4 days: 30 minutes at a time

Making a plan for every 30 minutes of your waking life (as discussed here on Monday) is easy.  It turns out making reality look anything like that plan is tricky.  Go figure.   Now, I’m not looking to turn our lives into some perfect utopian thing where every moment we are perfectly engaged and we are doing exactly what we planned. The goal was/is just to do more of the things we want to do and get some stuff off the master project list we made up for the month.

Some bits of time have gone perfectly – like I planned to eat dinner each night and we totally have!  Also my morning schedule has been spot on.  I know exactly what I’m doing with my life between 6:30 and somewhere between 10 and 11am each day. After that it gets a little dicey.  A few things were completely missed – like I forgot to include the time I spend getting my kiddo into bed each night.  She’s too old to call it bedtime, but it’s still a known chunk of time I spend with her at the end of her day and I totally didn’t put it on my schedule.

Oh, and there was that bit of time on Tuesday where I think I might have just zoned out and stared at the wall for 30 minutes because I have no idea what I did between 7:30 and 8pm but it must have been something close to nothing.

But, as the fourth day of this four week plan comes to a close I would say it has been good thus far.  It felt a little magical to cross off two of the things on our project list, and I’m in the middle of three more.  Hubby and I have both worked out every day, the house is clean, and here am I am (as scheduled) writing this for ya’ll with no mental drama because this is what I’m supposed to be doing.

I printed out my ‘schedule’ for the week and stuck it to the blackboard in my kitchen and I actually reference it all the dang time.  Spending the time in advance to plan the week to this level has meant that I don’t have to constantly be evaluating what I should be doing next.  That has freed up a surprising amount of mental load* in a way no to-do list ever did for me.

And perhaps the very best part is when the time I’m supposed to be working on something ends (or my schedule gets turned upside down) I’m not freaking out because I know more time to work more on whatever has already been scheduled.  That turns out to be a really powerful feeling.

As we head towards the weekend I feel good, and reasonably certain that this weekend won’t be one of the ones where Sunday night we all look at each other wondering where the last two days went and why we didn’t get anything done.  Fingers crossed!

Alison

*Bonus:  Mental load is a concept I’ve been pondering since a friend shared this cartoon with me.  I’m not so into the He vs. She part of it at the moment, but I definitely buy into the “planning and organizing things is already a full time job” and the definition that stuck in my head: “Mental load means always having to remember”

Time and Potential

My life is full of potential.  My house is proof of it.  There is potential absolutely everywhere.  Clothes I could potentially wear, cookbooks filled with recipes I could potentially cook, chairs on which I could potentially sit – but never do.  A look just around my office/craft/laundry room shows off so much potential it almost makes me feel ill.  There is fabric I could potentially sew into amazing things, textbooks for that foreign language I could potentially learn, stacks of keepsakes I could potentially turn into something meaningful.

My digital life is no better.  I have e-books I could potentially read, useful websites with so much potential I had to bookmark them for later, software I could potentially master, photos I could potentially sort and share, but never quite get to actually doing it.  My phone is filled with contacts I could potentially call, and notes I’ve taken so I don’t forget random things that clearly have great potential.  And let’s not even talk about my Pinterest page.  No facet of my life is free from tremendous potential.  And I’m a little sick of looking at it and a lot tired of dusting it.  All that potential and no energy.

I’ve got a soap making kit, I could potentially make a batch for a clean start.  I could ditch it all. I could rearrange it all so at least I felt like I accomplished something.  I could keep having a daily stare down with it or accept potential as part of my existence.  I could even write a captivating conclusion to this post.  Potentially.

Hubby was feeling the same potential  when he wanted to be feeling progress (specifically about our house).  But then he had the big idea for us to schedule out the next four weeks in 30 minute increments to make time for all the house projects we need to get to.  Yeah you read that right. He wanted every 30 minutes for the next four weeks to have a plan.  It’s potentially a little crazy and potentially a little brilliant.

How we did it:

  • We set an overall goal. If you don’t have a specific time related thing you want to accomplish, this isn’t going to be super useful. For us it was dedicating time to finish all the lingering projects around the house.
  • We set a time period. I’m a big believer that you can do anything for a month, so we picked 4 weeks and decided to start on a Monday.
  • I popped into excel and made a handy dandy one week template for each of us that has a little block for every 30 minutes of the times we’re typically awake. We put in ideal getting up and going to bed times so we’d know what we had to work with.
  • First we put in all the mandatory stuff – expected work hours, carpools, theater tickets that are already bought, doctors’ appointments, etc.
  • Then we put in spots for meals and blocked times for washing up and chores like cleaning the house, paying the bills, buying groceries and other regular things that keep us and the house going.  Next we put in the things we do (or want to do) each week for health such as workouts at home, and classes and fitness activities outside the house.  We also each got a few hours blocked each week for our respective hobbies.
  • We wanted to make it realistic, so we also made sure there was some social fun time each day of the weekend. Basically everything that was still blank we scheduled working on the house projects.

A Few Other Notes: 

This crazy/brilliant schedule could easily go off the rails if it were made too specific, so we stayed intentionally vague and mostly kept it to types of activities and not super specific tasks.  My weekday mornings start with a 60 minute block that I’ve just labeled “Morning Routine”.  That’s everything I do from the time the alarm goes off until I am out the door.  I didn’t need to break that down into getting dressed, making breakfast, and all the other random things that need to happen on any given day. There is a similarly generic hour at bedtime for washing up and winding down.

We put in ideal work hours (cleverly labeled as “work” on the sheet), but kept them realistic. We do not expect to miraculously work 9-5 and be done, but we’re trying to use this schedule as the motivation to stay focused and productive during normal work hours because other stuff we’ve planned to do is coming next.

And lastly all our house projects are all labeled as “task list”, and then we created a separate list of all the projects in and around the house.  This gives both hubby and I some flexibility to pick a task that fits our time frame and our skill set.  Today I had one hour for “Task list” but hubby did not, so I picked one I could do on my own without too much setup or cleanup time.

And if you were wondering, my work on Live.Learn.Budget. is schedule for Monday and Thursdays, so you’ll get to live this journey with me over the next four weeks.  Today was day one, and it went really well.  This post is potentially proof that I’m lying when I say I don’t have time to write.

Until Thursday!

Alison

The Bookshelf – Worth it: Your Life, Your Money, Your Terms

Who: written by Amanda Steinberg (founder of DailyWorth.com)

What: a financial guide directed at women focusing on achieving positive net worth and positive feelings about money.

When: Published February 2017

How: The goal of the first part of the book is to understand and accept your personal feelings towards money (your “money story”).  It’s got solid referenced research, statistics, and discussion about the cultural norms on women and money that impact most of our individual money stories.  The second part is on the big picture of finance and how to build net worth.  It’s organized around the two ideas of “Grow your roots and spread your wings” where Continue reading “The Bookshelf – Worth it: Your Life, Your Money, Your Terms”

What on earth is “extra” money?

The current Woman’s Day magazine has an article talking about “extra” money and how it often gets “frittered away”.  I had to stop right there.  What on earth is extra money and how do I get some?

Well, it turns out that by “extra” they really meant unexpected, unplanned for or forgotten money.  Let’s break these down for a minute.

  • Unexpected money. This is the good stuff, the real deal.  The bonus you didn’t know was coming.  Maybe an inheritance or winning the lottery.  This is money you had no way to expect, and thus weren’t planning for in any kind of real way (though we all have the day dreams).

Continue reading “What on earth is “extra” money?”

Don’t forget about me (said your budget)

It’s nearing the end of the month and the number one thing people struggle with when we start to work on a financial plan is the timing.

I say timing – not time – because no matter what, you’re eventually going to spend the time.  This is more about spending that time in smaller (more useful) chunks and *ahem* not procrastinating.

I am an expert level procrastinator (if I wasn’t this post would have been up last week to remind you to do this mid-month), so I am not throwing any stones here.  Instead let me throw you a soft cushy place to land before that procrastination completely takes you to that crazy overwhelmed place. Continue reading “Don’t forget about me (said your budget)”

The Budget

Budgeting is no April fool’s joke. And it’s not a gimmick.  And this one doesn’t even come with a click bait title.

A budget is a plan. Having a plan on how you want to spend your money is not something that should cause anxiety or panic attacks.

I spend a crazy amount of time reading about money and finance and psychology and a never ending list of things related to money.  Because almost everything is related to money if you look closely.

Earlier this week I was reading the comments on a new money book.  I haven’t read the book, but the things people were saying about their fear and panic and anxiety regarding money made me want to pull people through the internet, sit them on my couch and say “Hey! We’re going to get you past this feeling and back into reality. And you’re going to be OK about money.”

Reality is that money itself is neutral, not scary.  Money is just a tool to trade skills and products because the barter system is really a pain in the ass when you need a gallon of milk at 2 a.m. Continue reading “The Budget”

The First of the Month

Happy first of the month!

The first of the month feels a bit like New Year’s Day to me, but 12 times a year.  I’m not talking about the possible hangover or exhaustion from staying up who knows how late, but the feeling of starting a new year all fresh with a blank slate. Sometimes I’m lamenting the last year but looking with optimism to the future, and other years I’m giddy because it was an amazing year and I’m celebrating all that good and planning on keeping the goodness going.

Living with a budget makes the first of every month exactly like that – sometimes I’m lamenting the last month but looking with optimism to the next month, and other months I’m giddy because it was an amazing month and I’m celebrating all that good and planning on keeping the goodness going.

Continue reading “The First of the Month”

The Finish Line

Fifteen minutes after my last post I found myself reading a “success story” post.  I love these, and this one was all about how this couple paid of 40k in debt in two years.  What’s not to love about a success story like that? And while they listed five tactics they used, the first one started with the great words of wisdom “set your finish line before you start”.  Let’s dig into that nugget of wisdom and get a little closer to a budget. Continue reading “The Finish Line”

If It Makes You Happy

Last week I talked about taking some time to list the things that make you happy.  I said that list would help you refine and define your priorities. And hinted about how we’re building up to the big idea that every penny we have or spend is based on our choices.  And I’m a big believer in the idea that our choices should mostly be for things that make us happy. You can’t do that if you don’t know what makes you happy. That’s pretty straight forward stuff right?

So like magic you’ve had a week to think about the things that make you happy.  Now I’m going to help you classify those happy things to make sure you’re heading in the right direction. Continue reading “If It Makes You Happy”

“Budget” is not a bad word.

It’s really not. But as soon as I utter the word I see the side eyes. I see the guards go up. You suspect I’m about to tell you to stop spending money on something you love and if one more blog tells you it’s possible to retire next week if you just give up your daily coffeehouse coffee you are going to scream. Because you would rather never retire than give up that coffee. And that’s ok.

Let’s start with this: A budget is not about limits and feeling bad. Life is limiting. Reality has limits. We can’t all marry Brad Pitt or figure skate in the Olympics. The good news is we don’t all want to marry Brad Pitt or figure skate in the Olympics, so most of us don’t feel limited by those particular realities.

A budget is the same way. Sure, it’s going to have limits (because of reality), but most of those limits aren’t going to bother you. And surprise, it’s the limits that will bother you that are why you need the budget most of all. Continue reading ““Budget” is not a bad word.”