We spend a lot of time talking about finances and budgeting and setting money goals, but what about your time? That’s one area where we’re all equal. Everyone gets 24 hours in a day. How do you want to spend yours?
A while back I was contemplating this question and thought, why not budget my time the same way I budget my money? I even went as far as creating a “time budget” that was exactly the same as my financial budget except that the categories were different.
I don’t actually use a budget system to track my time, I only did that to give myself a clear visual and help me figure out what my priorities are. Instead, I use a planner every day which allows me to plan out my time in a way that makes sense for me and my family and what is most important to us.
So how can you budget your time like you budget your money? What steps should you take in order to make sure that your use of your time lines up with your priorities?
Step 1: Set Your Priorities
The first step to making sure you are meeting your priorities is to know what your priorities are. Sit down with a pen and paper and list out all of the things that are most important to you. Do you value traveling with your family? Or maybe you want to be debt free. Perhaps you would love to home-school your children or spend more time volunteering. Write all those things down and don’t limit yourself.
Step 2: Prioritize Your Priorities
Now that you’ve written down all the things that are important to you, you’ll need to put them in order of the most important to the least important. I know all these things are your top priorities, but you can’t do everything at once. You will sometimes have to choose one priority over another and having a clear outline of which priorities are top on your list can help you make those decisions.
Step 3: Keep track of your obligations
Regardless of our priorities, there are things we all have to do whether we want to or not. We all have doctor and dentist appointments, car repairs, work and school obligations, eating, sleeping, and other things that must be done. Put these things in your calendar first so you can have a clear picture of where you still have time to focus on your true priorities and so that you don’t forget about these obligations. Just be sure not to fill all of your time with obligations or you won’t have any time left for your priorities.
Step 4: Schedule your priorities
This is the fun part! Now you get to put all of those priorities into your schedule. Look at your calendar and see where you have available time, then write down what you’ll do with that time. “Budgeting” your time in this way will help to keep you focused on what’s important to you instead of wasting hours on things that don’t match what you really value (raise your hand if you waste too much time mindlessly scrolling through your FB feed…🙋♀️). Now the only thing you need to do is enjoy the things you’ve planned!
Step 5: Be flexible
Realize that, as you get older and your life situation changes, so will your priorities. Just like with a financial budget, you’ll need to continuously evaluate and adjust your priorities and how you spend your time to match those priorities. The things I value the most now that I’m married and have two small children are drastically different than what I valued as a teenager or a 20-something college kid. And what I value in 15 or 20 years when my children are older and maybe starting to establish lives for themselves will be different from my current values. Life isn’t static and how we plan to spend our time shouldn’t be either.
One way to help you in budgeting your time to accurately reflect your values is to set personal goals. Goals will help you put action to your priorities and get you motivated by giving you small steps you can take each day. Check out my post all about setting goals here!