One of the most thrilling roles I experienced during the past two-and-a-half years is being a dad. I know my wife, Jandi, feels the same about being a mom. I also know there is one critical area, which could have caused us to have a very different experience with our son, Charlie, had we not decided on the plan that we did.

When Charlie was about four months old, we put him (and ourselves) on a daily schedule. This schedule consists of setting regular daily times for eating and sleeping and, most importantly, sticking to it.

The schedule itself is simple.
Charlie’s daily schedule:
Wake up: 7:00 am
Breakfast: 7:15 am
Lunch: 12:00 am
Nap: 1:00 – 3:00 pm
Snack: 3:00 pm
Dinner: 6:00 pm
Sleep: 7:00 pm (begins with changing, storybooks, lullabies, sleep time music)

One week into implementing the sleep schedule, I almost blew it because I had heard Charlie’s cries over the baby monitor, and they tugged at my heartstrings. I was about to go to his room to pick him up and comfort him, but Jandi gave me a friendly reminder that I should just let him cry it out and that everything would be to okay.

At first, this seemed counterintuitive to me, but Jandi had done the research, and quite frankly I was in no position to question her reasoning. She reminded me that the best way for Charlie to get used to, and eventually be completely comfortable with, his daily schedule was to let him follow the plan (stick to it). We had already thought about, researched, and agreed to it as best for all of us. Since almost everything that Jandi had already implemented in regards to Charlie’s young life was going so well, I agreed with her about “sticking to the plan.” Not only did we find that Charlie cried less and less, but over time he looked forward to his nighttime rituals, entering sleepy time without a peep.

I don’t mean to imply that this process was easy or without pain. It was not. As I said, hearing Charlie’s initial cries and complaints made me instinctively want to attend to him. At other times while visiting or doing things away from home, we found it necessary to leave earlier than we might have liked because of the dreaded sleep schedule.

But I have to admit, following this schedule has paid off big time. We (including Charlie) know what to expect every day, and our days flow (relatively) smoothly. Because of the schedule, we also seem to have larger, more predictable blocks of free time, which we can take better advantage of for fun, for sports, for adventures. Another bonus to following this routine is that if there is a problem with Charlie, such as pain or illness, we know that we must attend to him because he does not cry just to get what he wants (usually). In spite of the work and the pain, this has been a win-win situation for our family.

Although I don’t claim to be an expert in parenting or a sleep guru, I do know it can be hard for investors to “stay the course” when their gut or their instinct is telling them to do the exact opposite of what they are doing.

From an investment standpoint, you could say that 2016 arrived like a baby crying to be rescued from the darkness of the night. Concerns about China’s economy, falling oil prices, the doom-and-gloom of a potential US recession, and negative interest rates were enough to make anyone afraid of the dark. The US stock market had one of the worst starts to date. Later, there was uncertainty that arose not only from the Brexit vote in June but also the US Election in November.

So by the end of January 2016, many investors might not have expected their portfolios to deliver any positive returns for the year. But 2016 highlighted two important investing principles: diversifying across asset groups, and “staying the course” by sticking to a well-thought-out plan, despite the darkness and uncertainty swirling around everything. As we look forward to 2017, our most important resolution should be to continue to monitor, evaluate, and tweak our plans (baby steps) as opportunities arise and our circumstances change.

I wish everyone a Happy New Year and continued success!