What Do You Really Want to Accomplish in 2023?

What do you really want to accomplish this year?1

If the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, hopefully one of the things was that we really don’t know what’s coming down the pike. There’s no way to tell what might happen over the next 12 months. Similarly, there’s no way to know what adjustments or pivots they might require you to make, however large or small.

Yet that’s no knock on the value of setting clear intentions for the year. In fact, quite the opposite is the case.

Why You Need to Think about What You Want to Accomplish

Without clear intentions, you’re liable to get to the end of it having done plenty of things except give enough attention to what you’d otherwise select as most important. And that likelihood only grows as a given day, week, month, or year requires more and larger pivots due to unforeseeable circumstances.

Sure, such circumstances might require changes in your intentions. But to change an intention implies both that you had a prior intention that you’re departing from and another intention that you’re adopting instead. That “adopted instead” intention could even be reducing the number of things you’re trying to fit into a given time frame.

So, in all likelihood, plans made will need to change more as the period of time they’re intended to encompass grows. But that’s not a reason not to plan—it’s just a confession that humans aren’t omniscient.

If you want to avoid being swept along by the “tyranny of the urgent” and look back on this coming year (or your whole life) and see that you’ve done what’s important, it’s key that you take some time to identify what exactly that is.

How to Think about What You Want to Accomplish

How you do that will likely look a bit different from how someone else does it. But if you’re looking for a place to start, I’d like to suggest 5 steps to get you going:2

  1. Reflect on your experience.
  2. Brainstorm what you’d most like to accomplish this year.
  3. Turn your brainstorm results into goal statements.
  4. Assign each goal to a particular part of the year.
  5. Each week, ask how you can move toward one or more of your goals.

1. Reflect on your experience.

At least for me, when I take the time to reflect on what I’ve learned from a prior year, I inevitably pull out some things that help me plan better for the future.

So, before you start planning the year, it might help to try some similar reflection. You’ll have your own lessons that you’ve learned, but let me share an example of my own to help get your wheels turning.

1.1. A Professional Example

I’ve sometimes found myself with one or more goals that’s too large to accomplish in any one time period. (I structure my year into quarters. Semesters work great too, but more on that below.)

That meant larger—but possibly more important—items could get lost in the shuffle (e.g., finishing monograph). So, in response, I’ve tried to be more mindful about chunking down larger projects into smaller units that can fit into single quarters (e.g., finishing a monograph chapter).

This naturally means a larger project will have more discrete goals that lead up to its completion. But that’s part of the point. Larger projects are larger and take more time and effort to complete.

So, having any given quarterly goal be achievable within that quarter has been helpful. It gives me a better sense of just how committed the year and its quarters are. It also helps me see better throughout the year how I’m progressing on larger-scale projects.

1.2. A Personal Example

This is true whether that larger project is professional or personal. For instance, if I have a goal to take a certain number of days out of the office with my family by the end of the year, it does some good just to plop that goal down into the fourth quarter.

But if that goal is requires meaningful chunks of time in other quarters too, might be more helpful again is to segment that larger goal down into those major per-quarter chunks.

2. Brainstorm what you’d most like to accomplish this year.

You’ll certainly accomplish many more things this year than you can count. But what are the most important things for you to accomplish?

2.1. Make a list.

Make a list of what you think of. Be sure to think both personally and professionally.

As you do so, it can be easy to think about professional goals and ignore personal ones. But biblical scholarship isn’t about being an academic automaton.

So, it’s important to have a mix of both personal and professional goals that you’re working toward.

Do you want to write an article? Spend more time focused on your family? Take a class? (As a hint, if you’re a student taking a class, completing that class successfully should be one of your goals. 🙂 )

It might take a few minutes for you to get going. But once you do, your list is liable to grow pretty quickly.

Keep brainstorming until you have at least 10 items on your list.

2.2. Subdivide your list.

Once you get to this point, carefully review your list. As you do so, you’re asking one question: What items on your list need to be subdivided?

Don’t worry about making these subdivisions too detailed. All you’re trying to get a handle on are the major component pieces of any larger goals on your plate that are too large to fit into a single part of the year (e.g., a quarter, a semester).

As an example, you might have on your list “Write my dissertation.” That’s not something you’ll finish all at once. So, you’ll want to subdivide this project. As you do, you’ll start to see your list better reflect the complexity of what writing your dissertation requires.

You might subdivide this project into

  • completing your prospectus,
  • completing each of the individual chapters, and finally
  • editing, proofreading, and submitting your project.

So, for instance, if you have five chapters, “Write my dissertation” could immediately become seven discrete activities (one for each of the chapters, one for the prospectus, and one for final editing).

2.3. Focus your list.

Now, out of your subdivided list, you only get to pick 12 items at most to really work on.

If you only have 10–12 items, that’s great. But what happens if you find yourself with more than 12 items in your brainstormed list (like I usually have)?

It’s tempting to think you can do it all or fit everything that you want into the scope of a year. But that’s rarely realistic, and if it is, your goals probably weren’t really stretching you to begin with.

The beauty of limiting yourself to no more than 12 major objectives over the coming 12 months is that it helps you feel at the planning stage the strain that these goals will put on your time, attention, and resources as the year moves along.

Anything on this list ultimately means something else can’t be on it. So, to come down to your most important objectives for the coming year, you might need to reflect, write down, scratch out, reorder, and otherwise hash and rehash your list over a few days until you’re satisfied with it.

That’s okay. Whatever doesn’t make the cut for this year you can save for another time in a list of possible future goals. The important thing is to intentionally commit to no more than 12 major objectives to focus on for this year.

3. Turn your brainstorm results into goal statements.

Having these objectives, however, will do little good if they’re fuzzy or just going to be aspirational expressions. So, once you’ve identified the essential core of what each one will be, take a few minutes to turn them into SCHOLARLY goals that are

Doing so will help you crystalize for yourself exactly what you’re committing to accomplishing by when.


“Write an article” or “spend more time with my family” are too general. Aiming at them is much like trying to hit anywhere in a target rather than in the bullseye.

“Write an article about the land promise to Abraham” or “Be home by 5:30, and give my full attention to my family each weekday evening” are much more specific targets to try to hit.


A good goal should be doable but stretching. For instance, you might have been comfortably writing academic papers at 200 words per hour.

But how would things be different if you tried to stretch that to 300 words per hour? That 50% increase sounds stretching. But what kind of time would that free up? Or what additional writing would you be able to do?


As you made your initial goal list, hopefully, you took the opportunity to include both academic and personal items. Because you’re a whole person with a multifaceted life, it’s important that your goals are holistic.

Goals like “Write my paper for SBL” and “Take X days off by the end of the year” are both worth including. So, survey the 10–12 prospective goals you’re working on, and ask whether the balance of academic and personal looks appropriate. (If you’re married, you might also want to ask your spouse for his or her input on this mixture.)

On Your Calendar

When do you want to have this goal complete? Or how often do you want to do it?

For example, do you want to “Spend two hours a day, five days a week writing my dissertation”? Or do you want to “Finish drafting my last dissertation chapter by 30 June”?

If you’re using a recurring activity schedule, you’ll want to make an appointment with yourself by blocking that corresponding time off on your calendar. If you’re using a “due by” schedule, you’ll naturally match that time to the part of the year to which you assign that goal.

Linked to Each Other

Your goals shouldn’t pull against each other and make life harder for you. Instead, they should mesh well with and support each other.

For instance, dropping in only one goal to “Finish my dissertation” and then having 9–11 other goals for other projects or other areas of life is bound to create problems. All those other goals don’t sufficiently support your aim of finishing your dissertation because they’re not linked closely enough.

“Draft the first chapter of my dissertation,” “draft the second chapter of my dissertation,” and so on do much better.


To “be less distracted while reading” is a great idea, but what do you need to do in order to be this way?

Do you need to “Use Freedom to block online distractions during scheduled reading time”? Now, that’s something you can do as you cultivate the habit of deep work.

By clarifying exactly what action you need to take to achieve a given outcome, you’re that much more likely to make good forward progress on that goal.


If you’re working full time in a non-faculty post outside Europe, have an active family life, and have ongoing commitments in your community, it still might be a lot of fun to “Spend the semester at INTF.”

But it might not be realistic to pull up stakes and start actively moving on this goal in your current circumstances. At the very least, you could back off this goal to something more preparatory like “Plan a semester abroad at INTF.”

Limited in extent

“Make progress on my dissertation” doesn’t cut it because “progress” is very vague. What counts? How do you know if you’ve successfully achieved the goal?

In principle, one additional character in your dissertation file could count as “progress,” but at that rate, your project will outlive you and still not be finished.

“Submit my prospectus” is much better.

Yielding Important Outcomes

If you look over your goals list and you find something that makes you yawn, ask yourself why.

Should you remove it to concentrate on something more important? Or should you reframe it in a way highlights why it’s important?

“Spend less time on email” isn’t particularly inspiring. “Recover 30 minutes a day for writing by reducing how long I spend replying to email” clearly shows what the important end game is.

4. Assign each goal to a particular part of the year.

Academic life typically revolves around quarters or semesters. And that natural structure is something to consider when you think about how to segment your year—whether into 3 or 4 major parts.

Either should work. I’ve found the slightly shorter and more regular quarters to be more helpful. But they sometimes overlap in odd ways with academic semesters. So, choose whatever approach seems most natural and least likely to create friction for you.

4.1. Spreading Your Goals throughout the Year

In either case, avoid letting your goals slide in either planning or execution. The more of your important objectives get lumped into the very end of the year, the more likely they are to still be incomplete at the start of next year.

Instead, from your list of no more than 12 SCHOLARLY goals for the year, assign

  • No more than 4 to each semester (fall, spring, summer) or
  • No more than 3 to each quarter.

4.2. Two Options for Recurring Activity Goals

A possible exception is if you’re running a goal that’s a recurring activity throughout the year, like “Bike for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.”

In this case, you need to decide whether that goal—when recurring like you’re planning—is a big enough commitment to occupy one of your 3 quarterly or 4 semesterly goal slots. It is, you’ll schedule it in each of the year’s quarters or semesters. If not, you’ll at least want it to show up in the year’s last quarter or semester since it’s at that point that your commitment to that practice over the course of the year will be complete.

4.3. Benefits of Assigning Your Goals to Parts of the Year

Just like limiting yourself to 12 annual goals, limiting yourself to 3 per quarter or 4 per semester helps you feel the constraints of that time in your planning process.

Reckoning with those constraints ahead of time can be key to helping you avoid larger-scale scheduling crises. After all, your time actually is limited. So, you want to grapple with that limitation as best you can on the front end.

5. Each week, ask how you can move toward one or more of your goals.

If you only have 12–16 weeks to complete 3–4 major goals, you need to be intentional about what you do each week.

So, however works best for you, schedule time each week to review your goals for that quarter or semester. Then, ask yourself, “What do I need to do this week toward completing the goals I’ve set?”

You might not be able to work on everything for that quarter or semester in a given week. That’s fine.

The point is to make regular progress, even if it’s on only a small handful of meaningful tasks. Over time, those small handfuls add up to much larger results.

If you want some ideas about how to structure your time, and your goals in it, see my complimentary guide, How to Budget Your Time: A Guide for Regular, Irregular, and Mixed Schedules.


By the time December rolls around, the year will be too far spent to change much of what it involves. So, don’t wait.

Instead, “begin with the end in mind.”3 Intentionally decide what you’d like to have done this year once it’s at an end.

Then, you’ll be ready to start taking deliberate, well-defined steps toward that end.

  1. Header image provided by Annie Spratt

  2. In this post, I’m much indebted to the advice in Michael S. Hyatt, Your Best Year Ever: A Five-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2018). I’ve found this guidance hugely helpful for myself. And I’ve tried to supplement and apply it here in a way that addresses some of the specifics of life in biblical studies. 

  3. Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, 25th anniversary ed. (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013), 102–53. 

How to Budget Your Time If It’s Irregular

For the parts of your schedule that are pretty regular, budgeting that time is comparatively straightforward.1

From the amount of time you have available to “spend,” you subtract the time you think you’ll need for a given commitment. You’re done budgeting when you’ve run out of time to spend. In this way, you work with a variable list of commitments against a fixed amount of time.

But your schedule might not be fully regular. In some parts, it might be fully irregular.2 And even if it’s normally regular, some seasons of life might introduce more irregularity than usual.

With this kind of irregularity, the idea of budgeting your time doesn’t go out the window. But it does take a different shape.

Rather than working with a known schedule and seeing what commitments you want to address in that time, you need to reverse the process. You’ll instead work with a variable schedule against a fixed list of commitments.

An Example of Irregular Time

For instance, small humans aren’t known for their self-sufficiency or ability to keep invariably to a set schedule. So, if you have kids and you are your childcare plan (either normally or because another childcare plan has gotten paused), you now have a pretty irregular schedule.

In that time, your kids may need you at more or less random intervals for more or less random periods of time. Your plans for that time will need to take shape accordingly.3

If what you’re facing is a seasonal, temporary shift, you might decide to postpone everything and enjoy the time with your kids. If you have the buffer in your work and school commitments to be able to do this, it’s a great option.4

To extend the metaphor of the financial budget, buffer in your schedule serves the function of an “emergency fund.”5 A monetary emergency fund provides a cushion against unknown expenses. Similarly, maintaining buffer in your schedule can help cushion the impact of unexpected events and give you more options for addressing them.

But let’s say the irregularity you’re facing in your schedule isn’t temporary. Or it’s at least long-term enough that certain commitments still need attention. In this case, you need to somehow fold work on these other commitments into the irregular times you have to work on them.

How to Budget Irregular Time

If you try to stack up in your calendar a nice, neat tower of time blocks, you’ll pretty soon find it knocked over. And if you try to stack it up again, you’ll be in for a repeat of the same experience.

So, instead of going around that frustration-building cycle, take a couple seconds to consider what commitments you need to address. As you do so, try to classify them into the four buckets of the “Eisenhower Matrix.”6

UrgentNot Urgent
ImportantQuadrant 1
Characteristics: Urgent, Important
Response: Abbreviate
Quadrant 2
Characteristics: Not Urgent, Important
Response: Concentrate
Not ImportantQuadrant 3
Characteristics: Urgent, Not Important
Response: Separate
Quadrant 4
Characteristics: Not Urgent, Not Important
Response: Eliminate

This classification then becomes your budget for your irregular time.

How to Use an Irregular Time Budget

When your schedule’s irregular, you don’t know what time you will have to tackle these commitments or when you’ll have it. But whatever you have whenever you have it, you can then “spend” working down through these quadrants in numerical order.

You want to

  • Abbreviate the activities in Quadrant 1. You can do so by completing these items fully, completing them well enough so they’re no longer urgent, or taking advance action to prevent urgency from arising.
  • Concentrate your attention on the activities that fall into Quadrant 2.
  • Separate yourself from activities in Quadrant 3. To do so, consider whether you can perhaps automate or delegate these commitments.
  • Eliminate from as much as possible the activities that fall into Quadrant 4.

When time is up, unplug, and go hug your kiddos.—You might even thank them for whatever time they ended up giving you whenever they gave it to you.

Let what you haven’t gotten done roll forward to another time slot. But if you’ve spent your irregular time on what was most urgent and most important, you already know what that is. And what you’re rolling forward will be what can best keep until later anyway.


Whether it’s caring for kids, juggling a busy season of appointments, or something else, lots of things can contribute to giving you an irregular schedule.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t budget your time. It just means you need to be especially intentional about spending the time you have on addressing your most important commitments.

  1. Header image provided by NeONBRAND

  2. 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. 

  3. Here, I’m intentionally giving a somewhat extreme example. On the other hand, your schedule might be pretty variable but still allow you to know in advance what time you’ll have to address different commitments. In that case, you might find value in blocking your variable time with the journalistic approach

  4. See Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (New York: Crown Business, 2014), 175–84 

  5. Rachel Cruze, “A Quick Guide to Your Emergency Fund,” Dave Ramsey, n.d. 

  6. For this framework, 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; see also Michael S. Hyatt, Free to Focus: A Total Productivity System to Achieve More by Doing Less (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2019), 91–158; McKeown, Essentialism, 215–24. 

How to Best Budget Your Time When It’s Regular

When you hear comments about “budgeting,” what comes to mind?1 For many folks, finances do.

But aside from that specific context, “budgeting” is all about the principle of deliberate planning. So you can budget finances. But you can budget other resources too, including time.

And thinking about your time as something you budget can help ensure you “spend” it on the work and relationships that matter most.2 That’s true whether your schedule pretty regular, quite irregular, or some combination of the two.

Regularity in Time

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

But within smaller units of time, your schedule might be quite regular too. For example, week-to-week, you might have a nearly identical number of hours when you’re working or not. And when you have those hours fall might be pretty regular too.

Budgeting Regular Time

When this is the case, you can decide how to “spend” these regular hours in your time budget. When you craft this budget, you want to ensure you prioritize what’s important, not just what’s urgent.3

But because you pretty well know what time you’ll have when, it’s not so important when you tackle a given priority. In terms of the financial analogy, having a regular schedule is very similar to a salaried or steady hourly job.

The total time you spend in your time budget shouldn’t exceed what you have available. If you do, for instance, you might over budget time at work so that it “overdraws” time with your family.

But within the “work” hours in your time budget, you have significant freedom in how you structure that time to meet your commitments.

You can budget your regular time any number of ways. The basic principle is to plan deliberately for how you spend the hours you regularly have for your commitments.

To do so, you might find time blocking especially helpful. You can time block on a paper calendar, with Google Calendar and Todoist, or any number of other methods.

Wherever you time block, the practice easily shows the time you’ve budgeted for a given commitment. And by doing so, time blocking can show where you’re “over spent” because in your mind you’d allocated the same time in competing ways.


However you budget your regular time, the principle remains the same that you need to deliberately plan how you’ll use your time. That plan needs to have room for you to invest in your most important commitments.

Time blocking is a great way of planning because it immediately shows when you’ve “spent” time, how much of it you’ve allocated, and the priority that you’ve given yourself for that time. And having that immediate, visual feedback can prove invaluable in your efforts to focus your time on the people and projects that matter most.

  1. Header image provided by NeONBRAND

  2. 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. 

  3. 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. 

You Need to Budget Your Time to Avoid Guilt and Shame

Different people prioritize different things.1 To a large degree, that’s a good thing.

It means that different people act in different ways. It means that whole swaths of things happen that wouldn’t if everyone only ever prioritized the same things (cf. 1 Cor 12:12–31).

But to put it mildly, the world doesn’t always work as it should. Sometimes, that means other people will have (or you will find reason to think they have) different expectations for what you should prioritize.

These real or suspected differences in expectations about where you should be spending your time can then easily result in social pressure.

And that social pressure is there ready to serve up a healthy portion of guilt and shame if your time budget differs from the norm it decrees.2

1. You will prioritize.

If you don’t create a budget for your finances, someone else will.

That “someone else” might be the group that designed the impulse buy area at a favorite brick-and-mortar retailer. Or it might be the marketing department that put together that advertisement campaign for that slick technology company.

The point is culture constantly suggests mutually exclusive options about where you should spend your money.

The same is true with your time. As Greg McKeown has rightly observed,

If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.3

The only trouble is that “someone else’s” values might not be yours.

The “someone else” might think you should spend your time one way. Or you might at least think they think that.

But if you haven’t budgeted your time to decide what you think you need to prioritize, you won’t know whether going with the flow helps or hurts your values.

And if you don’t know what helps or hurts, there’s a good chance you may get pulled along in the wake of the social pressure coming at you from “someone else.”

2. You will give an account.

On the other hand, on the last day, none of us will be able to pass the buck to “someone else.” We’ll each be held accountable for the choices we ourselves have made (cf. Rom 2:16; 2 Cor 5:10).

Those choices will include how we decided to spend our time—whether those decisions have been intentional or by default.4

So the real question is not “How can I avoid running counter to the social pressure headed my way?”

But even assuming that it is headed your way, the question is, in the end, “Who would you rather disappoint?”

If “someone else’s” values are different from what you’re convinced yours should be, let that “someone else” be more disappointed.

Let yourself, instead, be more likely to hear that the judge thinks you’ve done well (cf. Matt 25:14–30; Luke 19:11–27).


If you’re at all connected to other people, they’ll make requests, present needs, and show opportunities to you for things you can do with the time you have.

When it’s the right thing to do, saying “yes” to helping (and following through!) is an excellent and commendable way of showing kindness, among other things.

And if you’ve put the work in to budget your time, you’ll have a better sense of when saying “yes” is, in fact, the right thing for you to do.

On the other hand, saying “no” to a commitment might be less comfortable in the moment.

But that “no” might be what’s necessary for you to devote yourself to something more important. And when it is, it’s also a necessary exercise of self-discipline, among other things.

It’s a delicate balancing act. But when last I checked, both kindness and self-discipline were fruits of the same Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22–23).

And if you carefully work through how you need to prioritize your time, you’ll have a much better idea of how you should be exercising both your “yes” and your “no.”

  1. Header image provided by STIL

  2. I’m here using the metaphor of financial budgeting as described, for example, in Financial Peace University; “10 Budgeting Myths You May Be Falling For,” Dave Ramsey, n.d.; “What Is a Budget?,” Dave Ramsey, n.d.; “A Zero-Based Budget: What and Why,” Dave Ramsey, n.d. 

  3. Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (New York: Crown Business, 2014), 10. 

  4. For related discussion, see McKeown, Essentialism, 33–40, 49–62; Matt Perman, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done, expanded ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014). 

You Need to Budget Your Time to Avoid Schedule Crises

Life happens. And when life happens, plans often need to change.1 The same is true for time budgets.

But budgeting your time can help put you in a better position to avoid additional time and energy spent managing schedule crises.2

1. Schedules don’t always go as planned.

When you’re budgeting your time, there’s always the danger of unintentionally falling victim to the “planning fallacy.”

More often than we might care to admit, we tend to underestimate how much time a given commitment will really require.3 When that happens, schedules get pinched.

Fulfilling your commitments becomes more difficult simply because you’re operating under the greater constraints that have followed from that overly optimistic planning.

2. Schedules unplanned don’t always go.

But if you haven’t budgeted your time in the first place, you’re even more vulnerable to scheduling crises.

The tendency to fall into planning fallacy is still at work. But you haven’t taken the initial step toward confronting this tendency that budgeting your time entails. The tendency to exaggerate what can get done by when doesn’t get reined in.

All of this means that, when challenges arise, you’re more likely to find fulfilling your commitments to be even more difficult. You’re also more likely to find that you’re not in a position to fulfill them, either at all or at least as well as they deserve.

If you haven’t budgeted your time, your schedule might actually be over budget. But you have no way of knowing. Your only sense is your current guess at whether it’s balanced or not.


If your time budget is overspent, you might not immediately get hit with the reality of having too little time for too many commitments.

It might take some time. But inevitably it will come to the point where too many commitments cross the line of too few hours.

Still, that doesn’t have to happen, and creating a time budget is a great way to start having fewer crises come up in your schedule.

  1. Header image provided by STIL

  2. I’m here using the metaphor of financial budgeting as described, for example, in Financial Peace University; “10 Budgeting Myths You May Be Falling For,” Dave Ramsey, n.d.; “What Is a Budget?,” Dave Ramsey, n.d.; “A Zero-Based Budget: What and Why,” Dave Ramsey, n.d. 

  3. For further discussion, see Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (New York: Crown Business, 2014), 182–83. 

You Need to Budget Your Time to Get the Most Out of It

Budgeting your time helps you get the most out of it in two ways.1

1. You can do more things.

First, just like budgeted money, time tends to go farther when you have a plan for it. So, budgeting your time will help you get more things done with the time you have.

Getting more things done is a good thing. But that’s actually a less important way of getting the most out of your time.

2. You can do more important things.

Second—and more important—having a time budget will give you an important tool for getting the most out of your time qualitatively. That is, it will help you focus on doing better things than you might otherwise.

Often, restriction or not doing or not being able to do something comes to mind pretty readily when thinking about budgeting. But a budget isn’t simply a negative plan.

Instead, whether it’s a financial budget or a time budget, a budget presents only what’s included in it. And what’s included is there because you’ve chosen to prioritize it. You’ve determined that what’s in the budget is more important than what isn’t.

If you decide something else not currently in your time budget needs to take priority, that’s great. You can always change your time budget as you need to.

But by adding a commitment, you also need to subtract somewhere else to keep your time budget in balance.

And when you do that, you have a mechanism for making yourself feel the cost of that new commitment.

If it is a higher priority than something else currently in the budget, press ahead with the change. But if not, do you really want to spend your time, your most finite resource, on something less important?

You’d probably never choose that intentionally. But having a time budget can help keep you from regretting effectively having made exactly that choice unintentionally or by default.2


Building a time budget helps you wrestle through intentional decisions about the trade offs that different commitments require.3

Once you have that budget, its hard-won “balance” is an incredibly useful tool for reminding you of the costs that different current and possible future commitments entail.

It’s a mechanism for helping you actually prioritize what you find important, even amid constant pulls to do otherwise.

  1. Header image provided by STIL. I’m here using the metaphor of financial budgeting as described, for example, in Financial Peace University; “10 Budgeting Myths You May Be Falling For,” Dave Ramsey, n.d.; “What Is a Budget?,” Dave Ramsey, n.d.; “A Zero-Based Budget: What and Why,” Dave Ramsey, n.d. 

  2. See also Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (New York: Crown Business, 2014), 33–40. 

  3. For further, helpful discussion of trade offs, see McKeown, Essentialism, 49–62.