Just because I’m a financial planner doesn’t mean I’ve checked off all the items on my own financial to-do list! I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed by the mounting businesses and personal financial tasks that I have on my plate — and I decided that if I’m feeling this way, maybe my readers are too.
Here’s what I do when I’m feeling overwhelmed by financial tasks and don’t know where to begin:
1. Start With A “Brain Dump”
Sometimes there are so many things floating around in my brain that I need time to organize them — but I can’t start organizing them until I get them all down on paper or into my computer. Take 15 minutes right now and write down all the thoughts floating through your head. These tasks are taking up valuable brain space that’s cutting into your problem solving ability. I just did this and there were 51 things floating around in there. (Note to self: I need do this once a week so I’m not so foggy).
I got this idea from the book Getting Things Done by David Allen. (If you haven’t read it, add it to your Kindle now!)
2. Create A List Of Simple Financial Tasks
Gather all of your financial tasks from your “Brain Dump” and and put them in one spot where it’s easy to review them. Try to organize them by type of task — phone calls, emails, errands, etc. — so that if you have 15 minutes to spare, you can look at the list of phone calls and make one or two of them.
3. Create A “Projects” List
Anything that requires more than one step goes on your “Projects” list. Turn each project into a checklist of sub-tasks that need to be done to complete the project. Add the next step of each project to your list of simple financial tasks.
4. Set Up A Weekly Calendar Reminder
Dedicate 30 minutes once a week to reviewing your financial tasks and checking off at least one item from your list. These tasks may include: closing an old credit card, pulling your credit report, or setting up an automatic transfer to your savings. You can’t do all of this in one day, so stop beating yourself up.
That said, remember that it can take weeks or months for a company to process a rollover from your old 401(k) to your new IRA. It’s important to stay on top of these tasks, because no one else (except your financial planner) is able to do them for you! In your calendar reminder, note the task or tasks that you completed each week, and add any follow-up items to the list for future weeks.
5. Track Your Progress With A Monthly Review
Once a month, carve out 60 minutes to review your financial progress. This means you look back at the weekly calendar reminders from the previous month and go over everything you accomplished. What items did you check off? Does anything new need to be added to your tasks list?
This is also a great time to review your budget or monthly spending plan. How did you do? Are there any areas that you want to try to cut back on next month?
Some people use this time to track their net worth as well. Your net worth equals your assets minus your liabilities. Here’s more about how to track it.
Remember, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Stop beating yourself up for not having everything perfectly organized and start scheduling time to complete those pesky financial tasks each week. If you get one thing done every week, you’ll knock out 50 tasks this year. Now that’s progress!