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Manage your time with a budget if you want to use your time wisely. Time really is money. At least it’s the currency to fund your efforts to make the big changes you want to see.
Are you …
- overwhelmed with everything it takes to manage your home and family?
- stressed by long work hours and an exhausting commute?
- frustrated that there doesn’t seem to be a minute in the day for you?
- finding that your dreams are only real when your head hits the pillow?
Your day is spent before you even get out of bed in the morning, on everyone else’s needs.
If you’re going to find time to pursue your dreams, you need to manage your time.
Ready to get to it?
Think of your time as a bank account.
You only have so much, and you have to spend it wisely.
Some is being spent on money-making blocks (your job), some is home management (home, cooking, etc.) and the rest is disposable.
Are you going to let other people borrow or take what’s left of your spendable time? That’s what you’re doing when you let other people’s priorities impact your time account.
For a powerful example of the power you have when you manage your time, take a look at Harlem Elvis’ video in How To Spend Your Time Like There’s No Tomorrow.
You may not even be aware of how time is slipping through your fingers so you should begin by keeping a log of how you spend your day (with as much detail as possible) for a couple of weeks.
Include weekends, watching TV at night, running errands, everything that you do.
Don’t censor yourself by trying to rationalize that the concert you went to last Friday night is not typical of a week. Just put it all down and don’t judge.
Now you’re going to take all that information and draw yourself a typical schedule of your week.
You can keep it simple, just get a sheet of paper and draw lines down to create 7 columns, label them Monday-Sunday and then list all the things you did (and when) for a week.
Or get my Rescue Time Planner, which contains all the forms you’ll need to completely rehaul how you view your time.
Except for sleep, there should be no blank spaces at all.
Unless you were napping or unconscious during your day, you were doing something. Talking to a friend? Watching TV? Browsing Facebook? They should all be there.
Good. Put it away for now.
Now, let’s start with strategically planning your days so that you have time to the things that are the most important. Begin by making a list of all the necessary things you do daily, weekly and monthly.
Do not refer back to your time inventory.
Put down cleaning, cooking, errands, helping kids with homework, attending sports practices, everything. I have a dog, so feeding him, checking his water, taking him for a walk and cleaning his dog run is part of my daily activities. My morning routine is pretty streamlined and I need 15 minutes or so to be ready to walk out the door.
15 minutes here and there add up so don’t skimp on what you put down. No one but you will ever see it.
You might be tempted to put down “work” in a big 9-5 block each day, but don’t. Every minute of your workday does not belong to your employer. Write down commute = 30 or whatever minutes. Morning meeting = 45 minutes. Current project = 1.5 hours. Break = 15 minutes. Current project = 1.5 hours. Lunch = 30 minutes. Afternoon meeting with team = 30 minutes. Etc.
Be very specific about what you do in your breaks and lunch.
Do you have a 5-minute walk to the deli? Who are you with? What do you do while eating?
What does your morning look like? Write down every detail from when you woke up, what you did before getting up (I spend 20 minutes in bed looking at Facebook, check email and texts from people in other time zones. “useless” time that feels like luxury to me), what you did before you left your bedroom (made the bed, dressed, makeup, etc.), how long it takes you to then eat breakfast and get yourself and everyone else out the door.
Details are your friends. They’re part of your process and they are part of the solution to rescuing time.
When you’ve filled in the essentials, you’ll want to note several things:
- Things that are currently part of your daily schedule that you want to get rid of
- Things that are currently part of your daily schedule that could be more efficient
- Things that are currently part of your daily schedule that scream “bad use of your time”
- Things that are currently part of your daily schedule that frustrate you
- Things that are currently part of your daily schedule that are important to you
Although you’ll be tempted to slash and burn parts of your schedule, don’t.
Recognize and accept that some things may be beyond your control.
Your boss may set the way your work hours operate and that’s ok. If you can tweak things to be more efficient, great. But if things have to be done a certain way, don’t waste even more time obsessing or fighting it. Choose your battles.
Side note: There are 168 hours in a week. Subtract 40 for work hours and you have 128 left. Delete another 56 hours (8 per night) for sleep. These are the fixed part of your time budget. They are the bills you have to pay and there’s little flexibility. So now you’re left with 72 hours a week to do everything else in your life. This is your flexible budget (kind of like your food, clothing, etc. budget lines. You need them, but you can spend from a little to a lot depending on your preferences and determination to save) If that seems like a lot, that’s because it is! It’s two full non-working days, plus several hours in the morning and evening. That’s where all your personal responsibilities AND your own personal and goal tasks hours are.
The great news is that you can see that there actually is a fair amount of non-working time that’s available to you.
Yes, you still have to use some of it for things you don’t love but that need to be done. The they-that-demand-my-time things. The cleaning, the cooking, etc. But let’s deal with that in a bit.
For now, let’s just acknowledge that while work and sleep (both necessary) have taken 96 hours from your week, you are still left with PLENTY of time. It’s up to you how you’re going to spend it.
Will you throw it mindlessly at activities that bring you no joy and even less benefit?
Or will you “save” a set number of hours from your flexible budget by cutting down how much time you spend on the “necessary” items and using that time for advancing your goals?
Also, it’s important to remember one thing.
Time can’t be saved.
You end your day the same way everyone else does. Time runs out at midnight and you start again.
Unlike money, you can’t deposit time in an account to be used later. That’s why we’re referring to it as “saving” time. You are saving and freeing time in your day to use.
It’s important to remember that the half hour (or more!) that you free up on Tuesday has to be spent on Tuesday.
(There’s a trick, of course, that can expand the time you have. If your schedule allows it, you can do Wednesday and Thursday’s tasks on Tuesday and create expanded free time into those days. Whether you block out work to create bigger pockets of free time or not is up to you.)
Let’s do a planning calendar and bring out some color pens if you have them.
First, put in your work hours. Just that, no commute. Write these in red.
Next, look at your list and add the items that cannot, no matter how much you try, be changed.
Your commute is probably one of them. Although you could carpool to work, that would save you money but not time. When you’re alone in the car, there are opportunities to listen to books on tape or podcasts that might fit in with your goal plans. Ride with someone else and you’ll likely spend your time talking. It’s a trade off you’ll have to decide for yourself. Write these into the calendar in red too.
Are there other obligations that can’t be negotiated?
These might include weekly visits to older family members, being a coach for your child’s sports team or leader for their scout team. Or you might volunteer weekly at an organization or shelter. These are important by choice and they go on the schedule in blue.
Everything that’s left is negotiable.
Yes, even cooking, cleaning and errands.
Their function might be necessary, but how they get done and in how much time, is something that can be played with. Estimate the time you spend on each and put these into the schedule in green.
Let’s say you spend an hour and a half every week, driving to the grocery store, shopping, and driving home again to put everything away. What if I told you I could reduce that to five minutes of your time?
Check out How To Use Meal Planning To Save Time And Money and download my free interactive meal planner.
You spend on average 45 minutes a day getting dinner on the table? What if I told you I could reduce that time to 15 minutes, including clean up?
Does cleaning your house (including laundry) eat up 4 or more hours a week? How does an hour give-or-take sound?
Here is where you want to bring out your Time Inventory again. The one that has all the details of how you’ve spent your time over the last week. Are there things noted there that didn’t make the planning calendar you just finished? Set them aside for now until you decide if they can be eliminated or deleted.
Tasks can nearly always be scaled down to fit a tight budget. It depends on how willing you are to shake up your routine, get help from your family, and apply time-saving strategies to everything that you do.
This will never the the same for any two people. For one woman, cooking is a passion and a pleasure and she will be willing to spend extra time doing it. No shortcuts needed because the task itself is a joy.
Another woman just wants to serve her family nutritious and delicious food her family likes and do it in as little time as possible. Use shortcuts in the areas that make sense to you and embrace your time spent doing things you love that take a little longer.
Now what about the many, many little things on your original list that don’t fit any category? The phone calls you need to place, the emails you need to respond to, the family requests you need to accommodate, the doctor visits, your morning and evening routines?
Read the posts, linked above, on reducing time spending throughout your week and then come back to add in more details on your weekly schedule.
And remember that saving time means more time for you to use on your priorities in life. To practice self care, work on your dreams, have more personal time with your husband and kids.
By budgeting your time well, you will find all that you need for the things that most matter to you.