The occasional thud you may have been hearing in the neighbourhood lately isn’t the sound of huge falling conkers but the sound of credit card statements hitting people’s mats. Yes – all that holiday fun coming home to roost. The flights, the hotel and that crazy tequila night at Pedro’s…
Estimates suggest we owe nearly £70 billion on credit cards in the UK, and part of this can be explained by the ease and invisibility of this kind of spending. There was a time when it was simple to tell when you’d hit the limits of your funds and needed to go home – it was when you reached into your pocket and pulled out lint instead of cash.
Plastic changed that, removing the visible, physical feedback loop of cold hard cash and reducing the psychological pain of parting with actual money. Since then, contactless technology has fuelled the growth in consumer debt even further, according to the Bank of England. It was recently the 10 year anniversary of contactless in the UK and it now accounts for over half of all payments under £30. A mere flick of the wrist and the next round of drinks or shiny thing in the shop window is yours, and, importantly, the visible paper trail of receipts starts to dry up, too.
For many people, the invisibility of work commitments creates a similar kind of problem. If the true extent of your overall workload is unclear because much of it is hidden or forgotten, then it’s hard to say no to new commitments.
There’s no sign that the onslaught is going to abate any time soon, either. Recent evidence in HR magazine shows that the expectations of businesses are higher than ever for employees to work longer hours, do regular overtime and check emails at the weekend.
And guess what? The transactional tools are often contactless and frictionless here, too, increasing the ease with which ‘commitment debt’ can be racked up. Think how much easier it is for someone to send you an email asking you to do something than it is for them to actually sit with you and ask face-to-face.
The world of work won’t lose sleep if you keep getting squeezed, stressed and blindsided. The question is whether you will.
One of the ways that the GTD methodology helps you keep your head in the face of such pressures is because it provides a complete inventory of your commitments. A recent survey which compared people who habitually use GTD with people who don’t showed that 69% of the non-users tended to underestimate their workload and take on more than they can handle.
The existence of the complete inventory of a GTD system provides a feedback loop on the overall state of play which informs decisions about how much new stuff can be done. Whether you’re up to neck in debts or deadlines, that perspective is vital if you want to make better day-to-day decisions about what to take on.
That’s why debt charities recommend keeping track of day-to-day spending, for example by demanding those contactless payment receipts. Maintaining perspective is also the reason that Christmas clubs exist and have worked well for generations. Putting aside a chunk of money each week eventually means that Christmas shopping can be enjoyed rather than feared. The approach translates a clear perspective on financial commitments into simple week-to-week savings actions for those who need a bit of a hand with control.
Consistent capture and regular review. Visibility is the first step towards control because you can’t control what you can’t see. Tracking your commitments matters, whether it’s keeping hold of your receipts or consistently clarifying your emails. Your money or your life.