I wasted a lot of time in 2014. Sometimes I was very much aware of it as I browsed social media or assumed a vegetative state in front of the television. Other time just passed and I didn’t miss it until it was gone and I wondered what I had to show for my day, week, month…
It wasn’t a resolution, per se, at the beginning of this year when I sat down to budget my time. It felt more like establishing a routine. There were certain things I wanted to get done each week, and I needed a battle plan to make that happen. Granted, it’s only been a couple of weeks, but it’s been revolutionary for me. My productivity has increased and the wasted time decreased. There’s still room for improvement, but I’m encouraged by the progress so far.
Here’s how I created the time budget.
Make A List
I began by making a list of all the things I needed to accomplish in the span of a week. I work from home, so my list included hours that I needed to focus solely on work. When you make your list, be sure to include social, spiritual, physical, familial, and household responsibilities, too. I prefer my days to have variety, so I planned accordingly. For example, I want to have some sort of social interaction every day. One day that may be sending a text to someone I haven’t talked to in a while, but on another day it may mean getting together for coffee.
I applied the same principle to my workouts, coming up with at least four possible workout scenarios over the course of the week: a cardio mix, isometric exercises, weights, and playing Kinect. (Don’t laugh until you’ve woken up sore the next morning.)
Assign Designated Times To Specific Tasks
Once I had a reasonable list (notice I didn’t plan for seven workout days), I made a chart of the hours in the days of the week, from 8 a.m. through 7 p.m. I placed specific items from my list on specific hours of the week, careful to diversify each day. Each day consists of work hours, chores, social interactions, spiritual activities, and a potential workout.
Note: I should probably mention here that I’m single and don’t have children, so my days may look vastly different from yours. The principles still apply. Just help your school aged children create their own time budget.
Insert Blank Space
One of the most important features of my time budget, and one I highly recommend for anybody trying to better manage their time, is blank space. Every day I have one or more time slots that don’t have an assigned task. This gives me the freedom to catch up on something that took longer than expected or to add something unanticipated. The blank spaces give me the freedom to color outside the lines sometimes.
Look At The Big Picture
My second tip is to look at the big picture. Don’t throw in the towel when you’re late to the first task of the day. Look at the day as a whole and what you want to accomplish in the entire day rather than being rigid about what time something happens. For example, if a conference call takes longer than expected, don’t freak out. Look at the overall day to see what can wait until a blank space. Is it absolutely essential that you dust the furniture today? Probably not.
Mix It Up
If you’re like me, you’re more productive in short spurts than in lengthy periods of time. For those of you who have some semblance of control over your work schedule, intermingle something active with something sedentary. Like I said, I work from home. So I alternate work hour, chore, work hour, workout, work hour, social contact, etc. This helps me to stay focused at whatever I’m doing, because I have less time to daydream.
But not everybody’s like me. Some of you may work better over long stretches of time. If that’s the case, schedule to your strengths. You might be better off working four ten-hour days and doing all your chores and errands on the fifth day. The goal isn’t to follow my formula; it’s to find one that works for you.
Write It In Pencil
I realized after a week or two that some of my scheduling didn’t make sense, so I changed it. For example, one of the social interactions I want to have each week is to write a letter. (It’s a lost art I’d like to bring back.) My schedule had me writing the letter the day after I went to the post office. That seemed counterintuitive. A couple of readjustments and now things are more efficient. Don’t be afraid to shift things around, especially if it motivates you more.
The bonus of only scheduling a week at a time is that you have a chance at a fresh start every Monday. Tweak the schedule as you deem necessary, so long as your productivity doesn’t suffer.