This week was filled with lots of meetings, deadlines, noise, and interruptions. No matter how hard I tried, or how focused I tried to be, the stress bubbled over. Time for a time budget.
Too Much to Do? Too Little Time?
This isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve been here before. I know from experience, this pattern is not sustainable, and I’m not willing to pay the price any more. It was time, once again, for a little inventory.
The result? I did not diligently protect my precious time resource, and it was no one else’s fault.
What if We Approached Time the Same Way We Approach Money?
Money is finite. Money in. Money out. When finances are in balance, the money-in part is greater than the money-out. And when I’m out of whack in my checking account, I make a budget, without judgement, as a simple fact finding exercise. Then I adjust accordingly.
Let’s say I have an event coming up and I need a new outfit. I could spend $200, right? But then I think, “It’s only a Chamber Mixer. It probably only deserves $100.” Then I remember, “I only HAVE $50. So fifty bucks it is.”
Why not practice a time budget?
Of course I could spend 6 hours on a project, but does it DESERVE that amount of time? Furthermore, how much time do I really have to devote to the project?
A while back, I inventoried my time at work. For a few days, I wrote down my activities and noted how much time I spent on each.
I quickly discovered uncomfortable truths about my time habits:
- It was hard for me to account for my time because I was constantly multi-tasking.
- I spent far too much time on unimportant email. Hours. Stunning.
- I spent a lot of time on tasks that didn’t DESERVE that amount of time.
- I didn’t spend enough time on the truly important strategic and relationship building activities.
Enter the Time Budget
With both my short, medium, and long term tasks and milestones in mind, I created my todo lists and assigned time to each of the activities.
I struggled shifting from my non-time budgeted todo list.
- 15, 30, 60 minutes here and there add up. The old system had me chronically over committed. It took time to ground-truth my expectations, and adjust my lists and time accordingly.
- My attention span resembles that of a small rodent. I was not used to single tasking, and I was easily distracted.
- My total time budget for the day needs to be LESS than the total time available to account for the unexpected. This actually represented about 15% of the total time available that I left BLANK.
- I need to budget time to meet with staff and to oversee general programs. Funny, I never had that activity as a task before.
- I require a timer. This was an interesting revelation and confirmed that I habitually spend too much time on certain activities.
While challenging, creating and respecting a time budget paid huge dividends in my real and perceived productivity. Reducing my email activity to 15 or 30 minute intervals didn’t kill me and actually created a LOT of space for more important activities. At the end of the day, I was less stressed.
But most importantly, these habits empowered and energized me. I gained control over my time which meant that I had control over my life.
Do you end the day with a strong sense of time well spent? If not, give the time budget a try. What do you learn? Do your time expenditures align with your values and priorities? What deserves an adjustment?
Pop me an email and let me know what you learn. I’d love to hear from you.
After all, we have all the time we need.