Personal Development

Personal budget for 2024

After Christmas or holiday spending in December, January can be a rough month. Therefore, it is imperative that you plan and budget accordingly to make it to the next pay day. Creating a personal budget is one way to help keep your finances on track. You may choose to use a specific app to help, or you may rely on a more traditional spreadsheet approach.

I use an Excel workbook with a spreadsheet for the categories of savings/expenses and a spreadsheet for each month to help me manage my income and savings/expenses. First, this helps me to ensure that my planned savings/expenses do not exceed my income. Additionally, the categories help me to see exactly what I am spending on for further analysis later. This spreadsheet relies heavily on formulas to make the process of entering the necessary data as simple as possible.

Categories

The first spreadsheet in the workbook lists the categories I will need, as well as their descriptions. These can be modified, and up to 49 categories can be used here. These categories are used as a drop-down list to be inserted in the budget for the individual months.

Monthly Personal Budget

There are individual spreadsheets for each month. On the left is a list of the source of income and amount of the income. In the centre of the spreadsheet, you can list your transactions. This includes transfers to savings and expenses, the amount of these transactions, and the relevant category from the drop-down list. To the right of the spreadsheet is a list of the categories and the total amount of money budgeted for that category.

Download personal budget Excel workbook

You can download the Excel workbook with the template for a budget for the entire year below.

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The risk of inaction

The risk of inaction

The risk of inaction may be one of the least obvious risks of doing business. Businesses may fail if we make the wrong decisions. They may run out of funds if we don’t spend wisely. We also understand the threat of competition. As a result, we plan, set goals and strategize to minimize these risks. Too often though, we do not fully grasp the magnitude of the risk of inaction.

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Finding your defining purpose

Finding your defining purpose

We can take a variety of paths to start our career. It could start as a hobby or interest that grew into a business. Alternatively, it could be an opportunity we seized to make money. Yet still, it could also be a path that was chosen for us where we had little choice or input. Regardless of how we got to the career path we are currently on, there is one thing we need. It is what allows us to remain motivated and determined to press on. The source of our drive is a defining purpose that we may not have yet explicitly identified.

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Light Workload Day

Light workload days boost productivity

Entrepreneurs are no strangers to working long hours and having the lines between work and personal time blurred. Many times, the very success of our business correlates with how much time and effort we invest into it. This concentrated effort might be both necessary and sustainable in the short run but can be detrimental in the long run. A light workload day can help maintain some balance in both our work and personal life.

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Vent responsibly

Vent responsibly or not at all

Bad days are inevitable for anyone doing business. Therefore, we may periodically feel the urge to let off some steam by venting to others. In stressful times having someone to relate to can comfort us and make us feel that we are not alone. There is also the relief of getting something that has been on our mind out in the open. Considering the emotion state that leads us to vent we must exercise caution and remember to vent responsibly.

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Procrastination Pill

The curse of procrastination and the cure

clock

Ever get a great idea while doing something totally unrelated to work? Ever hesitate to make a note of that idea? How many times do we actually remember this great idea by the time we have finished our current task?  Even a little procrastination can derail our train of thought and interrupt a spontaneous spur of productivity. This is not to say that we must drop everything whenever we get an idea. Nevertheless, we should be weary of how procrastination affects our productivity.

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Boost Creativity & Motivation with Personal Projects

Boost creativity & motivation with personal projects

A job can be a stressful experience and it is not always one that we look forward to. This is especially true when we are not doing the jobs that we really want to do. Those of us who are overworked may find it hard to concentrate and react harshly to distractions that make use of already limited time. Those of us  who are underworked may feel that our contributions are insignificant or inadequate. These negative feelings that get associated with work over time can demotivate us and stifle our creativity. Personal projects related to work can help us harness our creativity and encourage self-motivation in addition to creating a break from the more frustrating parts of a job.

Choosing a personal project

The key to choosing an appropriate personal project is that it has to provide some intrinsic value to the organization for which we work. Approval may be necessary before we can start working on a personal project and if we work on the project during company time it is very likely that the results will belong to the company and not to us personally. Nevertheless, if we spend 40 hours or more each week at an organization it is in our best interest to improve our working conditions and efficiency. A personal project may alleviate some of the problems we face at work if we follow these steps and choose it wisely.

1. Identify organization’s shortcomings

WeaknessThink about the things in our business or organization that we would complain about. We may need to put ourselves in the shoes of a customer or outsider to get a more unbiased view. We do not need to identify the solutions to these problems at this stage. Focusing solely on identifying the shortcomings will allow us to brainstorm both those that we think can be solved easily and those that seem beyond our scope. This is necessary because the resources which we will have at our disposal to take on the project are not yet confirmed. Later projects which are not feasible can easily be eliminated.

2. Focus on individual and collective strengths

Strong SafeWe all have unique skill sets and talents. Often times our proficiencies may extend beyond our daily job assignments. These skills may be easy for a boss or supervisor to overlook since they are not directly related to the job at hand. A project allows us to utilize and improve these skills while still contributing in a meaningful way to the development of the organization. It is also not uncommon for someone to get employed in the field where the vacancy exists rather than the field that best suits the individual’s qualifications. Knowing our strengths allows us to contribute in ways beyond what is expected and may open up new opportunities. Co-workers may also be able to identify “hidden” talents in us and we may be able to do the same in them. By identifying these strengths we get a better idea of which projects are feasible.

3. Collaborate with others

TeamworkMany projects cannot be done alone. Others can just be done better or quicker with the help of others. The contribution and feedback of a team can lead to discoveries that a single person may have overlooked. Team members may also have different specialities which when combined make more complex projects feasible. Entire products or services can be born as a result of a collaborative effort. Collaboration can also help build better relationships among co-workers striving for a common goal and enhance communication in the organization. It is not only a problem solving exercise but also a team building opportunity.

4. Work with passion

Work HappyA project is extra work and at times we may need something to justify spending the additional effort and energy. Choosing something we are passionate about can help motivate us and even allow us to have some fun. Remember a project can be a productive distraction from other more mundane tasks. Progress made on personal projects give us a sense of achievement and lessons learned on a project can be applied to regular work. The interest and desire generated from personal projects can have a positive effect on mood and productivity.

Getting the project off the ground

Rocket LaunchResources will be required for any personal project and we may need approval or investment in the project before we can start. It therefore becomes imperative to sell the project to those in control of the resources which we require in order to get the ball rolling. This will require having an in depth understanding of the project requirements and being able to explain how the project will benefit the organization. For smaller projects we may be able to contribute in our down time. For larger projects, however, some level of coordination and project management will be required. At this stage the goals and mission of the project should be established and all stakeholders should be identified. We may also need to provide a plan on how the project will be run without interfering with everyday activities.

Once we have started a personal project we can use it to express ourself creatively and to motivate us to succeed. Since the project is what we chose it should be a challenge we are willing to take on and progress can be used as inspiration. Even small failures can teach important lessons that can be applied to other areas of work. The best part is that when one project is completed another one can be chosen to repeat the cycle and reap further benefits.

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Getting rid of distractions

5 ways to manage distractions

Distractions are the enemy of productivity. They lure us away from current tasks for seemingly short periods of time which can ultimately add up to a significant percentage of our day. Having to start and stop tasks can waste valuable time and cognitive effort as we readjust and try to regain focus and rhythm. Distractions can also demotivate us from completing difficult tasks since the alternative to doing boring or arduous work seems so much more appealing. All is not lost though; we can overcome our penchant to procrastinate by using these 5 simple steps to guide us in the right direction.

CoffeeAllocate time for breaks

We are not robots and productivity does not mean working for 8 hours straight focusing only on tasks in a to do list. We will get tired, frustrated and go through a whole range of normal human emotions. Ignoring these factors and soldiering on might seem admirable but can lead to burnout, unhappiness and generally higher stress levels. It is okay to take occasional breaks and these cool out periods can help clear our heads and increase our productivity.

HeadphonesChoose entertainment wisely

Entertainment is another thing that should not be omitted from a busy schedule. A work life with no entertainment can lead us to seek entertainment at the wrong time or leave us easily distracted. There are appropriate times and places for various types of entertainment and choosing these strategically can help us deal with stress. Music can be played softly or through headphones, our lunch hour can be spent doing something we like or we could simply socialize with co-workers. There are also countless of other after work activities to get our minds of the stresses of the job.

Social MediaDisconnect from social media (temporarily)

Being constantly connected to our favourite social media websites may keep us “in the loop” but is it really a productive loop? The compulsion to check messages or status updates can distract us from the job at hand especially if we get roped into a discussion. One solution is to temporarily disconnect from social media sites while we are working on important projects. This could be as simple as refusing to use social media for the duration of specific tasks.

iPhoneTurn off mobile phone

An unwanted call or text message can not only disturb us from our train of thought; it can totally change our mood (for the better or the worst). Notifications from apps on smart phones also tend to pique our interest or curiosity until we finally give in to the temptation and have a look. One solution is to turn off the phone completely or at least put it on silent mode to minimize the distraction it creates.

ChairGet comfortable

We may not realize it but our comfort levels have a lot to do with how distracted we get. Physiological discomfort such as hunger, feeling too hot or too cold, and being tired can influence our concentration levels. Environmental factors such as noises or odours can also cause distractions. While we may not be able to control all these factors we can minimize their effect. Changing posture, using ergonomic tools, or simply changing the font size on your computer can make working more comfortable and reduce the desire for distractions.

Despite our best efforts there will always be distractions. Left unchecked these distractions can steal large chunks of our most productive hours. By strategically managing our time and balancing fun and work we can be more productive while reducing the likelihood of burnout.

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Mistakes

Making the most out of our mistakes

Mistakes are undesirable but inevitable. We can do our best to minimize the number of mistakes we make but due to our own limitations we can never totally eliminate all mistakes from our lives. What we can control is our reaction to  our mistakes and this can have a major influence on the outcome of a situation.

Speech BubblesAdmitting our mistakes

It may not be pleasant to admit when we are wrong, but the ability to own up to our mistakes shows accountability. It also sets a good example for others. The sooner a problem is identified the quicker a solution can be worked out. Trying to cover up a mistake may prevent the root of the problem from being addressed or even make it worse. We do not need to broadcast our mistakes to the whole world but letting those in authority (such as a supervisor) or those it may directly affect (such as a co-worker) know can help expedite a solution. This also helps to build trust and encourage honesty.

Knowledge Is PowerLearning from our mistakes

Once we have acknowledged our mistake we can learn from it and move on. If we identify the root cause of the mistake we can adapt to minimize the likelihood that it occurs again. For example, if the mistake was caused by ignorance, new knowledge on how to do a procedure the right way can prevent it from happening again. Our mistakes may also identify bigger flaws in the system that need to be fixed to reduce the likelihood of others making the same mistake. If an employee does not read company reports because the font is too small and gets called out for it, by identifying the font issue, others suffering from the same predicament may also speak out and the font size could be increased.

Mistakes also give us valuable information about how things should not be done and why. This information is necessary for finding the most efficient way to get things done and to achieve optimal results. If a certain posture causes back pain, a better posture may relieve that pain and make us more productive.

HelpHelping others with their mistakes

When we learn from our mistakes we do not only gain knowledge – we also gain experience. These two valuable assets can help us to avoid our previous errors but they can also help us to be more sympathetic to the mistakes of others. By remembering how we feel when we make errors and the lessons we have to learn from them, we can help others to be accountable and learn from their mistakes. This may be challenging since some people tend to want to keep their shortcomings private for fear that it will adversely affect their marketability. Acknowledging that we are not perfect and that we too have made mistakes may help others to see us as offering assistance rather than offering judgement. A story about our own mistakes and how we overcame it with the lessons we learned can also help put our intentions in the proper perspective.

While mistakes may cause some embarrassment we must not let that overwhelm us. It is a part of our development and learning from these mistakes make us better. By admitting our mistakes, learning from them and helping others with theirs we can encourage progress while developing our collective skills.

 

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Learning & Knowledge

Learn, share, repeat

Learn & ShareOne of my favourite things about the internet is the vast amount of information it gives you access to. You can find educational material such as scholarly articles, tutorials, answers to questions and electronic books. You can also find entertainment, news, and countless other interesting or extraordinary bits of information. The empowering thing about the net is that you can also create content and share your expertise and experience with others. This platform is great for two way learning and interaction.

Learn

Learn Books Learning may often be associated with formal education and school which may not exactly seem like a fun experience. Learning is much more than that though and the internet empowers you to learn at your own pace and study the topics that interest you. You can do this formally by taking online courses or informally on your own. Many freelancers are self taught and can find help on forums and in groups online.

The other great thing about learning online is the wide array of multimeda which you can use to enhance your learning based on your preference. If you are a visual learner you can search for videos. If you rather read you can search for articles. If you rather listen you can search for podcasts. If you learn about what you are interested in or passionate about in this manner you are less likely to get bored.

Share

Share PuzzleOnline communities are great places for finding and sharing information. Chances are that some time in the future someone with the same questions as you will be looking for answers. Using what you have already learned you will be well equipped to either answer these questions or point the person in the right direction. Things you share in online communities may also be indexed by search engines so it can be found via web searches.

Sharing does not always have to be public though. You can share via an email or a direct message to a particular individual or group of individuals. Sharing can be as personalized or as generic as you see fit and you can do so utilizing the same variety of multimedia that is accessible for you to learn from.

Repeat

RepeatAfter you learn and share your knowledge it is time to start the entire process over. We are always learning new things even when we are not actively seeking knowledge. Sharing is one of the principles on which the internet was built and is a foundation of social media today. Continue to learn, share and repeat so we can benefit from each other’s knowledge and experiences.

 

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