‘I am due at the airport in three hours time and I still haven’t packed yet!’
Its called a deadline and, along with a little bit of self-organisation, it can do wonders to your life. I’ve heard it said that deadlines are unprofessional, an artificial and inconsistent way of running one’s life. We should, instead, plan our lives on a minute by minute basis, avoid all distractions and live such a structured life that we are always up-to-date and on top of things, projects delivered on their due date. The reality of human nature is that this just does not work. Life does get in the way of plans. Life is just too short to ignore an impromptu invitation from a friend to a long lunch which writes off the afternoon. Kids get sick. Friends ask for help. Trains role out of the station and sit for two hours before resuming their journey.
The deadline incentive
A departure initiated deadline is one of the key benefits of the journey itself. I am involved in two businesses (one a high compliance financial services business) that I own, one family (including an exam-stressed teenager and an exercise hungry dog), one charitable trust and two other trusts. In addition I am involved this year in two challenging charity events which require a commitment to extensive training time.
I find it is hardly surprising that occasionally life get on top of me and I find I don’t know which way to turn or what to do next. This happened about three weeks before my ski trip and I knew I had to get things sorted out before that looming deadline. The last thing I needed to do was head for the slopes with all that weighing on me for the week.
This is where the personal organisation bit and an invaluable tool called Remember the Milk (www.rememberthemilk.com) come in, which when combined with the departure deadline, provides a powerful incentive to get things done.
Remember the Milk (RTM for short) is less sophisticated than project management tools such as Asana. However, its simplicity is its advantage. It allows you to set up any number of projects (Family, Biz 1, Biz 2, Charitable Trust etc) and to add tasks to each project. Tasks are added simply by typing into the new task bar and adding date due, priority, tag, location etc all on one line in one go. Importantly, you can also see all tasks in all projects in a single list.
So, for instance, you might type ‘Buy birthday present for C Thursday !1 #Personal #Family @Designer Outlet.’ Its easy to re-date, re-prioritise, assign to different projects. So how do you actually use this invaluable tool. Well, I spent an entire morning going through piles of paper, email, our virtual office task list and other ‘piles’. The ‘unsorted’ stuff was put into project piles equating to the projects I had previously set up on RTM. Every time I came across something that needed doing it was entered onto RTM in the appropriate project. Importantly, every task was given, initialy, a priority of 1 and a finish date of ‘today’.
Selecting the ‘All’ tab on RTM then gave me a full list of things I needed to do. Next I converted this into a manageable task list, which is where RTM comes into its own. Starting at the top of the list I went through every task and made a decision as to whether to postpone it indefinitely (by simply removing the due date so it falls to the bottom of the list, delegate it (RTM has a team function, so this is delightfully easy – and satisfying), or to do it.
Where a task needed doing by me, I reprioritised it and gave it a realistic deadline, some of which were after my return from holiday. And, at the end of the morning I was left with a concise list of what needed doing and in what order. It then became a simple process of taking the top task, doing it, marking it as complete (simply by selecting it and pressing ‘c’ – also very satisfying) and moving on to the next.
Interestingly, because RTM allows you to put an estimated time for each task I was forced to conclude that one of my projects needed to go on hold for at least a couple of months, once again easily done by selecting all the tasks in the project and deleting the due date in each so the tasks remain.
It was the holiday that did it, though. Had I not booked it (and booked it only three weeks before the departure date, at that) I would probably never have got round to sorting out my life and business. Truly it transformed my life and by extension the lives of those I serve.
This is the second part of a four part post considering the importance of travel in our plans. I have consistently argued that the main purpose of financial life planning is not to become financially wealthy. Rather it is to become wealthy in mind, body and spirit (which some would call happiness). Travel, as I argue in subsequent posts and elsewhere (particularly in Chapter 8 of Right Money, Right Place, Right Time), is fundamental to personal growth. And so when we come to the ‘Utilisation of Resources’ phase of the financial life planning process it is important to find the resources, both time and money, to make this happen.
In subsequent posts I will consider how the next two phases of a journey – the journey itself and return – deliver personal integrity, transformation and your essential self.