One tool that I use regularly that has been a tremendous help is a Time Budget. Like a financial budget, a time budget simply spells out where your time needs to be spent. Financial experts insist that if you tell your money—on paper—where it needs to be spent before you actually get it, you won’t waste your money on needless stuff. The same is true for time. If you will tell your time how it needs to be spent in advance, you won’t waste it on needless activities.
Here’s how a Time Budget works:
1. List everything you want to get done during the day.
2. Beside each item, write how long you estimate the task to take.
3. Increase each estimated time by at least 50%.
4. Add up the times.
5. Prioritize what needs to get done.
By actually writing your To Do items down on paper and then assigning a completion time to each one, it will instantly give you a mental picture of how you need to spend your day. Your brain is like a heat-seeking missile and once you set a completion time, your brain goes into “completion mode” to try to get that job completed before the time is up.
Things always take longer than you anticipate, so I recommend increasing each estimated completion time by 50%. For example, if you think you can complete a task in two hours, you should probably allot three. If you initially estimate 30 minutes, better bump it up to 45. It is always better to overestimate and have time left over than to underestimate and have to cram things into an already packed day.
Next, add up the times and see where you stand. This really puts things into perspective because it will show you how much time you really need. If you are like me, you will have way too many things to do than you have time. Do the math and shave off some of the completion times and/or move a few tasks to another day. Then you need to prioritize and rank what is going to get done first, then second, and so on.
Once you have cut the completion times to fit your day and have chronologically prioritized each task, you are ready to get after it! You might even try writing out your Time Budget before you go to bed at night. Your brain will already know what to do when you get up and will help you be productive early.
Put the Time Budget to use and get more out of your day.