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

Conclusion

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. 

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5 Comments

  1. Thank you for this helpful focus Dr. Stark! After our last discussion here, I have made time management the aspect of intense focus over the last few weeks. I revisited a book that I haven’t read in some time that is proving very helpful titled “Time Management from the Inside Out” by Julie Morgenstern. In her book, she talks about dealing with tasks using the “WADE” acronym. I have started employing it in my daily schedule and it has proved incredibly helpful. WADE stands for Write everything down (i.e. all “to-do’s” in your planner); Add up how long each task takes (she recommends spending up to a month tracking how long it actually takes to do things to gain a clearer estimate of time per task…I am just at the start of comparing estimates with reality); Decide which tasks I will actually do (she recommends the 4D’s for making these decisions: Delete, Delay, Delegate, Diminish); and finally Execute the plan by putting a time and date for each task in the planner. Further, for email, I have created three folders which has taken my email from almost 2000 in my inbox to now 300 (and hopefully soon…0). I have a today folder (for emails needed dealing with immediately), this week folder (for those less time sensitive), and projects folder. She also recommends planning in detail your next day and then a broad plan for the following two, allowing adjustments to be made as necessary. Thank you Dr. Stark for keeping the importance of time usage at the forefront of our discipline. Your direction on budgeting time is inspiring me to learn how to more faithfully navigate the ever ticking moments of our life’s ebb and flow. May God’s blessings be upon your work!
    Grace and Peace in Christ,
    Matthew Miller

    1. That’s wonderful to hear, Matthew. I’m so glad you’ve got a good system in place—which of course you can always tweak and adjust as you find ways of making it work better for you.

      Keep up the good and faithful work!

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