The following is a post by MPFJ staff writer, Kevin Mercadante, who is a professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, OutOfYourRut.com. He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry.
You ever feel that your life is just too…complicated? That you have no time to do what it is you really want to do with your life? These days, that’s probably true for more people than not. The pace of life is just faster than it’s ever been.
We can blame television, computers, cell phones, and a host of other factors – and all of them will be true. But, none of that actually fixes the problem. You may need to work on de-tangling your life. It could be the key to everything else.
There’s no question, complexity is creeping into every aspect of life. That means that you have to look at each area of your life and make decisions as to what you will do in order to simplify your life so that you can focus on what it is you really want to do. That will be the beginning of both greater productivity and more enjoyment of your life.
Finances alone are an area of immense complexity. The more financial involvement you have, more tangled your life is. This is an area where you have to separate what’s really important from what is simply desirable or convenient. Try these:
Live on less than you earn. Life can become more complicated simply by the fact that you spend more than you earn. It can be a tough adjustment, but if you reach the point where you have a little bit extra in your budget every month, your finances will unwind quite a bit.
Paying off some debts. The amount of debt that you carry can be intimidating, but complication often comes from the number of debts that you have. If you have 11 debt payments that you have to make every month, try using the debt snowball method to knock them off one at a time. The debt snowball simply has you starting with paying off your smallest debt, then moving up to pay the next smallest. Your life will begin to untangle as the number of debts that you need to pay drops.
Building a cushion. If you can learn to live on less than you earn, you should have extra money available to put into a savings account. This is not money that you invest, but peace of mind money that keeps you from feeling overwhelmed by your finances. A savings account may be boring, but it can lead to many nights of peaceful sleep. That should definitely help de-tangle your life.
Get out of investments you really don’t understand. If you’re having difficulty understanding or keeping up with certain investments, you probably don’t need to be in them. Invest in what you understand, and you feel comfortable with. At the same time, having too many separate investment accounts can also be a life complicating factor. Cut down to no more than you can easily manage.
Sometimes, in an effort to raise “perfect kids”, you burn yourself out. You’re running here, running there, and worrying about every aspect of their existence. Worrying about your kids is a natural part of parenting. But you can cut down on the number of side shows that are going on in their lives, and complicating yours.
Limit extracurricular activities. Some people allow (or even encourage) their children to participate in two, three and even four extracurricular activities personal school semester. You’re running here, driving there, participating in multiple fund raisers – and burning out while you do. A teacher at my son’s high school even referred to this as “a recipe for mediocrity”, because the kids can never concentrate on one activity at a time. Try limiting their activities to just one per semester, which should simplify their lives and yours.
Let them handle more of their own issues. Are you a helicopter parent? That’s a type of parent who hovers over their children waiting to jump in and fix every problem in their lives – even as they get older. But this is a very complicated way to live. You can’t protect your children from everything that happens, and sometimes the best life experience they can get is facing problems head-on. As they get older, they should handle more, and you should handle less.
Learn to say “no”. Do you sometimes feel as if you are crushing your children because you are saying “no“ to them? Sometimes for your own peace of mind, you need to do just that. There is only so much you can do as a parent, and sometimes the best thing is to save your energy for the big stuff, and start saying no to more of the smaller stuff.
Today if often seems that you need to do the work of two or three people just to keep your job. But there may be a few steps you can take to de-tangle even that seemingly intractable area of your life.
Get to work a little bit early. If you have more than you can handle at work, try getting in 15-20 minutes early each day. That will give you extra time to do what you need to do, or at least to create a viable “to do” list that will keep you on track all day. It will also make traffic less of a factor, and that has to help.
Delegate more. If you are simply overwhelmed with work, you may need to talk to your superiors about delegating at least some of it to free yourself up so that you will accomplish your primary tasks. If you can explain to your boss that delegating some work will increase your productivity, you may get a sympathetic ear.
Seriously determine if you’re doing the right work. Sometimes the complication at work comes from the fact that you are not doing the right work for your personality and preferences. If your job seems to be beyond you, you might need to consider a career change into work that better fits who you are. It can go a long way toward removing much of the complication in your life.
Your hobbies and past-times
Sometimes even hobbies and pastimes entangle your life. It may be that you are taking on too much, even though that seems absurd considering these are activities that you participate in for recreational purposes. But sometimes you don’t have enough time and energy because too much time has been devoted to hobbies and past-times.
Limit TV and web surfing. Studies have shown that the reason that people don’t have enough time for what they want to do is often because they watch too much TV pf spend too much time web surfing. Keep these activities to an absolute minimum, that way you have time for whatever else you want to do.
Drop activities that you don’t particularly like. Do you participate in activities that you don’t particularly like? Maybe you’re trying to maintain certain friendship through the activity. But if the friendship is strong, it should survive your decision not to partake in a mutual activity. And if it isn’t, the friendship may not have been worth keeping. After all, you can only spread yourself so thin.
Don’t be a “habitual joiner”. If you’re the kind of person who always participates no matter what the activity is, you could be complicating your life needlessly. You can say no to becoming a committee chairman, or even decline to join the committee at all. You don’t have to be coaching several sports team all year-round, nor do you need to participate in every activity at school, work, or church. Pick what you feel most passionate about, and stay with that.
Life is complicated today, but sometimes we do our part to add to the complication. Figure out what it is you don’t really like or need to do, and get rid of it. Then think about what you want and need to do, and carve out time to do it. That’s taking control. And any time you do, life will become more satisfying and less complicated.
How about you all? Do you find that complication is leaving you drained and confused? What can we do to de-tangle our lives?
Share your experiences by commenting below!
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