Did you know you should make a budget for your time? We all know that financial experts say that we should have a budget. They have some excellent reasons why this is a beneficial move. Budgeting can:
- keep you focused on a goal
- ensure that you will have enough money for the things you need (and those that are important to you)
- keep you from spending more than you have
“Time is money.”—Benjamin Franklin
You should also make a budget for your time, and almost for the same reasons! Budgeting your time can help you stay focused on your goals. It can also ensure that you have enough time for the things you need and those that are most meaningful to you. Perhaps, most importantly, it can keep you from spending more time than you have (overextending yourself).
How to create your time budget
So, how should you budget your 168 hours a week? Creating a pie graph will help you see where all your time is going.
This time budget comprises an overview of the high-level compartments of our lives. I started with something that we all need: sleep! Seven hours of sleep in a week puts us at 49 hours. This task eats up 29.2% of our daily time budget.
Perhaps you need more or less, but the National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep. Mairead Callahan, RDN, CPT, reminds us of all the reasons we should strive for the optimum amount of sleep, including hormonal balance and disease prevention. Sleep also helps increase our productivity.
Since we spend the next most significant chunk of our lives at work, productivity is necessary. 23.8% of your weekly time budget is eaten up by work, assuming you spend 40 hours a week at your place of employment.
Strive to do something you enjoy since labor is the biggest time user of our life, aside from sleep. Now adding additional hours of work, such as staying late to finish a project or picking up an added shift, will remove time from another section of the wheel. Which one will it come from?
The time budget for self-care is just shy of 14 hours a week, or 2 hours a day. This category encompasses things like working out, reading a book for fun, meditation, nail/hair appointments, journaling, or therapy. Self-care is often defined as anything we do that makes ourselves feel good and preserves either our physical or mental health.
Tami Forman’s ideas on self-care are spot on, “Self-care is not an indulgence. Self-care is a discipline. It requires tough-mindedness, a deep and personal understanding of your priorities, and a respect for both yourself and the people you choose to spend your life with.”
If you have a spouse and/or kids take care of this model allows for 16.7% of your weekly time to spend with them. You can spend these 28 hours doing any activity you like. It does not have to be expensive or elaborate outings.
It can be a craft that you all do together or a physical activity like basketball at the park. Maybe your family likes board games or movies. Ruth Soukup has a ton of ways that you can spend inexpensive family time together.
This differs from self-care because it isn’t necessarily about what makes you happy or something that benefits your physical health (although you might discover that happiness and improved health are a by-product).
Self-improvement is the time you spend reading a book about how to improve your finances. Or time you invest in actively learning a new skill or a language. It might also be anything that you do to develop an ability you already have. This weekly investment of 27 hours will spill over into other areas of your life and prove worthwhile.
For instance, let’s say you are working 40 hours making $10 an hour, but you learn a new skill that gets you a new job making $15 an hour, now you are making an extra $200 a week.
Now, let’s say you are a computer programmer, and you invest these 27 hours learning how to write programming articles, and these articles earn more than you make at work. You can now move hours allocated to the work portion of your budget into other areas.
Jeff Moore reminds us that the possibilities are endless when we realize that, “You’re the ultimate investment. You’re the surprise stock pick. You’re the building. You’re the land. You’re the launch of a new product. You’re the classic car. You’re the startup. Stop overlooking yourself, thinking other areas will get you ‘rich’ faster. Invest in yourself.”
“The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.”—Stephen R. Covey
These are the things that you need to do to keep yourself safe and alive. These hours include things like eating and drinking, personal hygiene, and cleaning your environment.
At ten hours a week, this breaks down to a little less than an hour and a half each day. Does your hygiene routine take longer than that? Then you will need to adjust the chart because that time is coming from somewhere.
Looking at it as a budget
One of the best pieces of advice I heard about budgeting money was to remove the emotional attachments we have to money and look at the math.
Now, this doesn’t mean stop doing the things that make you happy, but it means you have to figure out the math first and then cut the things that do not bring you joy or earn more money. That is it: money in minus money out, and once you can look at it that way, your relationship with money will change.
The same applies to our time. Each of us only has 168 hours in a week, and we can not make more of it. So “time in” is fixed, but “time out” is entirely up to us. Now that each of the high-level compartments has been assigned a block of time and you can see it, it will be easier to figure out where all your time is going.
You can choose where to take time away from one block and move it to another, but something will get less, because you can’t simply make more time, unlike money.
“Time takes it all, whether you want it to or not.”—Stephen King
Having a budget for your money helps you see the things you spend money on that you don’t know are sucking away all your hard-earned funds. A time budget affords you the same opportunity. For instance, which category does binge-watching four episodes of the latest Netflix show fall under? Even if you argued that it was self-care (but it really is the opposite), the budget allocates two hours a day.
If each show is an hour longer, then you went over the budget by two hours. Which other areas of your life did it come from? If you played video games for two hours every day, that means you played video games for 8.3% of your week.
Not that these things are bad things to do with our time, but are you willing to give them this much real estate in your life? If you are, that’s not inherently a negative thing either, but the time comes from somewhere. Is that two hours less a night you will sleep, putting you at five hours a night? Is it time you will give up spending with your family?
“Lost time is never found again.”—Benjamin Franklin
Now, when you are probably feeling a lot of emotions about this like, “I work 40 hours a week, and I deserve to enjoy some time playing video games.” I agree, but this is the same thing we do with money, but money and time do not care about our emotions. There is only what there is, and what you do with it is up to you.
If you want to do fun things with your time, I would suggest investing in yourself now and creating passive and multiple income streams. Get yourself to a place where you can work 30 hours a week and make the same amount (or more) money. Then you have freed up 10 hours you can allocate however you would like.
Tips for your time budget
The goal of this budget is to proactively allocate your time to the things that matter to you. Creating a time budget like this will help you stay focused on a goal because you have freed up the mental energy and have a specific amount of time to devote to each activity.
Here are a few tips to make your time budget easier to stick to:
- Make your budget for the short term and make adjustments as needed
- Track your time to see if it is in line with what you budgeted
- Review how much you “spent” and create a new time based on your data
Share your time budget charts in the comment section below!