Even for the things we love, the things that aren’t work, we need a schedule! And perhaps even more than work, they deserve to have protected time within our day (the core value of a schedule). Isn’t reading important enough to our mental upkeep and development to be owed time each day? Or exercise, or sleep? If we are busy professionals with busy home lives, who are keenly aware of how quickly the hours in a day can slip away, shouldn’t we proactively budgeting our time? Of course!
All things must be approached with intention, and budgeting our time is no exception. Some may be so fearful of missing out on new opportunities that we keep our schedule perpetually open, locking out ‘free’ time under the belief that we’ll end up filling it with something valuable. More often than not, that time gets filled with social media and virtual window shopping. Or at work, we’ll find non-essential tasks to fill the time, the sort that don’t contribute to any core goal. We’ve bought a bit of freedom for today by borrowing from the time that work will require tomorrow.
On the other hand, some people seem greedy with what they hope to accomplish. We often overestimate what we can accomplish in the short term and underestimate what we can accomplish in the long term. The former is born from our experience (often trained into us by cram-sessions for school) that we can be wildly productive in short bursts, when needed. Unfortunately this pace cannot be relied upon; it usually requires the fear of a deadline, and is exhausting at any rate. The latter occurs because we undervalue the power of habit: a superpower that can move mountains, given the proper timeline.
Our greed, then, can lead to schedules so jam-packed they barely fit on the page of a planner. We’ve micromanaged every minute of the hour while pretending our minds function like a computer. But is this realistic? When we’re interrupted, for example, it takes about 25 minutes to return to our original level of focus. Building such an aggressive schedule also has the unintended consequence of almost certain failure, leading to subsequent disappointment and guilt. Not the best way to end the day!
We improve our time budgeting by knowing ourselves. I know I’m often getting tired by mid-afternoon, for example. This means I can’t schedule time to work on projects that require my creativity because I just don’t have the energy to address them properly. Creative tasks, like writing, need to be accomplished in the morning, even if it necessitates starting my day much earlier. Similarly, I have too much energy in the morning to attend many meetings. I need to solve and do and accomplish, and sitting in a meeting just doesn’t scratch that itch. It makes me fidgety and disconnected from the group. So when possible, I schedule meetings in the afternoon.
Whether we’re too stingy with our time or too lavish, our most important tasks deserve the protection of a budget. And when we’re paying for those important things with our time, paying ‘on credit’ will catch up with us; we have to pay the price eventually. Let’s be intentional and realistic by budgeting our time.