On balance

Here’s a secret. I just checked all my various bank accounts – business, personal, tax, savings, all that stuff – and I needn’t have bothered because it’s Saturday.

My bank’s computer system doesn’t bother to register most changes over the weekend. It does some, but not most. Couldn’t tell you why. Not a clue. I think it’s feeble and I think it’s amateur, most especially when it does register a payment made on Saturday but then afterwards changes its date to the Monday.

But I know it does this and I know it’s pointless checking anything on Saturdays or Sundays and yet I continue to check because that’s what I do. I check all my accounts every day.

You may call this excessive. But it is a direct response to a problem of mine. I write for a living but it is the writing that I want: writing for a living is being able to live while writing. Money isn’t the focus, money isn’t the objective. It’s working out nicely, thank you for asking, but my head is always over here in the writing instead of on the bank accounts and the invoices. And there have been times that has caused me problems.

Now that I talk about writers being productive, I have learnt a recurring truth: all this felgercarb about accounts and pitches and calls and the sheer volume of things writers have to do that is not writing may be a burden but it is also easier than writing. And if you get it done, it is done. Done and gone. It isn’t weighing on your mind and affecting your work.

So I tell people to get this stuff done now and what I’m telling you is how I do that. I check the balances every day. It means I know the moment a client has paid, it means I know the moment I’d paid off my iMac. (When I bought a 27in iMac, Apple was offering interest-free repayments and I knew – I knew – exactly what difference that would make to my balances and my cash flow. It was the right way to buy at that moment and I did it without hesitation, yet I was also glad when the last payment was done.)

All of which means there is a specific and positive reason to stay on top of these things. But because I know it is an issue with me, I also check the balances every day in order to check the balances every day. In order to make sure that I don’t slip back into any problems.

And I’d like to tell you this is a nice round number but actually, today was the 918th day in a row.

Doing anything 918 times is going to take you a while. So over that time, I have learnt various ways of checking extremely quickly and I keep looking for faster ones too. So I can tell you, for instance, that if you’re the UK you shouldn’t with systems that display all your accounts in one dashboard-like screen: every time I’ve tried every one, they’ve proved impossibly slower than doing it all one at a time through my bank’s own website. If you’re the States, it’s completely different: take a long, hard look at Mint.com. I wish that were available here. And I can also tell you that 1Password is a godsend for this: one click on my Mac or one tap on my iOS devices and it has gone to the bank sites, entered a lot of the security details (but not all, I’m not that stupid) and I can be entering those last details, seeing the accounts and getting out again in seconds.

Today was the 918th time in a row that I checked my balances and yesterday was the 211th day working day I’d got up to write at 5am. I am a writer, I do not like constraints and I do not function at my best in 9-5 office hours, yet I apply these daily responsibilities to myself and they work for me.

They work one day at a time. We can all do one day of something. I just advocate doing one day tomorrow too.

Actually, this has just popped into my head. I’m very much a Suzanne Vega fan, I think she is an astonishing writer, but her first album and its first side and its first song begins with a first line that goes: “It’s a one-time thing. It just happens a lot.”

I can’t believe that got into my DNA. But I just check the balances once. I just get up at 5am once. And then it just happens a lot.

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