When it comes to managing your finances, your most valuable tool is budgeting: track your expenses, create a budget, review your expenses, and modify your budget accordingly. Continue on this track until you have enough saved up to invest or to fulfill your next big purchase goal. Diligently applying this principle to manage my own time and finances allowed me to reclaim my life.
I used to suffer from chronic stress and burnout. It happened during peak periods at work and would last for weeks or even months. The cycle repeated itself 2-3 times each year and affected many areas of my life, particularly my fitness and relationships. My life would be progressing normally, maintaining a healthy balance, and then all of a sudden, I would find myself working overtime to keep up with the increased seasonal workload and everything else just spiraled out of control.
That is until this quote by Peter Drucker inspired me to begin tracking all of my daily activities: ”If you can measure it, you can manage it.” I tracked how I spent every minute in thirty-minute increments, from when I woke up in the morning until I fell asleep at night. On the weekends, I set aside time to review my dashboard. After a couple of months, I started to notice some patterns so I came up with relevant time budgeting categories, similar to my financial budget categories, which are: housing, transportation, food, utilities, insurance, healthcare, savings/investment, personal spending, recreation and miscellaneous. In a similar vein, here are my time budgeting categories (hours per week are in parentheses):
Anything constituting exercise. Some examples I incorporate into my life are walking to work or (my personal favorite) cycling around the San Francisco Bay Area.
Religious or spiritual pursuits, like meditating or attending church.
Personal Development (5hrs)
Learning something new, planning or conducting non-work related pursuits for myself or others that can’t be outsourced. Volunteering falls under this category.
Career Development (5hrs)
Taking a course or learning something new that is specifically connected to work or business. This could include watching videos to learn a new skill for my job.
Work & Business (40hrs)
Generating value at work or income for my business. Discussing work over lunch, researching for a new project, and replying to emails all fall under this category.
Spending time with people or animals outside of work or professional development. This includes playing fetch with my dog.
This is kind of a catch-all for anything that I do to relax, rejuvenate, or just have fun. Vacations, meals, spa treatments, and visits to the doctor fall under this category.
This includes both nightly sleep and napping. After several years of tracking sleep, I found that an average of 7hrs per night will suffice when my workout intensity is low vs. 8.5hrs when it’s high.
Performing tasks that aren’t related to my work, business, career development, or personal development, but are necessary for daily life, like cooking. These tasks are generally outsourceable.
Getting from point A to point B without using a form of exercise. I clock commuting by car, train, ferry, and airplane in this category.
After many months of activity tracking, I began to notice the effect that dedicating my time to the various categories each week had on my productivity, health, and well-being. This led to me living more consciously and maintaining a healthier balance without extreme stress and burnout, even during peak periods.
Eventually, I started budgeting time to the various time categories in the same way that I budget funds to my pre-defined financial categories. I placed the number of hours I budget per week in brackets beside each of the categories above. Living according to my time budget has empowered me to alleviate burnout. I don’t always live up to my given budget, as life can throw curveballs. When this happens, I boil down the reasons, address the relevant issues, and then try to compensate the following week to establish long-term balance. Doing this has enabled me to reflect on where I can more effectively commit my time. It also helps me to identify areas where I can outsource or delegate certain tasks to free up time for what’s most important.