Ep. #17 – Avoid the Time “Debt Collectors”
“If you commit to giving more time than you have to spend, you will constantly be running from time debt collectors.”
– Elizabeth Saunders – Author of The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment
In this episode I’m going to show you how your generosity with your time can cost you in every area of your life and why you need to have a time budget even more than a financial budget.
For so many years and even to this day I find myself answering the call of “time debt collectors.” Just what is a time debt collector? They’re the ones you call when you’ve promised your time and then you’re not able to pay up when needed.
How many times have you promised someone you’d help them with a project at the office, work on something at home, or even just spend time at lunch but didn’t bother to see if you had that time in your budget? I have an even better question, do you have a time budget?
Creating a Time Budget
Time is more precious than money because we can always make more money. Bill Gates has billions of dollars, probably more than he can spend, but he only has 24 hours every day of which he will spend every last second, barring his uneventful departure from this world.
Bill Gates could probably live his life without a budget at this point (I’m pretty sure he still has one… or one of his accountants has it for him) but he can’t live without a time budget because time is just as scarce for him as it is for you.
The Time Budget Comes Before the Schedule or Calendar
Before you fill in your schedule our calendar, you need to create a time budget so you know what you have to work with. Think of it like this, with your finances, you create a budget which allots money for various broad categories; household items, groceries, clothing, etc. Then throughout the month you fill in those categories with specific items like carrots, shoes and laundry detergent. Your time budget works the same way.
Create broad categories for your time such as recreation, eating, reading, family, fitness, etc. Then as specific items come up, you lay those into the appropriate category. Your buddy asks if you want to play a round of golf and you put in 4-5 hours for recreation. Your spouse tells you that your daughter’s science fair project is due soon, so you schedule that into your family category. This continues with each item until that item is full. Now, obviously some times may have to flex, but at least with a budget you KNOW it has to flex and you’re not just winging.
When the Time Debt Collectors Show Up
Too often we do just wing-it when it comes to some of the “soft schedule” items like helping our kids with a project, reading a book or the biggest culprit for most, watching TV. I doubt you put “watch TV” in your daily calendar, but you still find yourself doing it from time-to-time. What happens if you didn’t budget for any time to watch TV? That means you’re robbing from another time budget area and if you’re still doing those items, you’re borrowing from the Time Loan Sharks.
As you borrow time from one area to use it in an unplanned area or excess, you push things out a bit on your schedule. Most of the time, this isn’t even visible and your can absorb it but sometimes it does catch up with you and you suddenly have Guido knocking on the door demanding you pay back that time you borrowed, usually with interest.
Create an Outline of Your Ideal Week
Michael Hyatt’s “Ideal Week” spreadsheet is a wonderful tool which I highly recommend. He set this up following the exact same recommendations I’m making for a “time budget.” With Michael’s system he breaks down each day into a “theme” and then segments out the day into various focus areas.
For example on Monday Michael has the theme revolve around his team. He then breaks this down into various focus areas such as Self first thing in the morning, work in the middle of the day, and family in the evenings. It’s a great system and at least a great starting point for your time budget. I highly recommend you take a moment to look at what he has set up.
Today’s Action Plan
Whether you download Michael Hyatt’s “Ideal Week” spreadsheet or you create something on your own, take 30 minutes today (put it in your budget) and create your time budget for your entire week. Then you can overlap these items with your calendar and know when you’re staying within your budget or borrowing from the time loan sharks.
Please let me know if you have any questions on this idea on my questions page. I’d love to have your feedback.