By Byron Moore, posted March 13, 2017
Originally published in the News Star and the Shreveport Times on Sunday, March 12, 2017.
Q: I am not sure what all I should be doing to get my financial act together. I need to pay off student loans, save up for a new cat, save for retirement and save up for a down payment on a house one day. How do I accomplish all these priorities at once?
A: You don’t.
When you have too many “priorities,” you really have no priorities. Having too many so-called priorities demonstrates that you have actually just failed to make hard choices. You have failed to focus. So far.
And failure to focus always facilitates frustration, right? Aren’t you feeling frustrated?
So what exactly do I mean by focus?
Focus is demoting almost everything to concentrate on one thing – hopefully, the most important thing. And strangely enough, this process of demoting most things to concentrate on one thing helps us accomplish more things.
Notice I said demoting other things – not completely eliminating them. But something needs to rise to the top, to get your best energies, your best ideas, your first efforts of the day, month or year.
With focus, vision becomes clearer, energy gains power and less important things fade from view as our attention converges on the more important. The result in each case is greater effectiveness.
What does focus look like in real life?
Focus in your financial life. Let’s start with your financial life, since that’s what you mention. Don’t try to do everything at once. I agree that you eventually need to pay off your student loans, save for a new cat, a down payment and yes, one day, retirement. But if you try to do them all at once, you’ll get what you are now getting – confusion and diffusion.
For now, focus all your efforts on saving money into a liquid, available account. Do this until you have six months of your income in the account. Yes, you may be required to pull some money out of the account from time to time to meet emergencies. Don’t worry when that happens. Stay focused. Keep going until you reach the benchmark of six months’ income in savings.
And, yes, it’s OK if it takes you three to five years. You’ll still be better off than 90% of the people you know.
Focus in your professional life. Select one area of your professional life to work on. It may be a specific skill, knowledge of your company’s top product or service, a significant project or a company goal.
Sure, you’ve got to do the rest of your job. But if you’ll choose one area on which you can give top priority focus, you’ll be amazed at what can happen over the course of a year.
Focus in your personal life. If you could make significant progress in just one area of your personal life this year, what would it be?
Would you lose weight, improve your marriage, become more personally organized, read more, deepen friendships, learn to pray…whoa…don’t say “yes!” to all of this list. Pick one to be your focus.
The not-so-obvious-to-most-of-us truth is that by focusing on less you actually accomplish more. You just do it one thing at a time (effectively), rather than everything at once…and you already know how that goes.
Want to really get more done faster? Do less. Focus more.
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