Budgeting Your Time – Like You Budget Your Money

Published by Hope Nelson 1 month ago on Mon, Feb 19, 2024 12:36 PM

Lots of people – college students included – have methods for budgeting their money. Whether you work part-time, full-time, on or off campus, chances are that you’re familiar with the process of keeping a budget. But what if the techniques involved with keeping track of your finances could extend into your daily life, and you could create a similar budget for your time? Time management skills are vital for college life, so being able to make effective decisions about how you spend your time is a rewarding skill to have. If you wish to embark on a time-budgeting journey but don’t know where to start, consider these tips for beginning the process.  

Create a long-term calendar and daily schedules 

Knowing what the next month of your life looks like is just as important as knowing what the next few hours will include, because the first step toward managing your time is being able to visualize your time. Build a long-term calendar first, whether on your phone, computer or on paper, and make note of the “big events” that you have coming up over the next month. Then, at the start of each week (or even just at the start of the day), make daily schedules that can help you see how you’ll be spending your time each day. Doing so can inform how you spend those hours each day when you don’t have any commitments to attend to.  

Find tools that work for you 

Paper tools like planners and notebooks can be helpful in budgeting your time, but so can online tools like these (which can assist your time-management journey in all sorts of different ways). The best way to begin budgeting your time wisely and stick to your habits is to use resources that motivate you to manage your time. Use what you prefer – whether that’s an online calendar like Google Calendar or a notebook where you outline a neat, hand-drawn schedule each week. Sometimes this takes trial and error – so don’t give up if one tool doesn’t work for you the way you would hope! Move on to another one and find the one that fits your needs best.  

Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize! 

Time management is all about setting priorities. There are only so many hours in a day; no matter how motivated you are, sometimes there simply isn’t enough time to complete everything in your daily plan. One trick for prioritizing is to number your tasks. For example, studying for a big test the following day might take the No. 1 spot, while spending time on research for a paper that isn’t due for two weeks might be a bit further down the list. Prioritization is the key to getting done what needs to be done, but not losing track of the longer-term projects that are coming up.  

Be realistic and kind to yourself 

If you don’t accomplish all your goals on a given day, don’t be hard on yourself. Realistically, no one can finish everything they need or want to some days – and beating yourself up over it can diminish your motivation to keep up with your time-management skills in the future. So be kind to yourself. Get to know your own abilities, needs, and energy levels throughout the day so that when it comes time to start on a task, you have a good idea of whether you’ll be able to accomplish it at the time. Sometimes, if you put off a task for a few hours or even until another day, you’ll come back to it with a renewed sense of motivation and replenished energy that will increase your efficiency.  

Use accountability methods to end procrastination 

Procrastination is really just a fancy name for what can happen if you put off a task for too long. Perhaps that test that’s No. 1 on your priority list is really stressing you out, so you decide that you’re going to spend five minutes – just five minutes! -- scrolling through Instagram before you attack it. Then five minutes turns into half an hour, and that turns into two hours...and suddenly, it’s time to head to chapel, or class, or dinner and you haven’t learned a single bit of new information. Plus, your stress levels have skyrocketed because, well, that’s two hours of study time gone.  

To avoid procrastination, stick to your schedule, and keep up with good time-management, use accountability methods that are effective for you. Friends, family members, and even timers set on your phone can keep you accountable while you do homework or chores. Have a friend sit down and work on homework with you, put your phone across the room while you work, or work at your computer for the entire duration of a one-hour timer. Once again, use methods that work for you.  

Schedule time for things that you want to do 

Part of building a daily schedule – perhaps even one the most important parts – is making sure to schedule time for fun, self-care, and socialization. A healthy schedule isn’t one that’s filled with work, class, or strict commitments every minute of the day. If you want to manage your time wisely and work on what you have to do with appropriate levels of motivation and effectiveness, your schedule must include fun time. So call a friend, color a picture, go for a walk, or engage in a hobby. Whatever makes you feel relaxed, refreshed, and satisfied should make up part of your “time budget.”  

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