We’re literally flooded with financial advice. Everywhere you turn there’s a blog, magazine, book, or television show dedicated to your financial success. With so much advice, you’d think we’d all be millionaires by now.
But, let’s be real. Reading great financial advice is one thing, acting on it is quite another.
Of course we should challenge our property tax assessment. But who has the time? Switching to a low fee credit union sure sounds good. Perhaps it’ll get done someday. Raising our car insurance deductibles clearly saves money. It might happen eventually.
If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that most money advice simply goes to waste. We never use it.
So how do we break the spell? How do we turn financial advice into financial success?
It may boil down to simple time management. Let me explain.
Throw Out the Urgent and Replace it With the Important
Have you ever ended the day completely exhausted, only to realize you really didn’t get much done? Yes, you ran around like crazy putting out fires and taking care of busy work, but you really didn’t accomplish anything of significance.
It happens to all of us.
It’s so easy to get caught up with the mundane, that we don’t make time for the things that will ultimately make our lives better.
We put off going to the gym, searching for a new job, or starting work on that novel we’ve always wanted to write. The very tasks that would make the greatest impact on our lives are simply shoved aside.
In his book, First Things First, Stephen Covey divides all tasks in life into one of four categories:
The Urgent and Important: Charging the dead battery on your car, taking your sick child to the hospital, or attending your daughter’s wedding all come to mind.
The Urgent and Not Important: These are the time destroyers. They include tasks like responding to emails, answering phone calls, and attending useless meetings.
The Non-Urgent and Important: These are the important tasks that too often get put off. Going to the gym, fixing our finances, preparing for a career change, working on our novel, or spending quality time with the kids are just a few examples.
The Non-Urgent and Not Important: OK, these are the truly silly ways we waste time. They include things like watching the latest episode of Housewives of Atlanta, playing Madden 2012 and chatting on Facebook.
As Covey explains, it is the non-urgent and important tasks in our lives that lead to long-term success, but too often we get preoccupied with the urgent but unimportant matters.
Filling out useless paperwork or answering phone calls takes precedence over writing a business plan for our new entrepreneurial venture or creating a family budget.
The important but non-urgent tasks in our lives may even be sacrificed at the altar of the non-urgent and unimportant. Who hasn’t decided to watch their favorite TV show instead of working on their resume or planning their retirement?
There’s A Cost to Delaying the Non-Urgent, Important Tasks in Our Lives
But here’s the rub. Important but non-urgent tasks are by definition never urgent. There is no penalty for failing to complete them.
You’re not going to get fired if you decide to skip the gym today. Your boss won’t scream to high heaven if you procrastinate in creating a family budget. No one is waiting to take you to jail if you put off starting your novel or delay yet again looking for a better job.
And because there is no penalty for putting off the task for another day, that’s exactly what we do. We put it off, again and again.
Here’s the tragedy. While there may be no short term penalty for delaying the important but non-urgent stuff in our lives, the long term penalties can be devastating.
Delaying getting our finances in order sees us fall further into debt. Never taking the time to write our novel results in yet another dream unfulfilled. Failing to make that career change keeps us in a job we can’t stand.
Make Time For Your Success
How do you avoid falling into the trap?
How do you prevent the trivial from snuffing out the important?
The answer may be as simple as scheduling time for the important but non-urgent tasks in your life. In doing so, you make sure they’re not muscled out by the less important stuff.
Just as you would schedule a hair appointment, schedule time for the tasks that will eventually make you successful.
If you’re interesting in changing careers, set a time every week where you do nothing but work on items related to your career change.
Do you want to get in shape? Schedule time in the morning to exercise. Perhaps you have to get up a little earlier each morning to do it, but the key is to carve out time just for your important but non-urgent tasks.
Which brings us back to all that financial advice we never seem able to follow, the very advice that could literally make us wealthy and financially free.
Create Your Financial “Hour of Power”
The financial advice that surrounds us represents the quintessential important but non-urgent that gets pushed to the side.
Schedule an hour (or more) each week solely devoted to your financial health. Use it to take care of the important but non-urgent aspects of your financial life. In one hour you could easily save yourself $100, $200, even $300 or more.
Here are just a few of the things you could do with your weekly “hour of power”.
Switch your checking account from a bank to a credit union that charges much lower fees
Shop around for the lowest auto and home insurance
Appeal your property tax assessment
Check your credit card statements for fraudulent charges, or recurrent charges for services you no longer need
Replace your light bulbs with energy efficient ones
Install a programmable thermostat
Call your credit card company and ask for a lower rate
Obtain a copy of your credit report and check it for errors
Create a budget
Create a living trust for you and your parents
Check for wasteful spending
Automate your bill payments to prevent late fees
Set up a 401K or 403b
Create a shopping list or meal plan for the week
Read a chapter or two from a personal finance or investment book
Success Means Giving Priority to the Most Important Tasks In Your Life
Successful people don’t get that way through luck alone. They devote time to their success, and guard this time like it’s pure gold.
Great violinists carve practice time in stone to devote to their craft. Michael Jordan spent hours upon hours at the gym working on his shot.
No one is saying you have to become a classical virtuoso or the the next incarnation of Jordon, but if you want to excel at anything you have to give it its time.
If you want to gain financial freedom you must devote the time to it. Create your financial “hour of power” and watch your success with money skyrocket.