“I can’t afford _______________.”
“I don’t have time to __________________.”
You’ve heard the excuses before; they may even have come from your lips. “I can’t afford a vacation.” “I can’t afford the new camera I want.” “I don’t have time to enjoy San Diego’s beauty.” “I don’t have time to work on my novel.” Money and time are the two most common excuses. They get in the way of our potential as humans.
Some excuses get in the way because of what you value more. For instance, you may not have money for a new laptop because spending money on travel is more important to you.
Stop and assess what you want more.
If you don’t have time to meet someone or date, ask yourself if what you have going on in your life currently is more important to you? (And that thing, that excuse, may be more important. The point is to evaluate what’s important to you.) What if the most important thing is for you to produce your short film in time for the San Diego Film Festival? Don’t let excuses get in the way of what you want most.
Let’s say you realize there is something you want for which money and time have always been the obstacles. Ask yourself questions that will help formulate how to make it happen. Your mind is trained to answer any question you give it. It is a “how” machine.
Start by asking: How could I make it happen?
Write the question down on paper and jot down every answer that comes to you. Brainstorm – write down every answer no matter how silly or seemingly difficult. When you run out of answers, ask yourself again. Repeat the ask-and-answer process three times in all.
Continue asking questions to compile possible next steps.
You can also ask yourself:
• What can I do today to make this happen?
• What can I do this week to make this happen?
• What can I do this month to make this happen?
Take inventory of your resources:
• Who do I know that can help me?
• Who do I need to meet?
• Where can I meet the people that can help me?
• Where do I need to go?
• What can I sell to get enough money for this?
• What can I trade?
• What do I need to get rid of to make room for something better?
Let go of or limit negative and positive fillers.
Note that what you need to trade, sell or get rid of may not be a negative part of your life. In order to reclaim more of your time, sure, you can limit or stop spending hours on Facebook, iPad games or TV. But it may also mean giving up involvement in an organization or the weekly brunch with your friends. It requires a mindset of getting rid of the good in order to make room for the better. Yet, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
Look at the hit TV show Mad Men’s Ken Cosgrove, the advertising account guy with literary aspirations. He turned client dinners into client drinks so he’d have time and the wherewithal to write in the evening. While he is a fictional character, he represents someone who doesn’t allow excuses to get in the way of what he wants.
Instead of eliminating a behavior or pastime, set boundaries around it. Go on monthly brunch dates in Pacific Beach instead of weekly ones. Watch one episode of Breaking Bad instead of three in a row. Schedule phone meetings instead of face-to-face ones. Attend one happy hour in the Financial District a week instead of more. Enjoy two lattes a week instead of one every day or switch to brewing your own coffee at home (or drinking what the office provides).
It all adds up.
Speaking of lattes, have you heard about The Latte Factor? It’s an idea coined by David Bach best known for his financial advice in his Finish Rich series. The Latte Factor is a metaphor for all the little expenses that add up over time. For instance, a $4 latte every day is $120 each month and $1,440 each year. Now imagine if you invested and saw a good return on that money. You get the idea. Now apply The Latte Factor to other areas of your spending such as cable TV, bottled water, or manicures. What are you spending on business trips that you haven’t been expensing?
The same concept of little amounts adding up to equal a larger amount works for your time too. Twenty minutes a day adds up to more than 121 hours (or more than 5 days – a full work week!) each year. It doesn’t have to be an every day thing though. If you devoted two hours every other week, that would come out to 48 hours (or 2 full days) during the year. Imagine what you could accomplish in a year, in three years or in a decade. You’ve got to get started.
Focus and move into action.
Whether you decide to take a baby step or a pole vaulter’s leap toward what you want, remember that you get what you focus on. If you focus on all the excuses, you’ll only find more excuses. Focus on solutions rather than the problems.
Ask yourself, “How could I make this happen?” Then, move into action and make it happen.