Budgeting, Scheduling and Not Getting Killed

I recently had a conversation with a smart friend about security, safety and thinking the best in others.

Her point was it’s better to assume the best of people and spend your life happy, with occasional big pains when they do you dirt, than to experience constant little pains by assuming people are going to do you dirt all the time. She’s a smart person, and one of the happiest I know, and her basic framework is right.

Except for a thing security people know. If you’re alert for people doing you dirt all the time, it doesn’t make you unhappy. It’s neutral input that doesn’t make your life worse. What’s better, by being alert for signs and taking proper action — you avoid those occasional big pains by taking steps so they don’t happen. By paying more attention, you worry less.

The point is: by being alert for danger you live a happier, less painful life because you know you’re safe.

Budgeting is the same way, whether you’re budgeting your money or your time.

With money it’s simple. People who don’t like to live on a budget think that it restricts their freedom. The argument is they’d rather spend freely and enjoy the money they have.

Except they don’t really spend freely. They have to check their bank balance from time to time, and need to decide if they really need that new jacket, or that night out. Then there’s the guilt and buyer’s remorse.

By contrast, if you budget your money you actually get to spend freely. You earmark a hundred bucks for fun and frivolity, and you can spend it all every month without a second of worry or guilt or remorse. You know what’s going on, so you worry less about money. Taking on a little extra responsibility for yourself frees you from lots of extra stress.

The same goes for time. If you don’t plan and schedule your day, it’s hard to know when you’re done working. It’s hard to really relax in your off hours because you’re never quite sure that you’ve done all the things you promised yourself you would do. There’s a slight, constant nagging in the back of your mind even when you’re trying to relax.

If you do budget your time (which is really what scheduling is), you know when it’s time to work. More importantly, you know when it’s time to stop working. So you can really enjoy that time with your kids, your jujitsu class, or just sitting in the hammock reading a book. You can focus mindfully on your free time, confident you haven’t forgotten anything.

Not getting killed means paying attention to your environment. It’s a matter of being in “condition yellow” unless you know you’re perfectly safe…and it actually makes life feel safer and be more fun. Since stress-related diseases are three of the four biggest killers in the developed world, paying attention to your time and money isn’t just superficially like not getting killed. It is not getting killed.

And it makes life more fun while you’re living it.