All posts by summerspillane

Stop Making Plans and Start Establishing your Priorities.

When I started my job last summer, I became increasingly focused on planning out my future. When you are investing upwards of 10-12 hours a day at the office, you want to know that your time and energy are taking you where you want to go. Not only is “planner” built into my position title, but I have always been a planner in general. I like to know where I’m going, what I’m doing and who will be there.

Making plans has proved beneficial for me in the past, especially while at college, when classes ran on the same schedule every week and I was regularly in touch with the same groups of people. I knew what to expect from my days, so having a plan helped me fill my extra time in the best way possible. However, as I settle into my life outside of academia, I have started to see that the same rules don’t apply. Having plans has become more of a hinderance to my productivity than a help.

When plans are too detailed and timely, it can be very stressful trying to keep up with them. Your mood changes, people change their minds and the weather is never as nice as we expect it will be. If you have a set plan for your day, last minute changes to your agenda can leave you feeling very down, stressed and under-accomplished. Which in turn can reduce your productivity, and lead to increased planning in the future. I know first hand, it’s a bad cycle.

What I have started to do instead, is become increasingly grounded in my priorities. As someone who hadn’t put serious thought into my priorities before, it was difficult to determine what they actually were. I asked myself these four questions to get started.

  • What do you spend the most time doing already and why?
  • What do you do the most in your off time and why?
  • What is the majority of your Instagram/Facebook/Youtube feed filled with and why?
  • If you were on your deathbed, what would you want the most and why?

While my mind was all over the place at first, after a few weeks of journaling and observing my behaviors and thoughts, I came up with my answers. These were undoubtedly my priorities, whether I had realized it before or not. The most important part of my answers was the ‘why?’ Becoming very clear about your priorities and having concrete reasons as to why they are what they are, is crucial for living an honest and productive life. Yes, it may be scary to admit that you truly can’t plan out your day, year or life, but if you commit to operating based on your priorities, you can never really lose.

As you learn to say no to opportunities that don’t align with your priorities, you will naturally gravitate towards those that do. You will be able to make decisions more confidently and will be less thrown off when things come up unexpectedly. We can’t predict what will happen in life, but we can decide how to react when things do happen. If we are always mindful of our priorities, then we can best decide how to react to situations in order to live out our goals.

Minimalism: A lifestyle for us all

Do you remember the apartment I mentioned in my last article? The one I moved in to, to pay $200 dollars less a month for rent? Well since signing in September, my monthly payment isn’t the only thing that has decreased significantly.

Back in August, at the peak of our desperation to find an apartment, my roommate urgently called me from an open house showing. I could hear the smile in her voice on the other end of the phone. “I think this is our place. It’s small, don’t get me wrong. The rooms are tiny. But the location is perfect and rent is unbeatable!” Before I had a chance to respond, my phone started buzzing in my ear as pictures of the place popped up on my screen. I put her on speaker and zoomed in on the images. The place looked livable from what I was seeing, but pictures had previously deceived us. I decided to leave work early and head over to catch the tail end of the showing.

She wasn’t lying, the apartment was very small. Standing with the realtor in the kitchen, the most spacious room in the entire place, I brought up the questions he didn’t want to answer. “So what exactly are the dimensions of these rooms? I need to make sure my bed will fit.” He lead the way to the smallest bedroom without a closet, folded open the crooked, shutter style doors and let me walk in. “The room you are in now is 7×7 feet.” I pulled out my phone and Googled the dimensions of a queen size bed. “Okay, it looks like it will just barely fit. Queen beds measure about 5×6.” We both giggle sighed and shrugged our shoulders.

When I made the decision to live in this apartment, I knew I was going to have to get rid of over half of my belongings. I knew I did not have room for all of the clothes, furniture, decorations and other STUFF I had been living with for years. What I didn’t understand at the time was that the terms of this commitment would change my life for the better. Now even though I only have a bed in my room, a wardrobe consisting of only the clothes I feel good in and a fridge with only the food I will eat within three days, I am more satisfied than before.

Over the holiday break, I watched the documentary Minimalism on Netflix. It was amazing hearing neuroscientists and other striving minimalists describe what I have been experiencing for months. One minimalist explained, “every possession serves a purpose that brings me joy…when I look around I have to justify to myself, does this add value to my life, and if it doesn’t I have to be willing to let go.” Letting go of things that do not have utility can be difficult, especially if we have an emotional attachment for whatever reason. Speaking from experience however, the letting go is the hardest part. Living life with less has not only helped me save money, but has allowed me to shift my focus toward my relationships and my personal goals.

So this year I challenge you to first watch the documentary, and then begin taking small steps to become more of a minimalist. No, you do not need to move into a smaller space to start living this lifestyle. I do however, encourage you to choose quality over quantity. Let go of anything in your life that isn’t serving you right now and begin valuing and caring for those things that do. Needing less will not only make you richer in the bank, but richer at heart.

Mind Over Money

When I graduated in the spring of 2015, I thought I had it all figured out. I had some money saved, a job lined up and an apartment to move in to. College had been a blast, but I felt mature and ready begin my life as a real adult. I was going to succeed and it was going to be a breeze.  

Now, a year and a half later, I sit here writing my first post for my brother’s finance blog. See, I used to think this blog was dumb. I didn’t understand what BeatingBreakEven really meant and always thought my brother was wasting his time talking about money so much. But after switching jobs in June for a salary raise and signing a new lease, for rent that was $200 dollars less a month, I realize I am exactly where he was. I am broke, have no concrete plans for my future and am extremely unsure of myself.

In the past few months I have been thinking a lot about my life and who I want to be. I’ve thought about what to do next in my career, thought about what city I want to move to and thought about how to save more money. I’ve also spent a lot of time contemplating my inner motives, my deepest fears and my varying levels of self esteem. In this process of psychological discovery, I have begun to understand just how powerful our minds really are. They can be our biggest tool for success and the biggest obstacle.

I have started to experience first hand how becoming more aware of my thoughts and psychology can really help me achieve my goals. I mean don’t they say that you can achieve anything you put your mind to? Mastering your mind will not only make you a happier person, but will keep you on track to reaching your long term goals. Since many of my goals are financially based at the moment, I went through last month’s credit card statement to recount my recent purchases. Besides food, almost everything I bought was unnecessary. Nails, makeup, new shoes, drinks at the bar, etc. Practically everything on there were things I bought to feel better about myself. For many of us millennials, our credit card statements are a long list of our deepest insecurities resurfacing as impulsive spending habits. It’s actually pretty scary. Working through my insecurities and understanding the motives behind my purchases has started to help me say no to a lot of things I normally would have swiped for without thinking twice.

If we want to change our spending habits, we first have to change our thoughts. Seems simple and intuitive on the surface, but our minds are really unexplored territory for many young adults. We millennials do not spend enough time understanding our needs, wants and desires and instead, act on impulse as a way to band aid our immediate emotional challenges. We are impulsive because we do not take enough time to think and we spend because we don’t want to feel. We really need to learn how to understand our thoughts and be okay with our emotions, so we can make healthy, logical financial decisions.