As tax season starts to ramp up, I’m sitting safely in my office right now, however, just a few short weeks ago, things were much more tense.

We were driving back home from our Christmas trip down to visit family in California, and I was feeling pretty good for a couple of reasons:

  1. I was able to time our coffee stops for the 500-mile Oakland to Bend leg of our journey so that we hit Blue Bottle and Brew, and completely avoided Starbucks the entire way.
  2. The weather and traffic conditions aligned to allow us to make a quick “selfie-stop” in front of the “Oregon Welcomes You” sign at the state border.

Little did I know that the weather was about to make a sudden change.

We stopped for gas and a quick nature break in Klamath Falls just after 4pm. We’d been on the road for about 7 hours, and were trying to press on to get back to Bend in time for a late dinner.

The weather report on my iPhone told us to expect snow, but honestly, I feel like most of the time, Apple has no idea what they’re talking about, so I was expecting a light dusting of snow, at worst.

As we left the Pilot Travel Center and pulled back onto Highway 97, the clouds rolled in and it started to get dark. Really dark.

By the time we got to Klamath Lake, it was pitch black and windy. In my headlights, I could see the wind blowing the drifts of snow across the highway, but not much else.

I was just about to catch up to the big rig in front of us as we came to a passing lane. Normally, it would have been an easy pass, but since I couldn’t see where the lane dividers were because of the snow, I decided to take it easy until the visibility got better.

Unfortunately, it just got worse.

The snow kept falling heavier and heavier, and the temperature must have dropped like a rock, because, the tips of the windshield wipers on our Ford Escape started to freeze. As the ice accumulated, it lifted the ends of the wipers off the windshield and scraped back and forth with each pass.

Eventually, I found myself hunched over the steering wheel, peering through the only remaining portion of the windshield that still offered any visibility, staring at the tail lights of the big rig in front of us. I stayed in that position for about 2 hours, and it took us that long just to drive from Klamath Falls to Chemult.

We drove slowly, slower than I’ve ever driven on a relatively straight highway (other than LA or Bay Area traffic of course).

Once we got to Chemult, the blizzard let up, the roads got better (I could actually see lane dividers again!), and we made much better time the rest of the way back to Bend.

After 11 hours of driving, we finally made it back to our house, where we microwaved some oatmeal for dinner and collapsed into bed.

Here’s why I’m sharing this story:

If you’re anything like me, sometimes things in life can get overwhelming. There’s often so much noise and distraction, that it can be tough to see where you’re going, kind of like when I drove through that blizzard.

So how do you make good decisions when you’re driving (or for your small business, or personal finances) and you realize that you can only see a few very small parts of the bigger picture?

By making sure that you’re focused on the right things.

My wife and I are both self-employed, building up our businesses here in Bend. As small business owners, our to-do lists never get to-done, they just keep growing.

We also have a couple young boys at home, which adds a whole new level of chaos, and makes it even more important to make sure that we’re focused on what really matters, because, let’s be honest, perfection in everything is not a realistic goal for us right now (It never was, but that’s a topic for a different discussion).

When I was driving through the blizzard, I watched for three things:

The taillights of the truck in front of me

The edge of the road on the right side

Oncoming traffic on the left side (since there were no visible lane dividers)

I ignored or looked past just about everything else. I just focused on the things I needed to know to keep us safe, and we eventually made it home.

I have a few things that I’m focused on for my business, most importantly, making sure that my clients have a good experience when they work with me. Cash flow is crucial as well, and I’ve got some other metrics that I keep track of too, but I won’t bore you with them here.

For our personal finances, I focus on the biggest pieces of our budget, like housing, food, insurance and taxes.

All the other stuff? Mostly I don’t worry about it. Seriously.

So whether you find yourself driving through an actual blizzard, or a metaphorical one, just pick the few things that matter and focus on them. Hopefully you’ll make it to your destination safely too.

Josh