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

February Money Challenge Recap: Matching Goals With Engagement

Gmail email webpageI’m wrapping up my money challenges from the last month.  It was an interesting experiment, especially considering that I didn’t really do much thinking and basically decided to do it on a whim.  My quality of life stayed about the same, but I learned some things from all of my efforts.

Here’s a recap of each challenge:

Challenge #1: I will only drive a maximum of once per week. This turned out to be harder than I thought, and it really wasn’t a well-designed goal.  First off, I went on several weekend trips in the last month and most of them required driving.  While the good news is that I carpooled on almost all of these, the bad news is it led to multiple driving trips a week.  However, I rode my bike just about every day to work.  Within New Haven, I didn’t drive on any trips where I could have walked or biked instead.  I didn’t execute this goal perfectly, but I would still call it a mild success.

My Grade: B

Challenge #2: I will not check email from 6 to 10 pm. I employed some outside help from LeechBlock on this one.  Still, I did admittedly cheat a few times.  I sent emails when I felt they were important and that I would forget them later.  I also realized that a lot of the reading and other work I do requires that I have access to my email archives.  I found it tough to be perfect on this one, but I would definitely say that I saved time.

My Grade: B-

Challenge #3: I will plan out my time and what I need to get done each day. I feel like a had a lot of success with scheduling my time, and I was probably more productive the whole month by implementing this goal.  I religiously planned my evenings on Mondays to Thursdays.  But I didn’t always do this on the weekends, mostly because a) I don’t do as much work then, and b) what I’m doing is much less predicatble.  My planning wasn’t perfect, but I think this is one challenge I’ll convert to a regular practice because I know it helps.

My Grade: B+

Challenge #4: I will not purchase any “things.” I definitely thought this was going to be the toughest of the four, but it actually ended up being the easiest.  I only (sorta) broke this rule once: I spent $3 on an mp3 album on Amazon.com.  This was more of a memory lapse rather than defying my own rules.  Other than that, I thought about buying several things, but didn’t actually go through with it.  Obviously I can’t do this forever, but I think it’s important to realize that I can live just fine without buying things most of the time..

My Grade: A

Challenge Observations

The one thing that sticks out in my mind about the whole challenge: to succeed, I need to be fully engaged and seriously want to accomplish my goals.  Perhaps this is a bit cliche for life in general, but I don’t think my heart was really in all of these goals.  Yes, I do think they’re all worthtrying harder at and would improve my life if I did, but they aren’t the most important things to me.  I want to cut back on driving a car, but I don’t care enough about it to let it derail my other plans.  I think checking email less is generally a good idea, but I think there were times when I made exceptions to my own rule and it really didn’t make a difference.

I’d really like to stick to only one goal at a time.  This goal could certainly be more challenging and significant that the ones I tested here.

I definitely plan to continue on with my challenges, starting again in mid-March when I return from Spain.  Right now, I’m almost 100% certain I’m going to stop using credit cards for a month.

Other ideas? Let me know in the comments.

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photo by: Artur Oliveira Gomes