plot out dates for each event so they don't conflict with other obligations. Decide on your guest lists — especially if you are hosting separate activities for different groups of people (colleagues, family, the kids' friends, neighbors, etc.) Write out your menu and grocery lists, then do as much shopping as you can in one trip (at least the dry goods). And if you can batch any of the food prep (chopping vegetables, cooking sauces, or making desserts) for several different events at once, then freezing each portion separately — you will save a lot of time and effort in the long run.

Gift-Giving

The first rule of stress-free holiday gift-giving is to create a budget and stick to it! There is no reason to spend the new year paying off holiday debt if you are realistic about what you can afford and what you can't. Once you've decided on an amount, develop a your gift list recognizing that it truly is the thought (not the number of presents or cost) that matters. Online and catalog shopping is often a faster and more affordable option these days (plus, no crowds!) Don't forget to include people like the postman, school teachers, etc. — but consider homemade or edible gifts for everyone except your closest friends and family (it will be easier and a lot less expensive!) Set up a “gift station” with all of your paper and supplies, and wrap/tag each item as you bring it home. It's also not a bad idea to pick up a few extra generic gifts (candles, bath products) for drop-in guests.

Sending Cards

You can save a lot of money (and cut down on landfill waste) by sticking to e-cards — companies like BlueMountain and Care2 allow you to send a variety of fun internet cards for no cost whatsoever. If you do plan to mail your greetings, take a minute to input your holiday address list in the computer so you can print directly on the envelope or a mailing label. This may seem like a lot of work when you could just hand-write, but it will be faster in the long run and easier to keep track of changes from year to year when your list is automated. If you like to send a family photo, either schedule your portrait or get your snapshot done early in the month — so you have plenty of time for printing and mailing. Then set aside an afternoon (preferably with some relaxing music and a cup of hot chocolate) for writing out your greetings — the less it feels like a chore, the more you will enjoy keeping in touch.

Special Events

At the start of each holiday season, you should set up a master family schedule — a big wall-calendar hung in a high-traffic area where no one will miss seeing it! Assign each family member a different colored pen (red for Dad, blue for Mom, green for Jimmy, etc.) — and another color for events that you expect the whole group to attend. Then make a note of EVERY single commitment, performance, party, and holiday activity as you find out about it. In this way, you will be able to deal with scheduling conflicts, prepare adequately for each event, make time for your holiday priorities — and recognize when your family is simply overbooked and needs to cut a few items from the calendar. And don't forget to transfer important items to your PDA or planner!

Holiday Travel

If you're intending to hit the road (or fly the friendly skies) this season, it will behoove you to get your trip planning done as early in the month as possible — so you aren't rushing around at the last minute, trying to rent a car or find your mittens. Set aside a single folder for all of your holiday travel paperwork — tickets, itinerary, brochures, confirmations, and info about any seasonal activities you would like to investigate while you're out of town. Make as many reservations as possible — this is not the time of year for last-minute decisions! Create an in-depth packing list for everything you will need (don't forget your winter clothes and those gifts you plan to bring along). Go ahead and pack as many items as you can NOW (travel-size toiletries, travel accessories, wrapped presents, etc.) — checking each item off as it goes into the suitcase. Then sit back and enjoy a stress-free trip!

A Faster Way To Organize Your Finances

Did you know that the average American spends more time planning for his next vacation than his retirement? Most folks are more concerned with how much they're getting back in a tax refund than the money they're losing each month on late fees and account errors (it saddens and amuses me when someone who shells out hundreds of dollars a year in completely preventable interest payments and overage charges bitches about the IRS robbing him blind!) It's not that people don't care about day-to-day bookkeeping — they just let it pile up, then get overwhelmed looking at that stack of receipts and bank statements. But tackling your bookkeeping a bite at a time is a lot less painful than trying to swallow the entire month's finances at once.

  • lay all of your credit cards on a copier and make front / back reproductions to go in your fire safe
  • balance your checkbook (and that means down to the penny!)
  • move last year's bills and statements into archives from your active file system
  • clip coupons from the Sunday newspaper or search for coupons online
  • organize your coupons into categories in a portable coupon wallet
  • review the grocery circulars for the best bargains and plan your shopping list accordingly
  • pay your bills, either online or by mailing in a check
  • sign up for online banking to cut down the mail you receive
  • enroll in automatic bill-pay to avoid late fees
  • reconcile your credit card statement for the past month
  • review your bank statement for errors
  • set up an electronic bookkeeping system like Quicken or Quickbooks on your computer
  • download the last month's transactions into your bookkeeping system
  • download the last month's account statements and save them on your hard drive
  • input a week's worth of income and expenses in your bookkeeping system
  • call your service providers and vendors to change your billing date to a consistent time each month
  • make a list of the fees you pay on your current accounts, and mark the ones that can be eliminated
  • sort through your wallet and clean out your weekly receipts
  • sign up for “daily deal” websites like Groupon and Living Social
  • create a spreadsheet for keeping track of coupon and gift certificate expiration dates

See how easy that was? Wink