Five Important Questions

This year I’m making more of an effort to make my actions meaningful. This comes after a couple of years where I’ve found myself wondering, “Where did the time go?” I find myself getting distracted by the Internet or some other mindless entertainment and whole hours are suddenly gone. It’s not like whatever I was doing was important, or even interesting. It was simply wasted time. Since I want to get more out of every moment, I’ve started asking myself five questions when I catch myself in an activity that might be wasting my time.

As I’ve been doing this, I’ve realized that it can be applied to those who are trying to get their finances in order, as well as anyone trying to reach many other goals like weight loss or starting a business. When you hold your actions up to the five questions, you can really see where your time might be better spent. If I can’t answer yes to at least one of the five questions, I know I’m wasting time. Here are my five questions:

Is this action moving me forward toward my goals? I ask myself if whatever I’m doing is helping me reach my goals. Is it something like exercise, which is helping me get fit, or something like spending time on my book that never seems to get written? If you’re trying to get your finances in order, is your action something that’s helping that such as balancing your books, writing up a budget, or looking at insurance options? Not everything has to involve your goals, but if you’re just wasting time, switch to an action that will help you achieve something.

Is this action improving my life? I try to determine if what I’m doing is improving my life. Is it helping me bond with my family, or improving my living circumstances (reducing clutter, doing home improvement projects)? Is it helping me improve my health, like exercising or preparing a healthy meal? For those looking to improve their finances, actions that will improve your life might include looking for another job or going back to school. Some of the most valuable actions you can do are those that improve your quality of life.

Is this helping someone else? Helping someone else is rewarding and I try to do it often. If whatever I’m doing isn’t benefitting myself, I ask if it’s benefiting others. Am I helping others with their finances, am I helping a neighbor repair a fence, or am I volunteering? If I can’t be doing something for myself, I can easily be doing something for someone else.

Is this fun? We all need fun in our lives and I check to see if what I’m doing is fun. By fun, I mean really fun, not simply distracting. Am I really enjoying whatever fun thing I’m doing, or is it merely passing the time? If it’s really fun I’ll keep doing it, but if it’s just passing time it’s time to find something else to do. Things like playing board games with family, playing sports, reading a good book, walking with the neighbor, or watching a good DVD are fun to me. Things like surfing the Internet, playing online games, or watching TV are sort of fun, but I know there are better things I could be doing. What’s really fun for you will be different, but take the time to learn what is fun for you and what is simply passing time. Stick with the fun and shed the rest.

Is this necessary? There are things we have to do in life that aren’t fun or thrilling but are necessary. Work, cleaning, laundry, home maintenance all fall into this category. If what I’m doing is necessary, I keep doing it even though I may not be loving it. No matter how much you want to do other things, sometimes the necessary parts of life have to take precedence.

If I can’t answer yes to any of the five questions, it’s time to find something else to do. That means I need to get up from the computer and stop mindlessly surfing the Internet, or turn off the TV and go for a walk. If you’re trying to get your finances in order and you find yourself wasting time, try to do an action that helps your finances. Research investments, read a book about money, figure out a budget, or make that phone call to your insurance agent about your deductibles. The five questions give me a concrete way to check the value of my actions and to help me stop wasting time. As a result, I’m making much more progress toward my goals and I go to bed tired every night. But it’s a good tired.

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