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Let's stop pretending that being good at money means you need to be good at math. Instead, let's listen to our body and our mind.
“Be kind” is all it took. A monthly reminder in my phone that popped up each month to keep me accountable for my mood. It started almost two years ago now. I was commuting to work each day and the drive was always a downer. If I’d had an okay day at work it would certainly be tainted by the traffic and if I’d had a bad day at work my mood would quickly go from down to down under. Most people probably know what that’s like. It’s hard to work at a job that keeps you from your friends and family for more time than you’re able to spend with those people during off hours. On top of it all, the additional 10 to 15 hours per week you spend commuting can be heart-wrenching. Whether you want to get home for dinner or you worked late and need to get home to put your child down to bed, it’s never easy to admit defeat because one small part of your day is causing you to feel helpless.
It’s not just that, though. During a stressful time in my life, I was letting every small inconvenience and minor issue seep into my personal relationships. If I didn’t have a good day and there was an accident that would make my travel time 30 to 45 minutes longer I couldn’t bounce back once I got home. It would make me unable to have small talk about work, it made me disinterested in going out and doing things. So, I decided I needed to change something. But, how?
Rather than working the typical hours of 9 to 5 or 8 to 4, I spoke to my boss to explain how this schedule was affecting my mental health. I asked if there were some way it would be okay to change my working hours from 7 to 3 instead. He agreed. Although I would no longer be able to work out in the mornings because I’d have to get up earlier (and mornings aren’t necessarily my favourite time of day), it seemed like the right move. Instead of driving in rush hour, I’d be able to get to work before the rush and leave before the nighttime traffic jams could happen. This small change cut my commute time by over 50%. Rather than a 45 minute drive each way, I was now only driving 15 minutes each way. Another reason this change helped with my mood was that it allowed me to carpool with my husband most days.
One of the best parts of working from 7 to 3, was that most people in my office didn’t start work until 9. Therefore, I had two hours of uninterrupted time to get my daily tasks done that would otherwise take much longer. But the really significant change when it came to my work hours was that I would get back home at 3:15. This was an extreme change that made my life so much more positive. I was able to pack my lunch, work out, prepare for the next day and make dinner before heading off to soccer games or practices. Prior to this change in work schedule, I was getting home around 5:30, and only had about 30 minutes to an hour to complete everything I’d need to before heading out to run any errands or attend any sporting events.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. What if I can’t change my work schedule as seamlessly as you could? That’s where step three comes in. The step that actually changed everything about my negative mindset, and still does to this day.
I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to try to remind myself that these small interruptions or negative thoughts were just that — small. To make them seem insignificant, I wanted to put a reminder in my phone that would be able to snap me out of any funk I was in without annoying me. It sounds silly. But as you see with many humans these days, it doesn’t take much to set us off. Rather than add in an everyday reminder or weekly reminder, I decided to try it out monthly. I set the alarm to go off mid-week and around the exact time I would be getting home from work. Around 3:15 of the 15th day of each month, my phone would buzz. All that the screen would light up with were two words: “be kind.”
At first, it made a huge difference. I was able to look at it, laugh to myself and move on. It seemed to always come when I needed it most. After about 7 months of the same routine, I started to notice it was losing its effect — but not in the way you might think. I was noticing that I didn’t need it anymore. I had automatically reminded myself that around this time of day I should be excited about the rest of the evening and the time I had to spend doing the things I loved.
Now over two years later, I still have the reminder in my phone. It’s a slow and steady adjustment to replace my negative thinking to a positive outlook, but it’s working. Whether you need a reminder letting you know that you will eventually pay off your debt, that your day is going to get better or that you have a great support group — it’s important to let these small adjustments turn insignificant downfalls into significant wins. Reality check: some people need to work harder to be happy than others. And there is nothing wrong with that.
What’s something you do to lift your spirits when you’re having a bad day? Let me know in the comments!
Oh no, you missed the live webinar! But, good news: Mixed Up Money is pleased to share a resource for anyone planning for a future child or family.
Mixed Up Money is pleased to share a free resource for anyone looking to cut back on non-essential spending. My most-requested product is these monthly calendars to share on your Instagram story, use as a phone background, or print off to track your spending habits.