Time budgeting: more follow-up

A reader made an excellent observation in this reaction on LinkedIn … Time budget not used today will expire.

I fully agree, which actually cements me in my conviction that the only way I’m going to relevantly and usefully spend my time is by ensure that I have, in advance, a clearly defined use for that time. If I fail to do that consciously and appropriately, I will lose that time, never to see it again.

Let’s illustrate that with a very concrete example:

I have a weekend day where I have let’s say 12 real available hours. 8 out of 24 hours I sleep, 4 are spent eating, preparing to eat, showering and doing general maintenance work around the house.

Now, I have a couple of areas of focus I want to spend time in during the weekend, for example on Saturday, when I have other stuff to do. These are:

  • Home owner
  • Father
  • Husband
  • Writer/blogger

Each of these have typical activities related to them. Home owner for example has a recurring task which is “mow the lawn”. Father has “play with kids” and Husband has “talk about past week with wife” and “go shopping for groceries”, next to other tasks. Writer/blogger will have “brainstorm article on working papers” and “brainstorm article on the use of contexts in Omnifocus”. I know that mowing the lawn, including set-up and clean-up, will take me about 2 hours (yes, my lawn is too large). I know that shopping for groceries, including putting everything away, will take me about 2 hours as well (what can I say, I’m picky) … Brainstorming an article takes me anything between 20 minutes and one hour, while playing with the kids gets at least 3 hours, and I adore talking to my wife, hence we take 2 hours for that at least.

Now I have:

  • Home owner – Cut lawn: 2 hours
  • Father – Play with kids: 3 hours
  • Husband – Shopping for groceries: 2 hours
  • Husband – Talk to wife: 2 hours
  • Writer/blogger – brainstorm 2 articles: 2 hours
  • Tool switching and other ‘loss’ of time: 1 hour

Does this seem OCD? It most certainly does, but it is not. Why not? Let’s look at the alternative …

If I don’t explicitly, proactively define what I am going to do with those 12 hours, I am likely to let my subconscious, lazy, procrastinating self dictate what I will be doing. Likely that will involve slacking off in front of the TV for a couple of hours of mindless (as compared to mindfull) procrastination.

Now, imagine my wife calls me to tell me her parents will be visiting us this weekend. They’ll be arriving around noon and will likely leave at around 6PM. These are hours we will be spending with them, which means that some of the intended, budgeted time slots will drop. I make the choice to drop the writing and the lawn as well as the “talking to wife” because that gets replaced with “talking to wife and parents”.

Completely different from a reactive scenario, this is an active choice of rebudgeting my time usage. It has, as any budget decision has, consequences, as it means I will have to cut the lawn another time, and make some time another day to do the writing if I want to keep up my publishing planning on my blog.

Active versus passive. Proactive versus reactive. Considered versus sprung-upon-you. What do you chose?