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.
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. ↩
See also Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (New York: Crown Business, 2014), 33–40. ↩
For further, helpful discussion of trade offs, see McKeown, Essentialism, 49–62. ↩