Look at the Overall Picture

Focusing is good, but sometimes it pays to take a step back and look at the overall picture. That’s because you can become so focused on the details that you miss seeing things that could improve your situation even more. In other words, it’s the old you can’t see the forest for the trees idea.

How and when to step back

The key is to know how and when to look at the overall picture. Do it too often or too soon and you can become overwhelmed. But do it at the right time and you can move forward even faster.

Let me give an example. You’ve been plugging away at getting out of debt for a while now, making payment after payment and scraping together extra money each month to send toward your debt.

When you start to chip away at those larger debts, naturally it takes longer to get them paid off. It’s natural to feel frustrated now and then if you’re not making progress as fast as you would like. We all get those “I want to be out of debt right NOW” feelings.

That’s an excellent time to take a look at the overall picture.

What to look for

First, give yourself a little extra shot of motivation. Look back at how far you’ve come. Add up how much debt you’ve paid off altogether, and take pride in your progress.

Then, pretend you’re an outsider looking at your overall situation. Think about your budget, remaining debt, income, expenses, and skills. What could you be overlooking? What frustration points do you see, and what are three possible ways to resolve them?

Often we give the best advice to people that we don’t know well because we are not caught up in their situation. Give yourself some perspective — or even ask for outside opinions and you might be surprised at what you see.

24 thoughts on “Look at the Overall Picture

  1. This is why I love using charts to track my financial progress. Seeing that debt line go down and down or networth line go up and up is extremely motivating for me. It helps me see the long term effects of my choices.

    1. I think you can save up on this extra effort if you start using a personal finance tool. They’ll chart it for you. Only thing left for you to do is budgeting. But, at the end you should be doing what works best for it. if charting works better than automating the tracking, then keep doing. Try the alternative first though then compare.

  2. you make a very good point. sometimes, when we’re in pursuit of something, we tend to lose perspective of things. It’s good to take a breather and evaluate your progress and be reminded of the end goal. Everyone needs a little breather now and then.

    1. Yeah, we all get a little discouraged now and then, and a breather that allows us to step back and look at the overall picture can provide perspective and motivation.

    1. Oh, writing! Stepping back there allows me to see all the typos that constantly slip through. Unfortunately, that’s usually days after other people have read it ;)

  3. I find graphs of monthly spending particularly useful. Seeing your monthly progress on spending goals instantly gives you feedback as to whether you need to cut back on spending. A picture is worth a thousand words…

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