Friday, November 20, 2009

Get More Done Today With 4 Steps to Budget Time

In my life, I find that I go through cycles. What is a good idea today gets swapped out for another good idea tomorrow. At some point, I end up returning to a past idea in hopes of solving whatever problem I am currently facing. Budgeting my time is one of those things I have repeatedly done, undone, and then done again. I do it because it makes sense and it works.

In this article, we will look at a time budget. Specifically, the article will describe what it is, reasons for using it, and finally steps on how to apply it in your life.

What is a Time Budget?
Similar to a tool used in personal and corporate finance, a time budget is a resource for managing the use of ones time. In finance, a budget helps to limit the amount of money one is allowed to spend. I love watching movies and, if allowed, I would probably go to the theater every weekend. Unfortunately, my allowance for entertainment only provides enough for one visit per month.

Similarly, a time budget helps to manage how one spends time. If left to my own devices, I would probably spend most of my day doing all the fun stuff. As a result of this careless behavior, I would never make time to workout, cut my hair, pay bills, or clean my car.

Why Should I Use a Time Budget?
Ultimately, time budgeting is about finding a balance between doing the things we like to do and the things we must do. For me, I find work, school, family, fraternity, free-time, and God as important. If I give too much time to one area, then all the others are negatively affected. Therefore, in order to address each one fairly, I need to manage my time strategically.

4 Steps to Budgeting Time
By now, you should at least see the value of time management. For students and busy professionals, managing time is a must. In this section, I will provide four easy steps to budget time.


Step 1: Make a list of daily activities
First, make a list of daily tasks. An easy way to start is by reviewing your calendar. Take note of tasks you commonly find yourself doing and write it all down on a piece of paper. Examples include: Shower, commute, eat lunch, check email, develop report, meet with staff, etc.

Step 2: Organize list into groups
Once your list of activities is complete, group items together. For me, I group email, phone calls, and conversations under a communication group. Other areas may include: Meetings, free-time, school, work, family, etc.

Step 3: Attach a time limit to each group
Now that the groups are organized, assign time limits to each group. We know that we only have 24 hours in a day, so start with the easy groups. For me, sleep automatically gets 8 hours, which leaves me with 16 hours to spend. When you are done with this step, you should have no time left over.

Step 4: Plan your day
With your time budget set, pull out a calendar. I prefer Google calendar, but if you use a paper version that is fine, too. The idea of this step is to place tasks on your calendar and schedule them like you would an appointment.

Remember that each task is apart of a group and that each group has a limited amount of time. For me, I have a time budget of two hours for meetings. If someone tries to call a meeting on a day where my meeting times are full, then I move on to another day.

Time Budget Example
Weekday


  • Meetings: 2 hours
  • Communication: 2 hours
  • Management: 1 hour
  • Blog: 1.5 hours
  • School: 1.5 hours
  • Commuting: 3 hours
  • Sleeping: 8 hours
  • Get ready for day: 1 hour
  • Get ready for bed: 30 minutes
  • Workout: 1.5 hours
  • Family: 30 minutes
  • Free-time: 1 hour
  • Devotion: 30 minutes
Weekend
  • Sleeping: 8 hours
  • Free-time: 2 hours
  • School: 4 hours
  • Communication: 2 hours
  • Work: 4 hours
  • Get ready for day: 1 hour
  • Get ready for bed: 30 minutes
  • Devotion: 30 minutes
  • Family: 2 hours
Final Thoughts

Respect your plan
In order for this to work, you need to treat each task as an appointment. This means you should play close attention to the start and end times. Stick to your plan!

Invest in the future
Even if you have nothing scheduled, use the time to invest in future projects. For example, I do not have meetings everyday. Instead of using that time in another area, I can spend that time to schedule important meetings that have fallen through the cracks.

Use color
Try using color on the calendar to easily separate one group from another. This tip makes it much easier to view and calculate remaining time for individual categories.

Plan ahead
Spend time on weekends or at the close of business to plan ahead. This tip will save you time and help prepare you mentally for upcoming tasks.

Let's Discuss
In the comment section below, let's talk about time budgeting. Do you have any particular questions, concerns, or issues with the idea? If not, how has this tool helped you better manage your time?

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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