As an actuary and recovering spreadsheet-oholic, it’s important for me to stay on task whenever I start rejiggering my finances.

I tend to do financial house cleanings—sometimes demolitions—in spurts. Usually some event(s) will necessitate that I do something, and then the next thing you know, I’m doing something else, then something else, then another thing.

But first, a word on…

Financial projects vs bills

In other words: goals vs. overhead. More generally: good vs. evil.

My OmniFocus 'Financial' folder is made up of a single action list called ‘Bills’ as well as goal-oriented projects. It’s an important difference to me.

Bill management

Most of the actions on my 'Bills' list recur monthly and are grouped by “first half” and “second half” of the month (task bundling). I also have quarterly and annually recurring bills scheduled here. One-off bill payments land on this list, too.1

Recurring overhead represents an opportunity for increased efficiency. Keep it minimal to the extent you can, and definitely keep it separate from more goal-oriented stuff.

Using OmniFocus to move toward financial goals

I’ve said this before I know, but I really like making OmniFocus projects goal-oriented. Hell, I even said that already in this post, didn’t I? (So much for limiting recurrence.)

By tracking financial goals within my OmniFocus ‘Financial’ folder, I help ensure that my crazy spreadsheet forays are actually providing useful information—not just satisfying an impulse to see the betas of my portfolio at 15 different angles or the urge to know the IRR of dividend reinvestments between 2007 and 2009.

Stuff like that was fun back when I was a twenty-something numbers nerd with nothing better to do with my computer (or evening). But I now know that such “information” [picture crazy-big air quote fingers] does nothing to increase my net worth, and it certainly doesn’t lift my quality of life.

Having project names like “Increase risk exposure in savings” or “Simplify portfolio by consolidating accounts with Brokerage ABC” or “Open 529 plan” are good reminders for why I’m doing the things I’m doing. Better: who I'm doing them for.

I highly recommend writing project names as goals—financial or otherwise. If you can’t shape a project name into some sort of goal statement, that’s a really good clue that it’s not worth doing.

  1. Quick tip: when you open random bills via snail mail, jot them down using the OmniFocus iPhone app. Write down the amount (and account number if applicable). This way, you can later schedule payment with the next bill batch in line. You also break your reliance on keeping up with a piece of paper as a reminder to pay a bill.