Last Monday, we kicked off the 4th season of the Comfort Circle™ dinner series with the theme: “A Simple Way to Have a Better Financial Year.” Not only did it seem like a good way to round out the discussion on New Year’s goals and resolutions, but it was also a great way to lead into the theme for this month.

What comes to mind when you hear/read the word: simple? Do you equate it with plain, straightforward, easy, minimalism, something else?

Simple is a tricky word.

For starters, each person defines it differently. Second, the definition is often fluid and driven by context. Yet, I intentionally chose it to frame our dinner discussion (and now this piece) precisely because getting to simple is, ironically, complex! Thus, the hint of sarcasm in the title :-).

As you know, I love exploring things that are seemingly contradictory – especially when it comes to money. In this regard, the first challenge with simple is that there are a lot of interconnected parts to consider. Do something in one domain, and it will certainly have a ripple effect on, not only other domains of your money, but perhaps multiple areas of your life, too. 

The second challenge with simple is that it requires being willing to make some hard choices. And this requires being able to identify and focus on what matters most.

What hard choices have you made thus far where your money and goals are concerned?

The third challenge with simple may be a little less obvious to discern and more difficult to embrace because it is connected to your relationship with how your work. Continuously having a full schedule that doesn’t contain any “white space” can often distract you from slowing down enough to address the challenges noted above.

You know, I never profess to have all the answers. However, I love sharing my thoughts and instigating a conversation. So today I want to share some thoughts on how to overcome the challenges I’ve described and use that to tap into the power of simple.​

But first: Think back to the most recent time you’ve described something as simple. Where were you; was your comment/thought in reference to something you saw, read or experienced? Or, maybe you were frustrated and exclaimed, “there has to be a better way!” Thus, implying: simpler. 

Or, was someone commenting about how you made something appear simple? Yet, you know good-darn-and-well that what they observed is the result of you having invested a lot of time mastering something.

Less Stress; More Success

Before you can focus on what matters, you need to focus on why it matters. And I’d argue that the “why” factor is what makes the process of getting to simple complex.

Because in order to identify your “why,” you need to get clear about your goals.

Yeah, yeah, I know we talked about setting your goals and mapping out a way to actually achieve them last month. What we didn’t address, though, is ranking them.

Of your goals, which would you label as most important; as having the biggest impact on a key area/s of your life; or as being small relative to your other goals, but important nonetheless?

Also what’s your game-plan once it becomes clear that a few of your goals are conflicting with each other? (Just a full month into 2020, has this conundrum already emerged for you?)

Ranking your goals and managing potential conflicts is one way to focus on what matters most. But this requires making some hard choices – especially when it comes to your time and what you prioritize.​ It’s also how you use “simple” as a way to experience less stress and more success as you work on your goals.

Say “Yes” to Boundaries

Focusing on what matters most also requires restraint. Thus the reason getting to simple requires a lot of discipline.

During the dinner, I had my guests do a total of three exercises with the first two serving as building blocks that lead to the final one, which I dubbed: 1/3/90.

Here’s what that looks like: 

  • Choose one area of your life. (I asked my dinner guests to hone in on their financial life and chose from their answers to the Financial Wheel exercise.)
  • Choose either three goals in that area (or three milestones related to one goal) that you want to focus on in the next ninety-days.
    – Once the above are selected…
  • What habits will you need to practice to maintain focus on your 1/3/90?
  • What support might you need (in terms of people, systems or tools)?
  • What challenges might get in the way?

The sentiments expressed in the title of this piece are certainly true. But we all know that keeping it simple and focusing on what matters most is, indeed, easier said than done. For example: Did you notice a tension in your body at the mere thought of choosing your one/three? If so, you’re not alone. A lot of people find it hard (myself included) because it feels like you’re saying “no” to everything else…indefinitely. When, in fact, you’re only doing it for a short bit of time.

Here’s my point: keeping it simple and focusing on what matters is critical for meeting your goals – financial or otherwise. And the elements of the “1/3/90” framework can help you address the challenges noted at the top of this post.

The framework will also help you tackle the not so simple things that tend to get in the way. Things like those distractions that show up in the form of too little time, expanded responsibilities, shiny object syndrome, etc.

So, as we glide into another month of the new year (January flew by!), keep it simple (however you may define it) and stay focused on what matters most to you by vigilantly asking: “Is this a good use of my money, time, energy and attention – right now?”

Ask this question for each item on your daily to-do list. It’s how you’ll…

  • Refine your decision making skills;
  • Prioritize and conserve your resources (especially time and maybe even money); and 
  • Master the art of making the hard choices appear simple. 

Also, it’s how you’ll tap into and benefit from the power of simple.

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