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How Your Brain Stops You from Achieving Your Financial Goals

We all want to be productive, especially with our finances. We know that we want to earn more, save more and even invest but when it comes down to it, we just can’t seem to achieve our goals. You may have tried to make these changes many times but somehow you find yourself coming up short.

The good news is that all hope is not lost. By understanding how your brain works and what you can do to cooperate with it, you can become more productive in life and that includes achieving the financial goals you desire.

Adjusting your mindset and having a healthy relationship with money plays an important part in achieving your goals.

Putting Your Thoughts into Action

We are individuals who thrive in creating and achieving. While achievement doesn’t always bring happiness, there are positive emotions associated with a sense of accomplishment. We can get this sense of accomplishment when we overcome challenges, including achieving our financial goals.

You might have heard of the concept of SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic & Time-based) yet despite having this framework, it still doesn’t translate into action somehow.

Why does this happen?

Sometimes we get preoccupied with many other small thoughts, errands and tasks which take up much more of our headspace than we realise. We can actually only hold about 6-8 thoughts in our minds at any one time.

We can actually only hold about 6-8 thoughts in our minds at any one time. 

If we rely on our memory to remember to buy something or call someone, we are using our brain’s processing capacity for these little thoughts.

As a result, we have a lot less processing capacity to offer to the tasks that require our full focus and help us to achieve our goals. In other words, we allow other smaller thoughts and tasks to take priority over the bigger goals we actually want to achieve.

David Allen, productivity expert and author of “Getting Things Done” explains that many of us have anxiety from unclear and unwritten commitments — the little things that pop into our minds but we do nothing about. This anxiety can take up quite a bit of our headspace.

The most productive people are the people with the “emptiest” heads.

Allen highlights that when we manage our commitments, we can reduce uncertainty. Letting random reminders pop into our heads repeatedly can cause us to think we have a lot more that we are forgetting, which stirs up more anxiety.

David says the most productive people are the people with the “emptiest” heads. This means that when productive people think about something very small, they note it down, plan to take action and move on to the next thing. As you can imagine, stuff gets done!

How do we apply this in our lives? 

We need to actively organise our thoughts and tasks by noting them down rather than trying to use our brain’s capacity to remember them. We can do this by making a habit of using our phones to note down and organise all the thoughts and tasks we have in mind.

You can have different notes for different key tasks or you can keep it simple like me, I have 3 lists: a list for work, a list for everything outside of work, and a list for my monthly budget.

Every time you think of an idea or remember you need to do something, quickly note it down, even if you don’t know how you plan to tackle it. If it’s a simple task then you can even note down when you can complete it.

At the end of the week, start planning for the next week and assigning dates to the things you want to complete. Take this time to review thoughts and ideas that you have noted down through the week, analyse it and break it down into steps if it’s something that you can work towards.

This is where your financial goals and planning comes into the picture too. Set time to plan how you will implement them in your daily life and include them into your schedule.

It’s important that you type or write out these notes somewhere that you can easily access and can see often. Be sure to refer to this list everyday so that you can stay on track.

Anytime a new thought or goal around money comes along, note it down in your respective notes, analyse it and go through this process. By doing so, you’re breaking down your thoughts to more attainable action plans and you’re also helping to collate all your errands and tasks so that you don’t have to use your brain’s capacity to remember this information.

You are allowing your brain to then be free to focus on the bigger things that need your attention.

Don’t try to go from zero to a hundred

As with any plan, don’t try to go from zero to a hundred. Don’t pile all your to-do lists in one day and expect yourself to be productive. Make realistic plans based on your schedule and even account for your energy.

If you know that you need a break during the weekend, take the break and plan to tackle your tasks at a time that’s more feasible. Being incredibly rigid will just cause you to feel miserable and eventually give up.

Translate this flexibility (within reason) to your financial goals and budget too. For instance, you may have a certain budget planned out but you realise that you forgot a friend’s birthday.

You can intentionally re-organise your budget for that month or make up for it the next month and this way you won’t feel so bad but you’re also not completely ditching your plan. Then, make it a point to account for such birthdays and events in the following months so that it isn’t a regular unexpected expenditure.

Work in tandem with your thoughts

Ultimately, to get productive in turning your thoughts and goals into action, you need to plan thoroughly but allow for some spontaneity and flexibility. Apply these tips and philosophy not just to your finances, but to all areas of your life. This way you’re working in tandem with your thoughts and are freeing up your brain to be more efficient and focus on the things that matter.

There is a perfect balance of productivity and financial goals for each individual in different seasons of life. So take some time to figure out what yours is, and how you can better attain this balance using some of the tips in this article. Don’t forget to add these tips to your new notes and kickstart your productivity!

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