It can be overwhelming trying to find time to do everything you have to do and want to do. We only have 24 hours in a day, so we need to be intentional with our time. Thinking you have more time than you actually have can lead to saying yes to everything or dishonesty with how long something will take. Both can lead to feeling overwhelmed and stressed. We budget our finances and determine where our money should and shouldn’t go, so why not our time? When you know you only have $500 a month to budget for food, you come up with ways to save money and stay in budget. Same with time; when we know there is limited time set aside to spend on something specific, we will use the time wisely.
When creating a time budget you need to first evaluate your life and look at how you are already spending your time. How many hours a week do you work? How much sleep do you need each night? What does your commute to work look like? Unfortunately, you can’t do it all, no matter how hard you try. We are all limited by the same thing: time.
1. Be Honest With Yourself on Your Goals
Be honest with what your goals are and how much time you have. Take a look at your “musts,” those activities that have to be done (taking care of kids, grocery shopping, etc.) and the “wants,” those activities you want to do (working out, reading, volunteering, etc.). Defining your goals and priorities can help you determine what you want to spend your time doing. Do you want to spend your time cleaning? Volunteering in the community? Working overtime? Training for a marathon? Only you can decide what’s important to you.
2. Budget Time as a Week instead of a Day
Looking at time management from a weekly perspective was something new to me. It’s hard to find time in 24 hours to do everything, but when you look at the week (168 hours), your time can add up. Some days may be heavier on children or house chores, while others may be focused on extended family, your spouse, or yourself. When you look at your week as a whole, you may find that you have small chunks of time scattered throughout the week to work on a special project or hobby. Here is a sample weekly time budget. Modify yours and get as detailed as you want to fit your needs.
Sample Time Budget
- Sleep: 49 hours
- Work: 45 hours
- Commute: 6 hours
- Food/Meal Prep: 10 hours
- Shower/Getting ready: 5 hours
- Family time: 20 hours
- Cleaning/Household Chores: 10 hours
- Side Job/Volunteer effort: 12 hours
- Relax/Self Care: 11 hours
3. Eliminate distractions
When you have budgeted time to do something, such as cleaning or reading, eliminate distractions to get the task done. If it’s time to clean, put away the phone to concentrate and get it done quickly. Same rules go for when doing something you enjoy. For example, set aside your phone so it doesn’t distract you from your budgeted time to relax. It’s easy for 15 minutes to go by just by playing on your phone. Those 15 minutes could have been spent on reading that novel you have been trying to read, watching a new movie, or getting work done on your special project. There is a reason you budgeted this time for a chore or project and you don’t need to get sidetracked.
Distractions are like frivolous purchases when budgeting finances, they can distract you from the goal at hand. If you budget your relaxing time as time on your phone, then enjoy that time to its fullest and don’t let something else distract you.
4. Combine Activities When Possible
Multi-tasking isn’t always possible, but when you can, combine activities to maximize your budgeted time. I’m a huge reader and once I had kids I didn’t have as much time to read. Sometimes it was hard to get into a book especially when my kids were newborns and I needed the time at home to clean up or take a nap. I started listening to audiobooks on my drive to work, mowing the yard, or cleaning the house. I can still do something I enjoy while getting things done in my cleaning/household chores or commuting budget time. Check out your local library for many options. There are also many apps out there either requiring a subscription or a library card.
Try working out with your kids and make it a fun playing time while still getting your workout in. Take a family walk, both for exercise and spending time with your kids. Family time can double as active time in your budget!
5. Stick to your Budget but Be Flexible
Depending on your season of life, your time budget might change week to week or month to month. Having goals and priorities will help you determine how the time budget will change. Once the budget is set though, try to stick to it as much as possible in order to meet your goals. Sometimes you have to say no to things to stay within your budget. However, don’t be so rigid that you miss out on the little things. You can have the best plan in mind, but sometimes life has a mind of its own. It is inevitable that sometimes things will go differently than planned, so be ready to change your time budget around as things come up.
Getting everything done and making time for you can be hard especially when you are in the midst of raising kids, working, or whatever else makes up your busy season. Maybe your goal is to read a certain novel, do a craft, build something, write, or whatever else you dream of. Instead of putting that dream on your goal list and letting it get pushed to the side day after day, year after year, make it a priority. We only have 168 hours in the week and we have to be purposeful in how we spend them. Your time budget is a work in progress that can change from month to month just like finances depending on ever-changing goals and life.