Financial Security: Getting Off the Hamster Wheel

Financial Security: Getting Off the Hamster Wheel

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Financial Security Getting Off the Hamster Wheel

You’re in financial trouble.  Your business isn’t growing as fast as you’d like.  You’re spending more money on outsourcing bits and pieces and, when you add them up, they’re a bigger number than you thought.  You’re a few months away from disaster.

You lie in bed at night wondering which will come first:  a brilliant business-saving idea or the steamroller that threatens to flatten out the whole dream.

The Hamster Wheel

In the morning, you strap your entrepreneurial running shoes back on and jump on the hamster wheel.  Within a few minutes, you’ve got it turning again.

Today you’ll run faster.  Wiser.  Take fewer water breaks.  Maybe cut out a peepee break or two.  And you won’t take your Mom’s or your friends’ phone calls … because (can’t they see???) you just don’t have time.

Damn, if you could just get your hamster wheel to turn faster …


Think about it.  If you’re not getting where you want to go, does it make sense to amp up what you’re already doing?

Or does it make sense to see if the problem is the hamster wheel itself?

Your Plan B

What if you took the time to look carefully at your money, to see if you can find some relief somewhere?

Look at the numbers.  Honestly, now.  Look at the income.  Look at the outflow.

Okay, for a moment, forget the income.

Examine the outflow relentlessly.  List every expenditure you made in the past 30 days.  Pull them from your online banking statements, from your credit card statements, all those recurring payments for programs and services you’ve signed up for … and maybe never used.  But are holding onto … for some reason.

And don’t forget the cash receipts for any impulse purchases.  Look at business expenses and personal expenses.  (It’s so easy to commingle expenses in the early years of a business and they both affect what’s keeping you up nights.)

What are you spending on that is not needed NOW.  What do you have in place “for when I make it big”?  What services can you cut today that wouldn’t even be noticed, or that you can get on a smaller scale or cheaper until you do make it?  What can you put on hold?

Then look at your life.  What can you do without for a few months?  Upgrades on cable service and other entertainment would be a good place to start.  Gym memberships.  Any niceties that you can freeze for a few months.  Food treats that you “deserve” because you work so hard:  out-of-the-house coffee, a $9 glass of wine here and there.

Strip back as much as you can without affecting your health or safety.  It’s not forever.  But get to a place where the distracting chatter in your head quiets because you have your income and outflow in balance … or much closer to balance.

Then your income.

Look at your hamster wheel.  With a more focused eye, see where you might be putting your effort into less essential things.

Where are you staying on an ongoing learning path in order to avoid action?

What have you avoided doing because it makes you uncomfortable?

What activities are you doing because they’re fun, easy and you like them … but maybe they’re not moving your business forward?  (Unfocused use of social media may be a first culprit.)

You Need a Plan

You need a clear structure of where you’ll focus your energy … and where you won’t.

So make a list of the most effective efforts you can undertake in the next 90 days.  Set goals for them and then break each goal down into individual steps.  Give priority to those that bring cash in quickly, to help take pressure off your budget.  And keep things simple: small products and services you can offer right away instead of massive, complex, multi-part programs.

Then find yourself a 90-day calendar (online blank monthly calendars will do the trick, and they’re free).  Write all the individual steps you identified on your 90-day calendar in a way that is do-able, but a bit of a stretch.

You’re going to have to stretch to get the momentum you need in order to get off the hamster wheel.

But stretching is better than running faster and faster … in place.

So take off your running shoes, get some clarity, get a plan and put that hamster wheel up for sale on Ebay.

You won’t be needing it anymore.

The Truth

We’re all guilty of at least some of these things.  I am too.  I wrote this as a composite of what’s challenging different clients of mine.  And what’s challenging me.

Most of all, it’s a reminder to each of us that to get the momentum a new business needs, we can’t coast and we can’t run in place.

Let me know in the Comments section below what parts of this may have crept back into your business while you weren’t looking …


Bio: Sharon O’Day lost everything at age 53: her home, her business, everything. But how could that be? She’s an expert in global finance and marketing with an MBA from the Wharton School. She has worked with governments, corporations, and individuals … yes, she was the secret “weapon,” if you will, behind many individuals in high places. Yet she did! Since then, with her finances completely turned around, Sharon has gone on to interview countless women. She’s done extensive research to understand how that could have happened, especially with her strong knowledge of numbers and finance.

The surprising answers are shared in her posts, articles and an upcoming book. Today her mission is to show as many women as possible how to become financially free for the long term, through her coaching programs. She has developed a step-by-step plan to get past all the obstacles that keep women broke and scared … and from reaching the financial peace of mind they so deserve … if they’re willing to do what it takes!

  • Very sound advice…I love your tips for tightening the belt! So often it is the little things that add up without realizing it until you take inventory. Thanks!

    • I see and hear it every day, Denny! So many things we think we need to build a business We got rid of some (like formal office space) … and then invented others!

  • Agree – it’s the small things that get us every time! The big stuff we are more aware of. Great information in this post. Thanks!

    • The small things really add up, Norma. We can usually strip all sorts of unnecessary spending out when we need to. And then … if we can just get the “inflow” stronger … we’re set!

  • Alexandra McAllister

    Thanks for sharing such sound advice. Your tips make a lot of sense and will also make a difference if we follow them. It would certainly make our future secure.

    • Alexandra, we get so busy pushing our businesses forward … with all the moving pieces … that it’s easy to get so close we can no longer see where we’re off track …

  • I love this advice. It’s a real breath of fresh air. Taking stuff out instead of adding more stuff in is brilliant in its simplicity. We all fall into the trap of the hamster wheel sometimes and it always feels so good when we hop off.

    • It DOES feel good to hop off, Ruth. Especially if it gives us the chance to figure out how to get rid of it for good! 😉

  • Great advice, Sharon, to write down every expenditure. I think there is a tendency to vagueness about money we spend to create our businesses, until it is too late…and this way, the truth is right there in front of us.

    • Sherie, it’s one of the quickest ways for a new venture to fail. While we might agonize over money decisions in our personal lives, for our businesses we spend so much more freely … “my business NEEDS this” … $299 here … $597 there …. $47 a month … whatever. And suddenly our businesses are totally upside down!

  • Carly Alyssa Thorne

    Budgeting is very important, and writing it down is a first step

  • Cathy Taughinbaugh

    Sounds great Sharon. We do sometimes need to take a second long at our methods and make some changes. I like your calendar idea.

    • Cathy, 60-90 days is about as far as we can “see clearly.” And the calendar helps pace us so we’re as effective as possible, but know when our day can end feeling that we’ve achieved what we had scheduled. That down time is critical too!

  • As always I read this and think wow and Yikes ! You slap me with a wake up call every Tuesday ! I am on the wheel !

    • Being on or off the wheel is a matter of two things, Liz: are you in control or is the business controlling you? Does your business have some momentum so things can happen without you physically moving them forward … or not?

  • Elizabeth Maness

    Great advice. We are working hard at making things better for us and our future. Thank you for these great tips !

  • Love the idea of stepping out of the hamster wheel because sometimes life does feel like you’re caught up and can’t stop. Great tips to cut back on those non-essentials which can help make a big difference to the bigger picture.
    Thanks Sharon!

    • We do get so intent on moving forward that we can benefit from some perspective, in the form of periodic reviews of what we’re really doing. Especially “solo-preneurs.” It’s one of the healthiest things we can do for our businesses …

  • Very Nice Ms. O’day. I think that when you combine issues you face with issues your customers are facing you come up with more actionable solutions. These tips=actionable. It seems like there’s so much to do but if we refocus, prioritize (properly) and strecth a bit. We can actually do more than simply staying busy. Thanks for the motivation Sharon. Enjoy the weekend!

    • Ms. Mys … 😉 … as I heard what clients were facing, something tugged at me to look at my own patterns to see what was resonating. Seems it’s pretty universal! Large corporations do periodic “strategic planning” sessions … but new companies get caught up in the tactical. Hence the stop … breathe … re-focus!

  • Another great post, Sharon. You are so honest, and shine the light on our fears! I do love animals, and hamsters are cute. We don’t want to live like them, though!

    • Hopefully after I shine the light on our fears, Sally … I also show how to get past them! As for the hamsters, I had a heck of a time picking just one image for the article. 😉

  • Wow, you hit a nerve! Good ideas, I enjoyed this article!

    • Glad it was useful, MarVeena! I never know where different people are on their financial journeys but am happy to occasionally hit a bull’s eye …

  • Wonderful advise, Sharon! I always learn something when I come to your blog. Thanks for sharing your much needed information! There are so many people struggling to make ends meet and your blog is choke full of tips to help them.

    • Even if people just get little tidbits, Susan, I’m aware of how great the need is for foundational financial information … the stuff futures are built on!

  • Yep…good stuff here. Sometimes it does feel like the hamster wheel. Thanks, Sharon!

  • A great reminder that I need to check where I am at with projects and finances at the moment because I’m feeling a little bit like a furry animal at times!

  • Jessica Stone

    As always, great article. You are so right that so many of us keep going on that hamster wheel that’s not working. Can you say “insanity?” After all, that’s pretty much the definition!

  • Susan Schiller

    Gulp! Sometimes I’m so busy in the wheel I forget to step back and view through the lens of a “plan”. I did follow your advice about projecting where I want to be in the future, financially. But I haven’t yet broken it down into crystal clear, manageable steps. It’s the old procrastination, in part. Your articles are the steady compass needle I need – thanks, Sharon!

  • Gertraud Walters

    Today is the first time I listened to your Audio. I love it , you have such a soothing voice Sharon. I think that’s my way of reading your posts in the future. Sound advice as usual and I’ll get back into some of the nuggets you mentioned.

  • Pat Moon

    I really do need to step back and look at my plan for success.. way too many commitments but no results.. I cannot continue doing what I’ve been doing and continue getting no results. Thanks for making me step off the hamster wheel and get rid of it.