I manage my time the way I manage my budget – personal and at work. Time is the resource that I must invest very carefully. If I lose money there is a chance I can earn it in future. On other hand time spent for nothing will never come back. Money graph may go up and it may come down. Time axis is always one way…
This post describes my approach of investing my time as a budget – annually, monthly, weekly, daily. It also describes briefly the result this approach gets me.
Annual Time Budget Plan Execution
How’s big your annual time budget? Is it 12 month? 365 days? Let’s see:
- Total days – 365.
- Public holidays – It depends on your geographic location and few more factors. Let’s take 10 days, for example.
- Sick days – Yes, plan to be sick – it is not unusual to be sick, so plan to be. Say, 6 days annually you take day-off as sickness leave.
- Community Service – like military reservist or other, I am sure you have some sort of community obligations, either voluntary or not. Let’s take 18 days, for example.
- Vacation – how much do you have? I cannot tell you mine as I am signed for NDA about this one. Let’s take 20 days, for example (imaginary number, not actual one).
- Training – planning to build your skills? You better. Say 8 days a year you want to invest in training.
- Unallocated time budget – this one is important. Military folks know it better. You never throw all your troops to attack the enemy. You must have fresh reserve for the moment of truth. You can call it time buffer. Say 6 days. Either you decide to take more vacation days, or train more, or get sick for longer period. This budget is just for that.
- Weekends – 52 weeks * 2 weekend days = 104
What’s left for work is:
193days = 365 – 10(public holidays) – 6(sick days) – 18(community service) – 20(vacation) – 8(training) – 6(unallocated time budget) – 104 (weekends).
Quick check. Let’s examine the budget we have:
- Working hours – 193(available)*8 (working hours) = 1544
- Utilization – this is the number calculated based on available workable hours which is 40 weekly hours times 52 weeks = 2080. Utilization of 70% would require your to invest 2080 * 70% = 1456 working hours. This is what your employer is expecting you to invest in work.
Seems like we are over the budget:
1544(available work hours) – 1456 (required utilization) = 88 hours(tolerance).
In case you are under the budget you must decide to be sick less, work for your community one day less, train less, or use unallocated budget to cover the deficit.
Monthly Time Budget Plan Execution
To control your time budget build a table similar to the following:
- Hours – Actual column. This is where you are going to capture your actual monthly results.
- Hours – Planned column. These are the hours you plan to invest this month. This one should cover the utilization you are required to satisfy.
- Tolerance column. This column should show how uptight you are with the hours this months. It shows the tolerance for you to shuffle your hours. The formula is [Hours – Avail] – [Hours – Planned]. Notice that in February, March, June, and July you have negative tolerance. It means that you do not actually have enough time. What you need is decide to either shuffle HSVTU column or work more during other months.
- Hours – Avail column. This column shows available hours for investment. It is calculated as all workable hours (40 weekly) – HSVTU hours.
- HSVTU column. Holidays, Sick leave, Vacation, Training, Unallocated hours. I’ve scattered it randomly – it is all up to you and your region’s holidays calendar.
The goal here is that hours reported in Hours – Actual column will be equal or more than in Hours – Planned column. That way you will hit your Utilization target.
Weekly Time Budget Plan Execution
Weekly time budget control is based on monthly budget available. It is shown in Hours – Planned column in the previous table. These are the steps I follow to manage my time budget weekly.
- Identify key projects. It is reasonable to say that you should be knowing what projects you will be involved month ahead from now. Make a list of these projects and allocate monthly time budget for each. Say, Customer X 14 hours, Customer Y 14 hours, Training Z 7 hours, etc.
- Block time in the calendar. Go to your calendar and block time proactively in weekly manner so that the blocked time will sum up to the budgets you allocated to each project.
- Report time invested. Report invested time daily.
- Adjust according to tolerance. Each weekend sum up the invested time and compare to the planned time budget. If you are under budget use available tolerance to allocate more time to invest and catch up next week.
Daily Time Budget Plan Execution
This is my daily practice of executing on what I planned.
- What’s on the table? According to allocated time in my calendar I know what project I need to invest my time budget. The other question is what are the tasks I need to complete for the project? I use my Inbox to manage tasks categorizing it as follows (names are fictitious, except mine):
- Prioritize. It is obvious you need to prioritize your tasks to stay within your time budget. Prioritize key tasks that should take you to the goal/objective of the project. The rest of the tasks? Let few balls drop – it is better than the project’s failure.
- Report investment. Once I am done with the projects – either time is up or the tasks are completed – I report the time I actually invested and move to another project according to my schedule. As you can see I invested in Customer X more than planned and invested less in training (Demo calendar is for planned hours, Utilization calendar is for actual hours I invested).
- What’s next? Next project should show in my Calendar and the tasks are the emails in my Inbox grouped under the same category.
This approach demands a lots of discipline and practice but it surely pays off. Here are few results that it allowed me to achieve:
- I breath with full chest. No more fire alarms.
- I know what I do and why I do it.
- I know what’s next – in no time. Try me, ask me.
- No more surprises – no more unplanned disappointments.
- My works/life balance has never been better before.
- My work week stays within 40 hours. It may go up though, but only if I want it.
- I see my family more.
- I invest more time in my life projects – mind, body, spirit.
- I am calm. That’s quite an achievement for me, take my word…
- Do you feel nervous and uptight?
- Are you chasing project tasks?
- Do you feel you are out of time?
- Can you tell me what projects you currently have?
- Can you tell me what exact tasks you need to perform for each project to achieve the goal?
- Can you tell me you have enough time to complete those tasks?