Thursday, February 17, 2011

Making the Budget

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

I’ve been having the worst time following my own advice lately. It doesn’t make the advice invalid, but it does invalidate my daily choices. What brought me to this is that I sat down and worked out my first on-paper budget for my money in about a year and a half. I’ve worked out budgets for my time sporadically. I’ve had mental budgets for my money that I’ve done pretty well with following for the most part. The problem is that it needs to be written and specific. Following a mental budget well is about as good as following a written budget poorly.

The sad thing is that I basically know what I should be doing at any given time, but I allow too much compromise with myself. This may seem like I’m talking about something big like playing Magic Online for hours when I should be writing, but it’s a bit more subtle.

Twice now I’ve started writing a blog post, and found myself with more ideas than I originally thought I had. This is fine. There is no reason I can’t move it over to the column if it stretches over 2,000 words. The problem is that I’m supposed to write 500 words on the blog each day, 500 words on each column, and then 500 words on rotating projects. This could include another 500 words on a blog post or a column, but the point is that I’m supposed to balance them.

What happened both times is that rather than deciding it was my writing for a column for the day, taking down some notes for how to continue the article, and moving on to the next project, which would be back to the blog writing since it wasn’t done, I’ve instead written thousands of words on the articles. This isn’t bad in concept. It’s writing that needed to be done. The problem is that now I’m two weeks ahead on my column, and barely keeping up with the blog. I have four reserves still, and don’t have to post again for two days, so it’s fine from that perspective. I just have to be careful about not letting it get out of hand one way or the other.

To Do Lists are budgets for your time. We all know that if we take our whole paycheck and pay it all on one item then we’ll make great progress on that one item. I could pay the mortgage on my house in less than four years if every dollar went toward it. I just would eat, have gas to get to work, electricity, water, and if you saw my boots you would know I would be barefoot soon, among other things I’d go without. The idea that I can treat time any differently is ridiculous. It’s actually how I get sidetracked on a project idea I get one day that isn’t the project I’m supposed to be focused on. Or why I can keep up with some projects, while others get consistently deferred to later.

I need a money budget. I need a time budget. I need to follow each as closely as possible.

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