The Remarkable Way Compartmentalizing Leads to Energy and Focus

Woman legs in different shoesTwo years after having my first child I stumbled upon a game-changing habit that changed the way I was able to focus on being a mom and running my businesses. Like many working business-owners and moms, I face tremendous stressors on a daily basis – pressure from others, guilt, trials with people, the mythical idea that I need to find balance in my life, deadlines, juggling, and problems that are seemly impossible to solve. I’m often asked, “how do you do it all at once?” And I sometimes think it’s funny how simple this little tip is, yet how much of a difference it makes in my life. The crazy thing is that anyone, including you, can apply it to your life and see the same results.

The key is learning to compartmentalize, a psychological trick you can play on your brain to yield short-term results. The more you master this short-term strategy, the better positive results you can see in the long-run. When you compartmentalize, you are intentionally dividing your thoughts so that you can conquer what’s in front of you. Here’s an example: I’ve found that I do a pretty lackluster job of running a business and being “mommy” all at the same time. A few years back I distinctively recall an evening when I was cooking dinner while my children were running wild around the house, destroying the place and acting like crazies, and my mind was on a work problem the entire time. It’s like I just checked-out and I don’t recall anything about this evening other than the moment I recognized what was happening and I asked myself, “how is this fair to my children – or to my clients for that matter?” During this phase of my life, I felt like I was doing a mediocre job serving everyone and I didn’t have anything exceptional to offer a single person. And that’s when I accidentally stumbled upon this trick.

Fast forward a few years and, today, I have learned to sit in my car for a few short minutes and decompress from my day. I consciously turn off my “business” mind and flip on my “momma” switch. I ask myself to list the challenges that are lingering in my head and choose to put them on the shelf for the next morning. I make a plan in my head for how I will hit the ground running first thing the next day so that I can tackle those tasks. And then, I ask myself to recall my priorities for life. Like a broken record each day, I list in order what I need to focus on before walking through my front door. It typically goes something like this, “My husband is first. What can I do for him tonight to help him out? My kids need to eat dinner. We have reading homework to do. They need to know I missed them today and that they have my full attention. I need to straighten up the house and put away the serving dishes from the birthday party last weekend before the kids break them. And don’t neglect the fact, Valerie, that your entire evening needs to be centered around serving and obeying God.” It’s like magic! It’s like I enter a different realm of thinking and I become calm, cool, and collected.

There are a tremendous number of situations where you can use compartmentalization as a tool. I’m sure this isn’t your first time to hear about it. But a word to the wise, compartmentalizing can have a negative effect if you aren’t fully aware of how you use it as a tool. Think about soldiers who use this strategy in combat to push-out trauma. If they don’t intentionally return to face their fears, they can experience PTSD later in life. I’m obviously no psychologist, but I’ve personally found you have to be just as deliberate in your routine the next day or your business challenges that you’ve turned off will become bigger problems later on if you choose to ignore them.

So my routine the next morning is just as important, I get in my car and make a mental note of where I need to pick-up with my family before I walk through the door in the evening. And then I return to my work priorities and get my game-plan together for the day, all before pulling out of my driveway.

I’ve also become intentional about breaking during the day to handle personal matters. Outside of emergencies, I’ve challenged myself to set aside a specific and sufficient amount of time for me to flip the switch when I need to switch gears. Whether it’s at the end of the day and I can make a clean break or it’s smack dab in the middle, I’ve learned that I can only focus on one thing at a time if I want to do it really well.

This is just one of many tips I like to share with my clients. If you are looking for a financial advisor that thinks outside the box and truly wants to make a difference in your life, I’d love to have a conversation with you. Call or e-mail me today!

3 Timely Ways to Embrace Thanksgiving with Your Money

Give thanks lettering. Letterpress inspired greeting card with cAs you pause this Thanksgiving to express your gratitude for life’s blessings, it’s a great time to consider ways to give back to the world around you. From a financial standpoint, it’s also a terrific time to take advantage of charitable gifting strategies and make the most of your tax planning before 2017 draws to a close. Here are 3 things you may want to consider before the end-of-the-year:

  1. Give stock instead of cash. If you own a stock that has appreciated in value and would be taxable when sold, consider donating the stock (or a portion of it) directly to your charitable organization to potentially save on taxes. You may get a tax deduction based on the fair market value of the stock at the time of the gift and the charity can sell the stock without paying taxes. This can also help you diversify your investment portfolio. So, before you think about liquidating money from your investment portfolio to free-up cash that you’ll be giving on an after-tax basis, you may want to look closely at any gains you have and transfer the stock directly. The charitable organization will be able to give you instructions on how to make the transfer.
  2. Use your Required Minimum Distribution to your Advantage. If you’re 70½ years old and subject to mandatory withdrawals from your Traditional, Inherited, or Roth IRA, recent legislation now allows you to make tax-free distributions from your account directly to a qualified charity. How does this benefit you? As long as certain rules are followed, the direct transfer may allow you to save on taxes because the amount would be excluded from your gross income calculation. This tax-saving strategy can be especially helpful for people who are already giving or planning to give to a charity and for those who don’t itemize deductions on their income tax return.
  3. Make cash gifts before the end-of-the-year. Depending on your specific tax situation, charitable donations could provide a good source of income tax deductions. In order to deduct a charitable contribution, you must itemize your taxes. This is critical, especially since the IRS reports that only 30% of taxpayers choose to itemize deductions on their tax returns. It may be worth spending time identifying other deductible expenses to see if you can exceed the standard deduction that most Americans take. It’s also a good idea to make sure you research whether your charity of choice is a qualified tax-exempt organization.

These are just a few ideas that combine charitable gifting and tax planning strategies, but there are many more. Let me know if you’d like to have a conversation about how you can include giving in your financial plan.

Happy Thanksgiving from The Leonard Family to yours!

*This post originally appeared in the November issue of Hills & Castles magazine.