Time is like money. Time is more valuable than money because once a minute is gone, it’s gone FOREVER. You’ll never be able to earn that minute back. Almost every single financial coach will tell you that it’s essential to set up your budget.
This is also true when it comes to time. To budget your time, first, you need to learn more about your time-spending habits. One of the time management techniques that can help you manage your time better is to keep track of your activities. In this post, I’m going to show you why this is important and share with you a tool that I have found useful.
Keep a log
The easiest way to learn about your time-spending habits is to keep a log of your activities and how much time you spend on each of these activities.
For example, your log may look something like this: 11:25 pm – 6:13 am – sleep 6:13 am – 6:25 am – shower 6:25 am – 6:35 am – get ready for work 6:35 am – 6:43 am – breakfast 6:47 am – 7:36 am – commute to work 7:40 am – 7:50 am – make coffee 7:50 am – 7:58 am – chat with coworker 7:58 am – 9:35 am – work 9:35 am – 9:50 am – Internet …etc
Since the purpose of this exercise is to learn about your time-spending habits, try to be as detailed as possible. You may have unaccounted for time, e.g., 6:43 am – 6:47 am in the above example, don’t worry about this. Try your best to record everything.
There are different tools that you can use to keep track of your time spent. Choose a tool that suits your needs. If you’re a pen-and-paper kind of person, then carry a small notebook and a pen with you. Make sure that the notebook is small enough so that you can have it with you all the time. You can also use spreadsheet software such as Excel.
I’m currently trying out a nice little time management/productivity app for iPhone/iPod Touch called aTimeLogger. It allows you to set up a bunch of activities/categories and then log your time spent against these activities. When you start an activity, simply tap on the activity to start the logging. When you’re done, simply tab stop or tab on another activity.
You can see your time spent by category by day, week, or month. I believe you can export reports to different formats too. I like it so far, and the best thing is it’s FREE! For those of us who always have our iPhone or iPod Touch within reach, this is a neat way to keep track of your activities.
Analyze your results
After you have logged your activities for a certain period, e.g., a week, take a look at your logs. Calculate the number of hours you have spent on each activity. Sometimes the results can be surprising. For example, you were stressed out last week because you felt that you weren’t given enough time to finish a project.
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However, your logs may tell you that you spent 2 hours a day surfing the Internet last week. Your logs may also tell you that you only spent a total of 1 hour on reading last week when one of your goals is to read a book a week!
Create your time budget
Now that you have a better idea of how you are spending your time, it’s time to create your “time budget.” Review your logs and write down a list of your daily activities. Start with your core activities, i.e., activities that you must do. “Commute” can be one of your core activities if you have to commute to work daily.
Other examples are “sleep” and “eat.” For each core activity, allocate an amount of time. You should use your logs as a reference. For example, according to your logs, you had spent 135 minutes each day on commuting last week. Then, give your “commute” activity a budget of 140 minutes/day.
Once you’re done budgeting for your core activities, move on to the activities that are not on your “must-do” list but are relevant to your goals. For example, if one of your goals is to read a book a month, then you have to set up a time budget for “reading.” Don’t forget to budget for your entertainment activities, but be reasonable. Don’t you think that 3 hours of TV watching per day is a bit too much?
Keep your daily budget with you all the time. Print it out and stick it on the wall if you want. No matter what you do, make sure that you spend your time according to your budget. Continue to keep a log of your daily activities, and at the end of each day, compare your actual time spent with your allocated time budget for each activity.
Tweak your budget if needed. After a while, this will become a routine. You’ll be able to plan your days and manage your time better as you know exactly what you need to do and how much time you will spend on each task.