“Work takes up 14 hours of my life every day. By the end of it, I’m too tired to sit down and start doing research. What should I do?”
Goooood question. We all KNOW that investing is important. We know that once you learn it, we can check it off your list, and it will benefit us for the rest of our lives.
Yet, I totally know how this guy feels.There’s work, family, responsibilities, chores – all the stuff that just gets in the way when we wanna sit down and learn investing seriously.
And YET – all these financial gurus keep wagging their fingers at us and nagging:
- “You should spend your weekends reading annual reports!”
- “You really need to read the financial news every day!”
- “You really need to sit down and make an inventory of your savings, expenses, debts and assets!”
With soooo many things to do in investing, it’s easy to throw your hands up and go:
But you know what?
It’s Not Really About “Time Management”!
We LOOOVEE to talk about “time management”, right? We’ll say things like “Ok if I just have the right to-do list app, or if I could be more “efficient” at work so I can get home early to research, then I’ll FINALLY have enough time to learn investing!”
Sometimes, I’ll really want to get some work done, like write a blogpost, or brainstorm some ideas for a course I’m building. So I finish my dinner by 8pm, plan to work for 2 hours… but end up spending the night watching dumb videos on YouTube.
It’s not really about time management: I had the time, but I ended up wasting it. What’s going on here?
Researchers Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr did some great research and found that being fully engaged has very little to do with how we manage our time, and more to do with how we harness our energy.
Why? Because we all have a fixed 24 hours a day, but we have a potentially unlimited quantity and quality of energy available to us. Think about it – if you could wake up tomorrow feeling positive, healthy and clear-headed, you’ll be way more effective at learning investing (or any other skill), even if you only had 30 minutes to learn!
(Check out their book The Power of Full Engagement (aff link) if you wanna learn more about how to take advantage of this concept. I highly recommend it.)
So! Maximising your ENERGY is way more effective than maximising your TIME.
Here’s how you can maximise your energy to learn investing better:
Step 1: Eat, Move, Sleep
When I was interning, I used to party till 2am on Wednesday (oh, oh, oh, oh, oh! Square rooooooom), and then head to the office on Thursday and struggle to stay awake. Not only did I look (and smell) gross, but I was also extremely unproductive. It was a miracle if I completed just one or two tasks during those days.
Conversely, the days when I pushed out my highest quality work were those when I got lots of sleep, avoided junk food, and exercised the night before.
The same applies to investing. If you wanna learn efficiently with the limited time you have, get the basics right first.
Get 7-8 hours of sleep every day. Eat well (I find that more veggies and fewer carbs does the trick for me). Exercise. Do this for a week, and you’ll notice that you’ll have way more energy to learn investing even after a long day at the office.
Check out the book Eat Move Sleep (aff link) on how you can do this better.
When your body is energetic and your mind is clear, you can accomplish a LOT even if you only have 25 minutes a day to get stuff done.
Why do you think Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey and even President Obama schedule workout sessions even though they’re crazy busy? Because even though exercising takes up precious time, it helps them to become even more productive with the rest of their day.
Step 2: Know EXACTLY What To Do – And What To Ignore
Remember the first time you went to the gym? I remember feeling a little intimidated by all the options: Should I start with the treadmill? Lift some weights? Try out that wonky-looking machine in he corner? Am I even wearing the right kind of shoes?
Now imagine if you had a personal trainer – someone who can tell you EXACTLY which weights to lift, how to do it, and how many reps you need. More importantly, she’ll tell you what you can ignore for now, according to your fitness level.
It’s exactly the same when it comes to learning investing. While reading random stuff online is great, but most people are quickly overwhelmed by all the options: Should you be researching ETFs? Picking a broker? Learning the theory behind P/E ratios? Understanding the Singapore Savings Bonds?
All these decisions are a HUGE energy-suck. And soon, you’ll realise that you’ve spent 2 hours Googling around without getting anywhere.
That’s why I prefer to have a guide with me – either a good investing book, or even better, a (mini) investing course. I especially love those that give me a couple of action steps to do every week. For example:
- Week 1: Understand the theory
- Week 2: Research ETFs
- Week 3: Pick a brokerage, etc
Could you find the information online yourself? Sure – just like how you could try out all the gym equipment out without a trainer.
But having a guide will help you focus your energies into what you should be doing right now – and more importantly, ignoring all the other stuff! This makes your learning way more effective compared to someone who’s just randomly Googling around.
Step 3: Set Aside A Time Every Day
But it’s not about lifehacking your way through your already packed schedule. That’s unsustainable and you’re likely to burn out.
Instead, here’s what I suggest: Set aside a time to learn one new thing about investing every day. And by every day, I mean every single day: weekdays, weekends, public holidays, your birthday, etc. I’ve written about this before, so I won’t dwell too much into it.
Spend 15 minutes a day to read one chapter, watch one video, or research one website. You can do more if you feel like it, but if you’ve put in 15 minutes of focused effort, you’ve succeeded. You can do this on the bus, right before you go to bed, or at lunch.
Test out different times to see which one works for you. Personally I do most of my personal projects early in the morning before heading to the office while I’m still fresh. But if you’re a night owl, try learning investing after everyone else has gone to bed.
If you’re not sure, test it! Try one routine this week, then switch it around. As long as you spend at least 15 minutes a day, you’ll soon make it an effortless habit. After all – no one ever says they have “no time” to brush their teeth, right?
Give it a shot – that small amount of activity, when done consistently every day, will compound into HUGE results.
It’s About Energy, Not Time.
Remember – it’s not about having enough “time”; it’s about making the most of your ENERGY.
We all have 24 hours a day. But the people who can maximise their energy by getting their physicals right, knowing exactly what to do, and making it a habit, can make way better use of their time.
Now, I’m curious to hear from you. What’s the one thing you can do this week to take your first step towards learning investing? Maybe it’s sleeping 7 hours. Maybe it’s signing up for an investing course. Maybe it’s scheduling a slot on your calendar.
Research shows that people who make their commitments publicly are more likely to stick to them. So let me know in the comments below – I read every one.
- How to start with as little as $100 a month
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- The specific investments to start with, and where to find them in Singapore
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