Taking Inventory and Tracking Money

Time and money both have actual and perceived values, but this concept is more obvious with time than it is with money, so let’s address it now.

We know that we all have the same 24 hours to work with, yet some days we say things like, “time just flew by,” or, “each minute was excruciatingly long.” We make a clear distinction between real time and relative time.

We may have lots of minutes and hours available to us, but if our perception is that our days are “just too short,” the amount of time we have won’t matter–it will never be enough. This goes back to our basic biblical principle, “as a man thinketh, so is he.”

Tracking down how much time we actually spend on specific activities will show us how much time we realistically have or don’t have. This will prove very helpful as we seek to handle this commodity God’s way.

Your assignment is as follows: track how you spend every minute of every day for 30 days.

Once we see where the minutes and the hours go, our brains will begin to figure out how to reorganize our time so that we can make the most of it (Ephesians 5:16).

You will discover the same almost-magical principle at work that we observed with money and food: the simple act of documenting what we do with every minute of the day makes us accountable at a new level.

We start to uncover patterns: maybe you thought you played solitaire for only ten minutes, but you are now noticing that it’s closer to one hour a day; or maybe you never realized how much time you spend perusing websites, or Facebook, or reading magazines, or running errands.

There are different ways you can track your time: you can download a phone app, or buy an inexpensive daily planner to keep an accurate record of your everyday activities, but I recommend using the very simple time log created by Laura Vanderkam, 168 hours Time Management Worksheet.  Print it out and keep it with you. If you spend 20 minutes on Facebook, log it. If you read online for 30 minutes, log it. If you went for a walk, log it. If you talked to your neighbor, log it. Do this for one month. Just 30 days.

Measuring how you spend your time is going to grant you the same amazing benefits as tracking your money does:

  • You will find time where there wasn’t any before just by the very act of recording your activities.
  • The discipline of tracking will cause you to focus on your time management, and what you focus on grows. By giving your brain specific data about your daily activities, you will give it the raw materials necessary to find new solutions to your time issues.

When training for my marathon, I could not figure out where to find the time to train almost every day. Yet because it became my focus, my brain rearranged a few things and found spots in my day to make it happen.

 

We are a group of women who are learning to OWN OUR LIVES with Joy! Right now, we are working on handling our finances and time in a godly way. You are very welcome to join us if you wish!

 

 

Taking Inventory and Tracking Money

Your first task is two-fold:

  1. figure out where you are financially,
  2. track all of your expenses.

Where you are right now:

When we tally things up, an accurate picture of the present moment appears. For many of you, this will be a big stretch, but oh! So-worth-it.

You will find the financial inventory online. Filling it out will cause you to see exactly where you stand. Once you see, you will be able to start tweaking and improving different aspects of your financial life.

Then, you will have the privilege of coming back every month and updating it.

As I worked towards my own financial independence, this activity was truly revelatory: I saw where we were, and I imagined where we could go. The disciplined ritual of updating my financial inventory kept me motivated month after month as I marked our progress, measuring our forward movement, one penny at a time.

To this day, I faithfully fill out this form every single month and monitor our progress, penny by penny. There will never be a time when I don’t need to be aware of the state of my flock–this is God’s way, and it is good.

 

Track all your expenses

We cannot determine how much we need until we know (1) how much we have and (2) how much we spend. Now that you measured how much you have, it is time to get down to the nitty-gritty and figure out how much you spend, and where every penny goes.

You can set a note on your smart phone or find an app to track expenses, but I found that the simplest way to do this is to get a checkbook register from a bank–and while you are at it, get one for your mate and your teen-age kids.

This task will take you about 3 to 5 minutes each night, or you can do it as you go through your day, keeping your register with you. Start doing it on your own, and after a while, invite your family to join you.

What should you record? Everything! From the electric bill that you paid today to the quarter you spent on parking. From the boots you bought with your credit card to the coffee you purchased at lunch. Every single penny gets recorded. Rented a movie for tonight? Record it. Gave five bucks to a homeless guy? Write it down. Bought groceries? Record it. Bought a new app on your phone? Write it down. You get the picture. Nothing gets spent without writing it down; no exception. Record all monies that comes in as well. Every penny. Do this for 30 days. Just 30 days.

In the coming posts, we will work with the actual numbers you recorded in your register, but long before we begin to do so, you will discover a few immediate benefits to this tracking:

  • The fact of recording our expenditures causes us to spend less. It’s like recording every bite we eat–it faces us with reality: do we really put stuff in our mouths that often? We are forced to think a bit as to whether we really want to fess up to eating the extra doughnut… is it really worth it? You will find the very same thinking process with spending. It’s an accountability thing, even if for your eyes only.
  • This discipline forces us to focus on our money, and what we focus on grows.

When my children were little, two of them got poison ivy at the same time.

One of them decided to ignore the poison ivy because he was just too busy enjoying his summer to give it his attention. He had places to go, people to see, a life to live. The poison ivy ran its course on his skin, and within 10 days or so his body got rid of it.

My daughter, however, chose to focus on the ivy: how ugly the rash was on her skin, the itchiness, the way there were bubbles on her arms. She cried over it, touched it, looked at it, scratched it, babied it, talked about it… she focused on it with every waking moment. It became her very life.

We eventually had to take her to the ER because a secondary infection developed on her skin–all because she would not leave the little rash alone.

This is a negative example, yet it illustrates this powerful life principle: what we focus on grows. Focus calls for, and gets, energy.   

  • The data gathered as we track our spending gives our brain something to work with. And our brain is amazing: once we feed it the numbers–and the issues that the numbers reveal–it begins to work at finding a way to make it all work for us.

As we worked towards our own financial independence, the closer we got to the one million dollar mark, the harder our brains worked to make it happen. We discovered ways to save and invest that we had never considered before!

I am not sure exactly how this phenomenon works, and I certainly don’t claim to know the science behind it. I just know that I have observed it over and over again.

 

We are a group of women who are learning to OWN OUR LIVES with Joy! Right now, we are working on handling our finances and time in a godly way. You are very welcome to join us if you wish!

Recording Data as a Motivational Tool

When I was 47, I decided to try running a marathon. I have never been a runner. I actually had to look up  how many miles were in a marathon. 

I started by running two minutes without taking a break, then three, then four–talk about every minute counting! I stuck a piece of paper on our refrigerator to keep track of my progress. Day by day, minute by minute, the numbers increased. It took me six weeks to be able to run 30 minutes straight.

Then I began to train seriously.

I posted a new chart on the refrigerator, this time recording miles completed and days on and off. I kept adding distance to the training and I kept updating my chart on the refrigerator. The numbers motivated me. My courage increased with the miles.

On the day I ran 10 miles for the first time, I cried like a baby for hours. I couldn’t believe I had done it: 10 miles! That’s what athletes do, not almost-middle-aged- kind-of- overweightish-women like me! Crossing the 10-mile mark gave me new confidence. I started to believe that I could actually do 26.2.

Six months later, I stepped out onto my one and only marathon. 26.2 miles and four hours and forty-four minutes later, I stumbled across the finish line, gasping for breath, but weeping with exhilaration.

Recording our data gives us information that motivates us to take action–we notice it in team sports, weight training, business, even report cards.

When your football team is down 7 points, you know you need to drive back up the field and score a tying goal. A B- is simply feedback on your work that shows you what is missing to get to the next level. When the sales double in a store because of a new item on display, the store owner can deduce that he is doing something right. When I realized I could run 10 miles, I dared to go for 11. Then I went for 12. Then 13. And eventually 26.2.

When we don’t measure and record information, we don’t know. A bank that does not keep records will not stay in business long. The athlete who doesn’t measure his progress doesn’t know where he stands.

An interesting benefit of tracking is that it improves performance–this has everything to do with how our minds work: we get feedback on our actions, which brings forth clearer understanding, and this understanding moves us to take action accordingly.

This principle works for every aspect of life, including our time and money. If we don’t keep track, we don’t know what we have and where “it” goes. And without that basic information, we cannot possibly handle our assets wisely.

The Bible puts it this way, “Know well the condition of your flock, and pay attention to your herds.” (Proverbs 27:23). In today’s language, we could say, “Know well the condition of your finances, and pay attention to your schedule.”

So, where do we start?

n the next couple of posts, I will be giving you two very practical ways to help you know where you stand. You may think that working through this chapter is beneath you–please resist the temptation to yield to that thought. This process is exactly how I have helped many people get out of debt into a very comfortable financial position; this is the very system that liberated enough time enough to write this book, hold a job, play with my grand-babies and enjoy life.

Are you ready?

We are a group of women who are learning to OWN OUR LIVES with Joy! Right now, we are working on handling our finances and time in a godly way. You are very welcome to join us if you wish!

 

 

 

The Coaching Relationship

The coaching relationship is interesting.  My client and I aren’t really friends, but we certainly aren’t strangers. Actually,  I honestly can’t help but really care for my client. At times, we wind up having deep ties because of the shared struggles and success.

The coaching process typically begins with an interview to assess my client’s current opportunities and challenges,  identify priorities and establish specific desired outcomes. We do this interview in-person, on the phone or in written form such as email. Afterwards, I often challenge her thinking about the situation and together, we begin to  formulate a plan of action that she can live with and do well. The next coaching sessions will be scheduled weekly, monthly, quarterly, or even yearly–depending on my client’s goals, and how much interaction is required to get there. I keep her accountable between sessions and we both determine the how of the accountability.

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I love that she is really the one who sets the pace. I ask hard questions, I listen, I ask more questions and we take steps. One tiny one at a time. But she always determines how far and how fast  to go. In the process, thought patterns are changed, goals are achieved, and confidence grows.

People ofthen concentrate on what is wrong when trying to establish new patterns. Life coaching is different–the coaching relationship is based on what works. We don’t react, we act. I love that!

As a coach, I:
○ Listen to what is really important to my client by understanding her values and beliefs
○ Honestly look at my clients’ current reality without judgment or criticism
○ Help her client to set specific, realistic and achievable goals
○ Guide her through a step-by-step strategy to reach his goals
○ Facilitate a plan of action when obstacles get in the way
○ Provide accountability
○ Enable my client to make changes
○ Support and encourage her through the changes and transformation

We are both intentional about this process of challenging existing thoughts, beliefs and behaviors and develop new ones which will serve his goal.  Insighful questions demand a deeper look and a encourage a clearer focus on what is really wanted. Together, we create an awareness of what is and want is to come.

Curious? Drop me a line! barb@barbaraisaac.com

We are a group of women who are helping each other own our lives with jou and play full out. You are welcome to join us here! 

What are You going to do about that Problem? Part 2

In the last two blog posts, we addressed the definition of a problem, and how a problem is a problem because of our thoughts concerning it.

We realized that at times, we need to reframe the issue and follow through with actions, as well as recognize when we seek to control the uncontrollable.

Today, we will talk about the last three steps in dealing with any problem, no matter how small or humongous it may seem. Let’s use again the example of my mother-in-law dying. We now understand that this is a fact, not a problem. Here comes key #4:

  1. Choose how to think about an issue

thThe choices of thoughts concerning my mother-in-law’s imminent death are many. I can choose to think and act as a victim of life and feel desperately sorry for myself. I can choose to think that this is a very precious season in my life that I need to make time for. I can choose to think that I need to think ahead and plan her funeral. I can choose to block all feelings and seek to deal with the physical decisions that must be made. The choices are endless, but what matters most is the realization that I have a choice in what I think about concerning her death. I may be bombarded by many thoughts, but I don’t have to own them all—I choose which ones go and which ones remain. This is my decision, regardless of the issue. So, here, for the sake of this blog post, I am choosing “This is a very precious season in my life that I need to make time.” I refuse the thoughts that I am a victim, I refuse to plan what life will be like after she is gone, I refuse to block all feelings.

Choosing how to think about an issue puts you in the driver’s seat once again. And you can’t really solve any problem at all unless you are in charge of your own thought-life. The situation does not own you any longer. It may still be staring you in the face, but it’s not the boss. You are.

5.Focus on action steps

The next step flows naturally once you have chosen and taken responsibility for your thoughts concerning the issue—it’s time to do something. It is important to do things in sequence though, otherwise the “doing” will turn out to be a fruitless endeavor that takes you here and there.

actionIn our example, since I have decided to think of my mother-in-law’s imminent death as a precious season that I must make time to live purposefully, it’s time to decide how to do that. Will I go visit her every day? Will I choose to let go of other commitments for a while just so I can be with her? What actions will I choose to support my thoughts?

Acting, moving when faced with a problem, once we clearly identify and choose your thoughts concerning it, gives you a sense of empowerment. It will move you forward toward the solution.

  1. Use the problem for personal growth

Some problems have a very small significance, others do not, but regardless of its importance, we can use each problem as a stepping stone for growth. Having to wait for AAA because I locked my keys in my car could be a launching pad to recognizing my need for a better system in organizing my belongings. Sitting with my mother-in-law in her last days can be the catalyst for coming to terms with death…

Whatever you are calling a problem in your life, don’t waste it. Squeeze every ounce of life out of it. And then move on!

 

Read this. Share it, post it on Facebook, send it to a friend. We all need to know how to deal with “problems.”

We would LOVE to have you join our little OWN YOUR LIFE ACADEMY ACCOUNTABILITY GROUP if you have not yet. We are a group of women who are learning to play full out and own our lives with joy.

 

 

 

 

What are You going to do about that Problem? Part 1

In my last post, we discussed the fact that a “problem” is a problem because of our thoughts about a fact or a circumstance–a problem is a problem when our thoughts about something make that “something” problematic. The situation becomes a problem when we make “it” mean something.

Part of the work that a life coach and his client do together is the reframing of the actual issue that has become a problem. We work together until we can find a way to think differently about the problem so that we can come up with creative solutions and follow through with actions.

When we are unwilling to see ourselves as a helpless victim, no matter what the  “problem” we face, there always are thoughts and/or actions that we can be involved with in order to overcome it.

Here is a great place to begin:

  1. Notice your Thoughts about what created the Problem

thoughts

This goes back to last week’s blog post.

You have a situation and your thoughts about it made it a problem. Is your conclusion that this situation is a problem the result of other underlying issues in your life?

 A broken-down car is just a broken-down car. In itself, itiis not a problem. However, if I don’t have the money to fix the broken-down car, or if I don’t have the time to deal with it, it now becomes a problem to me.  If on top of that, the broken-down car is to me the confirmation that I can’t take care of anything and everything I touch becomes a mess, I find myself wrapped up in a serious problem that will have big ramifications. On the other hand, if money and time are not an issue for me, that same broken- down car is merely an inconvenience. 

So the broken-down car can mean nothing or a lot to me. It truly depends on my thoughts about it because of where I am in life and my thoughts about it.  

  1. Examine your Problem, and realize whether you are trying to control the Uncontrollable

Prof LoupeYou have a situation that has become a problem to you. You decide that you want to do something about it, but it is a situation that you can’t really control.

My mother-in-law is dying. That is a fact, not a problem. The problem might be that she now needs a nurse round the clock, or the fact that I don’t want her to die, or my husband’s excruciating grief. Some of this situation/problem is controllable, and some is not. Her imminent death (a fact) is not controllable by me. My husband’s emotions(a fact) are not controllable by me. My response to her imminent death is, and so is the fact that we need to find a caretaker—those things, I can do something about that. This brings us to our third point:

  1. Realize that some Things ARE controllable: Thoughts, Feelings and Actions

total_controlThere are many “things” that you cannot control: the weather, death, life, other people’s thoughts, feelings and actions, etc… Life coaching teaches us how to handle those.  

But you can always control your thoughts, your feelings and your actions. Llife coaching helps with learning that skill as well.

By learning to own your thoughts, actions and feelings, you begin to take steps towards empowerment. The problem does not own you any longer because  you take responsibility for what you can do about it. 

In the next blog post, we are going to talk about the next three steps in handling any problem. Because the truth is, the very same principles work for anything in life once you get them, from doing homework to dealing with bankruptcy.

 

Read this. Share it, post it on Facebook, send it to a friend. We all need to know how to deal with “problems.”

We would LOVE to have you join our little OWN YOUR LIFE ACADEMY ACCOUNTABILITY GROUP if you have not yet. We are a group of women who are learning to play full out and own our lives with joy.

 

Becoming Good at Asking Good Questions

I got a text from my friend last week, telling me she wanted to quit something but felt guilty about it. She was asking me what she should do because she was torn.
After answering a couple of my probing questions, she knew her answer. It made my day!
But seriously, we often would know the answer to our issues, whether serious or not, if we would learn to ask and answer the right kind of question honestly of ourselves.
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So, here’s a place to get you started:
1. Ask WHY.  When you have your answer, ask a deeper why until  the answer makes sense to you.

2. Ask questions to help you figure out if it is an issue with you or not.
3. Ask WHAT IF questions. Change the situation around. It might give you light on what is really going on.
I know there is a lot more to this issue than a simple 1,2,3, but it’s a great place to get started!
Start practicing with yourself. Here is a great question for you to start with: What question have you not been willing to ask?
Hmm….I had to answer that one, and it wasn’t pretty, but it gave me insight on what I needed to work with.
I am here for you!
If you want to be kept accountable, please join us! We are a group of women who are learning to play full out and own our lives with joy. You can join us here online and grow with us!

Help in Dealing with Your Stress

At the very least, stress is the physiological response to real or perceived danger. Lots to think about in this statement:

(1) Stress is a physiological response. That means that it is your body’s response to a stimulus. The body responds to stress (perceived or real danger) by gearing up for fight and protection; it slows down all systems that are not vital at the moment and it releases adrenaline and cortisol so that we can handle whatever is coming our way (the threat).

(2) The response of our bodies to danger is the same whether the danger is real or perceived as real. A child fearing a monster under his bed will have the same physiological response in his body as a woman realizing she is about to be raped. The implication is that we should never pretend that a perceived danger does not affect us.

(3) The physiological response to stress is a wonderful and defense mechanism that we are born with–it enables us to deal with the danger we see or perceive.

Our bodies were designed to handle that kind of threat and then get back to normal. However, in today’s world, we seem to be under levels of low stress 24/7, and this is where these physiological responses to stress become stressful on our bodies–no pun intended. What once was helpful becomes harmful. What once was a quick surge of adrenaline becomes a slow, constant release of stress hormones in our bodies, causing our digestive, immune and reproductive systems to be impaired and a whole lot of other not-so-nice side effects.

So… what can we do about stress and its effects on our bodies? One strategy that does NOT help is to simply suppress the stress–pretend it’s not there. This only raises blood pressure and makes life even more miserable. There are however a few strategies that do help for stress management:

  1.  Control your Environment

Sometimes, that is not possible. Often, though, you can choose to explore new options that will allow you to not have to deal with unnecessary stress. If you get stressed during your drive to work on a busy highway for example, you may want to consider sharing a ride with someone or taking public transportation. There are ways to make your life more peaceful, and as you consider your options, you might discover a lovely solution that will alleviate much of your stress.

2. Use Words and Name the Emotion you feel

So often, we don’t really know what we are feeling. But as you learn to listen to your inner chatter and how your body is reacting to certain situations, you will become more skilled at becoming clear on your current emotion. Maybe it’s not anger as much as frustration or hopelessness… Once you can name your emotion, it is much easier to accept it and you already find yourself less stressed.

3. Reframing

This is by far my favorite way of dealing with a stressful situation. It takes being willing to look at things with a different pair of eyes. How else could you see what is going on? Is there an opportunity there? A blessing in disguise? This will cause you to begin seeing that you have a choice in how you experience what is happening–you will be able to think instead of simply reacting.

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4. Being Present

When we choose to live in the moment, we cannot really worry about the past or the future, regrets or fear for what is coming. Living fully in the now, you are strengthened and calmed.

There are many other ways that we can manage stress, and we should all have a few techniques in our back pocket so we are equipped and skilled at dealing with stress. I will talk about a few of those in the next blog. Stay tuned. For now, practice one of these techniques next time you are faced with a stressful situation, and let us know how it turned out!

Want to join a group of ladies who are accountable to each other? Join our OWN YOUR LIFE ACADEMY ACCOUNTABILITY GROUP on Facebook! We’d love to have you.

How To Get More Confidence

Often, when we don’t feel confident about a certain plan, we simply shy away from it. And that can be good or bad.

Our lack of confidence in a particular plan we have or wish for could have everything to do with the fact that “it doesn’t feel right.” When that is the case, we probably ought to listen.

I strongly believe in intuition–this strong perception of truth, this insight that you can’t exactly explain, this “sixth sense” that tells you that something is okay or not.  The word “instinct” comes from “instinctus,” indicating  an innate inclination toward a specific behavior and not another, and this stems out of our strong desire to survive. We humans are programmed to recognize when we need to step away from danger; this can actually be measured with specific hormones secreted in our blood systems by adrenal glands. Sometimes, we call it a “gut feeling.” And often, it literally is–think about those butterflies in your stomach when you are scared or have to make an important decision. This happens because our gut has millions of nerve cells the react to signals from the brain. 

But at other times, we lack confidence because we don’t know the outcome of something, and it makes us very nervous.

Maybe you are starting a new business, or going for your dream, like writing a book for example. And your confidence level is as low as can be, but it’s not an intuition-thing–you just aren’t convinced you’re cut out to do it, even though you want to. Here, the question really is: do you need to feel confident in order to do something?  Should you not venture forward if you don’t feel confident?

 

cart before the horseI think that’s asking the wrong question. It’s like putting the cart before the horses.  Here, confidence is defined as, “belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance.”

Being assured you are going to succeed is not necessary in order to start. You don’t have to believe you can do it before you do it; how do you know whether you can or not? That’s like asking someone who never ran a marathon if he will be able to go all the way to the end. Of course he wants to, of course he plans to, but he does not know that he will.

What is necessary is commitment.

The guy who wants to run a marathon has to commit. If you are starting a new business, or writing a book, you have to commit. Commit to the process, the hard work, the plan. Commit to see it to the end. That means, be involved, be engaged, make a choice.

Which brings me to my next point: if you want to succeed in your plan or your dream, you have to act. Action follows commitment. The guy who wants to run a marathon has to train and train and train some more. He has to run. And then he has to show up on race day. And run. And not quit.

The confidence follows the commitment and the action. It starts rising inside of you once you move forward, once you see yourself succeeding one step at a time.

In a way, confidence in oneself is earned. We build it as we go along.

The bottom line is this: don’t let the lack of confidence speak anything to you. Besides the fact that it just means it’s time to get moving.

I have a little PDF to help you on your way: http://www.barbaraisaac.com/confidence-secret/

 

Read this. Share it, post it on Facebook, send it to a friend. We all need to know how that a lack of confidence doesn’t mean we shouldn’t move forward.

Want some awesome accountability partners? Come join us in our Own Your Life Academy Accountability Group on Facebook!

Need Me? Investigate the possibility of some Life Coaching…