Part six in the ‘Fix Your Money Problems Forever' series.
You're going to die one day. Maybe soon.
And when that day arrives; as you lay there in the hospital with tubes hanging out of you gasping your last, all the distractions you indulged, and all the crap you accumulated will mean exactly nil.
It's kind of foolish, right? I mean, how did you allow yourself to become so busy, so swamped with demand for your attention that you forgot to just…be?
You might say, “I’ll sort this out one day. I’ll prioritise my life and get my house in order; give myself some time to appreciate life and smell the roses.” I know you want to do that – sometimes you might even try, but you always revert back to the old habit because it's just too hard and there's too much to do.
Like most men in our age group, you're probably doing way too much of the wrong work, and you're wasting too much money on the wrong things. This ‘busy work' that you do doesn't make you more important, and the crap you keep buying doesn't bring lasting pleasure.
I'm sure a lot of what you do feels important, but it just isn't. Here's how I know. If it doesn't resonate with who you are; if it doesn't truly matter to you, it's not important.
If the work you're doing each day doesn't bring you closer to your true purpose, you're squandering time. And if it pulls you further away from the things you value most (e.g. your family, your freedom, peace of mind, your health or your natural talents and passions), it just doesn't rate.
Now please don't confuse ‘unimportant' with ‘necessary' work. You're always going to have some of that. Even doing the thing you LOVE; done long enough, becomes a job. But if that ‘necessary' work is an essential component of your ‘important' work, you won't resent it. You suck it up. You embrace it.
Finding your purpose and the work to go along with it is a whole book, so I'm not going to try and teach you that here. But I will give you a hit list of culprits that consume our time and therefore, our lives. All of these things can take an incredible hold over us and our capacity to step back, assess our lives and blaze a trail of our own making. Simplify, cull or outsource as many of them as you can.
- Never leave it running in the background. Switch off the alerts and if at all possible, remove it from your phone. How productive do you think you’d be if someone tapped you on the shoulder every few minutes and went “bing!” in your ear? Turn it off. The world won’t end. You’ll get a lot more done, you’ll do it faster and it’ll be of better quality, too.
- Never check you email first thing in the morning. Instead, decide the day before what your three most important tasks are and spend at least 2-3 hours on the first one before you even check your mail.
- Never check your mail just before you finish for the day. The tension and nervous back-of-mind distraction it creates impacts your evening and possibly, the quality of your sleep.
- Limit yourself to somewhere between two and four checks a day. That's it. I check my email mid-morning, mid-afternoon and no less than an hour before finishing for the day.
- Stay away from email on the weekends unless absolutely necessary.
Vexatious Pain-in-the-Arse Clients
The 80/20 rule is relevant here. Twenty percent of your clients probably comprise eighty percent of your income. Focus on them. Delight them at every turn and show them how important they are. Sometimes the best thing you can say to someone (clients especially) is ‘no'. We spend so much of our time at work, the least we can do is use that time efficiently, effectively and with people who actually make our work enjoyable.
Focus on the 20% – the ones who respect your work and who are happy to pay for your talents; then recommend an alternative person or business to serve the remainder. You'll sleep better; you'll enjoy your work more and you'll deliver better results for those you serve. In all likelihood, you'll end up earning a lot more too, because those 20-percenters will refer others to you who are just like them.
Television and iDevices
Do I really need to explain this one? The average Australian watches over three hours of TV a day. Americans watch over five hours a day. That's nine years of TV in their lifetime. Pay TV has seen rapid growth in Australia over the last year and iDevice content consumption has outgrown pay TV by a significant margin. Here are some sobering stats from YouTube:
- YouTube has over a billion users — almost one-third of all people on the Internet.
- YouTube overall and even YouTube on mobile alone reaches more 18-49 year-olds than any cable network in the U.S.
- Growth in watch time on YouTube is up at least 50% year over year for three straight years.
- The number of people watching YouTube per day is up 40% year on year since March 2014.
We're passive, lazy content consumers and the cost is an order of magnitude greater than the cost of a streaming service or Internet plan. It's time. Don't waste it staring at a screen. Get out there and DO something.
If you had to leave your city or town tonight and never return, what would you take with you? Just a handful of items would make the cut, wouldn’t they?
I sometimes fantasise about coming home to find it burned to the ground. It would be inconvenient, yes. But it would also be wonderfully liberating.
Starting with a clean slate; devoid of the crap I've accumulated all these years would be incredible. Sure, I'd miss a few irreplaceable objects but so long as my family was safe, the other things could live in my memories, and that's enough.
The things we don't actively use and the things that don't contribute true pleasure eventually own us. They become a subtle intrusion into our subconscious. That's why spring cleaning and purging unwanted goods are such a satisfying exercises. They lighten that psychological load.
Habitual consumption of consumer products is never a road to happiness or financial success.
To purge and simplify is the high road to wealth and enlightenment.
The alternative is to amuse yourself to death.
Listen to Roger Waters’ song, Amused to Death, and you’ll understand what I’m on about. Indulgences like fashion, fancy toys, expensive dinners and ‘new-shiny’ syndrome all conspire to keep you on the endless treadmill of working to consume.
The Wrong People
This is a touchy one because many of us didn't choose our friends. More often than not, they're friends of circumstance; people we met through a common interest, activity or third party.
But if you understand that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, it’s then incumbent on you to be vigilant over who is setting your life’s agenda.
The same goes for family members, well intentioned as they might be. If you want to spring clean your life and start blazing a new trail, you need to examine your influencers because they have a huge impact on the expectations you set for yourself, the beliefs you hold and the decisions you make.
Less Crap Pays you Twice
Eliminating the crap in your life – the things that rob you of your time and your hard-earned money – rewards you on two fronts.
You have more time to enjoy your life now and all the things that truly matter, plus you have more money to put into things that enrich your life later.
I advocate learning how to invest wisely. Invest your time in your family and your heartfelt passions and invest your money in growth assets that can deliver peace of mind now and freedom into the future.
It isn't rocket science but the second part does require education. It's never something you should leave solely to others because no one cares more about your financial future than you do.
So get educated. I've mentioned Michael Yardney in this post and in another one about debt. I've also mentioned Robert Kiyosaki and Dolf De Roos – other great educators on the basics of money and investing.
Take the time to learn what you need to know. Step forward methodically as a student of the subject and reap the benefits for yourself.
Your life is happening right now; it won't begin at some mile marker in the future. I've said it before – the best time to plant a tree is 10 years ago. The second best time is today. Resolve to cut all the crap from your life and set out on a new path towards the life you seek. I can promise you the mountaintop is far less crowded than the valley below and the view is much better too.
This post is part six of a series called ‘Fix Your Money Problems Forever'. Check out the others in this series.
1. Know WHY you’re Spending
2. Don’t do a Budget
3.Good Debt, Bad Debt and Ugly Debt
4. Trapped by debt? Go on a killing spree!
5. Pleasure-seeking may cost you your freedom.
6. Eliminate Crap from your Life
7. To Save Money, buy Premium
8. Create a Business From What you Know
9. Invest Well and Sleep at Night!
Thanks for stopping by and I hope we get to hang out more in the future. And in the meantime, please feel free to share your own experiences. You can also email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I respond to all emails.
Disclaimer: I'm not a psychologist and I'm not a financial advisor's elbow. This material doesn't constitute financial advice but it is a collection of my personal opinions, based on my own experiences.
Also published on Medium.