The devil is in the details is a familiar idea. There is always some detail that will catch you out. The parallel idea is that God is in the details and being thorough is a good thing. What should we take from all this?
Detail can be time consuming and seemingly with little payback. But, neglected detail can lead to catastrophic loss.
Some detail is required and no one wants to do it. When you have something important that is hard to do, boring, and often mindless, you need a process. If you treat it as an event you will not do it. If it is a process you are more likely.
The big bonus for making it a process is you can delegate it. Steve Jobs did not record the invoices at Apple, nor did he do the payroll. He did however know these things were important and he had someone doing a great job.
Record, review, revise is a fundamental part of good planning. Work out a process and go from there. Just do it!
Budgeting and record keeping are little things. People have always known that little things matter. You could put these ideas on your desktop:
What is a little thing, is (just) a little thing. But to be faithful in a little thing is a great thing.
– St. Augustine – De Doctrina Christiana, IV,35
Great things are done by a series of little things brought together – Vincent Van Gogh
He who honors not the penny is not worthy of the dollar.
– German Proverb
We can understand this concept better if we think about things in terms of our scarcest resource instead of in terms of our macro picture of life. The problem is that small things are hard to contextualize. $3.00 for a coffee is not important when you make $150,000 a year. $3 after taxes is $5 before tax. Five days a week is $25 pretax per week or $1,300 per year. How big was your last raise? Context matters and you may be required to invent one.
How many hours of overtime does it take to justify a more expensive car? How many hours at the office instead of taking the kids to the zoo? How many missed dates with spouse?
For most people money or time is the scarcest resource. There is a trade-off. Does the time spent budgeting, recording, reviewing and revising improve the allocation of available resources?
It will take a while to prove out, but almost always it is a win. You better manage things you measure in terms that are more emotional.
When I was at university, one of my friends measured every expenditure in terms of how many cases of beer it was. Three cases of beer for a physics text book! Are they insane?!
There is another point raised by Alvin Toffler that adds value:
“You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.”
Details don’t always matter, but how you handle them does.
Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario. In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.
Please be in touch if I can help you. firstname.lastname@example.org 866-285-7772