One (unsexy) word that will make 2017 your best year ever

Driving to the office recently I’ll admit only 65% of my brain was engaged with the job at hand. The other 35% was pre-processing all the things I had to get through that day in order to make school pick-up in time.

Which is why I took longer than normal to react when the car in front of me inexplicably stopped on a dime. In the moments after I hit the brakes several emotions flashed through my brain:

  • Despair because I really didn’t have time to spend in hospital getting broken bones seen to.
  • Guilt because my burnt out husband would now have to pick up considerable slack around the house due to whatever injuries I was about to incur.
  • Frustration because I’d just gotten fit after a year of dealing with a running injury.

Thankfully, I managed to bring the car to a halt millimetres from the one in front.

What was the difference between me being able to carry on that day with barely a backwards glance vs a great deal of physical, emotional and logistical pain?

BUFFER

When I drive, I always leave a LOT of room between my car and the one in front of me. So much so, Ant (husband) always teases me about it. (‘You could fit a semi-trailer in there Kel.’) That buffer I leave? It’s for situations exactly like the above where something unpredictable happens and having extra space and time to react leads to a more desirable outcome.

This is why I believe if you’re looking for a word to guide your year in 2017 and make it your best ever, ‘Buffer’, as unsexy as it is, is one that would serve you well. What are the different kinds of buffer you can create in your life? I believe there are four:

1. Financial buffer

At the start of 2015 a massive disaster happened in one of the businesses I run with my husband. If it had happened in 2014 our business would have closed because, at that point in time, we had no financial buffer in place. In 2015 we did. And, even though it was devastating to see that buffer wiped out, that’s what it was there for – to protect our business from the unexpected.

My podcasting co-host Carly is a freelancer. In the middle of this year a long-term, two-day-a-week contract she’d had for years ended right as she came back from a month-long overseas holiday and she had no idea how she was going to replace that income. But she had something akin to a ‘Mojo’ account in place (more on that below). That account gave her breathing room to seek out new opportunities without the stress of wondering how she was going to pay for rent or food. Sure enough, she was able to secure the work she needed (and more!) within a couple of months.

Emergency dental work. Jumping on a plane to visit a sick parent. An unusually large electricity bill. There are myriad things that threaten the financial stability of a household, and a survey run earlier this year suggests 30% of Australian households don’t have money in the bank to cope with the unexpected.

So, how do you build financial buffer? The best method I’ve seen is what Scott Pape (The Barefoot Invester) calls a ‘Mojo’ account – a bank account which contains three months’ worth of living expenses. Where do you find the money to put in this savings account on a weekly basis?

  1. Initially, Scott suggests selling unwanted items on eBay or doing some extra work to quickly build up $2000 in that Mojo account. (See his new book for more – it’s definitely worth a read if you’re always fretting about your finances.)
  2. Spend less than you earn. (Sounds so simple – but relatively few people do it.)
  3. Don’t put anything on credit (except a house). (For the longest while I looked at loans for cars, furniture and holidays as a form of forced savings. Unless those loans are interest-free, however (something only the Bank of Parents offers), you might find yourself paying $1500 for a $1000 holiday (or more!) thanks to the interest you’re paying. So – call it old-fashioned. But if you can’t pay cash for it, you can’t afford it right now.)

2. Income buffer

There’s no real way to get around this fact: we live in uncertain times. It doesn’t matter if you have a cushy government job, work for a large multi-national or are a freelancer – chances are you’ve seen peers who’ve gone from rock-solid income to no income in the blink of an eye.

Which is why it’s now, more than ever, important to diversify. This might involve getting a part-time job to supplement a partner’s full-time income, starting a ‘side-hustle’ or offering services that complement the ones you already offer. If you run a business and more than 50% of your income is from one client, it might mean finding another two big clients so that losing that one big client doesn’t cripple your business.

Having buffer in this area means if one source of income suddenly disappears, you’re in the position to ramp up the other areas rather than having to start from scratch.

3. Health buffer

Hat tip to Carly for this idea. You know those days where you’re feeling fine but can’t be bothered making a healthy meal or going for that run? Those are not the days where you skip exercising or eat a whole pizza for dinner. Why? Because the time will come when you get sick or injured and find yourself in a position where you actually CAN’T cook healthy meals for yourself or get exercise.

Sticking to your healthy habits when you’re feeling good will create a health buffer that will get you through those ‘sick’ times faster and make it easier to pick those healthy habits back up again on the other side.

4. Psychological buffer

You know those days where your mind is on high alert from sun-up to sundown, processing the logistics of your day without a break? Where your child shutting a door just that little bit too hard is enough to make you lose your shit? Where you have zero resilience and capacity for coping with the myriad little irritations and annoyances that are present in every day?

Those are the days lacking psychological buffer. Or, as I like to call it, whitespace.

Victor Frankl once said:

Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Psychological buffer gives us the ability to choose the best response to any stimulus whether it’s our kids fighting, our partner leaving the wet towel draped over the dry clothes (again Ant? Whyyyyy?) or that joker who pushed in front of you at the supermarket.

The ability to choose our response rather than simply react in the moment allows us to be the kind of people we most want to be: patient, kind and most importantly, calm in the face of petty irritations.

So, how do we create psychological buffer?

  1. Say ‘No’ more than you say ‘Yes’. (If you don’t like saying ‘No’ say, ‘Let me get back to you’.)
  2. Practice deliberate inefficiency – have pockets of time in your day where you’re able to do whatever you’re doing in a slow and ‘inefficient’ manner. These ‘slow points’ give your brain a break and are mentally refreshing.
  3. When pockets of time open up in a day, week or month – resist the urge to fill them. (Under schedule your life.)
  4. Print these words out and put them somewhere you can see them daily:

Why will ‘buffer’ make 2017 your best year ever?

Less worry.

Less stress and anxiety.

More calm.

More time to be.

More time for the things that give your life meaning.

Better relationships.

All these things are by-products of creating more buffer in your life. And a year featuring all of the above? I reckon that might be a very nice year indeed.

 

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If you’re looking for more thoughts and ideas around making next year your best ever, you might enjoy this short and sweet read from me. It’s easily my most popular book to date with 80 five-star reviews on Amazon. Bring on 2017!

 

 

Comments 32

  1. I’m pretty good at having buffers in most areas. Some are easier than others (I’m building a financial buffer but it just takes longer in a single income household). Food is a SUPER handy buffer. Cooking meals and freezing has been invaluable to me this year.

  2. Thanks Kelly… this is very timely with the silly season fast approaching and our calendar looking crazy right through to school start next year…. not so much me but the 3 kids work, sport, social activities are off the chart. But as the chauffeur for the household I have to drop what I’m doing to kart them around, (only 10 more months and then not my responsibility – they both have their own cars – just hanging til Oct ’17 when we change those yellow square “L’s” to red “P’s”)
    My buffer goal is a Mojo account for me – relying on what hubby gives me each month from the business is getting too hard & I hate asking for more money when he’s doing it tough too, so am trying to find something I can do when I’m not caring for my eldest/volunteering/doing-the-Mum-thing, to bring in even $50 a week to stash away for when I get hit with big bills. (Power is a killer in our household and just have no idea how to change that other than telling everyone to turn everything off for a day each week – hahaha). Unfortunately being a small town – it’s either nightfill at the supermarket or hope I can get casual work within school hours on the one day I have free – again at the supermarket. (Not having any current relevant work skills as been a Mum for past 20yrs not really helping – haha)

    Here’s to a better buffered 2017 xx

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      Good luck with it all Jo’anne

      The freedom that Mojo account will give you – amazing. And it’s also amazing how quickly it can build up xxx

    2. Hi Jo’anne,

      I have a recruitment background in my distant past and I just wanted to drop in and say that I see your life from a completely different angle than you do.

      I can see that you write well and you can use computers – both are skills that business look for.

      And managing 3 kids? Bet you are good at organising, scheduling, meeting time lines, getting things done under pressure…. you know, a LOT!

      A simple way to get work experience is work for free, get a reference. Volunteering or a friend’s business or a business you admire.

      A resume is great for opening doors but being indispensable to a real person who needs your help means the same door you can’t crack open with a CV will be wide open for you at the entrance with a sign out front saying, “Welcome Jo’anne!

      But if you do end up in the supermarket, just do it well. Imagine what qualities and actions make the world’s best supermarket employee. And be that person.

      There is dignity in all work and joy in doing anything well.

      And we all need a buffer.

      Good luck!

      1. Thank you Paul. My life before 1998 was the cliched “high stress power suit super Mum Executive Secretary” juggling 3 children, one with a disability and having a husband who worked away from noon Sunday to noon Saturday… Lost my youngest and spiraled into deep depression – hence the not working in a “real job” since.
        I volunteer at a local primary school (qualified Ed Assistant – plus residual special needs caring/support experience from caring for my own child) and have been asked on many occasions to do relief but the days they want me are not suited to my schedule with my son (don’t have family here to look after him).
        Yes I have many skills from helping my husband with his business, volunteering for sporting clubs as Team Manager and Secretary, plus assorted community groups with fund raising/helping liaise with Government Departments (my forte, as it was my previous work arena haha).
        Unfortunately none of this lends itself to the type of position I would love so yes, I will be the best “50yr old checkout chick” I can be by channeling my 15yr old self as I will have now come full circle back to the small town I swore I would never return to, back in the job I started in high school.
        Thank you for your inspiration and kind words… they really have helped me 🙂

  3. Kelly, thank you for the great advice you have shared this year on your podcasts, I have taken lots from it and found it very helpful. I don’t usually do a word for the year thing, but I’m loving the idea of Buffer. I’m getting better at it but still much room for improvement.
    Have a great silly season x
    cheers Kate

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  4. I love this Kel! Whitespace and Buffers … they are the most unsexy but brilliant words to live by:)

    And GO YOU with a gazillion bestselling books created between all that buffering and “whitespacing”.

    You continue to amaze and inspire me with your ‘practical brilliance.’

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  5. This really resonated with me Kel – thanks for sharing. I have a tendency to fill up spaces that open up but I relish the times when I don’t. I’ve also cut back on some of our extra curricular activities this term and that’s made a big difference for all of us too. x

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      I used to be such a committed time filler too V! These last couple of years have been a revelation for how much more chilled things can be with a bit of buffer!

  6. Such good advice. It’s been ages since I have given myself the time to read your whole post, but today I did and I remembered how you are so good at helping me get into the right head space!
    Have a great Christmas!!

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  7. This is really useful info Kelly. Thanks!

    Re the health (and time) buffer – I batch cook food when I’m well and freeze it, so when I’m not well or am short of time, I can get out some ready cooked meals for dinners.

    Also, I’m so relieved ro have a savings buffer now. I just went from full time to part time/freelance work and it made it a lot easier to do so with money in the bank. Phew!

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  8. Great read Kel! I recently got my hands on Scotts book and have set about implementing his strategies to get on track after a traumatic time recently in all regards. Love your work x

  9. Wow. I love this! Sharing with my peeps this weekend.

    I love this idea of margin, and when I read your post I realized all the ways I create it. Frugality makes margin in my budget. Minimalism creates buffer in my spaces. I’ve even been working on “under-reacting” to things (I have 7 kids, so…), which is another way of buffering. Great stuff here.

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  10. Fab article Kelly. I couldn’t agree more. Having just had a baby arrive 3 months ago I am quickly realising that I don’t have the time to be ‘busy’, especially as I work form home and need to keep the little monkey occupied as well as washing a million bottles.

    I’ve also realised that my time has been sapped by unimportant tasks for years. I’ve put off my own important jobs in favour of other people’s. The inbox just gets fuller and fuller then I get more stressed and more unhappy. I was have health issues every 2-3 months due to being run down.

    So, I’ve taken action. I am installing the ‘Buffer’ into everything I do.

    No more spending time on unimportant tasks. No more replying to emails that don’t need to be replied to. No more wasting time on the Daily Mail and crappy news sites. My focus is me and my family. Everything else is second.

    You can’t buy back time so I’m making the most of what I have. I am turning myself into an efficient, no excuses, no BS machine.

    I am also launching a new venture to help small e-commerce store owners to run their stores efficiently and prevent being bogged down in the day-to-day tasks that are unimportant. A clear focus on the important will magnify sales effort and growth.

    I’m raring to go!

    Thanks again

    Matt (Mr Unsexy and feeling Buffed) 🙂

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