I do a lot of measuring and data collection and analysis at work, and with my work. I dig into tax reports, financials, budgets, attendance, points of origin, square footage, density and a whole lot of things that look like lots and lots of math. It is, and I can understand that MATH looks hard and intimidating, but I look at it differently. I want to know everything I can know to really understand what I’m working on, and sometimes that involves a lot of numbers, so I’ve learned how to manage and analyze the numbers. I didn’t start out good at math, I got good at it when I needed to and had a purpose for it.
I do a lot of measuring and data collection and analysis of my work too, because I know that I need to know how things are working…or else. If I’m not on top of how I’m spending my time, how long projects are taking, how much things costs and how many miles I’m driving, I can quickly get to a place that I’m losing money and have to close. If I’m not charging my clients enough, I’m not helping them, I’m hurting me and my ability to pay for things like mental health care, insurance and food.
So, I track things and assess them and I make the time to know how things are going at work, because my work is important to me and I want to be able to keep doing it. Not that it was always this way. It took a while for me to learn what I need to know to assess how well the company is performing and what I need to adjust to not just barely keep the doors open, but to really succeed.
It’s that way for us personally too, and it’s not any easier. It still takes discipline, and for many might mean doing things that you don’t like or don’t feel “good at”. But you can! And it may make a big difference, especially if you are also having to manage mental health challenges. If it’s overwhelming or seems impossible or zero fun, here’s how I got started when managing myself seemed like something I would never be able to do again:
- Start making and using a budget so you know how much you make and spend each month. That was a hard habit for me to get into, but once I saw where my money was really going I was inspired to make some changes. I was spending more than I thought on things that weren’t really benefitting me, and at the time I was eating out a lot without paying attention to how much it was costing me. For me, that was money I needed to be putting toward other things, and even if grocery shopping and cooking weren’t that easy for me to start doing more often, I could certainly save some money with different eating out choices. If you’re making a lot of impulse purchases, accounting for them might make you think twice!
- Start saving a little each month. I wish I had known this earlier – really known this – but saving even $5 a month can really add up. I pay my own taxes on my income rather than having someone else withhold income taxes from my paycheck, and if I were not setting that money back automatically each week, I would be really unprepared when my income tax payment dates come around! I also have to budget for expensive annual software license costs, and the practice of saving – even a little bit when you get started, is a habit that can really pay off later. It’s also one that can be really hard to do if planning ahead is a challenge (as I know well!), which is why those small steps to practice are important.
- Be really kind to yourself if this is hard. Boundaries (managing your money proactively is a boundaried activity), planning, discipline and resisting impulse might be very challenging, and certainly have been for me post-PTSD. I was debt-free, organized, energetic and focused before, and I have had to re-learn a lot as I’ve worked slowly through coming to terms with my new brain and new reality. I have not done it all at once, it has taken a lot of small steps and a lot of backward steps – which is why being kind to yourself is so important!
You can do it, and you’re worth it!