Last Friday, I started preparing for a multi-day exercise that I do every quarter: my business and financial review. For me, this is a combination of reviewing the metrics I’ve been tracking, comparing them to the previous quarter and year-over-year, reconciling statements, and asking questions.
No, I don’t find it to be as fun as coaching clients or speaking or even writing. Doing the review is strictly an administrative task – one that is not a fun, sexy part of running a business — at all. But, it’s a necessary part.
It’s fairly easy to convince my clients who own a business and don’t do quarterly reviews the value of doing so. It’s often quite a different story for my non-business owning clients. Yet, it is just as critical.
This is true whether your finances have been devastatingly impacted by the pandemic and financial crisis, or if your finances have been largely unfazed by these recent cataclysmic events.
Yes, it’s an exercise about numbers: are they up, down or about the same. However, it’s also about the story those numbers are telling – the story about your behavior and choices, your outcomes, your attention, and your direction.
Three Phases; One Aim
There are three major components to how I approach a quarterly review:
- Looking at the present – what is happening
- Looking back – what has happened
- Looking ahead – what can you forecast
Each are like angles of a triangle that can become beacons of insight and do wonders for helping you achieve your goals.
With July just a few days away, now is a good time to start preparing to do your own quarterly/mid-year review. Especially if it is not something you were already planning to do. And this 3-part process may help…
- Pull your banking, investment and credit card statements – what are your current balances? What are they compared to your targets – ahead, behind or on track?
- What habits (financial and non-financial) did you practice and with what frequency daily, weekly, monthly?
- What habits/behavior/results changed specifically because of COVID-19? For example, are you really spending less because we’re (mostly) in quarantine, or has the “spend” been reallocated?
- How do you feel right now – excited, energized, lethargic, dismayed, or something else?
The Rear-View Mirror
- What goals did you set at the beginning of the year?
- What habits did you commit to changing or developing?
- How do these measure up to where you are now?
Note: The thing to keep in mind with these three bullet-points is that COVID-19 likely interrupted the path toward…but not the goals and habits themselves.
- What of your weaknesses and strengths did COVID-19 reveal?
- What did you accomplish?
- How proud do you feel about the progress you’ve made? How disappointed do you feel about where you’ve fallen short?
- Now that the initial months of COVID-19 are behind you, and as a result of the two phases above, what tweaks do you need to make – either to your goals, the pathway forward, or both?
- What lessons from these last three months are you going to integrate into how you move forward for the next three- and six months?
- What would make you feel most satisfied and proud when 12/31 arrives?
Each year around this time, I talk about the value of a quarterly/mid-year financial review. Often drawing a comparison of the benefit of doing so to the mid-year performance review process associated with a traditional “corporate” work environment.
But let’s face it, in January no one could have predicted this is where we’d be toward the end of the second quarter: Individually managing the collective impact of a health pandemic, financial crisis and world-wide social justice reform movement.
Not only will this exercise provide you with valuable insight about the behavior and choices you can control, it can help you panic less the next time something of this magnitude occurs.
It can help you navigate the uncertainty of the rest of the year with even greater aplomb.
It can help you pause so you can reflect and shift from “fright and, perhaps, paralysis mode” to “prepare and take intentional action mode” — all while respecting your emotions and your numbers in the process.
If you’ve read this far (first, thank you!), but dread actually doing this financial check-point. Here’s a secret, which may help: I only “enjoy” the process because I now have a system and a 9-day schedule for doing it. Over the nine days, I carve out between 30- 90-minutes a day for tasks (e.g., downloading statements, reconciling Quicken + spreadsheets), and journaling my answers to most of the questions above.
This helps me to be purposeful in terms of my attention, actions and direction. It also provides motivation.
My hope is that systematically doing the quarterly/mid-year review will do the same for you!