We all have goals. We all have things we really want to achieve. I can almost guarantee that if you asked somebody why they weren’t progressing towards their goals they would have one of two answers.
“I really want to get fitter but I just don’t have the time”
“I really want to go to Koh Tao and learn to scuba dive, but I just don’t have the money”
I tell you what I see, I see bullshit!
The resistance is strong
How many people do you know who have some pretty extravagant goals? Hell, I imagine you yourself have some goals that appear impossible. For a lot of people, especially at this time of year, this is health related. They have a ‘new year new me’ based aim that will radically alter their lives.
1, 2 or X number of months in, they stop progressing. “Oh, I just can’t make the time anymore, I’m busy at work”. Before they know it they are back to their old selves with nothing to show for it but a slightly dirty pair of running shoes.
What I see, when I see this attitude, is an excuse.
The people who make this kind of statement comes from the same people who happily spend 2 hours a day on their smartphones. Or 3 hours binge-watching the latest and greatest show on Netflix.
Things could be so different.
How different would things be if you took accountability for the time you are spending and re-purposed that to move you towards your goals.
Time is a notoriously difficult thing to monitor. As Bill Gates once said, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”. With that in mind, let’s start with a look at the money excuse.
Excuses in finance
“I’d really like to holiday in the Maldives”. “Oh, I’d love to start investing but I don’t have the spare capital”. “How nice that you have X amount in savings, you must be rich because I never have spare money at the end of the month”.
It’s time for that word again: bullshit.
If you took an honest and realistic look at your finances you’d probably find something completely different. When I say an honest and realistic look, I mean accounting for every penny you spend.
I can 100% guarantee there will be something in your budget you can cut back on. The £70 Sky subscription, the £30 a week in Starbucks or the £150 you spend every weekend out drinking. If you truly wanted to achieve your goals, they are the things you would cut back on. There are always savings to be made!
Before I go any further, I just want to point out that I do understand some people genuinely do struggle month to month. There is real poverty in the world, even in what we consider the 1st world. The people that have prompted this post or the ones you claim they can’t afford something yet flutter away cash or time on completely frivolous things.
It’s all about priorities
We love to travel! That’s it. I could quite happily give a lot of my vices to be able to travel more. I make a conscious decision to NOT get caught up hitting bars every weekend. I love beer, that’s a vice. But I choose to sit at home and drink rather than the social-norm of going out.
I could save money here, with no difficulty. But I make the intentional choice to spend my money in that way.
There are people I know who look at the traveling we do, as well as owning our own house and think we must be crazy rich. We are not! I earn a good, but not out of this world, salary and my partner is in university. We own a house, have 2 cars, 2 dogs, eat good food, enjoy days/nights out and travel 3 times a year.
To some people that is truly astonishing. I’ve had people question how we do it? Tell us how lucky we are to be able to do all that. We are no better off than average, we just have better priorities.
What are your priorities?
Right now, get a piece of paper write down what your number 1 goal would be for this year. Go on… hunt down that pen.
Now, directly underneath that, write down the first thing that springs to mind that stops you doing that. My educated guess, it’s money or time-related.
Sticking with the money example: now look at how much this thing would cost you. For argument’s sake, let’s assume it’s a £2,000 holiday that you want to take 6 months from now. The easy win, take out a loan or pay off the holiday on finance. So let’s write that down as option 1.
Now let’s look at option number 2. £2,000 over 6 months is £333.33 per month; which is roughly £80 per week. Next, take a look at what exactly you spend in a week (a budget is going to be important here). At first £80 a week may sound like a lot, but once you add up a few drinks in a bar and a couple of Starbucks it really isn’t all that much money.
Before you know it, you’ve saved £2,000 and you’re on the holiday of your dreams. All from making really small changes that compound and superpower you towards your goals.
What do both the money and time arguments boil down to in their rawest form? It’s about knowing exactly where you stand. To go back to Bill Gates’ quote again, albeit slightly tweaked:
Most people overestimate what they can do in the short term and underestimate what they can do over the long term.
So when you’re saying “I don’t have enough time to do that today”, do you have actually have any concept of how your ‘today’ was spent? Yes, it may well feel like you were super busy with no time for a break. But once you take into account the 2 coffee breaks (15 min each), time spent browsing social media (30 minutes) and your lunch break (1 hour) you can see where the quick wins lie. A single coffee break and splitting both your social media time and lunch break in half. Before you know it you have a spare hour for a workout.
So where to start tracking these things? I’m a firm believer in not counting on my brain to do this in a reasonable way. Coupled with being a complete nerd I set up systems to do this, both of which I am offering as free resources to readers of this blog.
The time resource
Time tracking is not sexy, nor is it the most intuitive thing to be doing. I did this for a whole week (read about it here). At first, it was difficult to remember, but once you’re in the swing of things it becomes second nature. What I found, I became infinitely more conscious of how I was spending my time.
To make this as easy as possible, I’ve created a really simple web application to help log time wherever you are. You can have a look at the software without signup here and if you’re interested in signing up completely free of charge you can look here. This app is free now and will be free forever!
The money resource
Budgeting is not sexy, nor is it the most intuitive thing to be doing. I religiously track every single penny that goes in and out of both my personal and our joint account. I have fancy graphs that track my bills vs my savings vs my ‘fun’ money to make sure I’m not suffering from lifestyle inflation.
I’ve been doing this now for around 12 months and I can honestly say I have never felt more in control or stress-free about my money. Every month I plug in the incoming money, all my regular outgoings and I get a running total of how much money I have left for me.
I considered building another web application for this, but there are already a trillion one complicated budgeting apps out there. What I chose instead, was a little bit old school. Enter… The spreadsheet!!!
The Yearly Planner is used for my day to day tracking, the dashboard is where all the fun graphs happen.
I can, at a glance, see exactly where I stand at any given point in time. I know what savings rate I’m hitting, how my bills are creeping up and what I’m wasting my spare money on.
The alternative budget
A quick word here on an alternative way to budget that is pure genius. The idea comes from a true legend of the financial independence world Paula Pant over at affordanything.com. The idea is that of the anti-budget which you can read about here. The basic concept is that you pay yourself first, then make the rest of your life work around the remainder.
Need £333 per month to fund your holiday? As soon as you get paid, put £333 to one side and then work with what you have left. Could budgeting be any simpler?
Where will you go next?
Maybe you’ll use the two tools I’ve linked to in this post. Maybe you’ll disregard my advice completely and continue complaining about things you don’t, but could, have. The key take away:
Actionable Tip 1 – Make yourself accountable and ALWAYS be intentional
If you’re accountable and intentional with every single minute you use or penny you spend then you’ll always know exactly where you’re standing.