3 Tips to Maintain Focus on Your Financial Goals

by Kevin on August 12, 2010

Have you settled into financial apathy? Has the economy got you down? Are you not seeing any true progress toward your financial goals?

Maintaining consistent focus over a long period of time on any activity is difficult.

Do these sound familiar?

  • “I promise I’ll sign up for the gym as part of my New Year’s resolution.”
  • “I really am going to stick to this new diet. It’s tough, but I can do it. Ooo, look! Pizza!”
  • “Well, I signed up for the gym in April, but it’s October now, and I’ve only been once. I think I’ll cancel the membership.”
  • “That last diet really wasn’t for me. I just love carbs/fat/soda/food too much. But this one diet, I tell you, it’s great!”
  • “Well, it’s December and I finally canceled that gym membership. I wish I had more time to work out…”

It’s easy to lose focus. Heck, it’s hard to get focus in the first place, and once you get focus it can easily slip through your fingers.

How do you keep focus once you’ve got it? Here are some tips to help you stay on track.

Get Accountable

One of the best ways to keep yourself on track is to find people to hold you accountable.

Granted, we are talking about financial focus… so naturally these people need to be close friends or family that you don’t mind sharing intimate financial details with. Sharing those details is the key to being held accountable. It will be uncomfortable at first — more for you than them, but really for both parties — but you have got to get over it.

If you aren’t willing to share what struggles you’ve had and what your plan is to move forward, then no one can really help you. You’re sunk before you even start.

Once you’ve received buy in from your accountability partners it’s as simple as setting up a set schedule for you to get together and go over everything. Maybe you grab coffee once every month.

Just make sure you’re bringing data to back up your progress — and they should know what needs to be tracked.

Otherwise you end up with this conversation:

Accountability Partner: “So, have you made any progress this month?”

You: “Of course! It’s been hard, but you know, I’ve done what I can…”

Accountability Partner: “Great!”

You: (silently sitting uncomfortably knowing you just lied through your teeth)

Surround Yourself with Reminders

Constantly remind yourself of both your end financial goal, and your progress as you go. It’s kind of like having an accountability partner popping up at random intervals to touch base.

Some quick ideas you could implement:

  • Set up a calendar reminder in Outlook or Google to pop up once a week. A simple question like “Have you made progress?” to get your thinking brought back on track. This also works great if you have a smartphone and the tasks can be synced to the phone. Nothing like setting up a reminder for right when you get home at 5:45 in the evening — “Hey. You. Check the budget.” or something like that.
  • Post-It notes. Yea, you know what to do. Put them in your car, on your desk at work, in your underwear drawer. A constant reminder in the places you unknowingly touch every day.
  • Set up automatic e-mails from yourself. You can use services like Memo To Me to automatically drop yourself a note at some point in the future.

Take Care of Yourself

This isn’t technically part of personal finance and I think is often overlooked.

Imagine two scenarios:

1. You’re tired and frustrated. It’s been a long week. Your boss is really stressing you out about a big project at work. You stay late and miss your family. Even though you stayed late you end up taking work home. You get a quick bite of reheated dinner then get back to work — in solitude — in your home office. You go to bed late, and don’t get a lot of sleep both due to the time you went to bed and your stress levels from work.

2. You’re tired and frustrated. It’s been a long week. Your boss keeps asking for updates on a big project at work. You stay a little later than normal, but head home to find a sense of normalcy. You take the dog for a walk when you get home — just to get some fresh air and clear the head before spending quality time with your family. You grab a quick dinner, then head to work in your home office. You get as much work done as possible, but finally decide to shut it down for the night in order to get a good night’s rest. You go to bed on time.

Now imagine it is the next morning…

What are the chances you make wise decisions in the morning?

Do you wake up tired and late, rush to leave, skip breakfast, and buy coffee and a doughnut at the coffee shop next to work?

Or do you wake up refreshed, have time to gather your thoughts for the day, and sit down for some orange juice and a bagel at home?

A small decision like deciding to forgo breakfast can add up over time. Not only are you spending a lot more on breakfast than you could if you ate at home, but it is also not going to be as nutritious.

And at what point in the above two scenarios do you think you would have time to stop and think logically about your finances?

Keep your head clear and your body rested.

  • Get a good night’s sleep. One of the worst feelings in the world is going to bed tired and waking up still tired. Going through another full day on 50% energy is the worst, and can cause you to jump into the energy drink/coffee/caffeine cycle. I know I make worse decisions when I’m tired than when I’m well rested and have energy.
  • Get some exercise. Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins are crazy things, you should Google them sometime. Exercise helps me think through issues and get my mindset right. Regular exercise will also help you keep weight off which will save you a ton of money in the long run. It can also help increase your energy levels.

The bottom line is there is no realistic way you’ll be able to keep a focus on achieving your financial goals if you aren’t taking care of yourself mentally and physically. You’ve got to get those things right first before you can tackle your finances.

And don’t try to do this alone. Bring in additional help and support with an accountability partner and by reminding yourself consistently of the end goal.

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Link Love: Random Edition | Move to Portugal
August 14, 2010 at 1:33 am
Weekly Favorites and Gratitude! «Budgeting In the Fun Stuff
August 14, 2010 at 5:13 am

{ 4 comments }

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff August 12, 2010 at 11:43 am

Accountability is the end all be all for me. My blog helps keep me financially accountable and my BFS Weight Loss Support group help keeps me accountable on my weight loss. When I don’t have anyone to update, I get lazy…

Money Reasons August 13, 2010 at 12:28 pm

My lack of long term focus has been one of my biggest weaknesses! I’m starting to use google apps more often though.

“Memo to me”: I’ll have to check it out, but it sounds pretty decent!

Hank December 25, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Exactly you have to keep yourself in line physically and mentally to be able to get your financial house in order. I can’t even fathom how much money I wasted because I wasn’t on a schedule and needed to run for fast food because I had no time. Nice article. http://hubpages.com/hub/maintain-focus-tips-on-how-to-keep-yourself-motivated

John Barthel July 28, 2011 at 9:22 pm

As regards getting a good night’s sleep, I always liked Jason Bourne’s viewpoint: Rest is a weapon!

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