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Keeping A Time Budget Log

Posted By Jim On 08/04/2008 @ 6:14 am In Personal Finance | 6 Comments

Last Wednesday, I watched a talk given by Randy Pausch [3] at the University of Virginia [4] about time management. In it, he discussed how time is in fact much more important than money and how everyone should try keeping a time log – a written record of how you spent your time. He suggested that you will be amazed how much time you spent doing some things and how little time you spent doing others. Then he made the natural analogy to a budget. Keeping track of everything you spend financially is identical to keeping track of everything you spend time-wise.

I no longer keep a budget in the strict sense because our expenses are relatively stable and we have a strong handle on what we need to save and how much. I don’t have a strong handle on where I spend my time and so I feel that a Time Budget Log is a great idea.

Much like an actual budget, I have to segment my time into reasonable buckets. Here are my major buckets in priority order (meaning if it falls into a higher bucket, that’s where it will go):

  • Sleeping
  • Eating
  • Working
  • Maintenance
  • Physical Activity – This covers anything that’s physical, like going to the gym, and has precedence over entertainment.
  • Entertainment – Everything that is purely entertainment.
  • Waste

For example, if I’m playing a sport like softball, it falls under physical activity even though it’s entertaining. Watching a movie or television, that falls under entertainment. Watching TV while I eat falls under eating. Taking a shower, that’s waste. I may adjust those buckets as time goes on but that’s how they’ll start.

My units of measure will be ten minute increments. That’s an entirely artificial measure but it will keep me sane. I think half hour or quarter hour increments will be too long and five minutes will be too short.

In addition to those larger buckets, each will have smaller buckets. For example, under the work I will have various work activities segmented out. For solid ten minute activities, or activities that are performed in factors of ten minutes, I’ll have time recorded. For things like checking email, I’ll use tick marks. Check email – one tick. Check stats – one tick. Write a post – minutes recorded.

I’ll record everything at first in a notebook and then transcribe in one batch activity at the end of the day or week. Then, at the end of the week, I’ll review it and see what happens!

You can watch the time management lecture by clicking the More link below:


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[3] Randy Pausch: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randy_Pausch

[4] University of Virginia: http://www.virginia.edu

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