6 days to 26 …. and 6 interesting things

In exactly 6 days from today, I turn 26. Even if it means I am officially closer to 30 than 20, somehow I am excited. This is a huge contrast from last year when I turned 25. I was truly terrified.

25 was quite a turbulent year for me. I was struggling with the realization that I was a full adult, a dying relationship, habits I had to give up and worries about if my life was eventually going to turn out as I wanted — seemed I was running out of time. I mean 25 is quarter-life!

So why am I excited about 26? No, all my problems have not been miraculously fixed, but I think I have become a better ‘coper’. And I have generously decided to share some of the things that I am learning (and excited to put in practice).

  1. Relax — This is annoying. I know. Everyone says it. How do you relax when things are going to sh*t? Think about it this way, what is the alternative? By being unrelaxed we tend to overestimate the issue at hand. Relax, and you have a clearer view of the problem. Most times this view directs you to a solution or non-solution. So there is the resolution of either a. There is something I can do about this or b. There is nothing I can do about this. Peace.
  2. “By all means be happy, sad, angry, ashamed, etc etc. But it’s important to know why. It’s not enough to constantly act because you ‘feel’” — a woman I have a huge crush on posted this on twitter some time ago. Oh the wisdom. It can be easily linked to my first point. When something happens, because we are human, we feel something and are often tempted to act based on that feeling. I think it is important to remember that what we feel does not operate in a vacuum. Before we act — and I admit that this is not an easy thing to do — it’s probably a good idea to exercise some thought-introspection by trying to determine why you feel the way you feel. I have tried this a couple of times and I realized that many times my (potential) reaction is disproportionate to the underlying cause of my ‘feelings’. It usually ends with things like — “this is not worth it” or “this is not such a big deal” and then it becomes easier to walk away from the situation.
  3. The Two Minutes Rule — This rule literally changed my life. I used to be so overwhelmed by my schedule. Especially by the piling number of ‘little things’ that become monsters when lumped together. Then enter David Allen’s book “Getting Things Done”. This rule is a summary of the book. (Yes, thanks to me, you can skip reading the entire book, you are welcome). The rule has two prongs:

a. If it takes less than two minutes to do a thing, then do it now. So for instance, there’s this email you can respond to in two minutes or under — do it now. Two minutes that is readily available is less costlier than two minutes in the future (Okay. You can ignore that. It is just a quasi- economic theory of time that I am still developing. I’ll update you once this is well formed).

b. When you start a new habit, it takes less than two minutes to do. This is not at all suggesting that all your new habits can be done in two minutes, it is simply saying it takes less than two minutes to start a new habit. My favorite example is writing. Over the years, I have struggled with writing more often, so now applying this rule means I open my laptop to write the first sentence, and once I start, I could go on until I finish a piece. That is exactly what helped me with this post. The most important part of any new habit is getting started.

4. Now is the time to take control of your finances. Thinking that you will create better personal finance habits when your finances ‘improve’ is a trap. One I have fallen into so many times. The best time to create those habits is now. If not yesterday. Recently, I tried to track my spending and income over a 6 months period — although not as consistently as I should — and I was amazed at what I found out. Now, our spending habits are so diverse it will be impossible to create a checklist of not-to-dos. However one thing that stood out for me is active tracking of spending. There are so many apps that can help with that.

I once read a Forbes article that postulated many people handle their finances in reverse. We spend our income, pay bills and then save what is left. The article suggested that we put away our savings first, then split the reminder on paying bills and spending.

How this works for me is, after taking my savings out, I have a clear picture of what I can afford and what I cannot. This information then forms the basis of what bills I take on and what expenditure I have to let go of. Also, I do not think you have to save something substantial at first. The beauty about starting small is that it is more process orientated than outcome focused, so you are building a life-long habit. Additionally, your constant successes with saving small helps create encouragement (or incentives like Economists would say) to repeat behaviors.

5. Know you.

Trust me, this is not as vague at it sounds. One of the issues I had to wrestle with was having honest conversations with myself. It was hard. I have come to realize that being familiar with yourself is foundational to almost everything else. What are your motivations, strengths, peeves, goals, weaknesses and wishes. Having a good grasp of these things helps one avoid the — ‘any where belle face’ problem. It also helps with making more deliberate choices.

6. Read. A lot has been said about this but I doubt its importance can be overly reiterated. Reading is magical. My reading is not as good as it should be but it is a process I am ready to take on — the two minutes rule will definitely be quite useful here!