- Enter: The Time Budget
- How to balance your life in 4 steps using the time budget
- Step 1: Identify your Key Result Areas and organize yourself around them
- Step 2: Allocate time for each area in your list
- Step 3: Spend and Track Your Time
- Step 4: Review your Spending
- Do a weekly review
- How do you balance your life?
What we would all like to achieve is balance, right? I recently read about an easy way to get over prioritization issues and balance your life. It is called time budgeting, a practical method to make sure life is always in balance.
Time budgeting bridges the gap between our goals and responsibilities and actual tasks and demands. It also helps tackle productivity killers like difficulty focusing, procrastination and perfectionism.
Now, suppose someone were to ask you this question:
What’s more important to you: your health or your family?
Unfair, really to have to make a choice. We know that both are equally important and need our attention. I mean, how can you prioritize here? How can you choose one over the other? Stupid question.
Just as we need to give our attention to both, we need to do it with all the important aspects of our lives.
But here’s the issue. Even though we cannot make the choice between health and family, we do choose between related things such as going to the gym vs calling mom. What we just did was break the high-level areas into discrete tasks and when we do that, it is easy to forget where they are coming from and end up making lousy decisions while prioritizing.
How to avoid this?
The easiest way to make these decisions is via neglect-based prioritizing.
What is that?
Let’s say you unconsciously pay too much attention to one area of your life—work. Sometime later, you realize you have been neglecting another area—your family. Now you want to take action and set things right. And when you are on this, something else gets neglected. You move on to tackle that. And so, it continues.
The real problem with this cycle is that you are constantly reacting and probably lagging behind in most areas. We all tend to use neglect-based prioritizing to various extents in our lives. But there’s a much better way.
Enter: The Time Budget
This superb technique to balance your life can help overcome neglect-based prioritizing. Setting a time budget is as simple as taking the initiative to set aside pockets of time for all those things that matter to you. It is pretty much like our financial budget. Instead of money, you allocate the necessary amount of time you want to invest in important life areas. Then, you stick to the budget for that time frame.
And like a financial budget, you enjoy several benefits.
When you stick to the budget, you minimize wasting time on the things that don’t matter since you’ve already reserved the time for important things. This will help you keep track of how you spend your time.
But that’s not all.
As easy as the time budget sounds, it is a blueprint for your most important decisions on how you ought to invest your time. It results in peace of mind and releases the energy to focus on whatever tasks you’ve set aside time to do.
How to balance your life in 4 steps using the time budget
You already know that budgeting is a powerful tool. Here’s how to create your own time budget.
Step 1: Identify your Key Result Areas and organize yourself around them
For the moment, forget about all your itty-bitty tasks. Instead, focus on the main goals in your life—your big responsibilities. Let’s view them as big buckets—areas that deserve your regular attention. You can be specific about these areas or just categorize them broadly.
Make a list of these areas.
For example, I would list: cooking, editing, blogging, exercising, reading, time with family.
Someone else’s list might look like: going to work, exercise, socializing.
Step 2: Allocate time for each area in your list
Once you have your own list ready, you need to allocate time to each area.
Here are some tips:
Don’t focus on current tasks.
Budgeting is about setting aside time you consider ideal. Take into account unexpected happenings but remember these are temporary. Look at the long-term and keep away from your current pressures.
Be strict with your overall budgeted time.
Don’t commit all the time you have to your budget as you cannot predict random things that might arise. Just budget 50% of the time you’ve got for a start. Later, adjust this percentage as you become more confident about the process.
Use a short time frame for the time budget
Of course, you need to review your budget periodically to make time budgeting work for you. Ideally, review it once a week to check how you are doing. You can only control what you monitor.
Step 3: Spend and Track Your Time
Now that you have made your budget, track your time “expenses” to ensure you are sticking to the plan. While there are many tools to do this, an easy one is time boxing, which makes your time budgeting even more effective.
Time boxing complements time budgeting—you not only balance your life goals but skyrocket your productivity.
Simply put, time boxing means fixing a time period to work on a task or group of tasks. Rather than stick to it until it is done, you commit to work on it for a specified time.
Divide your time into one-hour units or time boxes. This will make it easy to track. Rather than track time as you use it, track the number of time boxes completed. This will help you avoid procrastination and perfectionism and ensure that you focus better and become more efficient.
When you allocate time boxes in advance for those things that matter most to you, you balance your life in the best way possible. Best of all, you stay motivated.
Step 4: Review your Spending
Let’s face it—you are not going to be perfect with regards to your time-spending when you compare it to your budget. This is absolutely fine. This keeps your system flexible, allowing you to track your progress and adjust your budget accordingly. As your priorities change, you become more self-aware and understand how you spend your time.
Do a weekly review
So, when you assess your performance for the week in terms of how you spent your time, also review your time budget and update it as required.
You may want to ask yourself these questions:
- Did you exceed your time budget on anything?
- Did you spend less time than planned on anything?
- Did you allot too much time to your budget?
- What are your feelings about how much time you allocated to each area?
- Do you think you could balance your life?
- Did you forget to include any key areas?
When you budget your time to balance your life, you create an objective framework to evaluate your life balance. You can tweak this, making it work for you rather than wait for a crisis to deal with it.
How do you balance your life?
What process or method do you use?