So, I’m a huge fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done system. I’m so into GTD that the thing that got me to switch off Blackberry phones was when they dropped support in Tasks for categories (which I used for what Allen calls “context” – and yes, I know that was late to drop Blackberry but I did like the real keyboard).
Also, I’ve read the book Getting Things Done three times and tend to tear-up towards the end. I know – pretty silly that a “mere time management” book would do that to someone. For me, the book is about how to be clear about your dreams and gives you concrete tools to get a step closer every day. Empowering people to do what is important to them is quite a noble effort.
In a recent presentation to the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute fellows, I happened to mention GTD and gave my usual plug. Apparently, a couple of folks took me up on it. I was pleased to hear from two that they read the book and felt it had impacted their lives positively.
And they asked for more “life hack” tips.
In that vein, I offer a plug for a habit you can built into your GTD system. I call it the Personal Finance or Personal Cashflow Review. I am not quite sure where I picked it up, although I recommend it.
A standard part of the GTD system is the weekly review there you take stock of where you stand and plot your next steps. The cashflow finance review is something I try to do twice a month. It is not meant to always be a full stock of your balance sheet, retirement planning or the like. Rather, it is ~20 to 30 mins to focus on cashflow first and then other matters if needed.
Like other parts of GTD, I find it works best with a checklist. First up is I check the balances in all checking, debit cards, savings accounts and credit cards and recent transactions to confirm things are as expected. Best to list out the accounts even if you only have 2 or 3.
Using online banking, I check major bills (credit primarily like home loan or credit cards) that I want to make sure are getting paid from my transaction accounts as planned. I have as much as possible on credit card recurring billing, EFT/ACH auto-debit or automatically through bank run bill pay. That said, I’ve seen billers or banks make mistakes and it is good to check.
Also, I review the upcoming bills that will be debited and make sure there is sufficient cash available in the transaction account for scheduled bills. For example, I adjust the dates for outgoing bill payments in online bill pay if required or transfer money from savings.
If there is time, I like to also review the PFM (like Mint or similar) that I’m using at the moment to better understand spending trends by category. You could in theory start here if you wanted to do so, although I prefer to go to the source first.
If you choose to adopt a system like this, the key will be consistently doing it. The exact steps, order or tools are less important than making it a habit.