Living Lean in 2017

If you had to take an inventory of everything you own, what would that look like? How does it make you feel?  Does it truly reflect your character and values?

One of my favorite quotes from The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery is “you become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed”. So simple, yet so profound. The same holds true for what you possess. Each piece represents an investment of time and labor, as well as ongoing time and cost in storing, protecting and maintaining.

In the early 1990’s Lean Management became popular in manufacturing and business management. The idea of reducing wasted resources – time, talent, inputs and costs – in order to zero in on what truly adds value to a product or service, offers many interesting lessons. Here are three for you to consider:

  1. Clarify your priorities – Make a short list of what matters most to you at this point in your life. Another way to think about it is to describe your perfect day. What activities would you be doing? Who would you be with? Where would you be?
  2. Identify your burdens and obstacles – Track how you are spending your time and resources. Take an inventory of what you have/do and label each with how valuable and necessary it is for you. Include activities where you volunteer, have a membership or make a contribution.
  3. Take Action – Start with the most obvious and easiest by donating, selling, gifting or recycling. If it does not add meaning or value to your life then let it go. Cancel memberships; take time off from groups that are not moving you forward. Be protective of your time, energy and talent.

Kick off 2017 with a Lean, Agile mindset. Be focused and intentional on doing what matters most to you.

Where to begin?

Self evaluation can be intimidating. It is through this process, though, that all sustainable  self-improvement must begin. Unless you are able to clearly identify the behaviors and actions that have brought you this far, your best intentions will not provide the results you hope for.

Keep it simple and very clear.

There are two main parts to self evaluation – Know What You Value and Know How You Behave. Wellness resides where these two core drivers intersect. They evolve over time and it is important to re-evaluate your position on a regular basis. I recommend doing this at least once a year and during any major life change.

Know What You Value – There are plenty of things each of us enjoy or would like to experience. Dig deeper and you will find very specific beliefs and ideals that you hold sacred. Where do you draw the line and take a stand? What key words define you? You may even craft a personal motto or saying.

Mind Mapping can be a great exercise to identify key themes, recurring patterns and find connections. Look for five to ten important insights that reflect your personal identity. Consider when these became important to you and what your life will look like when these key themes are being lived out daily.

Know How You Behave – Now you need to track how you are actually living in this moment. What are your routines and habits? Take time to track your activity for at least a week to ten days. How does your day flow? What distracts you? How do you deal with interruptions or unexpected changes? The better you can be specific about your actions, feelings and reactions, the better you will be able to clarify what needs to change.

Once you have these two core drivers identified, you will be able to see how well they are aligned. Identify two or three areas that are causing the greatest friction – where there is a large gap between What You Value and How You Behave. Begin working on these areas by creating a 30-day action plan to draw them closer in alignment to each other.

Need help? Check out my Life Coaching page!

Share your story. I’d love to hear your feedback.

Becoming the Architect of Your Finances

I believe that most of us are capable of accomplishing far more than we give ourselves credit for. In times of duress and significant obstacles, we dig our heels in deeper and push harder, focusing our whole intent on getting through. Surviving. During these stages, it’s challenging to think about managing finances and putting plans in place. It’s enough just to get through another week. That is precisely why it is a good practice to begin crafting your financial map before a crisis (or the next crisis) erupts.

A good place to start is taking inventory of your personal portfolio. We all have one, trust me. It’s personal and very unique to each of us. Your personal portfolio is an ever-changing collection of Skills, Priorities, Interests, Community and Experiences. Some call it your “secret sauce” or your “art”,  I prefer calling it “spice” – the seasoning you add to whatever relationship or situation you’re in.

Skills – This includes every type of activity you have some level of competence in doing. Creating spreadsheets, doing research, gardening, chess, speaking another language, changing oil, knitting, or anything else you can recall.Your unique combination of skills may very well contribute to uncovering potential opportunities. I’ll write more on that later.

Priorities – This goes a bit deeper. Think about where you are at this point in time. What is the most critical action for you to focus your time, energy and resources? This month? This quarter? This year? You may be at the beginning of a new stage or relationship, so building trust and respect might be pretty important. On the other hand, you may be in a time of transition, so building up reserves and support systems may come first.

Interests – This is really important. It’s not just about what you are competent doing, rather what you really enjoy doing or want to try. Your list should include the people/places/things that you want to have as a part of your life. What would you like to explore, learn, discover, create?

Community – These are your networks. Start with family, schoolmates, neighbors, co workers, people you play sports with or know through meetups. Add any professional connections, such as doctor, dentist, insurance agent, or your mechanic. You may consider using your phone settings to tag people by category, build hives of people in similar fields or by geography. Our connections to other people helps build bridges that otherwise would be practically impossible.

Experiences – What are some of the most defining moments in your life? Who are the people or events that impacted you the most, contributing to your convictions?

By identifying each of these areas, hopefully you will be able to gain a clearer picture of your personal portfolio. Your portfolio provides the framework to better define what resources you have at your disposal to begin crafting your financial map. It also works as a filter to gauge important decisions, by verifying if it fits with who you are or want to be,

You are the Architect of your own finances.

Coming up next: Building a Strong Foundation

Hacking Your Finances

Managing personal finances can be overwhelming and time consuming. Over the course of several years, we piece together different accounts and tools to keep track of activity. There’s usually not too much thought put into it, except to do what is necessary to move forward. We do what we need to prevent extra fees or penalties, not thinking too much of how to leverage the system to work better for us.

Through my blog, I propose we break down personal finances into smaller parts, analyzing how each part functions and the alternatives we have to customize it to meet our preferences. We’ll consider the relationship each part has to others and explore the possible outcomes of tweaking each part. This experimentation will help us better understand how to design a system that is interactive, adaptive and simple.

My hope is to build a community that is engaged, sharing frustrations, questions and financial hacks they’ve created to manage their finances. This experiment goes beyond following a static system or ten-step program by some financial guru, it’s about taking ownership of driving your cash flow to do what you want.

Growing up, my dad used to tell me that everyone wants to get their greedy hands on your cash flow – they are bent on getting whatever they can by whatever means possible. So, be advised and be informed.

Let’s get hacking!