I recently met with a young couple about to get married. Like most people who are interested in improving their financial lives they had about 100 goals they wanted to accomplish. While I appreciate their tenacity, trying to reach 100 goals at once is unrealistic. It’s setting yourself up for failure. This couple, and a lot of other people, need to employ the underutilized power of a singular focus.
Singular focus has, in the last few years, been given the buzzword-y name of ‘unitasking’. Unitasking is, as you would imagine, the opposite of multitasking. I love multitasking, you love multitasking, everybody loves multitasking, but does it really work? Research says no. “According to best-selling author and productivity expert Julie Morgenstern, ‘it has been scientifically demonstrated that the brain cannot effectively or efficiently switch between tasks,’ thus multitaskers lose time. Unitaskers tend to have more focus and resolve than multitaskers. Focus and resolve are very important characteristics to display in your financial life. But what exactly are you focusing? Sure you’re focusing with your mind, but your money must be laser-focused too.” (courtesy of the Indy Star)
So what does unitasking look like in a financial context? Let’s go ahead and use the young couple I recently met with as an example. And to protect their identities, and because it made me laugh, we’ll call them both Pat. I don’t know. Anyway, (he)Pat and (she)Pat have a lot going for them, including the fact that each month they have $1,719 to use toward their goals. Their main question boiled down to this: how should we divide the money we can set aside each month amongst our goals? It’s a great question, but…
“I don’t think they should divide their money amongst their goals. Instead, they should harness the power of $1,719 per month and use it as a wrecking ball. A singular goal, one that taps all $1,719 is much more effective, and more importantly, a lot more addictive than feeding several different goals. The secret sauce to all of this is the speed at which goals get accomplished. The pace of accomplishment is what keeps spirits high and resolve intact. When many goals are being addressed at a slower pace, it’s hard to stay interested. Human nature leads to mild disinterest when changes in behavior don’t equal expedient feedback. The feedback is what keeps you interested in pushing yourself further. Zero balances on your debts, and burgeoning savings accounts can more easily keep your focus.” (courtesy of the Indy Star)
This is the answer to all those who dedicate a lot of time and effort to their financial lives and still feel stuck. It may be frustrating to put multiple goals on hold while you only focus on one, but trust me, this method works.
Peter Dunn a.k.a. Pete the Planner® is an award-winning financial mind and a former comedian. He’s a USA TODAY columnist, author of ten books, and is the host of the popular radio show and podcast, The Pete the Planner Show. Pete is considered one of the foremost experts on financial wellness in the world, but he’s just as likely to talk your ear off about bass fishing.