When you hear comments about “budgeting,” what comes to mind? For many folks, finances do.

But behind this specific context is the principle of deliberate planning. So you can budget other resources as well, including time. And extending the budget metaphor can open up different ways of thinking about the time you have available to you.1

This can be helpful if your time is fully regular, fully irregular, or mixed.

Regularity in Time

There are only 24 hours in a day or 168 hours in the week, however you use them. So in larger contexts like these, everyone’s schedule is entirely regular.

But within smaller units of time, you might have significant regularity as well. For example, week-to-week, you might have almost an identical number of hours when you’re working. And when you have those work hours might be pretty dependable too.

Budgeting Regular Time

When this is the case, you can decide how to “spend” those hours in your time budget. You want to be sure you do what’s important (not just what’s urgent).2 But it’s not so important when you do what.

Your total time you plan to spend shouldn’t exceed what you have available in that part of your time budget. If you do, for instance, you might end up over budgeting time at work so that it eats badly into time with your family.

But within that “work” portion of your time budget, you can have significant freedom to structure the contents of that time how you like to meet the commitments you have.

In this scenario, time blocking might help you visualize how you are budgeting your time. It can also help you notice things about your current plans that don’t work well but that you might not realize otherwise.

You can time block on a paper calendar, with Google Calendar and Todoist, or any number of other methods.

Conclusion

Whether you budget your regular time with blocks, a list, a spreadsheet, or something else, the principle remains the same that you’re deliberately planning how you’ll use your time.

And you’re ensuring that plan contains space for your most important commitments.


  1. 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. 
  2. On the relationship of urgency and importance, see especially Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, 25th anniversary ed. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013), 154–92. 

Header image provided by NeONBRAND.

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