Time budgeting: a follow-up

Using Timeful for a couple of hours

Based on the feedback from some readers with respect to this article, I’ve been playing around a bit with Timeful, an interesting iOS application developed with the support of Prof. Dr. Dan Ariely. Some of you suggested it may provide some answers to my issues with time budgeting and linking available time to to-do’s.

First, I need to say I like the approach the application takes. It shows you all the competing time interests and suggests what can be done when, based on a number of underlying algorithms. This app looks like it takes an available time focused approach.

Still not a ‘conscious’ budget approach

That said, it does not fully answer the point that I have: it does not ask for a conscious available time assessment, it rather shows you what you have left. And that’s where the issue lies, as far as I’m concerned. A budget approach such as YNAB first makes you very aware of what you have available to you, in money, and then asks you to divide that money over budget categories.

What I would like to see is an application, or a method, or a solution that would allow you to first make a clear overview of your available time for a certain context, for a certain area of focus, and then to confront you with your identified categories (call them projects in an area of focus, to stay within GTD parlance) and ask you to make the choices that need to be made.

Conscious choices focus on the “important, not urgent” quadrant first

I cannot stress enough the need to go about it this way: first identify what is available to us and then to give that time that you have committed to a job, every single minute of it. This is not about mechanically or even OCD like attributing time to projects: this is about making very conscious choices to first allocate time to an area of focus and then detailing how to use that time in that area of focus.

This is making very conscious choices for certain projects and activities and not for others. Whenever there is a conflict in your head, like with a spending decision, the fact that you have already made a choice beforehand, usually within a larger picture of reaching certain objectives will make that decision easier. It does not mean you will only focus on longer term goals, but rather than any choice not for a longer term goal means you are confronted with the impact of that decision on your longer term goal then and there.

It should, in my opinion and perception, lead to spending more time in the “important, not that urgent” quadrant rather than in the “Really urgent now, not very important, but yikes, it burns” quadrant.