Through my life, I’ve learned that time is a valuable thing. There never seems to be enough of it, and yet, it always seems to be fleeting. Sometimes we wish it away too quickly, and other times we try to savor every second. But all in all, we spend our whole lives trying to understand it.
I’ll admit it: I’ve struggled with making the most of my time. I’ve had days where I’d get home, tired from work, and just lay on the couch for hours mindlessly perusing social media. I’d waste hours binging on the latest Netflix show, and I’d sleep in far too long on the weekends to be productive. Not a great use of time.
But then I got around to really thinking about it. I wanted to make each hour count, because, let’s face it. I still have a long way to go to reach my goals and I really can’t afford to waste a second of my precious time. I already began to understand the importance of budgeting my money, so why shouldn’t I begin budgeting my time as well? Because time is money, after all.
First, I examined my days.
How did I spend my time each day? I took account of my comings and goings. I spent a lot of time commuting. I worked a full day Monday through Friday. I went to the gym after work 3-4 times each week. But I spend a lot of time doing, well, nothing.
I would get home from work at 6pm and stay up until midnight doing meaningless activities that I was barely even consciously participating in (i.e scrolling through my Facebook feed). It just felt so pointless and I wanted to make a change.
So, I set some goals.
Instead of showing up to work tired from the night before, I wanted to show up motivated and fully awake. No more three cups of coffee to get me started.
I wanted to have a more productive commute, since I spent a good 7.5 hours commuting each week.
I wanted to enjoy my gym time and even find the time to go more. I used to love running outside, and I wanted to factor that back in to my schedule.
I wanted to limit my social media activity each day. I was fully aware I was spending too much time looking at what other people were doing, rather than living my own life. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get off of Facebook or Instagram completely, but I realized I could see everything I needed to within 30 minutes or less each day.
I wanted to further my self-development, which included enjoying certain hobbies and interests, like reading well-written, useful websites and blogs, doing some blogging of my own, and taking on some side work to keep things interesting. I knew I had the time to do all of this, but I just hadn’t properly allocated my time before.
Lastly, I wanted to make my weekends in particularly count more. No more sleeping in late and sitting on the couch all day. I wanted to get up, get out, and get productive. Rather than resting from a long, hard work week, I wanted to put my precious free time to good use.
Then, I put a plan in place.
This seemed almost too easy that I was surprised I hadn’t thought of it before. All day at work, I kept a tight schedule, accepting meeting invites and keeping some time blocked on my calendar to allow for undistracted work time. Why shouldn’t I schedule my after-work hours as well?
So, I planned out each hour of my day and believe it or not, it wasn’t as tedious as it sounds. I kept an ongoing note on my phone where I would quickly outline my ideal day in increments. I allowed myself to be flexible, because I wanted to make sure I would stick with this plan. If something came up, I could easily adjust my schedule, no problem. Overall, I just wanted to make sure that I was doing something truly important, meaningful, or productive right up until my bed time.
Here’s what it looked like:
6pm Dinner and relaxing
8pm Take on a freelance assignment
9pm Write a blog post
10pm Catch up on my podcast
It might sound like a lot (or maybe not at all) but it works for me. I finally felt like I was doing something with my time, rather than just throwing it away. I allowed myself to relax (of course!) but understood that a relaxing night shouldn’t mean curling up in a comatose for hours upon end.
Soon enough, I was budgeting my time on my own.
I stuck with my plan of writing down my schedule for the day, and pretty soon, it became second nature. It became more intuitive, and I allowed myself to get multiple things done in one day, even after working for eight hours straight.
I became aware of my bad habits and drastically cut down on mindless consumption. I opened myself to new things and experiences instead, and made furthering my knowledge a point. I know my priorities now, and I make sure to focus on them each day.
Here’s what I’ve learned: budgeting your time is truly an art. You have to be flexible and able to improvise quickly. You have to prioritize and understand what matters most. You have to be open and steadfast. You have to want it.
But just like that, your time, and therefore your life, becomes more meaningful and valuable.