You budget your money because it’s important to keep track of it.

You know the importance of tracking.  You’ve seen how a dollar here and there can really add up.

What about your most important asset?  Your time.  It’s not replaceable like money.  When it’s gone, it’s gone.

Do you know where your time is going as well as you know where your money is going?  You’re about to.

Here’s how to budget your time like you budget your money…

By the way, if you don’t budget your money, head over to my budgeting guide.

Tracking Your Time Budget

Budgeting your time is easier than budgeting your money, because we all have the same amount of time.

I know right now that your time budget will start with 24 hours/day.

Budgeting your time starts the same way as your money budget.

As Zig Ziglar mentions in See You at the Top, you must track your time

  • Track your time for one month
  • Write down everything you do (including sleeping, eating, and so on)
  • Separate it into categories and define which categories change and which ones stay the same

After a month of tracking you should have a good idea of where your time is going.  Do your priorities match where you spend your time?  Where would you prioritize your family and your job?  Now where would you prioritize social media and TV?  You will most likely learn a thing or two about your priorities, namely that your time may be backwards from your priorities.

Now you need to start telling your time where to go like you do with you money.

Creating Your Time Budget

Your time budget is your calendar.  Your schedule.

If you don’t tell your time where to go, you won’t know where it went until it’s gone.  Sound familiar?  Sound like your money?

To create a time budget, you must set limits.  Allow blocks of time for everything in your life.  Limits create freedom.

Here are some example categories:

  • Sleeping
  • Housework
  • Reading
  • Eating
  • Social media
  • Television
  • Exercise
  • Internet surfing
  • Work (this would typically be broken down into more categories, such as email, meetings, etc.)

Just like with your money budget, you’ll want to have a “blow fund”, or in regards to your time, a time allotted for things that aren’t getting you closer to your goals, but help you relax and wind down (i.e. television, internet, games, etc).

It’s important to have it, but to also limit the “blow fund” time within your budget.

When you’re finished, you will come out with something like this over a 24 hours period:

  • Sleep – 7 hours
  • Work – 8 hours
  • Driving – 1 hour
  • Read – 30 minutes
  • Exercise – 1 hour
  • Eating – 2 hours
  • Television – 30 minutes
  • Family – 4 hours

This may seem simple, but just as it is with your money, if you don’t budget it and stick to it, this will end up backwards from your priorities.  You may be surprised to see the television category go up to 3 hours, while the “sitting around doing nothing” category goes up to an hour, and ultimately leaves the family time at 30 minutes.

Just like with your money, if you don’t budget your time, you’ll end up spending a lot of it on practically nothing.

Your Calendar is Your Best Friend

If you don’t keep a schedule inside and outside of work, you’re wasting a lot of time.

It’s not about living your life like a robot by a strict schedule, it’s about freeing your mind and directing your time.

There are multiple approaches to this.  In Getting Things Done, David Allen recommends only putting the things on your calendar that you absolutely have to get done on a certain date.  Therefore, he doesn’t agree with the idea of putting each individual task that you “plan” to do on your calendar.  I wrote an article about clearing your to-do list that explained the process of getting everything onto your schedule including the things you don’t absolutely have to do.

Either way works.  Just figure out what works for you.

In working with people, I’ve found that it takes a degree of discipline to commit to doing tasks that you don’t actually have to do, even if they’re on your calendar.  But ultimately, I would suggest trying the schedule-everything method, and if it doesn’t work for you, only schedule the things that must occur on the exact date, like David suggests.  Even if you’re not scheduling each task, you should still be using your calendar to create blocks of time for things like “housework” or “organizing”.

The more you use, and stick to, your schedule, the more valuable your waking hours will be.

Do you budget your time?  How do you keep track of it?