Budgeting Time is Much Like Budgeting Money

I had an interesting conversation the other day, where I sort of stumbled across an idea that–while it’s probably not original–was original to me. Meaning, I hadn’t thought of it before, or heard it espoused. Basically, it boils down to a riff off the old “time is money” schtick.

I don’t pretend to make a lot of money. I’m a librarian as my main job, and a newbie author on the side. Denisa works a lot of various other jobs–tutoring, baking, teaching, grading exams–in addition to keeping the house in order, but still, even combined, we don’t exactly bring in a seven figure salary. (Or a six figure . . .) But still, we have enough to do the things we want to do.

But the only way we’re able to do that is by budgeting pretty severely. I don’t mean that we live like the Amish, but . . . we have to make a lot of decisions as to what we really want and what we don’t want. I love me some television, but we gave up television years ago now. It was costing $600 a year, and that was about $500 too much for the amount we really got out of it. We very rarely eat out. Very rarely go out, really. A lot of what we do, we do together as a family at home. And that’s just fine–we love doing things together, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a lot of fun.

But this isn’t a post about budgeting money. It’s about budgeting time. Because suddenly–all in a flash–it occurred to me that the two things are very similar. You’re working with a fixed amount of something. You have to make decisions about where you’re going to spend it. And the closer you keep an eye on it, the better chance you have of being able to do everything with it that you want to do.

I find that on the days when I have nothing planned, I generally get much less accomplished. Time slips through my fingers, I blink, and suddenly it’s the end of the day, and I’m looking back at what did (or didn’t) get done, wondering why in the world it wasn’t more. On the days when I have a lot to do, I can be amazed at how much I accomplish.

There’s no difference between the amount of time available to me on those two contrasting days. It’s the same 24 hours. The difference is that in one, I’m careful about how I spend my time, and in the other, I don’t pay any attention to it at all.

I’m a firm believer in the principle of paying attention to the small things, especially when it comes to budgeting. If you find a way to save a little money here and a little money there, it eventually all ads up to a lot of money. The same is true about time. Finding ways to be more efficient about something–even a small thing–can have a big long term impact.

Silly case in point. My eyes still don’t like wearing contacts, ever since my fun in Europe. So I’ve been wearing glasses. Putting in and taking out contacts probably took me all of ten minutes each day, and yet somehow I’m amazed how much faster I can get ready in the morning and before bed. I really do notice that extra five minutes each time. Another example: I recently switched from wearing lace up shoes most of the time to wearing slip on shoes most of the time. And yes, I really do notice a difference in the amount of time it takes me to get ready to go somewhere.

I’m not saying that because of that 15 minutes total saved each day, I’m able to lounge around in a life of luxury, but it’s the principle behind it I’m focusing on. Finding ways to do things more quickly. Maybe a better example is Denisa baking bread. Back when she started, it would take her a good ten or fifteen minutes per loaf to get it formed properly and done just right. These days? It’s like five minutes, maybe. She’s got it down to an art form, and it means it takes her a half hour to do six loaves of bread instead of a couple of hours.

When I want to get things done, I make lists. Very detailed lists. And I then look at the time available to me, prioritize the list, and go to work. When I don’t make lists, I don’t get things done. It’s that simple.

But one last note. I think it’s also important to decide when enough is enough. I decide what needs to get done, and as I go about doing it, I also look at the list and start reevaluating what doesn’t need to get done, and then just cross those things off the list as I go, too. If I do nothing but work, I feel sorry for myself, overwhelmed, and depressed. Taking some of that time and spending it on myself is just as important as budgeting it in the first place. Not hours and hours, of course–but a little goes a long way.

Anyway. There you have it. My moment of insight for the day. Have a nice weekend, everyone!

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