THIS brief series is designed to help you plan your writing and other goals in a way that makes them much easier to achieve.
In the first segment we looked at why NOW is the time to start doing what you really want to, and suggested a few questions that help you explore what you might like to change.
In the second segment there's a quick exercise to help you look at how you've been spending your time and what values you consider important...and the difference between the two.
Today I'd like to introduce you to a powerful method, the zero-based approach.
In many businesses each department takes last year’s budget as a baseline and then requests more money or (rarely) less money, depending upon their estimates of expenses and what will be required of them.
In contrast, zero-based budgeting (ZBB) makes no reference to the previous year’s budget. It asks each department to identify what it plans to achieve in the coming year and to justify every proposed expenditure anew. “We’ve always done it that way” no longer is a valid reason for continuing to do anything.
Doing things out of habit and because they are comfortable also is how most of us lead our lives. That’s why applying zero-based budgeting to how we allocate our personal resources--our time, our energy, as well as our money--can be both bracing and extremely useful.
DON'T BURN DOWN YOUR HOUSE
The one time using zero-based budgeting was relatively easy was when my house burned down. I wasn’t there at the time and when I came back all that was left was a wet, smelly ruin. I’d been overseas and on the flight home I developed a potentially-fatal blood clot. As I lay in the hospital, waiting to see whether the blood-thinners would work, I reviewed the state of my life.
I had been burning out metaphorically in my career by taking on too much work, I wasn’t all that thrilled with living in Los Angeles, and a relationship had ended rather traumatically not long before. In other words, there wasn’t much keeping me there now that the house and all of my possessions had gone up in smoke. It was probably as close to a blank slate as any of us get as adults (not necessarily one I recommend!).
It did make it easier to apply the zero-based budgeting method. I asked myself if I could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? And what kind of work did I want to do? What kind of lifestyle would be ideal? I decided to move to London, expand the kinds of writing I was doing, and slow down my life a bit.
That’s not to say, of course, that all things were easy. I found out too late that I had the wrong kind of insurance (hint: get replacement value, not depreciated value coverage) and the insurance company used every trick in the book to pay out as little as possible even for the basic structure, so finances were an issue, as they almost always are.
However, in ZBB you begin with the outcome you want, not with the amount of money or other resources you have. First you decide what you really want, then you figure out how to get it within the constraints that apply.
SOMETIMES IT'S EASIER THAN YOU THINK
Quite often the constraints aren’t nearly as tight as you imagine. For instance, although I decided to move from Los Angeles to London, I needed to stay put for a while in order to deal with the insurance mess, to finish a couple of writing assignments and also for family reasons. I started thinking about the kind of place in which I wanted to live until I was ready to leave. It didn’t need to be large since I had no possessions and didn’t want to accumulate too many that I’d have to ship overseas. However, I pictured it having a swimming pool and garden, and being in a pleasant part of the city. Sounds expensive, right?
The answer appeared, and at a bargain price. I rented a small guest house in back of an impressive mansion in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. Between the main house and mine there was a beautiful swimming pool and lovely small garden. The people who lived in the main house worked such long hours in their garment business that they were seldom home. Most of the time I had the pool and garden to myself, they paid for the gardeners and the pool man, and the rent was very reasonable indeed.
GET READY TO THINK BIG!
Don't be like Edgar...
Instead, get ready to think BIG about the life you'd like to have. In the next post we'll get started on your Zero-Based Plan!