Time Budget

Over a week ago I’ve covered topic of time maps. This time I try to explain the concept and benefits of using something called time budget.

What’s a budget?

Budgets are widely popular in the financial world. In very simple terms it’s a list of all the income/revenue streams coming in and all the planned expenses in a period. Each year every country would announce it’s budget plans. This is pretty significant event for the financial markets. Based on the content of the budget proposals economists and analysts try to forecast the future growth and economic conditions of a country.

On smaller scale families and individuals are advised to keep a budget to monitor their spending and income to build future wealth and financial stability. 

In general terms budget is a framework, a plan which details areas of spending and the available resources. The net difference between both will indicate if you have anything left or whether you’ve overspend the available supply.
Budget also works as a boundary which indicates whether you’re spending too much or too little.

What’s a time budget?

In this context a time budget would be a plan detailing available hours against the activities you want to spend that time on. Time budgets can be created for weekly,monthly or even yearly intervals giving you a wide perspective. Similarly to financial budget you would have fixed commitments like eating, sleep, work, commute, shopping and more flexible appointments like exercising, going out, visiting friends and so called free time. Once your budget is read then you can review and you can decide whether you can afford to spend your time on some activities or should you spend it on something else.

How it’s different from time map?

Time maps as we  described them last time show your time and commitments as they  are. Their main purpose is to provide you with a higher view of your current situation. Time budget looks into the future. Budgeting is really a planning process where you look at your commitments, needs, wants and try to figure which are sufficiently important to have your time. Setting time budget is more about taking control of your time and not letting it slip through your fingers.

Benefits of having a budget.

Setting up a time budget can bring a number of benefits:

  • Focus on important areas – by creating time budget you can pinpoint areas of higher importance and give them sufficient amount of time. If for example getting into shape would be your top agenda item, then you could create a budget that would take into account 1h of training each day. Consequently you would reduce time spend on other areas in order to set aside time for exercise.
  • Less time wasting – with increased focus on important items, you would reduce the time that’s wasted. When setting up budget you would identify elements that don’t take you anywhere and in fact should be eliminated from your schedule.
  • Progress on goals – setting up a budget can be a significant boost to making progress on your goals. Simply bringing them to your attention and setting a side sufficient amount of time will allow you to start making a progress. No more saying “I don’t have enough time”.
  • Sharpen your attention – Some activities like deep thinking or creative work require significant amounts of time. Unfortunately those are mostly pushed to the back as there is never the right time, mood etc for them. If your work, goals depend on having creative/uninterrupted time making an allotment in the budget will help you with that.

How to create?

Creating a budget is relatively easy and involves just a handful of steps.

  1. List the activities your want to accomplish in a week or or a month.
  2. Estimate the number of hours you need to have for each task or commitment.
  3. Add all of the together and compare against total available hours i a week or month(24h in a day, 168 in a week, 708 in a month).
  4. Remember to leave few free hours as there always are some unexpected or unplanned thinks popping up.

For example I try to sleep not less than 7-7.5 hours per night so every week  that means 7.5h x 7days = 52h per week.
Another big chuck of my time is used for my day job, that including commute takes around 9,5h x 5days = 47.5h per week.
Other rather fixed activities that I spending my time on is eating/cooking which takes around 2,5h a day which = 17.5 per week.
Since triathlon is one of my hobbies I need to dedicate sufficient time to keep in shape and that takes around 6-7 per week.
When I add all above I’m using  124 hours on activities that are somewhat fixed but I also have 44 hours a week that I can plan any way I want. Some of it will go toward spending time with my wife, going out, some will go to reading and learning, cleaning, shopping etc.

Once you’ve created your initial budget then you can analyse it and decide if this is what you what or are there any elements that should come forward or should be pushed back. It’s very much a balancing act.

Budget is very much a pro active tool. It’s planning tool where you learn how to use the main resource of your life – time. It gives you a chance to create a framework of commitments for coming week or month. It can help you model new behaviours or introduce new way of using time. Time budget also puts your need and desires in the perspective of what is really available to you.