Last week, J. Money over at Budgets Are Sexy mentioned in a post about becoming a mad scientist with your money that he makes sure he never misses a blog post. At the beginning, he was anal about it because he didn’t want to “accidentally quit.” He mentioned that as an aside, but I haven’t stopped thinking about it. How many things have I accidentally quit? The answer is: a lot. Then, another J in the blogosphere over at Hey, It’s Just Money, had a realization: “I don’t need to have monthly goals because I actually want to accomplish pretty much the same things every month.” And I thought: “Me too! I’ve had the exact same goals forever! So why do I fail?” Both of these posts snapped me into action. I’ve already declared that my own failure is my own fault, but I didn’t make an action plan for anything but my finances (which are going just fine). Let’s look at what works for me:
The best financial decisions we make are ones that are already made. If the money gets taken out automatically, we don’t miss it. When people are automatically enrolled into the retirement plans at work, they save for retirement at a much higher rate than if they aren’t automatically enrolled. If the momentum is decided already, we’ll stick to it because it takes more effort to change it than to just roll with it. In finances, this is easy. Unfortunately, no one can learn Cambodian for me or exercise while I’m sleeping (nuts!). The best I can do is make a schedule. Also, I hate the phrase “a little bit every day is better than a lot on one day.” It’s true for exercise. It’s especially true for learning a language. But here’s the thing: I’m an “a lot one day” kind of person. (Which is why the PFD is great for me because I love maxing out a Roth IRA in one big chunk.) But when you tell me I have to do something every day, I’m probably not going to do it on any of the days because that’s too much of a commitment. If there’s ever a day I can’t do it, I’ll accidentally quit and then it will be over, so I might as well not start (downer, right?). I’m terrible at keeping the house clean every day. It’s stressful for me and it doesn’t happen. But come over Friday afternoon, and this house looks good. I do it all at once. And it’s part of my schedule, so it’s automated. On Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays, I’m going to fit exercise into my schedule. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’ll do some Cambodian study. It’s going to be part of the schedule.
I started this blog because accountability works. Some people make it to early retirement based on pure grit. I do not have that grit. All you readers (millions, I’m imagining) out there are the reason we’re going to make it to early retirement. We can’t let you down now that you KNOW that’s what we’re doing. You’ll shame us! I’ll be so embarrassed! You’re also the reason I’m able to stick to the schedule of blog posts (MWF). Because I know if I miss one, you’ll all think I’ve died. When I started scheduling my chores around the house to get them done, it worked because my kids counted on me. On Friday, I clean and vacuum the whole house. If I don’t do that, they can’t do their mopping chore. On Monday, I do all the laundry. If it doesn’t happen, my kids are out of clothes on Tuesday. That can’t happen. Mr. T is a great exercise accountability partner because he’s motivated. He’s a terrible accountability partner because he’s too nice. If I’m stressed out, he doesn’t say “get up Maggie! snap out of it! don’t sabotage yourself!” (Chances are, he makes me brownies. Isn’t he the greatest?)
Since you’re my new accountability partners (thanks, guys), we’re going to have a little code. On Friday posts, I’m going to put a little thing at the bottom of the post that tells you if I succeeded with learning Cambodian and exercising for each day that week where the first letter is the day of the week, the parentheses tell you what the goal for that day was (ex=exercising, Cam=Cambodian), and the yes or no tells you if I did it: M(ex) – Yes. T(Cam) – No. That kind of thing. Of course, now that I’m scheduling it and holding myself publicly accountable, the schedule will always say: M(ex)-Yes, T(Cam)-Yes, W(Ex)-Yes, Th(Cam)-Yes, F(ex)-Yes. Right? Otherwise there will be shaming! (If you figure out how to get someone to exercise for me while I sleep… or teach my Cambodian in my dreams… I’ll pay you money.)
UPDATE: (Nov. 2016) I currently batch these things with classes, so if I attend the class I’m accountable! Works great for people like me. 🙂