A good friend just finished his first marathon in Chicago. I’ve always envied people who accomplish big goals like a marathon. It takes so much time to train, and there’s no monetary payout… AND you know it’s going to require lots of effort and will be incredibly painful.

As a friend (and a student of asking “why” about everything), I had to ask, “What was your secret to success?”

He said, “I just had to remember that it was going to be exciting at the beginning of the race, then the hurt would come, and then I’d find my forever pace. After that, I needed to just keep it up until mile 20, and then gut it out the final six miles.”

Easy, huh? It sounds good, but we know that the key is in every moment of that plan… still, there was one phrase I didn’t understand.

“Forever pace?” I asked. “What’s that?”

He smiled and told me that after a few miles your body settles into a pace that you feel like you can run forever, without thinking. It’s an automatic pace, hopefully fairly fast, but ultimately one you can run for miles and miles.

I like that idea… between that and “gut it out,” the creative person in me can see plenty of connections.

When I’m working on an acting or writing project, I find my “forever pace” after awhile. Skill and training takes over. That gets me through until I’m applying the final touches, when really, in many ways, I have to “gut it out” and finish.

…but what does this have to do with money?

Because we want to focus as much as possible on our artistic careers, it’s important to find our “forever pace” with money. We need our financial plan to work for us in the background, so that we’re not constantly being distracted by financial worry.

Getting Into Good Money Shape

In order to be physically fit, we must establish a daily regimen of positive diet and exercise. It’s the same with your money. Here are some daily tasks that you should set up:

1)  Create a group of apps and electronic devices you’ll use to automate your life. If you don’t have a list yet, here’s one to start you on the right foot:

  • Mint.com. You can use this free site to track your expenses daily. (If you really want to dive into the numbers and like spreadsheets, try Tillerhq.com instead.)
  • FeeX.com. This free service, created by the same people who made the Waze driving app, finds and helps you reduce fees in your investment accounts.
  • Who wants to drive to the bank to make transactions? Find a bank that’ll allow you to accomplish transactions on the fly, so that you don’t have to interrupt your work on your craft, your career, or your family time.

2)  Review your spending plan weekly.

  • Meal plan every week. This will ensure you don’t have to worry about overspending on dinners away from home or on groceries you won’t use.
  • Give yourself an allowance. While you may not want to track every penny, it makes sense to know that you’re not going to sink your financial plan because you overspent at Starbucks. Set a limit and hold yourself to it.
  • Review your expenditures at the end of the week. How did you do? Where can you improve next week? Stay on the offensive with your money and you’ll soon see improvements.

3)  Review your investments twice a year.

  • Create a calendar alert twice yearly to remind you to have a date with your long term financial tools. If you have a good, diversified portfolio, there’s no reason to look at it all the time.
  • Ask yourself, “How am I doing?” Then use morningstar.com to compare your investment to their benchmark. Is your investment keeping up with others? If not, it might be time to switch.
  • Compare your investments to your goals. Try to raise your savings rate every six months.

These aren’t all of the details you’ll need. Personal finance is just that… personal. You want to tweak these systems so that you give yourself the best chance of finding your “forever pace” with your money. However, with these simple disciplines, you can spend your days working on your craft instead of worried about whether your money is headed in the right direction.