Magic Time and Magic Money: The Danger of Goal Setting Without a Plan

Magic Time and Magic Money: The Danger of Goal Setting Without a Plan

When I was in Grade 10, my teachers made me a t-shirt that said “Sign Me Up!” with a picture of me in velvet pants prancing like a pony*.

I have always had the bad habit of signing up for more than I can humanly do. I just love the excitement of saying “I can do it!” and seeing the relief in a person’s face. I also love planning grand and exciting adventures for myself.

Last year, I decided I was going to spend December in India. “Great!” I thought. “This is important to me and a manageable goal.” The months went by and I did…nothing. I was still thinking to myself “yup, going to India in December!” But when December came around, I hadn’t done a thing to make it happen. So of course, no trip to India. I was planning with money that didn’t actually exist.

I catch myself doing the same thing with time. I look at a day off and say to myself “I’m going to do laundry, go to the gym, do two hours of meditation practise, write a new draft of a project, cook all my meals at home, go grocery shopping, do laundry AND finish in time to have a dinner date with my partner!”

As if.

Sadly making a goal doesn’t magically make it happen

In the case of my trip to India, I was planning with what I now think of as “magic money”—money that I don’t have and don’t have a plan of how to get it.

In the case of my day off, it’s “magic time”—time that I don’t really have and am expecting to pull out of the ether. In both cases I’m planning to spend a resource beyond my means.

The real danger of planning with magic resources is that either the plan is going to fall through, which can cause feelings of failure, shame and other fun internal states OR you’re going to turn to the dark arts to get things done – debt. Now debt can be a useful tool, but it comes at a cost (like all dark magic does). And don’t even try to tell me that debt is only a financial thing. We’ve all felt the feeling of being exhausted by pushing ourselves too hard – that’s time debt.

The antidote to magic time and magic money is awareness.

When I say yes to something now, the first thing I do is identify what resource I am offering. Is it my time, money, or both? Then, I ask myself if I really have the time or money that saying yes requires.

If not, it’s a magic resource and I need to rethink things. I either need to say no or make a plan of how to find more (work an extra shift a week or cancel dodgeball practise on Wednesday).

Sure, it’s not as much fun as saying “yes” and imagining a version of myself that gets to do every project or travels the world constantly. But it means that I actually get to do some of these fun things by only committing to the work I can handle, instead of saying yes to everything and doing none of it. And maybe that’s the real magic. I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

*I regret nothing about that photo.

Emily Nixon

Rags to Reasonable Community Outreach Coordinator

Emily Nixon is an actor/writer/director/filmmaking Swiss Army Knife. She is also a big money nerd and Community Outreach Coordinator for Rags to Reasonable.

She came to this work after becoming completely fed up with living paycheque-to-paycheque and being too afraid to look in her chequing account. She is passionate about empowering other artists and variable income earners to keep doing what they love and feel confident about their finances.

Email Emily at emily@ragstoreasonable.com

Making a Plan: With a Sketch and a Whole Lot of Stretch

Making a Plan: With a Sketch and a Whole Lot of Stretch

I didn’t jump out of bed on January 1st 2019 excited to face a new year. It was mid afternoon when I decided I was putting off the new year for a few more days.

“My new year starts on the 3rd” I told my wife.

… it started on the 4th, and the stress hit the next day.

I was sitting at my computer trying to wade through a pile of emails and tasks that I had secretly promised myself I would finish over the holidays with ‘all my free time’. After an hour I reached that place where my brain just said … nope… and any idea of work stopped.

I needed to step back and get organized. I needed a plan.

First of all, let’s talk about what a plan is (and what it isn’t)

I am not a born planner. For many years I believed that any kind of plan would stop me from being spontaneous and living in the moment.

What’s made me a convert is that I learnt that a plan is not a strict schedule that I must adhere to, but an exercise in which I use my imagination to sketch a version of the future which helps me answer one question: what should I do next?

This is true whether you’re making a plan for the day, the week, or for 2019. The point isn’t to make all your decisions for the next 12 months, but to collect all the stuff you know for sure, you think might happen, and that you really want to happen in front of you so you can figure out your first step.

The exercise of planning is one of stretching the scope of your attention

After waking up with a tension headache I decided to do a gentle stretch session. Shit. It was intense. I was so tight, that every bendy direction given to me by the woman on the youtube was complete mockery.

“Just sit upright and walk your fingertips to your feet.”

… and I attempted to sit upright while my muscles trembled with the intensity of the stretch.

If you’re not a planner, trying to imagine the entire year or even the next month might feel a bit like that.

That’s cool. Planning is an exercise and slowly over time you’ll find that you’re able to stretch your attention further into the future.

Pick a time frame that doesn’t fill you with panic. Imagine a year, a month, a week, the next two days and wait until your brain doesn’t totally freak out.

That’s your time frame.

Sketching out your plan

There’s no wrong way to plan. Well… there probably are wrong ways to plan, but there are lots of ways to get the job done.

Just remember that the point is to help clear up whatever question you have in the moment.
One of the big questions that lots of folks (myself included) have is what can I afford? Can I afford to spend three hours a week working out? Can I afford to take two weeks off in May? Can I afford to go out for lunch today (both in time and money)? Can I afford to get a new place this year?

These questions are especially difficult for variable income earners who have a limited idea of how much time and money they’ll have over the next year.

So here’s how to start laying it down.

The important questions to look at are:

  1. What do I know for sure?
  2. What can I reasonably guess?
  3. What do I really want to happen?

We’re going to take a look at a few examples of how to play around with this. Remember… it’s play, it’s imagination, it’s not going to happen this way… but it could… and it’ll help us with the actual problem that we’re facing in the moment.

Plan #1: Figuring out the week

Question: Do I have the time for ________________?

This was a big problem for me at the beginning of last year. I kept over-committing to stuff and then things would get backed up and I would be stressed. I needed a plan, but I had never really blocked my time out in a systematic way before.

I used Google Calendars because I love being able to colour code blocks of time and it’s really easy to move things around. I can set it one way on Monday, and then shift things as the week goes along. The thing that really helps is that even though I’m moving things around, I’m really connected to the fact that if I move something… it has to bump something else.

To make my week plan I follow the same routine.

First, I block what I know for sure: appointments made, time I want to make sure to take off (evenings or mornings… booking rest time first is another skill I’ve learned this year), you can even put in sleep and meal time to make sure you’re accounting for that.

Next, put in the stuff you’re pretty sure will happen. It might not be confirmed, but you want to make sure to hold time for it. This is a combination of stuff that you want to have happen and stuff that you know happens every week. You need to shop, do laundry, and maybe shower… when is that going to happen?

And lastly, what do you have left for the stuff you want to do. This might be work projects or social stuff.

The thing I love about laying it all out on a dashboard is that I see all the things that are bouncing around in my head, and I can figure out really quickly whether I’ve overcommitted or if what I have planned is realistic.

A note: this might seem really overwhelming to some of you. You don’t have to do this every week. Remember…. a plan is a response to a question or tension in your life. Use it when you need to use it, but the more thorough your process, the more it will help.

Plan #2 Figuring out the next few months

Question: Can I afford __________________?

The same kind of planning can be applied to your finances. Yes, it’s hard to do when you’re a variable income earner and especially for those of you who have multiple income streams, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t patch together some kind of plan.

The list of questions is the same, and you can use this handy dandy tool to play around with them. It’s a variable income spreadsheet that helps you look at the next few months of your life (up to a year) in order to figure out if you’re spending too much or earning enough.

You can snag your own copy to play around with here, and the video below will let you know how it works. 

 

Plan #3 Figuring the year

Question: Can I take a two week vacation in ____________?

I love this exercise (which I stole from a mentor of mine) especially for the self-employed. It involves looking at the whole year and blocking out your vacation FIRST. And I’m not talking about the kind of vacation where you bring your laptop to a new city and then never leave the hotel room because you’re working the whole time. I’m talking about real vacation.

Here’s mine so far. I’m still working on it, but since I’m doing a lot of travelling this year it was really valuable to plan out days to adjust to the jet lag and block off real planned vacation.

Once I had this information I could look at the days I had left and math out the amount that I needed to earn per month in those days. Once I found a balance that seemed realistic I could feel better about starting to make plans for these vacation weeks.

Now all I have to learn is how to actually relax while on vacation. Sigh.

Plan #4 Figuring out the next 5 years

Question: Should I be saving? What for?

Okay. This one for you planning pros who want to stretch yourselves a little bit. It’s a technique that is stolen from the book Designing your Life (which is awesome and totally worth a read).

You can use it to map out your month or your year, but it’s really effective when you’re looking at a larger block of time.

They encourage you to draw out the next five years. What do you know? What do you want? What milestones do you expect to achieve?

But don’t just do one version… do THREE. One for the life you’re living right now, one for a version of your life that you would turn to if you couldn’t do what you’re doing right now, and one for a life that you would love to try if you knew for sure that no one would laugh at you.

Here’s one of their examples.

I went through this exercise late in 2018 and found it a difficult and rewarding thing to do, especially the second two versions. I found myself drawing a future where I was a 100% stay at home dad and one in which I was a cartoonist.

Both of those potential futures have become a part of my 2019 planning… which is pretty cool.

Don’t get lost in the weeds. No one knows what’s going to happen.

If successful planning was perfectly predicting the future there wouldn’t be a successful plan anywhere in the universe.

Planning is a game, an exercise of the imagination and a tool to help you figure out what to do next.

This year don’t get too bogged down in the product. Get your hands dirty in the process. Draw a picture, colour out some time blocks, and spend the imaginary cash of your future self.

And then make your next step a little more confidently.

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

Starting Some Financial Work? Be Gentle With Your Expectations

Starting Some Financial Work? Be Gentle With Your Expectations

If there was one thing I would wish for every person trying to get from … well…. from rags to reasonable…. it would be this….

Be gentle with your expectations.

There is nothing in this work that happens quickly. Despite all the ‘only 5 minute’ talk that is posted all over the internet (I’m pretty sure there’s even some of it on this site)…. that’s not how it works.

You will find truths about your finances (and maybe yourself) that you won’t love.

Maybe there’s more debt than you think….

Maybe you spend more every month than you ‘think you should’….

Maybe you haven’t filed your taxes in 7 years….

Maybe things feel really bad.

Learning those things is one of the first steps… but it’s far from being the last step. Knowing what’s going on is key, but nothing is going to change quickly.

 

Getting control of your money isn’t a ‘one time job’

It’s so tempting to believe that you just need to ‘figure out your finances’ and then you’ll never have to think about this stuff again.

That’s what I wanted to believe.

But how could it be?

Financial work is based on the fundamental question of ‘what do I want’? That is not a question that is answered only once in a lifetime. It is a question that is repeatedly asked and answered. It is struggled with and experimented with.

It’s a super hard question.

This work is a craft, and like any other craft it takes years to gain some kind of competency… let alone mastery.

And here’s why that’s a good thing…

 

You don’t have to get it right the first time (and you probably won’t)

If there’s some grand cosmic one-time money solution for all of us, that’s a hella stressful thing. It means that anything that doesn’t solve everything is a failure.

But when we look at it as a craft we can see failure as an essential part of the process. Of course you’re going to be bad at it… you’re just learning!

That way we can apply our better angels of curiosity and non-judgemental self-awareness to actually figuring some shit out instead of giving up after the first time your budget numbers don’t add up.

 

Take the pressure off and start the process…

It’s not going to happen quickly.

You’re probably not going pick the right strategy the first time.

Your first budget will be a disaster.

And now that you know that, you can stop worrying about it. You can stop worrying about fixing everything in a week (or a month).

You can give yourself a freaking break and just start chipping away at it. One piece at a time. One lesson at a time.

And watch things start to get better.

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

‘Clipping Coupons’ Takes Time (Lots of Low Income Earners Don’t Have It)

‘Clipping Coupons’ Takes Time (Lots of Low Income Earners Don’t Have It)

There’s a real tone of distaste and disrespect that people who consider themselves financially literate use to describe people who are struggling, especially with their cashflow.

Even in it’s best and most well meaning form – the ‘tough love’ approach – I really don’t like it.

Now, part of that is about me and my problems with conflict, but part of it is the way we pretend to know everything about some else’s life.

It’s funny how you can know something somewhere in your mind, but until you come face to face with it… you don’t really internalize it.

That’s been the case since I started to work with people who struggle with cashflow, especially those that fall into lower income brackets.

The biggest thing that I’ve learned is that my clients work so hard. They work multiple jobs and insane hours. They work and they work and they work.

And most of them don’t have time to clip coupons….

What happens when you’re short of time, money, and energy….

Cashflow problems are painfully simple when you cut down to the bone.

You’ve got to spend less or earn more.

But that simplicity really doesn’t do much to represent how freaking complicated that is… especially for people who have next to no time and energy to problem solve those things.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m super busy… it’s hard to find time to grocery shop, cook, and ‘bring a lunch’.

Clipping coupons, finding deals and ‘buying in bulk’ also go onto the list of things that are great ideas, but hard to apply when your short on major resources.

And if you try to make more time, or find moments to rest… that means you’re making LESS money. Not great for the cashflow formula.

I think wider scope is needed when we think about solving these problems

The cashflow formula is too simplistic, especially for people living in on a lower income.

Yes, it’s cold reality is one that needs to be recognized, but when trying to come up with solutions we all need to think outside the box.

It’s not just money that needs consideration. It’s time, and it’s energy.

Because every shift of a budget item creates a greater demand on one of the other two, and if you you have any hope of making a monthly financial plan that works… it needs to be realistic.

It will be harder to figure out, but I don’t think that’s a surprise to anyone who’s actually living this reality.

They know it’s hard, but the vibe they get from the ‘financially healthy’ makes them second guess that.

Don’t.

It feels hard because it is hard.

The balance is more than just ‘spending less’ or ‘learning to be frugal’, and it’s going to take time and a whole bunch of energy that you don’t really have to change things.

It’s not impossible.

But let’s stop pretending there’s a simple solution.

Want to start getting control of your money? How can I help?

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

More Money is like More Talent, it Helps, but it Doesn’t Define Who Succeeds

More Money is like More Talent, it Helps, but it Doesn’t Define Who Succeeds

Anybody that’s been in the creative world for a few years learns quickly that talent isn’t enough.

Sure, it’s nice.

But as you get older, you see more and more talented people get passed by people who have a host of other skills. Skills that might not have been as sexy as talent, but are helping them do some pretty cool things.

It seems like in the arts, talent should reign supreme, but we all know that the people who work all the time aren’t always the most talented.

They’re the people who have managed to take all the skills they have and leverage the crap out of them.

And we can learn a ton from those people.

 

‘More’ sounds great, but doesn’t solve anything

“If only I could sing high notes like *fill in the name of tenor A* I would be famous.”

I spent years believing stuff like that.

I wanted more ability, more talent, more skills, and I couldn’t seem to develop the way I wanted to.

What I wasn’t doing was looking at what I could do, and really figuring out the best way to leverage that into getting more work.

I thought there was no way I would be marketable without being ‘more’.

And I’ve fallen into the same trap as a financial planner. There’s so much to learn in this new field that it can be easy to say:

“When I know as much about insurance as *fill in the name of planner B* then I’ll be able to easily find clients.”

Surely more technical skill will solve all my problems.

Except that’s all bullshit, because getting ‘more’ doesn’t help me manage what I have that’s better. In fact, it can make the problem worse.

 

Everyone wants more money

There’s a general understanding that if we had more money things would be better.

That’s what I assumed would solve my financial issues coming out of school.

But it didn’t. When I started to make a steady paycheque, doubling what I had earned previously, my life didn’t change all that much. I ate better and I had more sweaters.
Having more money didn’t make me better at using my money. How could it? It’s a completely different thing.

That’s why this focus we have on ‘more’ is often misguided. It seems like the right thing to want, but the truth is that most of us aren’t ready to use more of anything.

 

I think it’s time to separate the idea of ‘having a lot of money’ with ‘succeeding with your money’

Having a ton of money or talent can make things easier… you just have more to work with, more of a cushion when things go wrong, but it’s not the same thing as success.

The task we’ve all been given is to take our resources, whether talent or money, and turn them into a life.

That’s the real skill.

And that’s the skill that you can develop and master no matter how much raw material you’ve been gifted.

And that’s the skill that can lead to success however you choose to define it.

(If you’re curious about how to start building those kind of skills, check out the HOW TO GET STARTED section of the site or sign up for an OFFICE HOURS session and we can talk it out.)

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

A Budget is a Great Step One, But a Terrible Starting Place

A Budget is a Great Step One, But a Terrible Starting Place

I was doing a finance workshop for a group of musicians last week, and half way into a rant about cashflow basics and the importance of financial technique… I realized that I was doing this all wrong.

It’s still frustrating to me when I think about it.

The thought process was sound. I wanted to start at ‘step one’. I didn’t want to leave anyone behind. I wanted to give them the tools they needed to get started.

The things is, that’s not how people usually start things, and since we were all musicians… that should have been abundantly clear.

 

No one wants to do scales

Anyone who was forced to do piano lessons as a child will remember the scales.

I can hear them in my head.

Painfully pecked out notes. Up and down.

I’m sure someone in the world finds them thrilling, but to most of us… they suck.

No one fell in love with music because they heard a scale and couldn’t wait to get home and start playing.

And yet they’re a key part of music. They help in a hundred different ways.

They’re a great step one…. but they’re a terrible starting place.

 

Where people actually start

I fell in love with music watching a production of Oliver. I sang those songs for years while mowing the lawn around the farm.

I fell in love with songs and stories. I fell in love with the performances of the greats.

I wanted to do what they did, and I didn’t particularly want to wait.

This is the want that has driven thousands of children to terrible recordings of some of the world’s best music. Music that they’re not nearly ready for, or equipped to sing.

But if someone would have sat me down on that first day and told me to do scales for three years before I could sing a song, I probably would have quit.

 

Technique matters, but it rarely comes first

The need for the basics usually comes after.

In music it came when I realized that I couldn’t do the things I wanted to do. When I realized that I wasn’t nearly as good as the people I idolized.

And if I wanted to get better, I needed to do the work.

But now the work was connected to something I really wanted. It wasn’t ‘work in a vaccum’… it was a tool to get me where I knew I wanted to be.

And that’s the mistake that I was making last week.

 

Non linear financial methodology

I need to learn to start with the questions and issues that are really present for people.

I need to help people get excited about the end goal, which often has nothing to do with money.

A life full of travel, and family, and success.

I need to tell stories of people who are using whatever money they have to tremendous effect.

I need to help artists remember that money doesn’t have to be a barrier… it can be a tool that helps you build a spectacular life.

And then we can talk about a budget.

But from now on… it’s not going to be where I start.

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

EMAIL ME