To Buy or Not to Buy? How to Make Decisions About Your Time and Money
Is what you’re doing today is going to get the results you want in a year, or ten?
Are you spending your time and money on the right things?
A couple weeks ago I made a handshake agreement with a new client — young, eager and poised for his life to skyrocket. Call him Mark.
So I was disappointed when yesterday Mark told me he’s backing out, citing the cost and time involved in family wedding this fall. My heart broke when I heard that — trading his obligations for his dreams. Not just trading them but using them as a rationale to avoid changing his status quo.
Then last night my fiancee asked me if I wanted to hire a consultant we spoke to recently about helping us launch a new program. Looking at the litany of business and personal investments we’re making this year, I thought, “no way”. Then I wondered, “Am I now the one who’s making excuses to avoid making a leap?”
We all do this. We spend our most precious resources in ways that don’t line up with what we say we want for our lives.
If you’re like me, you’ve got huge dreams for the future but you have a hard time deciding if the minutiae you’re working on today will add up.
Will you make it? Will you get there? Will this add up to something? Will you succeed?
In this post I invite you to look at how you spend your three fundamental resources — time, money and caring — as a gut-check for whether you’re heading in the right direction.
Step 1: What Am I Committed To?
This is a white canvas exercise. The goal is to write down on paper the person you think you are and the person you are committed to becoming. This step isn’t strictly necessary but I think it’s a helpful backdrop for step 2.
To make this really interesting I think it’s necessary to keep the list of commitments short (I went with four, I’d suggest a maximum of five) and also to force rank it.
Otherwise I think we are indulging a fantasy that we can do justice to more than a few priorities simultaneously. (James Clear, Gary Keller and Warren Buffett make compelling arguments that we cannot multi-task our goals.)
Here’s what I wrote. My top four commitments for the next year:
1. Get physically strong and resilient and eliminate back pain in the process
2. Create and grow a healthy marriage with my now fiancee
3. Feel financial freedom and ease via the launch and growth of my fiancee’s new business
4. Continue growing my business revenue
The other commitments I wrote down that didn’t make the cut were:
5. Spend quality time with my immediate family
6. Sustain and grow my best friendships
7. Compete in the half-Ironman triathlon I’m registered for in September
Of course ALL of these are important to me. But I wanted to make it easy to be honest with myself in the second step, when I audit myself.
Step 2: Integrity Audit
It’s easy to convince ourselves that we are who we say we are. My goal was to see if the person I’m being is the same as the person I say I am and the person I’m committed to becoming.
I define integrity as alignment between my stated commitments and actual behavior, so I called this an Integrity Audit.
To do this, I looked at how I’m allocating the three most fundamental resources I could think of: time, money and caring.
A couple notes:
> I tried to think about money in terms of essentials vs. disposable income. However I know it’s easy to justify expenses as “essentials” so I took a somewhat minimalist approach to what qualifies as an essential expense.
> Caring, i.e. emotional investment, is less measurable than time or money but equally important. If you’ve ever been through a breakup, you’ve experienced the real impact that your emotional investment in a romantic partnership or its absence can have on your life. Similarly, many an entrepreneur will tell you that your emotional investment is the only resource that matters when the going gets tough.
In this part of the exercise, I estimated how I spent these three resources in the first three months of 2015. For example, my Time Audit looked something like this:
- Sleep — 8 hrs daily avg. = 33%
- Physical therapy and exercise — 1 hr per day avg. = 8%
- Coaching/Clients — 4 hrs per workday avg. = 12%
- Food and drink — 2 hrs per workday, 3 hrs per weekend day avg. = 9%
- TV — 15 hrs per week avg. = 8%
I then asked myself: Does this allocation of time / money / caring reflect my stated commitments?
Below are a few of my personal insights.
Time. On the whole I saw a lot of wins here and nothing egregious. The main thing I notice is that I’ve been creating excuses to avoid investing time in launching the new business. I know I am ready now so need to put in place new routines to enforce this. I also noticed that I have plenty of room to be more deliberately romantic.
Money. Investments in growing my business or starting the new business are conspicuously low. This looks like my “lone wolf” tendency — trying to figure everything out on my own. I’ve also made virtually no investments in my health in spite of its top rank on my list. I could definitely get more results if I had proper support. I notice that I’ve been thinking about finding some specialists but haven’t done anything about it.
Caring. Overall this seems right. I consider it a win that I’m not wasting mental and emotional energy indulging irrelevant thoughts. My biggest insight is that my time and money aren’t so well lined up.
The goal of this exercise is to make sure that all the minutiae of your day-to-day are getting you where you want to go in the long term.
My experience doing this exercise was one of clarity and relief. I felt more confident that the small stuff of my day is the right stuff. I also got clear what to change right away. On the whole, this is an easy way to make periodic micro-adjustments to stay on the right track over time.
We’re hosting an April 20, 2015 workshop in NYC about the importance of integrity in leadership. Integrity is typically used in such conceptual terms that it becomes useless. Part of my inspiration for this post was seeing how I could turn integrity into a practical tool to make a major decision of my own. Join us on April 20 to learn more.