For years, we’ve used a cash envelope system for much of our budgeting. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it basically works like this: We have different envelopes for each area of spending (for instance food, clothing, gifts and so forth) and we have a budgeted amount of cash that we put in them every month. That’s the allotted money we have to spend on clothes and food and gifts and so forth.
Because we have a budget, we know where our money is going, we know how much money we have to spend in each category and we’re able to make sure that we’re spending our money on what matters to us — instead of just letting it pass through our fingers like sand. Having a plan for our money and sticking to the plan gives us peace, allows us to make financial traction and frees us from a lot of worry and stress.
Budgeting our money is a no-brainer for us. But truth be told, I’d never considered how this concept could be applied to my time. To me, time management had always meant trying to find a way to be as productive as possible every day.
I equated busyness with productivity. So I’d have these big, lofty plans and make these detailed schedules, but I’d always crash and burn quickly because I was trying to cram in about 32 hours’ worth of projects into a 24-hour day.
When Amy shared the concept of creating a Time Budget with me, it completely revolutionized my life.
I’d never thought to approach my time like I approached my money. Instead of starting with everything I wanted to do in a day and then trying to find a way to fit it all in (it never did because my list was way too long to begin with!), for the first time, I started with the time I had and then divvied up my responsibilities and priorities into time brackets which equaled less than 24 hours.
My Daily Time Budget
30 minutes Bible reading/journaling
1 hour with Jesse
4 hours of homeschooling, reading and playing with the children
1 hour of exercise
30 minutes shower/dress
2 hours cleaning/home management
7 hours sleeping
2 hours meals/meal preparation
4 hours blogging/computer work
2 hours of extra/”margin” time
It probably goes without saying, but I’m going to repeat it anyway: Please remember that this is my time budget which currently works for me in this season of my life. Yours will likely look much different. Do what works for you. Do not pattern your time budget after mine because it won’t work for you. I only share mine as an example, not to encourage you in anyway to emulate it — unless you want to try and get as much (or more!) sleep than I do, okay?
Keys to Success When Making a Time Budget
1. Make Sleep One of Your Highest Priorities
I used to think that burning the midnight oil would make me more productive, but I’ve actually found that I’m much more productive if I get at least seven hours of sleep almost every single night. I’ve found I’m most productive in the mornings so I make it my goal to go to bed by 10 p.m. and get up between 5 and 6 a.m.
You might be the other way around. Do what works best for you, but whatever you do, put getting enough rest high up on your priority list.
You’ll feel better and more energetic and I’d wager to guess that you’ll also find an extra hour or two of sleep at night helps you to be more productive than if you spent that time trying to pry your eyeballs open with toothpicks and get more work done!
2. Deduct at Least Two Hours for “Margin Time”
I know that there is a great temptation to fill up every single waking moment with something, but may I heartily encourage you to include at least two hours of margin time in your budget? It’s sort of like our “blow” category for our cash envelope system; we can use it for those little incidental expenses which come up that we weren’t expecting. Or, we can choose to “blow” it on something fun.
If you have margin built into your time budget, when you have someone knock at the door, or the phone rings, or the baby has a diaper blowout or the washer overflows and there’s water all over the laundry room floor, your whole day didn’t just go down the toilet. Instead, you can just stop what you were doing, deal with the unexpected interruption and then go back to what you were doing — and you know that you still have plenty of time to get everything done you needed to get done!
You know what else I love about including margin in my time budget? It means I have time to stop and really enjoy my children and seize teachable moments with them.
For instance, the other day I discovered a four-foot long black snake in our backyard. If I didn’t know that I had a time cushion in my day, being the Type A person I am, I likely would have just run on to the next task. But instead, I called the girls outside and we spend 45 minutes observing and taking pictures of the snake.
We emailed the pictures to Jesse and he looked up what kind of snake it was and researched more about it so that when he came home from work, he was prepared to give the girls an impromptu “lesson” on our backyard visitor — which they just lapped up and then enjoyed sharing with me and anyone who would listen for the next few days.
If our lives were so packed full that we didn’t have any margin in them, we would daily miss out on fun opportunities like this. Planning margin into our day gives us the freedom to be spontaneous.
3. Be Ruthless About Eliminating the Unnecessary
As Americans, I think we are sometimes addicted to busyness. We always have to be on the go-go-go. And I sometimes think we find fulfillment and self-worth in piling our plates too high. As if, the more busy we are, the more important it makes us feel.
In reality, I think our culture, by and large, is exhausted, overworked and overwhelmed.
What’s the solution? It’s really very simple: just say “no”.
Stop doing things just because you feel obligated to do them by something or someone else. Stop doing things just because you’re afraid of what people might think of you if you don’t do them.
Stop over-committing yourself. Stop letting people manipulate you into a miserable existence. Just say “no”.
Want more step-by-step help in creating a time budget and becoming a better time manager? Be sure to get a copy of Amy’s ebook.
She’s offering it for almost 50% off through midnight tonight (Friday, November 5, 2010) when you use coupon code MoneySavingMom. What she shares in this ebook has revolutionized my life — and brought so much more peace and order to our home!
Beginning Monday, I’ll be sharing more about our daily routine, my homemaking/cleaning systems and, if there’s time, some time management tips for bloggers.
If you have created a time budget, I’d love for you to share yours in the comments section so that we can all be inspired and glean ideas!