Sometimes, getting your finances in order can seem like an impossible task.
Recently, I was talking with friend about money, and he asked a great question: “How do I prevent getting overwhelmed when trying to make changes in the way I handle money?”
I had quickly run through all of the things he needed to do. Among the 12 steps were discovering his dream, developing realistic budget and de-cluttering his home.
On reflection, I can see how this would sound overwhelming, even impossible. Laying out the steps to financial independence can be inspiring, but it can also seem like a daunting, endless path.
My solution was to help him slow down and take a look at the big picture. Then, I gave him some tools to handle his finances and for stress-free productivity.
First, I took a suggestion from David Allen’s book Getting Things Done, which is frequently known by its initials, GTD. I had my friend get all of his projects down on paper. The GTD system calls any task with more than one step a project.
The list looked like:
1. Create a dream board.
2. Develop a realistic budget.
3. Audit your bank and credit card statements to find unnecessary recurring charges.
4. Complete your debt payoff worksheet.
5. Determine what minor problems might occur in the near future that could derail your budget.
6. Save money to prevent those problems.
7. Use cash envelopes to prevent overspending.
8. Implement a money management system.
9. De-clutter your home.
10. Sell unused items to raise money.
11. Build a $1,000 emergency fund.
12. Stop using credit.
Now, he could see what needed to be done, where to start and where he was headed. Then, we broke down each project into its action steps. Allen says you can’t do a project; you can do only the next action needed until the desired result is achieved.
The goal is to keep your attention and energy focused on the specific action required in the moment. This can prevent that paralyzing feeling of being overwhelmed and deal with it if it arises.
I gave my friend a few more suggestions to help him be productive and manage anxiety:
Stop multitasking. Focus on one action and project at a time.
Focus on the present moment.
When anxiety boils up, breathe.
Take the next, specific action required.
Gradual, sustainable progress can lead you toward financial independence and leave you feeling less overwhelmed along the way.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Durango resident and personal finance coach Matt Kelly owns Momentum: Personal Finance. Visit his website, www.personalfinancecoaching.com.