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Ever since being coached professionally, I have worked on “projects” in 90-day cycles. There’s a story that one of the space shuttles burned 90% of its fuel in the first nine minutes of its trip in order to get into orbit.  I don’t know if it’s true, but I love the analogy.  I believe you can get something done or change your situation (your orbit) by doing a 90-day “burn.”  And I’m not alone in this: Stephen King believes that you can get a first draft of a novel done in 90 days.

This came up for me recently while bringing on new clients.  New clients are often surprised — and at times unnecessarily apologetic — about the amount of time we spend together at the beginning of the relationship.  But this makes sense. It takes time to change, to get to know each other, to do the requisite planning, to make decisions, to do the paperwork, to get assets transferred over, and so on.  In the end, they are in a new and better place, typically more confident and clear about their financial lives. It’s a new orbit — a new “auto-pilot” — that gives them more space and time to do the things that bring them joy in life.

How can you do a 90-day burn?

  • Figure out what you want to change.  Clean out the garage?  Organize your My Documents folder?  Buy a new car?  Keep in mind that this might be part of a larger, long-term goal.
  • Choose a SMART goal — i.e., specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
  • Break that goal down into a smaller goal (yes, something more bite-sized).  You often need to string together several 90-day burns to get large projects or changes made.
  • Map out the 90 days.  I find it helps me to accomplish small tasks each week and take assessments at the middle of the period.
  • Put the simplest step in your calendar.  And I mean simple:  If you’re cleaning out the garage, the first task should not be “clean garage.”  It should something like “Identify the first box to empty.”  Note that I did not say to empty the first box. Just identify it.  Because let’s face it, the garage is daunting, but you can point to a box you’re willing to open sometime later this week.
  • Keep plugging along.  Make midflight corrections.
  • Celebrate your wins, no matter how little they may be.

Perhaps it goes without saying that I’m a big believer in baby steps leading to big progress over time.  You just have to take the baby steps.  And if you’re stuck on how to take them, give me a call. I’m happy to help.

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