You Need to Budget Your Time to Manage Your Commitments

If you think in terms of financial expenditures, you have vastly more opportunities to spend money than you have funds available to you.1

If you’re Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, the size of your financial net might be wider. But it’s still quite limited by comparison with the world’s total opportunities for expenditures. Even if you use debt, there’s a ceiling to how much you can use.

1. Your time is limited.

The same is true with your time—only more so. Everyone gets only 168 hours a week to spend.

You might incur “sleep debt” to try to stretch the number of hours you have. But that’s a losing proposition.2 And it still doesn’t allow you to spend more than your 168 hours from a given week.

Time is a zero-sum game. When you spend it on one thing, you can’t spend that same time on anything else.

So, any commitment you make—whether it’s to a person, a project, an event, or whatever—represents a claim on your 168 weekly hours.

2. Your possible commitments are unlimited.

But there’s nothing out there in the aether stopping you from committing to more than you can do in the hours you have. So you can very easily make more commitments than you have the time to fulfill.

The only trouble is … that’s not honest to yourself or to the other people involved. Any excess commitment you make is, by definition, going to get shortchanged in some amount or left entirely unfulfilled.

And shirking commitments you’ve made isn’t a good practice—for you or anyone else.


But that doesn’t have to be your story. You can start “right-sizing” your commitments to your time.

You just need to work through them both intentionally to decide what does and doesn’t make the cut.

That will be an iterative rather than a once-for-all process. But you don’t have to wait to begin. And the sooner you start, the sooner you’ll be able to better fulfill the commitments you have.

  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. Greg McKeown, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (New York: Crown Business, 2014), 91–102. 

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