I don’t use a budget for my personal finances. It takes up too much of my time.
I use Mint.com to review all the expenses that posted across various bank statements and credit cards once per week. It takes about 10 minutes unless I spot a charge that doesn’t look right.
Things are different when it comes to budgeting my time. I spend 10 minutes per day reviewing my plans, energy level, mental attitude, stress, and accomplishments. Then I spend 30 minutes per week budgeting my time for the coming seven days. Once per quarter I reserve an entire day to plan the next quarter and make firm commitments for specific outcomes.
Why the difference?
It has to do with the magnitude of effect. If my wife and I get into a bad habit of spending too much money on frivolous expenses, it might set us back a few hundred dollars for a couple of months before I notice the trend and we self-correct. So the most I have to lose is a few hundred bucks.
When it comes to my time, the magnitude of effect is HUGE. How I spend my time will impact my finances more than any other factor.
And it’s much harder to keep my time from slipping through the cracks than it is to keep my money from being squandered, or misappropriated. Time has a way of slipping through your fingers when you’re not paying attention.
That’s why I encourage you to pay attention. Get feedback about where your time is going. The more feedback the better.
This is the Pareto Principle applied to productivity. Put just a little bit of energy into getting feedback about where your time went and how well you did, and you’ll experience a tenfold return on investment when it comes to the outcomes you actually care about.
Here's the point. You should reflect on your productivity daily and weekly. How did you do? What traps did you fall into? What distractions kept you from your most important work? When did you accidentally sabotage your own energy or focus?
Reflect on these things to enrich your mental map of the future. This process teaches you about yourself and the things that block your productivity. With consistent feedback and consistent practice at applying the insights you gain from that feedback; you will become a more productive person over time.
P.S. When it comes to budgeting your time in advance, this is the planner I recommend. It forces your big plans into “buckets” and then breaks it down into manageable chunks that make their way onto your daily agenda. It’s designed to keep you focused without getting overwhelmed.
This daily planner was designed by an entrepreneur, for entrepreneurs. And because this entrepreneur happens to be a friend of mine (Dave Ruel), he arranged a 15% discount for any of you who might want to give the planner a try. Just use the code, TODD15 upon checkout.
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