Now that the Great Recession has enshrined the New Frugality in the popular consciousness, it only makes sense to try taking a budgetary approach to time management.
Or so it seems to me, but then again, I do have a long history of deficit spending – if only when it comes to time.
It’s not so much that I waste time – although I certainly do on occasion – it’s that I sometimes have a ridiculous idea of what I can accomplish in a finite number of hours.
I don’t think my problem is unusual. There’s so much to do these days, from work to play to the myriad ways in which we try to keep body and soul together, that many of us face the danger of emptying our time bank accounts.
And we also risk spending our time unwisely.
Is it more important to watch reality TV than boost your career? Is hanging out on Facebook a better use of your time than getting enough sleep, or exercising regularly?
Few people would come out and say either of those things, but many of us do so in practice because of how we choose to spend our time.
That’s because time is a tricky resource. It’s finite, like a bank account, but it also replenishes itself. After you spend all the hours in one day, you wake up the next day with another 24.
It’s kind of like a bank that keeps extending your line of credit.
No wonder we’re tempted to fudge our numbers, and think that we can do it all.
However, all we’re really doing is living on borrowed time.
Sooner or later, the crash is going to come. Maybe that means you’ll hit a landmark birthday and wonder why your brilliant career hasn’t materialized. Or maybe you’ll have the opposite problem, and realize you’ve been shortchanging your personal life.
To avoid these unpleasant realizations, we’ve all got to learn to make better choices about how we spend our time.
One of the first steps is to determine how you’d like to allocate your hours. List the different things you do in your life, such as work, sleep, be on Twitter, and jot down the percentage of your time you’d like to spend on it. This is like setting your ideal budget.
Now look at reality.
Just as a financial advisor might suggest tracking your expenses, try making a list of all the ways you spend time – and how much. Compare it to your budget. If you don’t like what you see, look for ways you can change, and be imaginative. For example, if you’re spending more time commuting and less time exercising than you’d like, why not try biking to work a few days a week?
Trying to match your actual time expenses to your time budget won’t actually balance your bank account, of course, but it just might balance your life.
by Danielle Dresden