Learn to Love the NOPE

by | Nov 17, 2017

There’s a mostly fun deluge of events, meals with friends, and parties just over the horizon, and, depending on what holidays you celebrate, what your family is like, and how much pie is involved, you might be looking forward to the end of the year with some combination of excitement, dread, and hunger.

Like the dedicated planners we are, the Spring team wants you to be prepared and excited for the end of the year and rapidly approaching tax season. Yes, we said excited, and – because we’re awesome like that – we have a tool to help you do it. Nothing’s more exciting than a busy season that you prepared for ahead of time.

What follows is something we learned from our friend and colleague Chris Enns after comparing notes on those hard lessons about being realistic with our time that we learned at the beginning of ongoing Free(ish) Fridays experiment.

It starts, as many almost-too-simple-to-be-true things do, with a pen and a piece of scrap paper. Sandi uses a spreadsheet (because of course she does) that she’ll happily share with you, but paper works really well for a first stab at this.

STEP ONE: Think, think, think

Give yourself five minutes, and write down every single thing that will make your year-end/year-beginning easier and more enjoyable. Include All The Things, from making sure your party clothes don’t have funky stains from last year’s office party to making this year’s RESP contribution to deciding on that one hard-to-think-of gift early enough that you don’t have recurring nightmares about forgetting it.

STEP TWO: Think some more and probably have a moment of genius in the shower

Now – and this is important – put the list away until tomorrow. Set a reminder in your calendar or stick a post-it note in a really annoying place so you don’t forget about it, and let your list percolate overnight, a surefire way to think of even more things to add to it.

STEP THREE: Break it down

This step is the most important one, trust us. Go through the list and break every item down into small enough pieces that they’re relatively equivalent to each other. So, instead of “buy presents for everyone” you could write “set a budget for gifts,” “make a list of everyone to buy presents for,” “organize list by when I’ll see them,” “brainstorm items,” “group items by where to buy them (online, local store, store I have to travel to,” “order online gifts,” “pick up local gifts,” “schedule time to batch shopping I have to travel for”…you get the idea.

STEP FOUR: Start a fight

It’s time to put your tasks against each other in thrilling head-to-head combat. Start by comparing item one to item two: if you could only do one of these two things, which one would it be? Give that item a point and move one space down the list, comparing item one to item three, item one to item four, and so on.

Once item one has fought every other item on the list, start with item two versus item three, then item four, moving down the list until you’ve compared everything to everything else.

STEP FIVE: Count it up

Now, tally the points you gave to each task and order them by which item has the most points down to the least (this is where that spreadsheet with its data sorting function comes in handy). Roughly speaking, the top fifth of your list is your Must Do list; those things that, when compared to everything else you want to accomplish, came out on top. The next fifth is your Will Do list, not much different than your Must Dos, really, but slightly less fraught. The next fifth is your Want to Do list, followed by your If I Can list.

STEP SIX: Learn to love the NOPE

The last fifth of your list is in some ways the most important. You can’t do all of the things, and learning to love the NOPE is the way you’re going to accomplish the important things and then give yourself permission to rest. These are the items from your painstakingly compiled list that you’re going to let go, because letting go of the least important things only increases your capacity to embrace the most important things.

And that’s what we want for you: to finish the year strong, prepare yourself for a productive 2018, and fully embrace the things that are crucial to your health, success, and well-being.

Sandi Martin

Co-Founder, Financial Planner at Spring Financial Planning
Fee only financial planner. Former banker. Money nerd. Curmudgeon only on days that end in "-day"

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