Robert Kiyosaki in his book Rich Dad Poor Dad has an elegant way to define assets and liabilities.
Assets put money in your pocket. Liabilities take money out of your pocket.
This isn’t the way accountants look at things – but it’s a good way for the rest of us to visualize where we should put our money.
Investing in a rental property that gives us income every month is good.
Buying a flash car that costs us hundreds in payments every month is bad.
It’s a clear and simple model that should increase how much money we have if followed.
We can tell what kind of financial health our life is in by looking at the pattern money takes as it flows through our hands.
If, when money comes in, we invest in assets and the money flows back into our pockets, that leaves us with more at the end of the day.
On the other hand if, when money comes in, we have liabilities, then the money flows out to pay for them and we are left with less when done.
And the same model, it turns out, can be used to think about activities that we do every day.
It’s a bit of a cliche – but even the Harvard Business Review is happy to use an article title like Manage your energy, not your time.
Our days are made up of rituals – things that we do from the time we wake up to the time we go to bed.
Some of these things are going to leave us with more energy than we started with.
Others are going to drain us of energy when done.
And, while it’s easy to fall into a victim mentality and argue that what we have to do is driven by the demands of other people like colleagues and bosses, recognizing the patterns that aren’t good for us is still the right starting point.
Like doing an audit.
There are a couple of ways to do this.
One approach is to log what we do over the day and then look back to see how our energy levels have increased or decreased.
Another is to make a simple list of things and give them a score.
Then it’s time to start making changes.
Usually this starts with creating new rituals.
For example, some people find their energy levels go up if they check email an hour after getting into work rather than first thing or in the afternoons.
Or we could do work sprints – 90-120 minutes of focused activity with a 5-minute break every 25 minutes followed by a longer break at the end.
We need to increase the number of rituals we have that are assets, which leave us feeling more energized when we are done doing them.
We might work on liabilities with high energy, but when we are done we’re drained – so we need to keep those to a minimum.
The last word on this goes to Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, who says –
Manage your creativity, not your time. People who manage their creativity get happy and rich. People who manage their time get tired.