Somewhere along the way, humans acquired a “put things off” gene. We wait until the last minute to cram for a test. We try to squeeze every last drop of gas out of our tank before filling it up. And then, of course, there is always tomorrow. We’ll get to it later.
 
In my examples, the consequences of pushing the limits aren’t very significant. There is a whole other list of tasks that if not done could have massive effects. 
 
Since order and organization seem to be in my blood, I’ve been pretty good at knocking out this list. But, there were some large items that I kept putting off.
 
It wasn’t until I sat back and started thinking about the future that I gave myself a kick in the butt. Yes, this came around the time I hit forty. Thinking about how much time I have left was a great motivator to get these things done.
 
I shouldn’t have waited. This list isn’t just about getting things in order for the future, it is also about the present. Once complete I found that I had more space, more time, and more freedom. This allowed me to get the most out of the time with family, the most important thing in my life.
 
Here are the four areas I think about when it comes to getting life in order.

1. Get me in order

Everything starts with my health and well being. This includes how I feel today and thirty years from now. The good news is that nothing on this list is hard, as long as I don’t put it off.
  • Checkups: I’ve never enjoyed going to the doctor or dentist. Who would? But, getting a quick checkup prevents bigger problems down the road.
  • Health: I’ve spent a lot of time in the gym through the years. I don’t do it to build a better physique, I do it to stay healthy. This combined with eating well gives me energy to do the things I want today and a better chance of doing them tomorrow.
  • Me time: I love to play golf, work on the house and spend time with old friends. As I’ve gotten older, it’s been harder to find time to do these things. When I do, I always see the benefits. It’s energizing and can clear my mind.
  • Sleep: I’m an eight hours a night guy. I won’t bother sharing all the research on the importance of sleep. Our bodies are smart. They tell us what we need. When I get the right amount of sleep, I can get a lot done the next day. If I don’t, my energy gets zapped, and everything becomes a chore

2. Get my finances in order

Money is the leading cause of stress for Americans. It makes sense. Without financial security, there is a lot to worry about every day. I won’t rehash my thoughts on buying stuff and saving. Instead, let me mention a few other areas that can help reduce financial stress.
  • Track Spending: I use tools like Mint to show me where every dollar is going. Before using this, I used to save every single receipt and track it in a spreadsheet. The monthly totals were surprising. By logging how I spent my money, I could see exactly where it went and made better decisions the next month.
  • Review Bills: Today it’s easy to put monthly bills on auto pay. This is convenient but as they say “out of sight, out of mind.” I make a habit of reviewing my bills to see where I can reduce them. Sometimes it’s as simple as calling the cable or phone company and asking for a better deal. Every little bit counts.
  • Credit Score: I didn’t understand what a credit score was until I went for my first loan. Unfortunately, credit is something that builds over time. Better credit means banks will give me a cheaper loan. A cheaper loan means that I can save more each month. When it comes to building credit, a few keys are to start early, limit debt and always pay back loans on time.
  • Maintenace: Ben Franklin said “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By keeping up with maintenance tasks on a house or a car, I can limit big problems down the road. It may be hard to spend the money in the moment, but I always trust it will save me down the road.

3. Get my surroundings in order

Benjamin Franklin said, “For every minute spent organizing, an hour is earned.” I love when things are clean and organized. It reduces my stress, saves me time and frees my mind to focus on more important tasks.
  • Declutter: The first step to getting things in order is getting rid of stuff I don’t need. It is overwhelming to try to organize a room, closet or pantry that is overflowing.
  • Buy less: Of course, if I’m always adding to my piles of stuff, this is a fruitless exercise. To make sure I keep order, I need to buy less stuff.
  • Organize: The last step is to create a system. Everything needs to have a place. Once it does it is a lot easier to keep things in order.

4. Get the future in order

I hope for the best but plan for the worst. I know I can’t control the future, but at least I can plan for the possibilities. This helps me sleep well at night.
  • Insurance: Insurance exists to protect the most important things we have in life. I carry life, disability, health, homeowners, car and an umbrella insurance policy. It costs money today but can be a lifesaver tomorrow.
  • Will & Trust: These two documents create a plan for what happens if we get sick, or worse, pass on. It’s easy to think we won’t need to bother, but things can change in an instant. If something were to happen, the pain and heartache would be huge for the family. These two documents make dealing with the situation a little easier.
For me, getting things in order is freeing. It feels good knowing I covered everything I could for my family. With this work done, I can go back to enjoying every minute I have with the people I love.
 
This post is part of a series of letters to my kids. My goal is to reflect on and capture as many life lessons as possible. Here is the current list I am working from.