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time budgets

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Just like you have a fixed income, you also - but even more so - only have a fixed amount of time each week, and I’m guessing that you’re operating on the same 24 hours a day that I am (if not please let me know - I’m a sci fi geek). Keen to apply my budgeting skills to a new topic, I was inspired to plot out my typical week, which you can see in the beautiful diagram here. It turns out that I’m quite a busy person.

productive and unproductive time

There are a couple of things to note. You’ll see in the key that I’ve defined fluff (purple), and faff (white)¬†as two separate sections. What do I mean by those? They’re both blocks of time when I’m not sure exactly what I do.

Fluff for me seems to consist of surfing the internet (especially icanhascheezburger, and Stumble Upon), or watching tv or reading a book - the key thing to note about fluff is that it happens when I’m too tired to be productive. I have tried being productive then, but actually the only reasonable alternative to mindless stuff is sleep. Which I also do sometimes.

Faff can also be those things, but it can also be productive, it’s when I do my grocery shopping or tidy up the house. About one weekend in three I’m doing something particular - meeting up with friends, or travelling or whatever which tends to take up all the fluff time that weekend.

not every week is the same

Another point is that this is a typical week. On average I travel on business one day a week, and do three activities. In reality there are quite a few weeks when I don’t travel at all, and others when I travel more than once in the week. If work clashes with activities, work will take precedence.

given my current outgoings, what can I afford?

I should pin this up so that I don’t get fancy harebrained schemes about adding another activity to the mix. I only have fluff time available - in a typical week there’s 11 hours of it, but a third of the time that’s taken up with my social life. Which leaves about 8 hours a week for tidying up, grocery shopping, other [fun] shopping, plus any new activity.

That crazy idea that I had for starting another degree part-time looks like it really is crazy. It was going to be a distance learning humanities/arts degree but completing it on schedule would require at least 8 hours a week, for 8 years. And if I don’t want to drop anything that I’m currently doing (and I don’t) I’d be more on the pace of 4 hours a week. Which means either making a half-hearted effort, or spending 16 years on it.

This is also why any great idea I ever have for another website turns out to be too time consuming, and why I’m feeling the need to take random days of leave just to catch up with myself.

I recommend figuring out what it is exactly that you do all day. It turns out that even thought I think know I’m lazy I actually don’t have all that much free time. On the other hand, my jam-packed schedule doesn’t mean that there isn’t time disappearing in a black hole. See the stuff in green? I’ve called that grooming, but I honestly have no idea what I do that takes me so long in the morning. All I know is that I never manage to leave the house before 8, and yet my alarm goes off at 7.

What do you do all week? And have you got any time-stretching tips?

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16 comments for “time budgets”

  1. This is a great idea! I’ll have to try it myself. I do know that if I manage to avoid going online first thing in the morning at work, I can be much more productive! I try to avoid checking e-mail for the first two hours each day.

    Posted by Mydailydollars | August 14, 2008, 3:17 pm
  2. One time management tool that I found kind of cool is Rescue Time (I think Get Rich Slowly turned me on to it). It tracks all your computer based activities and lets you categorize them in different ways. It has been pretty helpful in helping me see just how I spend my work day, but I can also see how it could help me be more productive at home - or at least let me see how much time I spend doing various things on the computer.

    Posted by Steward | August 14, 2008, 3:21 pm
  3. Having just started a new job, I feel like I have no time outside of work. I think I might have to sit down and figure out just where all my evenings and weekends are going to!

    Posted by Maggie | August 14, 2008, 4:33 pm
  4. Oh no. Someone told you I haven’t been working on my thesis, didn’t they.

    One thing I’d be interested in - the block of pink for “work”, does that take into account the time you’re at work, but not really working? That’s my biggest fail.

    Posted by deepali | August 14, 2008, 7:50 pm
  5. Drumroll for compliment… I’m really impressed that your “work block” is strictly 9-5. That’s tip-top time management, if you ask me! I find it hard to leave on time / stop contributing unpaid overtime (argh).

    Posted by Miss Thrifty | August 14, 2008, 8:39 pm
  6. The big block of pink is that amount of time that I’m at work - not that I’m uniformly productive. In a typical week I manage to leave at 6 or so, there isn’t a culture of working long hours in my team we’re contracted to do 37 hours a week and mostly people do slightly more, but not excessively so.

    Posted by plonkee | August 14, 2008, 9:40 pm
  7. Love this post Plonkee. I’ve been trying to be more productive with my time. I personally use Rescue time and a quasi-Franklin Covey method.

    Posted by Laura | August 15, 2008, 12:23 pm
  8. You can always make more money, but no matter how rich you are, you can never make more time.

    Posted by Writer Dad | August 15, 2008, 4:53 pm
  9. I think I will try this exercise as well - but not until September. I suspect I will probably find the black holes in time that seem to make the day seem not long enough…
    I have to wait though, until I’m done with all things school-related since that has been my biggest obstacle to consistency…

    Posted by deepali | August 15, 2008, 6:43 pm
  10. hehe… this looks like something i’d come up with…

    w/ our third child being born a few months ago, our schedules are filled up, morning to night…

    evidence? i’m typing this at TWO AM in the morning…

    great, great idea for a post, btw…

    rock on,

    Posted by NCN | August 16, 2008, 6:32 am
  11. Great post!

    I think I need to do this too! I like the idea of figuring out how much time you have before committing to anything!

    Posted by Frugal Trenches | August 16, 2008, 8:48 am
  12. Great idea! I’ve never used project but what you’ve done on that spreadsheet looks kinda like microsoft project. Time is Money.

    Posted by megan fox | September 16, 2008, 2:17 am
  13. Time management is very important. That said, we all know that 20% of actions result in 80% of outcomes.

    That leaves some wiggle room.

    Before I do something, I ask myself “Will this action get me closer to where I want to be?”

    Makes it very easy to shake off time wasting actions.

    Posted by Lazy Slacker | November 7, 2008, 1:33 pm

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