How To Create A Time Budget And Effectively Use Your Time

Does time keep slipping through the cracks?

Do you wonder how you’ll complete all your work with the time you have?

Does it seem like life keeps happening to you rather than you designing your life?

If so, keep reading.

Today I’m here to share the strategies I use for both myself and my clients to ensure we make the most each day.

It’s time to get clarity on where your time goes each week.

It’s time to identify the time sucks that pull you from your focus. 

And it’s time to plan your days with intention so you’re living the life you want to lead.

Check out episode 93 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast to find out how. 

You can listen to the episode below, or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here: 

Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.

Listen To The Podcast Here!

In This Episode, You Will Discover… 

  • How to identify where your time goes each week
  • Strategies to design a schedule with intention
  • The exact steps you need to put these concepts into practice in your life

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Episode #93: How To Create A Time Budget And Effectively Use Your Time (Transcript)

Hello everybody Welcome to the podcast. Happy May. What’s happening with you? Are you ready for the new month ahead – if you’re listening to this in real-time, anyway?

Speaking of time, I have been thinking about time a lot recently. I’ve been playing around with creating a schedule that I love each day. I’ve been exploring how much time I want to allocate to different areas of my life. And I’ve also considered where I no longer want to use my time. It’s been really eye-opening for me to dig in and get even more intentional about my time each day. 

And with that in mind, I thought I would share with you over the next two episodes the work that I’ve been doing to identify my ideal use of time. I thought I’d give you the step-by-step practice that I’m following so that you can do the same. You can start intentionally deciding and designing a schedule or routine or lifestyle, whichever definition you like, where you are using your time in the way that you want in the days and the weeks ahead.

What got me on this journey of thinking more intentionally about my time is a book by Celeste Headlee called Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving. I bought it back in February, and it was such a fascinating read. If you are a person who is stuck in hustle culture or find yourself verging on the edge of burnout or you’re constantly feeling the need to always do more, I think this book will resonate with you. In it, she talks about why and how our society has adopted this all work no play hustle culture. And she traces this messaging back centuries. 

Connections Between Time and Money

And one of the concepts that she explores in the book is the well-worn phrase “time is money.”

This phrase has been repeated over and over in different iterations for decades. It really came to the foreground as laborers moved into factories and began clocking their time in hours. You think about an assembly line worker putting together parts for a car. The more time those laborers put in, the more product they produced, and the more of the company could sell. And since the laborers were paid by the hour, this concept of “time is money” really took hold.

Now there are a lot of different connections that people make between time and money. Some of which I think can be useful while others, I question. This idea of time is money is one that I definitely question and – frankly – disagree with. As does the author in Do Nothing. Time is not money. When we buy things; when we choose to spend our money; we are paying for value. We are paying for the value that we think we will get in return for that product or service.  So time doesn’t equal money, value equals money.

Now with that being said, I do think an analogy between time and money that can be useful is thinking about the correlation between budgeting your finances and budgeting your time. Because whether you are thinking about money or time, many of us want to be intentional with how we use either one. Whether that means how we spend our money in different ways. Or how we decide to show up within the 24 hours that we have each day.

Budgeting

Now a financial budget is a pretty common concept for people. You might not use a budget. You might push back against a budget. But you’re probably familiar with the concept generally. Essentially, you think about the different areas of your life where you spend money, and you intentionally decide how much money you want to allocate for each one. So you have your recurring bills and payments like your mortgage or rent, heat, electricity, water, groceries, health insurance, car payments, your savings or investments, etc.

In addition, maybe you have a category of personal spending. This might be money allocated for your gym membership, or the art class you want to take, or the shopping you want to do for the house. There’s also the category of entertainment and recreation. So this might be going out to eat, or traveling. Maybe it’s going to the movies, concert tickets, different hobbies that you have. And then usually there is some sort of miscellaneous or “just in case” emergency fund for when those unexpected things come up in your life. Because I guarantee you, they will.

And there are a lot of benefits to using a budget. When you have your spending broken down and mapped out. And you know what is coming in and how you’re going to spend that money, you know you can cover your expenses. You are thinking intentionally about your money rather than reacting to impulses or blindly hoping you can pay your bills. You can create a sense of certainty because you know that you can cover expenses that might come up. 

Now as I alluded to, some people might chafe against the idea of following a budget. They might think that it is too restrictive. They might want to have the freedom and flexibility to spend whatever they want when they want. Or at least that is what the toddler brain suggests when it’s throwing a tantrum. But our executive brain – the prefrontal cortex that can think to our future selves can generally recognize that there is value in having a good understanding of where your money is going. When you know how much money you have, and you decide ahead of time what you want to do with it, you have the ultimate freedom to spend knowing you can afford it.

Create a Time Budget

So thinking about this concept of budgeting, I think it is a fascinating practice to look at our use of time through a similar lens. Again, our toddler brain might rebel against the thought of intentionally managing our time or managing ourselves within the time we have. It might push back against creating a schedule or a budget for our time. But I want to also suggest potential benefits. Because when we are intentional and decide ahead of time how we want to show up each day, we ultimately have the freedom and flexibility to do what we want within the time that we have.

And both this week and next week, I want to explore this concept more in-depth. This week I want to look at it on a more macro scale. And then next week I want to zoom into a micro-scale. So if you are a person who often finds yourself in time scarcity thinking thoughts like: “there’s not enough time.” Then I think you are going to especially enjoy these episodes. And if you are new to the podcast, first of all welcome. Second of all, make sure you hit the little subscribe button on your app so that you don’t miss part two.

Time Scarcity

Now so many of us thoughts about time and time scarcity. And these thoughts often sound like, “there’s never enough time.” Or “time just got away from me. I don’t know where the time went. I have no idea how I can get it all done there’s not enough time. My day was completely derailed, and now there’s no time left.”  Do any of these thoughts sound familiar? If so, you’re in good company. These thoughts still circle through my mind still on a regular basis.

The difference, however, is I don’t make the mean anything. When my brain offers the thought, I have no idea how I’m going to get this all done, I notice it. And then I recognize it as a thought. I notice I’m thinking the thought, “there’s not enough time” And then I look at my calendar, and I reassure my brain that it does all fit. I can get it done because I’ve set aside time for the things that I’ve identified as a priority.

And by creating that time budget and making note of how much time you want to spend in each area of your life, you start creating greater awareness. This greater awareness can often help with the feelings of scarcity. Because scarcity often comes from your thoughts of lack and uncertainty and fear. It comes from the thoughts about not knowing whether you can get something done or not. It comes from thoughts of lack and not having enough time. And it comes from the fear of not knowing whether you’ll be able to do everything you want to do. So we can respond by generating feelings of certainty and abundance by reminding ourselves that we decided intentionally how we want to show up each day. The time isn’t getting away from us. It’s not slipping through the cracks. We know exactly what’s happening and where that time is spent.

Time On A Macro Scale

So let’s talk about how to do this. And let’s start by digging into the macro scale and exploring the bigger picture when it comes to our time and how we want to use our time each day. Because the reality is that we get to decide how much time we want to dedicate to each of the different areas in our lives. How much time do you want to dedicate to your work hours? How much time do you want to spend on self-care? What about the time you want to spend with your family? With your friends? You don’t have to decide the specific times yet. You don’t have to know that you’re going to exercise from 6 to 7 five days a week. First, we simply want to find out how many hours you want to dedicate to each category. 

Often when I do this with clients, we find that the amount of hours they want to dedicate to these different areas in their life, once they add everything up, exceeds a 24-hour day. And this can be really eye-opening. It really challenges our beliefs in what we think we should be able to get done each day or each week versus what is literally possible. It is easier to let go of some of the drama and frustration of believing you’re doing it wrong, because you can look at the equation: the number of activities you want to do plus the number of hours you want to spend on each one must be less than or equal to 168 hours per week or 24 hours per day.

Where Is Your Time Going?

So this is step one. We want to get clear on these overarching categories in your life where you want to budget your time. We want to identify what these areas are, list them all out, and then write how many hours you generally want to focus on each one throughout the week.

So some of those categories might include work, sleeping, morning and evening routines (whether for yourself or your kids or both.) It includes regular appointments or calls. It might include regular classes or events in which you’re involved. Maybe you have hobbies or things you do for fun. Perhaps it includes the amount of time you want to spend with friends or people outside of the house. Maybe you include things like family outings or date nights. What are all of the general categories that you want to make sure fall into your time budget?

Once you have all of those listed out, then I encourage you to go back and remember all of the other things that we tend to forget. These are things like showering and getting ready in the morning. Commute time. There is regular shopping and grocery shopping, meal prep, cooking. It includes cleaning and laundry. And of course, there is the broader category of downtime whether that’s watching television or scrolling social media or playing board games, or reading a book. 

All of these little things add up, and we tend to forget them pretty easily. So when you go through your initial list of this macro scale, I encourage you to mentally walk yourself through a regular weekday and a regular weekend day. What are all of the things you do? Have you accounted for them in your list? This will help ensure that you are checking all the boxes as you do this survey and decide how you want to divide your time. 

Decide On Your Time

Once you have identified the categories in your life, and you have decided how many hours you want to spend on each throughout the week,  then it’s time to get honest with yourself. Add those numbers up. Do they equal 168 hours or less? And if they’re really close to the hundred and sixty-eight hours, do you have any breathing room added into your equation whatsoever? 

If you are over 168 hours or you are dancing around that 168-hour mark, I encourage you to get curious. Take a look at everything on that list. What does the balance look like? Perhaps you have accounted for all168 hours, and many of them are filled with restful activities and time with friends and family and the balance is great. You see it and you feel excited because you’re thinking to yourself, this is amazing. My time budget is amazing. This is exactly how I want to spend my days and weeks right now in this season of life. If that’s you, rock on. That’s fantastic! 

On the other hand, if you look at your budget and you realize that almost all of your time is going to work, or all of your time is going to a balance of work followed by extracurricular meetings and commitments. Or you notice that your sleep budget, which ideally would be around 56 hours each week if you shoot for 8 hours a night — is about half or two-thirds of that, then it’s time to get a bit curious. What can we move around? Is this how you want your budget to look right now?

Again, you may want it to look this way. This may be how you are choosing to budget your time during this season of life, and if that’s the case, amazing. Own it. But if you’re not happy with it. Or if you want to do something about it, then I encourage you to start identifying where you are spending your time that you’d rather not.

It’s like when you open up your credit card bill and you realize how much money is going to coffee at Starbucks. Just as you might realize you don’t want to spend so much money on Starbucks each week, maybe you realize you don’t want to spend so much time on this committee or this project or that commitment. How can we cut back? How can create some more space in our time budget for those in case of emergency moments? And how can we create some overflow time in our schedule so that we have breathing room if and when plans change, or an emergency arises? Because as we all know, that stuff happens.

How To Do A Time Audit

Now once you have your budget figured out, then it’s time to do a time audit. It’s time to figure out whether your current schedule looks like this balanced time budget or not. The first time I did this, I realized I completely forgot about grocery shopping and laundry. It turns out that’s a problem.

So step two is to take note of where you are actually allocating your time for one week. Yes. I am suggesting that you track your time for one entire week. This may sound incredibly tedious. It may sound like it’s going to be super annoying and just one more distraction. But I assure you, first of all, it’s not that bad. Second of all, what you gain in awareness is well worth the extra couple of seconds it takes to write down what you are doing throughout the week.

Now there are different ways that you can track your time. You can literally use a pen and paper or the notes app on your phone and write down the different tasks that you’re doing throughout the day. From 6 until 9 am you did your morning routine of walking the dog, showering, having breakfast and journaling, and then sitting down to work. Or from 9 until noon on Saturday you did laundry and got your cleaning done for the week. If you have a hard time remembering this, which is something that I struggle with big time, you could set a reminder on your phone so that every hour or every 90 minutes it reminds you to check-in and write down what you’ve done in the past hour or hour and a half. Again, I know this might sound like a nuisance, but it’s only for one week.

Technology Options for Time Audit

There are also a lot of different apps and technology options that do a more sophisticated tracking process for you. there is one website called toggle, which I may have mentioned on this podcast before toggl.com, which has a free option the time of this recording to track your time. There is also a product that my client told me about recently called timeular. I just ordered it and it arrived literally today. So I’m sure I will have an update and thoughts to share about this as well in a later episode. 

But the takeaway is that there are so many options out there as well. And whether you do the simple route of writing down your times or you bring in technology to do the work for you, both options are perfect. The most important thing is tracking and capturing your time so that you learn whether or not you are adhering to that time budget that you set for yourself. Just like pulling up your credit card or bank statements and seeing where that money is going. The same is true for your time audit.

And that brings us to step 3. So you’ve identified the different areas in your life where you want to budget your time, and you’ve decided how much time you want to go to each category. You’ve also run an audit to see where your time is actually going. With step 3 it’s time to compare your results of the time audit to the actual budget that you set for yourself. How close are you? Where did you underestimate your time? Where did you overestimate your time? Did you forget any of the regular tasks that you do each week as I did with laundry and grocery shopping? 

Once you have this data, then you can decide what you want to do about it. You can make adjustments. You can get curious about where your time is going. And you can decide where you might want to cut back and where you might want to invest a little bit more time. These are your 168 hours. When you turn it into math, it’s easier to think about intentionally dividing how many hours you want to allocate to each area in your life, which in turn, helps you design the life you want to lead. 

Recap

So I encourage you to give these three steps a try this week. Identify the key areas where you spend your time and decide how many hours you want to dedicate to each. Then track your time with a time audit. Once you have the data, then it’s time to compare the budget to the actual and make any adjustments as needed, 

And next week we will zoom into the specifics of the day-to-day with a micro view so that you are showing up and spending your time intentionally throughout the days the weeks and the months ahead. So if you haven’t subscribed to the podcast yet make sure you hit that little subscribe button so you don’t miss a thing.

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