Budgeting Your Time

I recently mentioned that after many fitful starts, I’ve started on a budget this month. I’ve been forced to rethink my perspective of money. More than anything else, budgeting has forced me into a big-picture perspective. Even though I can justify any purchase, can I justify it against the rest of my expenditures?

But money is not the only limited resource that I deal with. In the same way that we cannot (or dare not!) spend more money than we make, it is impossible for us to spend more time than we have. Ironically, however, many of us get caught in the trap of trying to force more time into our own hands. The rule in time accounting is that every “debit” on our time needs a “credit” somewhere else.

This week I sat down to outline my weekly schedule, categorizing each hour of my day into one of seven categories. When I did, I discovered why I felt like I was constantly bumping up against barriers in my allotted time. Some things, like exercising or taking quiet time for myself, didn’t fit into my already-full schedule. Because of that, they only happened when something else fell through the cracks.

Up until recently, I’ve hated budgets because they’ve placed constraints on me. However, I’ve found that they’re helpful tools in understanding my life. These metrics have given me a better grasp of the focus of my life and the things that steal my focus and energy. Specifically outlining my schedule gave me a clearer picture of how I was using my time and how many hours were really available to me.

Outlining the schedule was an easy first step, but the more difficult second step is trying to define where I want to be and blazing a trail to get there. I have found that I function best when I can set aside a large block of time every week to allow my creative side to take over and develop strategies for life. My “time budget” tells me loudly that I need to specifically schedule this in order to make it happen.

What about you? What are the things in which you’re investing your time? Have you recently evaluated your life (using specific measurements) to see if you’re spending the right amount of time on the right things?

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