Time Budget

Overly Complicated

   I don't like it when things are overly complicated. There is no reason to make things more complicated than they need to be. Part of efficiency is to make things simpler so we can save time and get more done. Many people are old fashioned and want to do things a more complicated way just because that is the way it’s done. One thing they don’t realize is that they are wasting time and energy and all they need to do is take some time and review their processes and see what can be modified and cut out. 

    One thing that is overcomplicated for one person may not be for someone else. For example, there are things that I do that seem very complicated, but actually help me. My schedule, time budget, and to do list are very detailed to the point that it may seem like it is overly complicated and not useful. For me it is worth the investment of time to be efficient and to be able to track what I am doing so well that I stay on track. For someone else, another method works. There is not one definition of "overly complicated". It is different for everyone. Nevertheless, it is always a good practice to review your schedule, to do list, time budget, financial budget, and/or anything else in your life. You can usually make things simpler and more efficient.

     There is freedom in making life a little more simple. We can usually remember a time in our lives when things were simpler. We often think back on those times and have a good feeling about them. There is a false idea floating around that having more to do or having more material possessions will automatically create happiness. I can personally attest that this is not true! Having too much to do and having too much clutter stresses me out and makes me anxious. 

      I can remember when I was 15 and I wanted to have a lot to do and wished I would be busy with activities. I then got more involved with clubs in high school, started working, and ran track. I was busy and I liked it a lot for a while. I enjoyed being busy with activities in my undergraduate studies in college as well. However, after I graduated and was working full time, I realized there was more value in resting and enjoying myself. I started to enjoy downtime. Now more recently, I am really particular about how I spend my time and that is why I have a time budget and I track my time so intricately. I am constantly working towards a life that is not overly complicated, I hope you are too!

The Fallacy of "I Don't Have Time"

    So many people complain about not having time. In fact, I am guilty of this. I do it nearly everyday. My time is very scarce. Because of this, the tactics of time budgeting that I discussed earlier come in to play. It is important to realize how much time you actually have. The next question is how do you go about this? Upon completion of accurate record of time usage and budgeting, it then becomes pretty clear how much time is actually left. What you will likely find is that you have more time than you think, especially after you go through the exercise of actually making a budget and a schedule. This was true for my experience.

    When you find out you have more time than you actually think, you then realize “I don’t have time” is not actually the case. So then you refer to your longer term goals and focus on what you really want to accomplish. These are the goals you want to make time for. Assuming you are able to find extra time after this process, the next step is to train yourself to stop saying the following words “I don’t have time.” This is extremely difficult to break. I am still trying to do that! This could take quite a while to master. I will let you know when I get there, I have not yet!

     Now if you can’t find any extra time at all, you need to reevaluate your schedule. You are then way too busy and need to cut things out. This would be a good time to reread the “Cut the Clutter” post. Even if you are not too busy, it is a good time to reevaluate the activities. It is important to re-evaluate your activities regularly as life is always changing and we are going through different stages.

Time Management Success Story #1 - Me

       As I grew up and went through school, I was younger and less experienced with life and I was not an expert in time management. I did whatever had to be done, whatever was urgent. Many people live their lives like this. They wake up and start putting out fires right away. They run around like chickens without their heads and really don't get much accomplished. That was me for many of my days in my life, especially when I was in school. Another type of person procrastinates and is calm and relaxed until it's the last minute. That was never me. If I had something to do and it was undone, I would be worried about it until it was done. It would have made much more sense for me to just do it rather than worry about it. All of that energy could have gone to getting it done. 

      A concept I wish I had growing up was a time budget. Just like a financial budget, one can make a time budget. Even though I just recently started doing this, following a time budget has already made a huge difference in my life. I am now keenly aware of activities of which I am overdoing or not doing enough. However, just like a financial budget, it takes time to prepare and upkeep. It is well worth the investment! With this practice in place, I am living life on purpose and taking control of my life. The largest variances are due to incorrect budgeting, which is done because this practice is still relatively new for me. Other than that, it is a very helpful exercise.                   

      Now my time budget is extremely detailed and I personally enjoy knowing where every minute is going. This can be done in many different ways. For example, start with just a few major activities and track them - i.e. work, family, chores, etc. This is also very helpful if you know of an activity that you want to cut such as social media, TV, Internet, etc. As I get better with time budgeting, I hope to help you get just as excited as I am. 

Cutting the Clutter

     There are many different types of clutter. The most familiar type of clutter is physical clutter. Some of us have clutter in one room while others may have clutter everywhere. I personally hate physical clutter and how it gets in the way of things. There is clutter for our time too! Just as our living and work spaces can get cluttered, so can our schedules. This can happen if we don't follow our schedules. 

     What would you consider to be time clutter? I define it as anything you don't really want in your schedule that is taking up your time, just as physical clutter is. For example, your life might be cluttered with social media. If you go on and off of Facebook 20 times a day, but only for 3 minutes each time, you are still spending an hour a day on Facebook. Also, not to mention the time it takes for your focus to come in and out. This doesn't just refer to leisure activities. It is anything that takes too much of your time that is not necessary. Here are steps you could take to cut time clutter:

         First, you need to determine what the clutter is in your schedule. A good way to do this is to do a proper time analysis. If you are making a time budget, you are already on the right track to doing this. Visually seeing where your time is going as compared to just thinking how you want to spend it creates a visual that is as clear as seeing a room full of junk.

        Next, you have to take action and actually work on cutting out the clutter! Some activities are easier to cut, such as watching too much TV, going on social media too often, staying in bed too long in the morning, etc. Not to say that changing habits like this is easy, but at least you don't need to discuss it with someone else in any way.  Changing your terms with a commitment will take a little more time and require more to do. You will have to discuss this with others that are involved. 

         Lastly, you need to monitor your time and time budget on a regular basis so you know you are staying on track and following through on your commitment to cut the clutter.

     Personally for me, I know there were a number of things that I needed to cut and there are still more to cut. I cut back on some church activities, some social media, and found a more efficent way to do records and to journal. I also cut back on dead time in which I don't really do anything or I think about what I need to do. Cutting the clutter has made a huge difference in my life and will do the same for you!

Make a Time Budget

     We have all heard of a budget for our money. This can also be done with our time. There are many ways to go about this, but first let me explain to you the benefits that a time budget can offer. One benefit of a time budget is that you can limit activities that you feel are taking too much of your time. For example, just like making sure you don't spend too much money on eating out, you can budget your time for social media, TV, or anything else you may want to limit.

     The main reason to do this is to make sure you have enough time for the things you really want to do. Just as we have a finite amount of money, our time should be treated the same way. This is even more true with time because there is no way to create more time, while we can find ways to make more money. To make the most of our time, we should watch how we are spending it so that we can make the best use of it.

     There are several ways to go about making at time budget. How detailed you want to be is up to you. I mentioned in my detailed schedule post about how it is up to you on how detailed you want to be. It will take some trial and error to find out which method works best. First of all, you will need to determine what time period you want to use for your budget - do you want to make it annually, monthly, quarterly, weekly or daily? You could also use certain time periods like a semester in college or school year. As far as time periods is concerned, use whatever works best for you, and you can change it whenever you need to. 

     Another aspect of determining your time budget is how detailed it will be.  Will you be tracking everything you do or are you interested in limiting certain activities? It's entirely up to you whether you track 1 activity or over 150 activities like I do. Just as I track practically everything I do, I also make a budget for all of these activities. I use aTimeLogger to track my time and Excel to make a budget. I then use the Excel Budget to view the aTimeLogger activity reports to compare budgets. I personally use Excel so I can do an annual budget and check actual activities such as church events, social events, family events, etc. There is a "goals" function in aTimeLogger so you can limit or set a goal toward an activity. This has been working well for me so far this year, but I know as time progresses I will continue to refine the process. This will be the same for you also, always do what is best for you at the time.