Just the other day I was remarking with my husband about how full my recently pared-down schedule had become already…the next day I had made plans to do a regular workout with a friend. I’m not sure how I figured that an already busy schedule had another busy evening available…but it seems to be the fallacy I fall prey to most often. In fact, a year ago I purchased a book on how to become less busy. While I enjoyed what I read, and the author’s approach it fell by the wayside after about 8 days because I got too BUSY!

So how do we do it? How do we manage to fit all of the responsibilities, leisure and – if you’re as lucky as me – quality time with a partner into each short week? I’ve been mulling this over and I think I have something worth trying: A budget.

Recently I have been motivated by Gail Vaz-Oxlade ‘ s show ‘Till Debt Do Us Part. Using her money management and debt repayment tips, our household budget is in a very comfortable place: one less thing to worry about!

So, then, if you can budget your money…why not budget your time?

Unlike money, time is limited. You can’t get a credit extension, pick up extra shifts, or win a time lottery: there is only 24 hours available to us 7 times each week, 365 times each year. As a finite resource – and a precious one – we can’t afford to waste it!

hammering out a budget…

First, consider how much time we have to budget WITH. We do not, in fact, have 24 hours to work with each day…unless you’re a robot that doesn’t need to sleep! Considering that between 7 and 8 hours each day we sleep (not including new parents of course) and generally between 7 and 10 hours we are working/in transit, 13 to 18 hours of our day can be eaten up before we have time to fill them!

The average North American adult has only 6 to 10 hours per day left to “play” with.

With so little time left to us each day to fit in childrens’ activities, homemaking, cooking, eating, showering (and the list goes on), how on earth do we still get to have a LIFE?!

Here’s what I’m trying:

  1. Using a pie chart or percentages, determine how much of your time you would like to spend on: family, romance, responsibility and fun/personal.
  2. Using your sleep and work schedules (including transit to and from work), determine how much time you have allotted to you each day of the week.
  3. Using a calendar (or paper with days of the week), make a list of ALL of the recurring activities (including the mundane like housework, cooking, errands, etc.) for each day of the week. Don’t include special events.
  4. For each activity listed, assign the reasonable amount of time you feel it requires (remember transit time!) Keep in mind that, just as with budgeting money, certain activities require a greater percentage of your time while others can stand to be pared down. Feel free to determine only current activities OR work in activities you’d LIKE to be included alongside the current ones.
  5. Subtract the amount of time you spend on the above activities from the time you have allotted each day. Don’t forget to credit yourself whatever breaks you have during the day: reading while eating lunch can be a great way to sneak in personal time!
  6. Categorize each activity using the categories family, romance, responsibility, fun/personal.
  7. Tally the time for each category over the course of the week.
  8. Crunch the numbers. Using the total available time for each day found in step two, add up your total available time for the week.  Divide the total for each category by the total time for the week.  This will give you the percentage of time you are actually allotting to each category.
  9. Compare to the idea division of time you determined in step 1.

now what?

Does how you’re spending your time match up reasonably well according to how you’d *like* your time to be divided? If not, some tweaking might be needed.
Combining activities might be the best way to meet both your needs and wants. Some examples might include…
  • Getting the kids or your partner to join in on preparing dinner can give quality time while still accomplishing food preparation.
  • Similarly, there’s no reason every member of the house can’t help with the homemaking in some small way: anything that is done by someone else removes some responsibility time from YOUR time budget!
  • Time in the car can become personal time! If you enjoy singing, belt one out! If you are a reader but don’t have time to pick up a book, purchase or borrow an audio book or download a podcast that you might not otherwise have time for.
  • While the pasta is simmering or the casserole is baking, tag-team food preparation and cleaning and knock off a cleaning task or three depending on the time available. Be careful that you don’t leave unsafe food items unattended.
  • Remember, just because “family” and “fun” are listed as two categories doesn’t mean they don’t go together! One way to help your time budget balance is to realize that often categories will overlap and it’s a great way to ensure that deficits in one may be made up in activities from another.
  • Similarly, by throwing on a podcast or audiobook while doing housework, you can sneak in some personal time while still taking care of your responsibilities.

Another quick tip: budgeting your time can be easier if you set limits. For example, set the kitchen timer for 10 or 20 minutes and turn on the tornado of clean during that time…but then STOP when the time is up. This ensures that the inevitable adding of one or two tasks as you see they need to be done doesn’t happen.

what about the love?

  • The number one way I ensure quality time with my husband is setting aside a “date night” (for us it’s Friday nights, but you may need to float it around based on scheduling). This night is sacred. I no longer answer the phone, spend time cleaning or sneak in errands (even quick trips). By having a time that is set aside for time with your partner (and this can include time with them AND friends if you choose or time is limited), it ensures that despite the craziness of the week you will be certain to avoid neglecting each other entirely.
  • Another way to sneak in some romance is to combine it with other activities. While sharing a kitchen can be hard for some of us (I’m really terrible at dealing with people in my kitchen), preparing a meal together can become some great quality time! Sharing the meal together further extends your “romance” time!
  • Even easier, if you both enjoy reading head to bed early and rest together while reading. You may not necessarily be interacting but you’re together, alone, and restful. Who knows…heading to bed early might leave a little extra time for…knitting 😉
Ultimately, attitude is what matters most. If you choose to view housework as a chore, it will be. You can choose to be positive and see your “fun” category melt into your responsibilities, family and romance!

coming up: making it organized, and saying “no”…