Have you ever stuck with a plan that only kind of worked, because it was easier than taking the time to figure out a new plan?
Have you spent extra time doing a complicated workaround for a task, because you didn’t want to pay for a tool that would do the job for you?
Sticking with the path of least resistance is pretty easy to do without realizing it.
But if you were to think of your life like a business, you would probably do things differently. The priority would be cutting costs, inefficiencies, and anything or any process that drags you down. You would make investments in things that create efficiencies, increase productivity, and boost morale so you can get your work done.
Why treat your life differently than you’d treat your work? Don’t you deserve the right tools to do the things that matter most to you?
Why it’s worth the investment
The benefit of thinking about your life like a business is it gives you a certain level of objectivity. You need a more critical eye that brings awareness and a neutral perspective to what you’re doing — and why it may not be working for you.
For me, it was a backpack.
The backpack lacked structure so it didn’t prop up well and always fell over when I went through it; the middle compartment was a good size, yet items got lost in it; and though it had an outer pocket, it was difficult to access and was essentially wasted space.
As I used it over the years, these little things annoyed me every time I picked it up — not enough to ruin my day, but they impacted my actions and mood more than I thought.
I kept it for some reason, deciding it was just easier to live with, that I’d make the best of it, wanting to get the most out of my purchase. Not until nearly 8 years later did I realize I didn’t have to live with those little annoyances any more. I did my homework and found the perfect backpack.
This example is comparable to many items and tools we incorporate into and use in our daily life. What in your life is only kind of working?
We have a hard time seeing the big picture. When things cause fleeting inconvenience or annoyance or don’t happen daily, we don’t realize how they compound over time.
But just like you need a strong foundation for success, the little things and tools you use also give you that essential support. If you use a stapler frequently, would the switch to an electric stapler make more sense? Even better, what about investing in a printer with a stapler?
Yes, those options cost more, but that’s why it’s an investment. You’re spending more now upfront with the expectation that the time and energy saved will ultimately benefit you.
How much is your time worth? How much more effectively could you work all day, with this small-but-constant annoyance removed from your life?
How to get the right tools for your success
Making investments in ourselves can be hard. We do things one way for so long that we forget there are other options, or we tell ourselves the other options won’t improve our lives enough to be worth spending money on.
It’s so easy to miss the things that are holding us back, taking away our time in tiny increments every single day. Here is how to start optimizing your life, by finding areas for improvement and getting the right tools in place.
Evaluate your most used tools. Consider what tools you use everyday or most frequently throughout the day from beginning to end. Make a broad list like the one below. A tool can be any item that is used to carry out a certain function, so don’t think too narrowly, but do focus on the high frequency items. And if it helps, think about this over the course of a few days and write down the items as you go along:
- Shoe rack
- Small zippered pouch for phone charger
- Purse/backpack/gym bag
Consider your needs. With your list of frequently used daily tools in hand, consider each item individually and ask yourself the questions below:
- What do you need this item to do? What is its purpose? For example, I need my backpack to fit not only my gym clothes, but my planner, a book, work folder, wallet, keys, phone, charger, etc.. The purpose of this backpack is to carry daily belongings in an efficient and easy way throughout the day, accommodating my methods of travel.
- How do you actually use the item? And is the item the best match for that use? As you can see from the list above, I use my backpack for a lot. With my old backpack, all the things I carried in it were constantly jumbled up together at the bottom of the bag, making it impossible to dig out my wallet or planner when I needed it. I realized I needed a bag with more structure and more organizational compartments to keep my many items easy to access.
- What do you like or dislike about the item? Do you like how you’re using the item? Think about how you currently use the item. How do you feel when you’re using it? Frustrated? Tired? Annoyed? Flag this item for later. If you like using the item, consider the next question anyways, because even if you really like something, there may be even better options out there.
- What do you wish the item did differently or better? Or could using an upgraded version of that item make your life easier, simpler, etc.? Using the stapler as an example, a handheld stapler used frequently throughout the day takes a toll on your hand and needs to be refilled more often than electric models. Maybe you have a cheap brand that gets stuck often. If you upgraded to the next level of staplers, how would that impact your day, your time, etc.? It doesn’t have to be the most expensive stapler, but a small upgrade in brand or style could make all the difference.
- If you don’t like the item or find it lacking in important categories, why are you still using it or why have you not let it go? This question helps you identify if you’re holding on to something because of an emotional connection, or you notice that you have a habit of not researching your options well enough to make good choices. Finding a more suitable replacement is the goal; donating your old items means they’ll be reused and go to a good home.
Asking yourself these questions allows you to better evaluate your existing tools and needs, giving you the power you need to decide if a change is on the horizon.
Intangible needs have value
How much do you value your time, your energy, your productivity, your happiness?
In answering the questions above, you’ll discern what intangible things are important to you – such as happiness, comfort, and efficiency. All of these intangibles have value, an amount that is unique to you. Don’t downplay how much these things matter when it comes to making a decision about investing in a new item.
Comfort, for example, has a non-financial value; it doesn’t have a dollar amount attached, comps to compare against, or a market to trade in. Despite this, it has a huge impact on your life.
Try to consider and place a value on how much comfort means to you in using that stapler. Focusing solely on a tool’s price tag is like only looking at the tip of an iceberg; there’s a lot more to it than what you see on the surface. What matters to you and how much you value something will help you make decisions about which tools you use and how you select them.
Making an investment in your success requires you to gather information (about your things, your methods, and yourself), research the options available, and narrow down your options based on your criteria. The end goal is to find and use tools in your life that support you and your efforts!
Make the investment. In yourself through your tools – those items that support you and your goals every day. What tool will you invest in next?