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There are three months every year when my inbox floods with money-related questions: January, April, and September.
New Year’s resolutions and tax time explain the first two. But when I first started out as a financial planner, September surprised me. Not that it should have. Back-to-school season is ingrained in many of us as a time to refocus on our to-do list and get serious about getting things done.
But in order to get things done, we have to identify what we’re working toward. And then, we have to figure out a way to keep track of our progress toward those goals.
Enter my favorite goal-tracking app, 10Q. Think of it as one of those school assignments where you had to write a letter to your future self, and your teacher mailed it to you a year later.
Every fall, 10Q participants are emailed a question a day for 10 days, and answers are recorded in the site’s “vault.” The following year, your responses are emailed back to you, so you can reflect on how your year played out. Then, the process begins again.
Originally inspired by the 10 days of reflection between the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the free service is open to anyone. In 2017, 10Q kicks off on September 20, the day Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, begins at sunset.
The 10 questions (plus one bonus question) are not about money, per se. You’ll be asked to describe a significant experience you’ve had in the past year, and if there’s something you wish you had done differently. You’ll also be asked to choose one thing you’d like to achieve by this time next year, and how you’d like to improve your life over the coming months.
The site is simple and easy to use. Questions appear like this:
Your answers can be short or long, and you can skip questions that don’t resonate with you. Everything you write is private, unless you choose to share it, and subject to the highest industry standard encryption, according to the site.
If you miss a day, you can catch up whenever you have time, but you have to finish all 10 questions – and officially submit them to the “10Q vault” – within 72 hours of nightfall on September 30, when Yom Kippur ends this year. At that point, your answers are stored and saved until next year.
The first year I participated in 10Q, my biggest goal was to become fluent in Spanish. Writing down the goal and setting a time limit helped me decide to move to Colombia four months later, where I spent the first half of 2011 working remotely and learning Spanish with a tutor. The timing wasn’t great, but the timing never is. If I hadn’t pushed myself to achieve the goal then, I’m sure I would regret it today.
This year marks my eighth year using 10Q as a tool for reflection and goal-tracking, and much has changed in my life since I started. It’s become a tradition I look forward to – a chance to review and reorient my goals, financial or otherwise. In addition to my monthly net worth tracking spreadsheet, it helps me stay focused and moving forward, no matter what life throws my way.
It’s a habit I’ve seen work with my financial planning clients as well. If you’ve got the back-to-school, goal-setting itch, now is the time to use that momentum – and 10Q if it helps – to make your goals a reality this year.