Some years ago when I was engaged (in a small way) in the movie industry I read a rather interesting book of advice to low budget (or zero budget) film makers. One of the most useful things I read was the advice to make sure that you kept the tank of your car full of petrol. That way, if opportunity knocked, or you needed to get somewhere fast, then even if you were rock-bottom-skint you wouldn’t be caught by being unable to buy petrol for the car!
It’s a simple idea, and one that I’ve adopted to some degree with various aspects of my day to day life. It’s always been particularly useful because I have a very up and down cash-flow – being self-employed can sometimes result in personal finances being like the Biblical 7 years of plenty and 7 years of famine. The money one is the obvious application. Whilst it’s possible to stuff money in a savings account or, in these days of fiscal doubt, in a biscuit tin buried under the roses, it can sometimes be more useful to spend the money on things you KNOW you will need in the not too distant future – pay extra off your Credit Card, keep a few extra quid around to allow you to take advantage of ‘BOGOF’ offers in the supermarket, cheap deals in the local shops, etc. We have a ‘stock box’ which contains cans, dried foods, rice, pasta, cooking oil, etc. that we keep topped up for use in winter conditions or as a stop gap when things might get tight. The advantage of getting stuff rather than saving the money is that it prevents the money being spent on other things. Of course, it doesn’t help with those ‘rainy days’ that always whack our lives, but it at least allows you to lay things aside for a rainy day.
The ‘keeping your tank full’ approach also applies to time; whilst it’s true that you can’t store time in a bottle (except in the Jim Croce song) what you can do is make use of spare time that you do find yourself with to get things done that may need doing further down the line when you may be short of time in which to do ’em. My own ‘favourites’ in this category of task are quite often Blog Posts or at the very least ideas for future posts. The WordPress software makes this easy; I can write a couple of posts in the same session and use the software to schedule their publication in the future. Other tasks that I often fit in to this category are what I call ‘errands’ – doing some of the stock up shopping listed above, collecting and dropping off dry cleaning, sorting out files – anything that will be required in the next few weeks and that may get forgotten in the ‘hurly burly’ if time becomes short for any reason.
And I’ve also applied it to my health and well being; whilst I know you can’t stock up on sleep, I have been known to go and take afternoon or early evening naps when I get an unexpected opportunity. Whilst it might only benefit me over the next 24 hours or so, it’s good to make sure that I don’t run up a sleep deficit – especially living with 3 cats, one of whom is a royal pain in teh arse at keeping the rest of the house awake!
So…keep your tank full and don’t get caught running on empty!