Time Really Is Money When It’s Time to Budget

Create a plan before you wonder where your time went.

A budget is what happens when you tell your money where to go instead of wondering where it went. At the beginning of the month, you create a written plan for your spending. The month won’t go exactly as planned, and you’ll need to make some adjustments, but a detailed, written budget is one of the best indicators of whether your net worth is going to up or down.

You don’t just need a budget for your money, you need a plan for how you’re going to spend your time. The good news is that temporal budgeting is a lot like financial budgeting. If you know how to budget your money, you already know how to budget your time.

Photo courtesy of © Adobe Stock / Natalia Merzlyakova

  • Create a written plan. At the beginning of the week, process your inboxes, review your calendars, and make sure you cross off everything you did. Once your “checkbook is balanced”, write down your plan for the week. Give every hour an assignment. Put each one into virtual envelopes.
  • Budget for the big rocks first. When you’re putting together your financial budget, you start with Survival needs—shelter, clothing, food, and transportation. Your temporal budget starts with the big rocks, too. Work is a big rock, because it enables the financial budget. So is Sleep. Once Quadrants 1 and 2 are covered, then you can start scheduling the gravel—and there will be gravel—around the big rocks.
  • Pay yourself first. Your financial budget includes saving for major purchases and investing for retirement. This is a priority—something that comes first, before you spend away your ability to save. Your temporal budget includes ways to save effort and invest in yourself. By spending regular time to Sharpen the Saw, you maintain and increase your ability to be productive.
  • Save for a rainy day. You can’t save up hours from one week to spend them during another week. What you can do is budget time each week to invest in those around you. By regularly making deposits into your relationship bank accounts, you can give yourself (and them) a healthy cushion. When the time comes that you need to make a withdrawal, they’ll understand.
  • You can do anything you want, but not everything you want. You will always want to do more than you have time for. Where does your personal mission statement say you should spend time this week? Say no to the activities that aren’t essential. There’s nothing wrong with having fun, but you have to make room for it in the budget.
  • Roll with the punches. Your week isn’t going to go as planned. When you overspend from one envelope, you need to cover it from another envelope. Work went long today, and you spent nine hours in the office instead of eight. Where will that extra hour come from? From your Family Time envelope? Will you jealously guard your TV Time envelope and take it from Sleep instead?
  • Your budget says you can. Your plan for the week should be liberating, not constrictive. Once you’ve budgeted for the necessities, budget time to have fun. With a plan in place, you can have fun without feeling guilty.

Your temporal budget is a zero-based budget. You have 168 hours to spend and you will spend 168 hours, no more, no less. At the end of the week, the balance on every envelope will be back to zero.

That’s not to say you can’t run up a deficit. If you regularly steal from one envelope to cover another, it will catch up with you. Work will pile up. You’ll drain a relationship and need to build it back up. Your health will decline until what could have been Quadrant 2 maintenance is now a Quadrant 1 crisis. You’ll need to budget time to pay off these temporal debts, and doing so needs to be a priority.

You can also work to get ahead. By spending the time to eliminate, delegate, and automate everything you can, you’ll start freeing up more time in your schedule.

You have 168 hours each week. How are you going to spend them? Without a written plan for your hours, they’re going to slip through your fingers. With a written plan, you’ll experience the freedom to spend time on the people and activities that mean the most to you.

Question: How do you budget your time? Share your thoughts in the comments, or on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

About

Colter writes software and blogs about personal growth and productivity. He lives in Silicon Valley (California) with his wife and children, recently took up golf, and watches mostly British TV shows.

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