Why You Need to Budget Your Time

Budgeting time requires different strategies for different contexts and schedules.1

Your schedule might be regular, irregular, or some of both. But whatever it looks like, there’s a corresponding strategy you can use to budget your time.

Still, saying all of that leaves out one very important question: Do you really need to budget your time in the first place?

Reasons You Need to Budget Your Time

I’d like to suggest that the answer to this question is a firm “Yes” for at least four reasons.2

In particular, you need to budget your time in order to

  1. Manage your commitments because your time is limited, but your possible commitments are unlimited.
  2. Get the most out of it not only by doing more things but also—and more importantly—by doing more important things.
  3. Avoid schedule crises. Schedules don’t always go to plan. And if you haven’t balanced your scheduling budget in advance, you’ll find yourself in larger crises more often when the unexpected arrives.
  4. Avoid guilt and shame. You will spend your time. How you spend it reflects what you chose or endorsed as a priority. If you spend your time intentionally, you will disappoint someone at some point. But you don’t have to feel guilt or shame about that if you know you’ve done your best to choose what’s most important.


In short, you can spend your time intentionally. Or it will get spent for you.

Intentionality is critical to knowing what you should do with the time you have. And creating a time budget can help you ensure you’re making the choices about your time that you really feel are the best.

  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. 

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6 responses to “Why You Need to Budget Your Time”

  1. Percival tanierla Avatar
    Percival tanierla

    David, You are right. It is good you reminded me about time. I have many things to do and finish…but time is limited. My.priority is the ministry of studying the Bible, traching and preaching and next is my family.

    1. J. David Stark Avatar

      Thanks, Percival. I’m glad you found this post helpful. It’s all too easy for our calendars to get swept up into and occupied by things that we really wouldn’t prioritize unless we’re intentional about orienting our time and lives around what we do want to prioritize.

      All the best for your ministry and family.

  2. Matthew Miller Avatar
    Matthew Miller

    Dr. Stark,
    Thank you again for another helpful post. To be honest, I feel overwhelmed when I budget my time. I have tried numerous methods and approaches over the years, and none have really “stuck.” It seems I fall into a repetitive pattern. I will purchase a planner (or create one as I have done on various occasions), go into the new approach with focus and commitment, stick with it for a few weeks, then either a chaotic event will occur (thereby derailing the “system”) and/or time tracking becomes overwhelming and therefore falls into disuse. Months will go by without any real structured system until I, once again, sense the need to become more devoted to budgeting my time usage, and on and on the cycle continues. Sometimes the feeling occurs to me that I relish the idea of budgeting time more than the practice of it. I am left feeling shame either for constraining my time usage too narrowly or the reverse of failing to designate it with great intentionality. It is quite disheartening as I seek to be deeply intentional in every area of life leaving this vital area as a continual point of frustration. Thanks for your advice and I will soldier on in the endeavor of better designating the time God has allotted. Thanks again!
    Grace and Peace in Christ,
    Matthew Miller

    1. J. David Stark Avatar

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Matthew. I’ve certainly experienced some of the same kinds of things you’re mentioning as well. In case it might be helpful, I might suggest that:

      1) The goal isn’t to create a “perfect” plan, or let alone a planner (though the more complex life is the more helpful it is to have an “external brain” that works for you). When things come up to derail what you’d planned, you adjust as the situation requires and come up with a new plan. That’s just as intentional a practice as if your first plan had worked—we just aren’t always good enough predicters of the future to be sure we have all the information the first go round (e.g., 2020? ;-)).

      2) At the same time, when something’s caught me by surprise, I’ve also learned that I really should have been able to anticipate it ahead of time. The next time around, I try to do better at budgeting for how things actually went, what else I’ve learned about how much buffer really is good to have to cushion against the “unknown,” etc.

      I doubt that any of this is something where any of us ever finally “arrives” and has it all down. But as you’ve mentioned, the point is to live intentionally, to make the most of the days we have, and by continuing to keep an eye on that goal (however haltingly and indirectly sometimes), I do think we can make some very real progress in stocking our days more with the kinds of things that really count.

      I’m not sure if any of that’s at all helpful, but I wanted to share at least a bit more from my own experience in case that might be helpful as well.

      All the best to you and yours.

      1. Matthew Miller Avatar
        Matthew Miller

        Thank you Dr. Stark for taking time to engage further on this issue. Your points have provided more for me to think about concerning the difficulties I find. Perhaps my conception of time budgeting is too narrow and that has limited my perspective. Your point about readjustments being a central component of intentionality I have not considered before. When I need to readjust (usually after the prolonged neglect) it has seemed like failure. Thinking of the readjustment as a necessary part of the process takes some of the guilt away. Further, I am getting better at creating a buffer but it is not always intuitive how long certain tasks take because every day in ministry feels completely different (I am not sure how much of that is the nature of the work and how much is attributable to my lack of consistent time tracking). One thing that I keep coming back to that I see now, after considering your points, has been of great benefit is framing the day based upon certain practices (e.g., set prayer times, Scripture reading, tea time, etc.). This is more fluid than what my expectation of myself are, but it seems I am more consistent when I uphold these practices. Thanks again and I deeply appreciate all you do to equip us for the work God has called us too. Grace and Peace in Christ,
        Matthew Miller

        1. J. David Stark Avatar

          Glad you found the additional comments helpful, Matthew. We all do tend to be rather more prone, I think, to thinking time will stretch farther than it does. 🙂 But having some (comparatively) fixed guideposts to orient oneself around can be very helpful. Then, as days unfold from there, a schedule can as well—much like “balancing” or “focusing” isn’t ever a constant static state but one of constant micro-adjustments toward a static goal.

          All the best.

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