Time and Money Goals, Aligned

There are productive things I could be doing instead of _____.  Many things fit in that blank: watching sports, Facebook, sleeping.  But there are also things that might not be a productive use of my time, and they cost money, too.  I’m talking about going out to bars or restaurants, taking trips on the weekends, or other things of similar nature.  I definitely wouldn’t characterize these as time wasters – I like doing all of these things and spending time socializing.  But they can also get expensive and detract not only from my bank account but also from my future goals.

I enjoyed my trip to the Berkshires last weekend, and I’m sure I’ll have fun in NYC this weekend.  But I’m still longing for more time to develop my personal skills and projects that align with my long-term goals.  There needs to be balance.

Strategy: Minimize social activity during the most productive times, but maximize fun when least productive.

Lately, I’ve really buckled down with my time management and started saying “no” to activities that suck up otherwise-productive time. I could easily be talked into going out for drinks on a Wednesday night if I have nothing important to do.  But the fact is, I have things I want to do.  My goals and ambitions to launch an empire based on this blog and freelancing is going to take a lot of time.  In Karol Gajda‘s How to Live Anywhere, he says to get rid of all distractions during periods of intense work.  I’m not talking about skipping my mom’s birthday here.  But partying it up on a Wednesday is a small sacrifice, especially considering I do fun things almost every Friday and Saturday night. The weekend nights are when I know I have the smallest chance of getting work done.  Unless I have something super-important to do, I’ll happily concede Friday and Saturday nights to fun.

I’ve realized that my time goals also keep my financial goals in balance.  By passing on Wednesday night beers, I’ve not only banked the time, but I’ve also saved $20.  Even more importantly, I can even add a third degree of greatness to the equation: with the saved time, I’ve advanced towards a better financial future, even if it’s only in the slightest degree.

I don’t think anyone should give up their entire social life for any kind of financial gain (that’s miserable).  But I think just about everyone could use a little more balance.

What could you do if you converted 10 hours a week from areas that don’t really improve your life and instead focused on making money or other financial goals?  Could you start a side business like freelance writing or web design? Could you improve your personal budget and spending habits by reading Dave Ramsey or Get Rich Slowly? I know we’re all “busy” but 10 hours is nothing – it’s one hour each weekday and then five hours over the whole weekend.  I’m convinced it’s going to take at least this much time to get out of the rat-race world and live a life that I find fulfilling.

Next time you’re invited out for a midweek adventure, think about how much it’s really worth to you.  Success in your long-term goals might just be dependent on these choices.

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photo by: gogoloopie

9 Money Making Myths To Forget

Money mythsIt’s great to be back after a fantastic trip to Spain! (more on that later this week) I’ve had a lot on my mind the past couple of weeks, but I’d like to start today with myths that I’d like to forget.

I’ve posted a bit already about entrepreneurship mindset and ambitions.  While I’ll be the first to tell you that my aspirations are much larger than my accomplishments to this point, I think I’ve come a long way in overcoming some of the mental hurdles and myths standing in the way of earning more money.  Still, I’m not perfect by any means, and I let some common misconceptions (that are really myths) about making money get me down from time to time.  Here are several myths of that I’ve thought deeply about:

Money Myth 1: The money will roll in quickly. I had to go with the low-hanging fruit first.  I never actually thought that I would earn money on day 1, week 1, or even month 1 of whatever venture I undertook.  Blogging is certainly no exception to this rule.  It takes time to build an audience and simultaneously create a way to earn money from it, too.  While I enjoy writing this blog and am not worried about a lack of income from it in the interim, I don’t think it’s sustainable for me to write here forever without at least some financial motivation to do so.

Money Myth 2: If you build it, they will come. Again: false and applicable for blogs and other businesses, too.  I didn’t have the expectation of having 1,000 readers two months in to this endeavor, and I can certainly do more to promote Money Spruce, too.  Guest posting, search engine optimization, and contacting other bloggers are all tasks that I need to to improve on.  Spreading the word through one means or another is a must to get the ball rolling with your business (and, no, creating a Facebook page and Twitter account is not an adequate strategy on its own).

Money Myth 3:  All competition is bad. This was a common perception that I had before I began to read the advice of other bloggers and entrepreneurs.  In a lot of cases, if there is no competition that’s at least somewhat related to your field or business, there may not be a market for what you’re trying to create.  If I wrote a blog only about Surly Steamroller bikes, there would be a tiny audience. There are plenty of other reasons when competition is good, too.

On the flip side, it’s not great to be an exact copy of competition, either. The real key is to find a niche, which most likely falls under a larger category.  For example, Money Spruce is a personal finance blog, of which there are many, many others.  However, I mostly cater to a younger audience and deal with simple tips related to time, saving money, and cutting down on stuff.  I don’t talk much about stocks and bonds, retirement, or choosing the right credit card.

Money Myth 4: It’s too late to start/all the good ideas are taken. I think this is, by far, the most damning perception to anyone’s business idea.  Sadly, a lot of people think this way, especially with blogging.  Yet there are a lot of great blogs that just started in 2010, like Think Traffic.  I think there’s a lot of lost opportunity believing that something like blogging has already run its course, and instead think waiting around for the next big thing is a better idea.  As one of my favorite quotes from Seth Godin goes: “The best time to start was last year. The second best time to start is right now.”

Money Myth 5: Having a real job is easier and safer.  In this economy, I think it’s easy to see there is no guarantee of job security after witnessing thousands of lay-offs.  While being self-employed is no sure bet either, I think it’s worth something when you’re in control of your business rather than corporate executives that don’t even know your name.

Money Myth 6: It’s expensive and risky to start a business.  Simply not true in the age of the computer.  Basically any website, like this one, can be launched for less than $200.  While investing more money certainly helps, it’s not a requirement to get started.  This is really great for innovation and testing the waters before investing a lot of time and money.  One no longer has to put their life savings on the line to give entrepreneurship a go.

Money Myth 7: It’s always good to have lots of ideas.  I’ve learned the having lots of ideas isn’t always helpful, and can actually be detrimental.  I’ve already gone through several ideas in the past 6 months, and I’ve moved on from some of them.  Undertaking too many projects at once will undoubtedly dilute your efforts.  Instead, having one or possibly two ideas of great quality is much more valuable.

Money Myth 8: You can get by without selling.  Nope, it just isn’t possible.  Virtually every business requires selling to some degree.  Now I’m not selling you some crappy life insurance policy on here, but I at least have to convince you to keep coming back to read more.  Even if you aren’t selling a physical product, there’s still selling involved whenever money changes hands.  It’s important to be aware of that and will make your life much easier than simply denying that you’re not a salesperson.

Money Myth 9: Hard work guarantees success.  This myth is the hardest for me to get over.  I get really caught up in the fact that I could just be wasting my time with nothing to show for after months (or years) of effort.  While hard work is definitely essential to success, there are no guarantees that your work will be profitable.

I feel good about having moved past some of these myths, but I know there are many more that can bring me down, too.  To me, the main motivator is moving past all the negativity and simply moving forward with maximum force.

Do you have any mental roadblocks and myths you’ve struggled to overcome?