If your schedule is regular, budgeting that time is pretty straightforward.1 You spend the time you know you’ll have on the commitments you think are most important to fit into it.
If your schedule is irregular, you’ll instead work whatever time you have against a fixed and prioritized list of commitments.
But how do you budget your time if your schedule isn’t completely regular and predictable?
Some of it might be. But some of it might also be irregular and unpredictable.
Budgeting Regular and Irregular Time Together
In this case, you can combine the two approaches for regular and irregular time.2
For the portion of your schedule that’s regular, you can plan in advance how you want to spend your time. For the portion that’s irregular, you can work on your commitments in priority order.
When you’re thinking about this combination, though, be careful not to overestimate how much of your schedule is regular. If you do, you’ll be at greater risk of running out of that regular time and still having unmet commitments.
Minimal Regularity amid Irregularity
Instead, think about how your more irregular days and weeks tend to go. If you keep a pretty detailed calendar, it might help to look back over the past few months.
As you do, what you’re looking for is the minimum amount of regularity you tend to have in your schedule, even in more irregular times.
In a good week, maybe you can keep Thursday pretty well free to tackle whatever you need to. But when things go haywire, maybe you only get until 10 am.
If you base your plan on your best case scenario, you’ll be more likely to have that plan get more disrupted more often.
Instead, you can run your regular time budget on a minimum amount of more regular time that you have. That way, your time budget will be less likely to break in more hectic seasons.3
Once you’ve done that, you can then budget your irregular time by a prioritized list of commitments.
Using the two approaches together, you can then have a proactive plan for your time, even if some of it’s regular and some of it’s irregular.
Whether your schedule is pretty fully regular, pretty fully irregular, or some of both, there’s a corresponding strategy to plan for your time.
Whatever shape that plan takes, having that time budget will help ensure you’re giving priority to your most important commitments.
Prioritizing these commitments in your time budget will simultaneously give you a powerful tool to help you avoid “spending” your time at the scheduling equivalent of the impulse buy rack.
As a basis for these categories, I’m drawing on thinking like that described in “How to Make a Zero-Based Budget,” Dave Ramsey, n.d. ↩
On this principle, see also Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (New York: Crown Business, 2014), 175–84. ↩