Pay Yourself First

You may be familiar with Robert Kiyosaki’s words:

“Pay yourself first.”

The author of Rich Dad Poor Dad was talking about money, of course – the concept of funding your future investments before you pay others what you owe them.  His instruction was to make 100% sure that your future is secure and you’re moving forward.

We can apply this to another resource – a resource far more precious than money: time.

Let’s look at my life before I embraced this idea.  It felt “busy,” which we know is synonymous with “out of control,” carries a victim mindset, and sometimes has a heavy dose of self-importance.  I was jumping out of bed in the morning, dashing through my morning routines, schlepping my son off to school, and running to work.  Everyone at the company I worked for was running around in reaction mode – there was always a fire to put out – and I didn’t do the work to avoid that in my own position.  I just joined them.  After a full day of reacting, I’d dash back home, collect my kiddo, throw something together for dinner, get him to bed, then waste a few hours “unwinding” before going to sleep.

This is the same dance the majority of the working class in our country does every day.  We go through the motions and we don’t ask why.  When we realize we’re in the same place as we were a year ago, it doesn’t feel good – but we didn’t do anything to change it.

When I say that I ‘pay myself first,’ I mean that I have reorganized my life.  I have taken ownership of my time.  As the fantastic Jocko Willink says,

Discipline = Freedom

These days I wake between 4 and 5 in the morning.  I’ve found that I do my best, most productive work when I’m fresh (and with a little coffee).  I get up, do something with my body – yoga, kettlebell swings, HIIT, even just rolling around on the floor with a couple tennis balls under my back.  The endorphins wake my brain up.  Then I settle in with a cup of coffee and write a page, or a blog post.  After I pay ‘future Veronica’ with this time spent on changing my life, I do a couple of odds and ends.  Research to help clients, website work, marketing, etc.

After that I get myself ready for my day job, get my munchkin off to school, and head to work.  I’ve spent enough time now taking ownership of my territory that I have time built in to my schedule to handle unforeseen circumstances.  I no longer function by ‘putting out fires’ all day long, because I’ve intentionally created a degree of separation – my buffer of time.  I can respond to my clients, management team, and co-workers when they need additional attention, but I no longer have to react to them and throw off my whole schedule.  I also have spent time figuring out how to make my hours even more productive by consuming information during every mentally-free moment.

The evening is just as important as the morning.  When I get home with my kiddo we each have a few jobs to do – he unpacks his backpack and puts away his school things, bringing me anything sent home from school.  I pack our lunches for the next day.  We both lay our clothes out.  I usually cook a few things on Sundays so we have easy and healthy dinners for the week.

Then it’s bedtime.  After my son goes to bed, I do too.  I know that I typically need 7-8 hours of sleep to feel my best, so I have made this a priority.  If I go to bed late I know I may not have the discipline to get up at 4:30.

My weekends are just as planned.  I fit my social engagements around my prime working hours.  I prioritize exercise and personal projects.

I say no.  A lot.

Discipline doesn’t have to be boring, though!  As T. Harv Eker says, “Rich people choose both.”  Interpret this – he’s talking about money, I’m talking about EVERYTHING.  Get creative.  Having a hard time maintaining friendships and getting a workout in?  Invite friends to work out with you.  Need to do yard work and read a book to move yourself forward mentally?  Get an audiobook and bluetooth headset.

Don’t try to multitask in the wrong way, though – pick one physical activity and one mental activity to combine.  You can’t be effective if you spread yourself too thin.

Just remember: to find your version of success, you must pay yourself first.  Make this non-negotiable.

Figure out your prime hours for productivity.  Decide where you want to take your life.  Find the path.  Hold the line.

Pay yourself first.

Do your belongings pay rent?

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”
-Henry David Thoreau

Material belongings have brought us so much grief that there are F-ing movements built around letting go of them.  Minimalism, the tiny house trend, the KonMari method that some people treat as a religion – they all address a common issue: stuff.  More specifically, unnecessary stuff.

I’m not going to sit here and preach about the “emotional weight” our belongings hold, or how much better you’ll “feel” if you get rid of the things you don’t need.

As psychiatrist Michael Bennett says, F*ck Feelings.

Let’s talk about the things we can measure: money and time.

If you have a chair in your living room that is rarely used, doesn’t quite fit the space, and you have to move it every time you clean your floor, why keep it?  Let’s say that’s 30 seconds per week.  Twenty-one minutes per year.  Add that to the 5 minutes you spend vacuuming the upholstery every couple months.  Fifty-one minutes a year.

It doesn’t seem like a lot of time – but say that chair cost $500.  How many hours did you put in at work to generate that income?  If you make $60,000/year, that’s another 17 hours.

What about the space you’re buying to hold the chair?  Median list price per square foot in the US is $140.  If the chair is 3’x3′, that’s $1,260.  That’s another 44 hours of your time – a week at work – to pay for the space that this chair occupies.

The total? 62 hours, plus an extra hour of upkeep each year.

You can’t ever have those hours back.

Time is a 100% non-renewable resource.  If you’re spending time unintentionally, you are failing.

So what can you do about it?

CUT. IT. OUT.

The best time to stop is yesterday.  The second best time is right now.

Start from where you are, but START.  You have no excuse.  Take a hard look at where you’ve gotten yourself.  If you’re in an unnecessarily large home, think about downsizing.  First, get rid of as many things as you possibly can – then take a realistic assessment of how much space you actually need, and move forward from there.  If you’re up to your ears in physical objects and can’t enjoy the space you have, start getting rid of things.

This is where the touchy-feely bullshit comes in, because we are human, after all.

Many of us have internalized a poor-people mindset – this idea that there isn’t enough in the world, so we should hang on to whatever we get.

Fucking stop it.

This is going to take some courage, but I’m not here to convince you to trust the process.  Instead, DO the process, take the steps, and the trust will come.

ACTION STEPS

I recommend the KonMari method as an initial solution.  Marie Kondo believes a person should only keep possessions that “spark joy.”  I agree – if certain things make you happy, keep them.  Utility is a source of happiness for me.  Aesthetic appeal is in there, too.  Convenience is another.  “Need” isn’t as realistically applicable to our first-world lifestyle.

Kondo’s method also addresses the emotional weight items can hold and provides a way to address that and move forward.

Want more?

Reach out!  I’m more than happy to answer questions and provide more resources.  Because knowledge does not equal action, PLEASE: take the first step!

If you find you need a kick in the pants to get started (or finished), solicit the help of a friend.  Employ social pressure.  Or, contact me for 1-on-1 coaching.

Now.  Go take the first step.  You have no excuse.