Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Time Management - With a Budget!

Yeah - I love budgets.  I guess because, being a scatter brained ADHD type, I gravitate towards systems of imposed structure that help me get through the day.  I don't exactly use a time budget, but my kids were recently complaining about not having any time to play after school.  So I created a time budget for them.  It's a lot more complicated than our example, below, but the premise is the same.  Like someone living on a fixed amount of income, we all live on a fixed amount of time.
As a reminder - if you live on a fixed income, you can't succeed without a plan for using that income unless you're just really well off or darn lucky.
This was something of a revelation for my oldest.  We had been talking about money and budgets and why we don't just buy a horse, swimming pool, hot tub, 20" telescope or Mr. Fusion portable fusion reactor on a whim.  So when I used the budget analogy - they immediately got what I was saying... though it REALLY clicked for them once they saw it in print.

Their schedule, like I said, is a lot more complex.  I even extended it to a whole week as they have a different set of classes and tasks on each day.  Here though, is the basis and close to what I had for a personal time budget about 9 years ago, before kids and a different job.  Starting with the universal 24 hours allotted to each human on the face of the earth, enumerate your daily activities and subtract the amount of time for each.  Ooops - I skipped getting ready for work.  Toss in another 30 minutes and take it out of my free time.  Hmmm... that leaves only 4.5 hours at the end of the day for puttering around the yard, playing with the kids, hugging my wife and petting my non-existent dog.... which is why many of us love our Saturdays.

My kids were pretty amazed when I showed them their personal amount of remaining free time each day... usually around 6 hours.  I saw whites of eyes when I pointed that number out.  "Really?!"  Yes - really.  For kids, this kind of illustration helps underscore the importance of getting your work done in the time allowed.  The day after the budgets were published, amazingly, all the school work got done during school hours rather than being drug out till bed time or into the weekend. For adults, well, we go to work no matter what and typically stay there till quitting time.  But the same rule is true for all of us - if you don't get it done during normal hours, you have to deal with Over Time (many of us don't get paid for that!) or even worse, HOME WORK.  Bleh!

So, if you want to be really type A, you could make a time budget for your Saturday but I would caution against it.  Consider Saturday your mandatory set-aside savings in the envelope marked "PLAY" and don't mess with it - just smile and use it.  But if you've got kids who are struggling with school and keeping on top of the work load, consider a daily time budget for M-F and include Saturday with chores, sports, etc. so they can see a value and appreciate what free time they do have.   Maybe they'll spend it less on Wii / X-Box and more on time doing something really interesting like asking you how something works?  A parent can hope.

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