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Why Dave Ramsey has the human psyche figured out

If you’ve done any reading in the realm of personal finance, and now even business finance, you’ve heard of Dave Ramsey. (If you haven’t, you should check him out. Your bank account will thank you someday.)

He’s probably most well known for helping thousands, probably millions, of Americans escape the pile of debt they’ve built for themselves. His get-out-of-debt secret? The debt snowball.

The basic idea behind the debt snowball is to start working toward paying off your smallest debts first, which builds momentum and keeps you going. Eventually, you work through each debt, enjoying small victories along the way to keep you motivated.

Why the debt snowball works

Now, thankfully, I’ve never had to work my way out of debt. But lately, I’ve been thinking about the snowball effect and how it applies to other things.

You see, the human psyche is a delicate thing. But it’s also a thing which can be easily manipulated.

If we let ourselves go too long without enjoying success, we quickly believe it will never happen. Then what do we do? We give up.

Yet, if we simply alter the order of our tasks, or make them manageable, we enjoy just enough success to build up our endurance for the next step. And that’s exactly what the snowball does.

Instead of staring up at a six foot snow drift and trying to dig a hole through it, you’re holding a chunk of snow in your hand, then pushing it up a hill, watching it grow.

Where I’ve seen the snowball

The snowball effect is quite possibly present every day. When I was out mowing an overgrown yard in the 100 degree weather a few days ago, I was beginning to lose heart, wanting to shut the mower down and rest a while. I knew I needed a small victory to keep me going. So, I mowed a line right through one corner of the yard, and finished it first.

I continued this across the yard, breaking one big task into smaller, more manageable ones. Soon enough, the whole yard was finished.

As a business owner, I often have a lot of tedious bookwork on my plate. Things like employer taxes, accounting software to update, checkbooks to balance, piles of bills to pay. I think updating that accounting software is probably the worst one.

I have started making a habit of updating it quarterly, which helps. Then I write down each month in the quarter on my to-do list, where I can scratch it out as it’s completed. Breaking this task down significantly improves my motivation for completing it.

So yes, I am completely convinced Dave Ramsey knows what he’s talking about with the debt snowball. It works with human nature, rather than against it.

Where can you see the snowball effect in your daily tasks?

Putting efficiency in perspective…

Some notes on efficiency…
As small business owners, my husband and I are always talking about new opportunities we might have in order to increase the efficiency of our business.
The “human” factor in our business is probably the one we most frequently discuss.
Can the business afford to hire another person?
Sure.
Will it really increase our efficiency to do so?
Time and time again, we settle with “Probably not.”
Why is this?
We know we work hard. We know what we are capable of. We know what we are willing to do.
We also know the same things about the employees we have had to date.
And we seem to always conclude it would probably take two to three employees to be willing and able to cover my husband’s work load. And probably 1.5 for mine.
What does this mean?
Well, there are two ways to look at this problem:
1. Daily activities of the business: From this perspective, we are most likely correct in our assumption that adding a spot on the payroll will not help us achieve the operating efficiency we are looking for.
2. Long-term growth potential of the business: From this perspective, we realize that the more time and energy the two of us spend focusing on daily operations, the less time we are spending making “big picture” decisions which, from a growth and wealth standpoint, truly affect our profitability.
It comes down to this:
Do we want to operate more efficiently at the $8/hour level, or the $20/hour level?
With that question, perhaps our “Probably not,” will be changing to a “Probably so.”

As small business owners, my husband and I are always talking about new opportunities we might have in order to increase the efficiency of our business.

The “human” factor in our business is probably the one we most frequently discuss.

Can the business afford to hire another person?

Sure.

Will it really increase our efficiency to do so?

Time and time again, we settle with “Probably not.”

Why is this?

We know we work hard. We know what we are capable of. We know what we are willing to do.

We also know the same things about the employees we have had to date.

And we seem to always conclude it would probably take two to three employees to be willing and able to cover my husband’s work load. And probably 1.5 for mine.

What does this mean?

Well, there are two ways to look at this problem:

  1. Daily activities of the business: From this perspective, we are most likely correct in our assumption that adding a spot on the payroll will not help us achieve the operating efficiency we are looking for.
  2. Long-term growth potential of the business: From this perspective, we realize that the more time and energy the two of us spend focusing on daily operations, the less time we are spending making “big picture” decisions which, from a growth and wealth standpoint, truly affect our profitability.

It comes down to this:

Do we want to operate more efficiently at the $8/hour level, or the $20/hour level?

With that question, perhaps our “Probably not,” will be changing to a “Probably so.”