Time Management: Why Budgets Aren’t Just For Money

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” William Penn

I often find myself wondering where the time went.  Weekends pass quickly, months are gone, and time seems to be speeding up.  Technology has given us so many great tools, but this advancement has come with a price.  My iPhone, which I love, generates phone calls, texts, emails, Facebook and LinkedIn alerts, and an endless supply of other distractions eating away at my days.

I’m sure most of us have heard the saying, “time is our most valuable commodity”, and I began to wonder how I was really spending this “wealth”.  I took a week and tracked how I was spending my time, and the results were somewhat shocking.  More than I realized, my time was being spent on useless activities such as watching television or meandering around Facebook.  Almost every night after my daughter went to bed was spent on these useless activities.  Sometimes over three hours each night.  It’s embarrassing to see that written on paper.

I needed to do a better job of managing my time and, after a little trial and error, this is the process that’s been working for me:

I took a week to track how I was spending my time.  I looked at the results and asked myself if my use of time aligned with my overall goals.  Seeing how I was using my time was embarrassing, but it was also empowering.  I could now see how putting those lost hours to work could add significant value to my days.  I had tangible evidence of where I could make better decisions and become more productive throughout the week.

I began prioritizing my week.  I started taking time on Sunday evenings to sit down to think about the upcoming week.  I set a list of goals for the week, breaking them out by category of work, training, or family.  I have found that by setting my priorities for the week, not only have I been able to maximize my time, but also enjoy my free time more, as well.

I started making lists.  When Dave Ramsey talks about making a monthly financial budget, he says you should give every dollar a home.  I use that same principle when making my time budget for the week, making sure to add in additional time for interruptions and downtime.  Each evening I review my time budget for the following day, making changes where needed.  When it comes to my training, I also note my goals for that particular workout (speed, strength, endurance), which has helped add a layer of improved focus to each workout.

I batch similar tasks together.  By prioritizing and listing out my weeks, it gives me a road map to follow.  I started to see where I could “batch” certain tasks in order to create some time synergy.  For example, if I needed an oil change and also needed a haircut, they are geographically close enough to batch together.  By having the oil changed at the time when getting my haircut, I am able generate an “extra” twenty minutes to that day.

I started blocking out time for television and social media.  This is the area where I was able to make the most improvement.  I’ve read statistics stating that the average person spends anywhere from 40 minutes to over three hours on social media EVERY DAY.  It would be difficult to eliminate all television and social media, however I definitely work to minimize the waste.  I’ve found that being more aware of, and limiting, this portion of my time has led to a more productive me.

I use my phone calendar.  I’ve always used my phone calendar for work related meetings, but have just recently started utilizing it to organize my weekly plan.  Having these alerts set for my activities has helped in a number of ways.  First of all, and quite simply, it keeps me on task.  With the pace at which life comes at us, it can be easy to forget about a task, or get bogged down on a particular task.  By setting the alerts, I am able to allow myself to fully concentrate on the current task without worry that I will lose track of time.  Secondly, it puts time limits on my activities.  I find I’m able to get more done in less time by giving each task a time limit.

I allow myself to be flexible.  Let’s be realistic, you can’t live your entire life by a calendar.  There are days when not everything can be planned, nor do I want it to be.  I have many Saturdays where I schedule an early morning run and keep the remainder of the day open for family time.  There are nights when my daughter is wide awake at her normal bedtime, so instead of moving to my planned task, I spend an extra thirty minutes with her.  Being a better time manager means I can be completely involved in the task at hand, living in the now.  It’s made me more efficient, more effective and hopefully a better husband and father.

Now that I’ve finished this task, I have some time scheduled to watch Big Brother.  Hey, nobody’s perfect…..

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