Taming The Beast

lists

I’ve been having a very interesting email exchange with a reader (let’s call him ‘Bob’) about the lists mentioned in the book, and what should or shouldn’t go on them.  Here’s an extract from Bob’s opening email…

I’ve been re-reading the Wish List bit of the book and wonder whether things like ‘get boiler serviced’ are just plain old To-do lists stuff whereas having a baby is definitely Wish List stuff.  Have I got that right?  Here’s my wish list:

1.      We’re (me and Mrs) going to have a baby
2.      I’ve transferred my pension
3.      Make some money by selling our “holiday” photos
4.      Work out details of student loan
5.      Make an excel “balance sheet” and update it monthly
6.      Develop the habit of regular exercise (6 x 30 mins per week)
7.      Book – never eat alone by Keith ferrazzi
8.      Organize a new tenancy agreement
9.      The paint chip on car has been repaired free of charge
10.     Work out an annual bills saving schedule to make sure we have enough funds
11.     Get the cahoot account closed down
12.     Get the NS&I account closed down
13.     Setup an ISA for £5,000 emergency fund
14.     Get Halifax account closed down
15.     Thought = pay-off student loan or mortgage????
16.     Can we get the telephone (and television) cheaper
17.     Can we get electricity and gas cheaper
18.     Organize myself for tennis team
19.     Get the water pipe noise gone
20.     Get the boiler serviced
21.     Get the toilet repaired
22.     The doors + handles have been replaced
23.     The oven has been cleaned and is almost as good as new
24.     The road outside the house has been fixed by the council
25.     The wardrobe is painted
26.     The shelves are painted
27.     The TV cabinet is painted
28.     The gutters have been cleaned out
29.     The hole through to the bathroom has been filled
30.     The tiles, grout and sealant have the mouldy stuff removed
31.     We’ve purchased a new vacuum cleaner
32.     The mortar around the outside of the house is better (no window drafts)
33.     The damp in the kitchen is a thing of the past
34.     The front-door has been painted
35.     The doors in the bathroom have been painted
36.     We’ve fitted a shelf in the bathroom cupboard
37.     plant the seed of selling the flat
38.     The car has been thoroughly cleaned
39.     The under the stairs cupboard is more user friendly
40.     I would like metal things for my shirts
41.     We want a lamp for the lounge
42.     Cancel my subscription to men’s health magazine
43.     Cancel my subscription to wired magazine
44.     Work out how to get page counts from the printer
45.     Buy new brush heads
46.     Change address for pension
47.     Ask pension people if can have contribution back
48.     Go climbing
49.     Enter lots and lots of competitions
50.     The gambling to pay off the mortgage idea
51.     Clay pigeon shooting
52.     Water heater idea
53.     Glasses
54.     Shirts
55.     Cooking
56.     Clothes
57.     Look into getting a credit card (enjoy the benefits)
58.     Club card (enjoy the benefits)
59.     Nectar card (enjoy the benefits)
60.     Tidy wardrobe shelf
61.     Wardrobe boxes
62.     Tidy under spare bed
63.     Box to keep watches in
64.     Watch collection?….
65.     My own collection of portraits (self portraits) in a book or website
66.     Have my own website

That’s an impressive list of 66 assorted items. And Bob’s right, there are quite a few items on here that seem a tad dull and more like day-to-day to-do list items.

Let’s back up for a moment and consider what should and shouldn’t make your wish list. You’ll remember from the book that your wish-list is is basically a list of items that pop into your head when faced with the question ‘what do you want’. But I can see a number of items on Bob’s list that don’t appear to be an answer to that question. Numbers 16 and 17 for instance. They seem to be answers to a slightly different question (‘how do we reduce our outgoings?’). Number 49 is quite interesting too. Does Bob like doing lots and lots of competitions? Is that what he really wants to do?

But a wish list is more than ‘things that you want’ – if you look on page 130 of the book (the final part of the section entitled ‘Making a Wish List’) you’ll notice that items on your wish list should also be there because getting that thing would make you HAPPY!

I’m wondering just how happy Bob would be if his printer could give him page counts.

Finally, remember the idea of a wish list is to feed into your Goals. You take the top three wishes, turn them into goals, then put away the wish list until a goal slot becomes available. With this in mind, he might never get to learn about page counts.

Now I don’t mean to tease Bob, because I don’t know, maybe page counts really is a big deal for him! I have another reader for whom learning to touch type is one of her three GOALS. One of the three things she wants more than anything else in the world. She’d honestly be that happy if she could type really really fast.

What I think’s happened here is that Bob’s jumped a stage and started to do some of the GOAL related work – that of identifying the Next Action – here on his wish list. For instance, he seems to have a lot of items that are related to reducing outgoings, or increasing income. With this in mind, what I would expect to see an item on his wish list like this:

‘to be able to pay all the bills, every month, and still have enough for fun’

Then, if this item gets chosen as one of his three Goals, it might be reworded as follows…

‘Me & the Mrs manage our money effectively (pay all the bills each month) and have plenty left over for fun. December 31st 2013.’

Having written the goal he might start brainstorming ways to achieve that, at which point you’ll come up with ideas that are currently items 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 42, 43, 46, 47, 49, 50, 58, and 59 of his wish list. (Incidentally, I wouldn’t recommend 57. Having worked for credit card companies for many years I can tell you now, credit cards are evil, and no way to manage your money. Get a debit card. Enjoy those benefits.)

Likewise, he might have an item on your wish list along the lines of…

‘we live in a nice home that works!’

..and when he’s re-written it as a goal, all those house-repair jobs that are currently on his wish list (but shouldn’t be) will miraculously become possible next actions to achieving his goal.

Anyway, here’s hoping this helps Bob, and you too if you’re still struggling with your wish lists or goals. I’d really like to know your thoughts. You can post them in the comments below.

(PS. Bob gave me permission to reproduce part of our email exchange. You can email me without fear of being made into a blog post)

(PPS. That said, I am a busy bloke – free one-to-one coaching isn’t something I can necessarily offer to everyone)

FAQ: Potential Boxing Day Problem #1 – “Haven’t you re-invented Saturday?”

Postman-Pat

Not everybody is able to see how a Boxing Day might be a good thing. Some people – let’s call them ‘young people’ – tend to look at me blankly for a moment or two before asking me how a Boxing Day differs from, say, Saturday. Or Sunday. Or virtually any other day of the week when they’re not at college. Which seems to be most days.

Before I became the grumpy old sod you see before you now, Saturday’s were sacred and followed a very strict routine: I would roll out of bed around midday, and settle down with a bowl of cornflakes in front of ‘the chart show’ before considering whether I should wander down to the town centre to ‘mooch about’.

This relaxed state of affairs continued throughout my teens and twenties, and might have continued into my thirties if it hadn’t of been for the arrival of…

The postman.

If you’re in your early twenties you’ve probably yet to appreciate the sheer amount of admin that awaits you the moment you get a bank account, a loan, a credit card, a car, or move into a place of your own. Suddenly there’s a mountain of paperwork to be addressed, most of it hidden amongst an even bigger mountain of junk from people trying to sell you stuff. And whilst you can (as I did) leave this stuff on the side in the hopes that it’ll kind of sort itself out, I don’t recommend it. Handing over your money to these organisations is only part of the payment required – the remainder is due in time sorting out all manner of insurances, MOT certificates, and taxes of numerous flavours. And that’s assuming that you never miss a payment, your car never needs fixing, your boiler never packs up, and that the Gas Board doesn’t decide to change your supplier without your knowledge. If you manage to juggle all this nonsense without surrendering the occasional Saturday I take my hat off to you. Personally I’d developed a morbid fear of ‘post’ by the time I was thirty.

Of course you might, as many people do, assume that there’s strength in numbers, and choose to combine forces with another. And whilst there are most definitely perks to giving up your single life it’s only a matter of time before your entire weekend is given over to ferrying the kids around, climbing a ladder with a paintbrush in your hand, or wandering the aisles of Ikea trying to find the damn exit.

When that happens, you might consider booking yourself a Boxing Day.