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The first step to creating a time budget is to understand the difference between you time and work time. Many of the problems that people experience with work-life balance, and time management in general, is that they make no clear distinction between the two. To simplify this principle, I'm going to give you a very clear definition of work time. Work time includes time spent working, of course, travel time to and from work, and time spent thinking about work while at home, or away from work.
It's usually that last part of the definition, the time spent thinking about work, that really causes people to stop and think. Take a moment to write down an estimate of how many hours you believe you spend working in an average week. Use the definition I just gave you. Include travel time to and from work, and time spent thinking about work while at home. The reason why I ask you to include that in the definition is because of switching cost. If you're thinking about work while at home or somewhere else, that's work time because that's where your focus is.
I'll give you an example. I worked with a CEO and helped her estimate where she was spending her time. She accounted for approximately 190 hours of activity in a 168-hour total week, which of course is physically impossible. When we analyzed her time estimates, she realized that while every evening she thought she was spending time with her family, she was really spending time in the presence of her family doing stock research. In other words, she was working but not spending you time or family time.
So for the purposes of this discussion about time budget, anything related to work--whether you're doing work, thinking about work, whether you have multiple jobs, you're working on two businesses-- all of that together is considered work, and everything else is considered you time, including recreation time, sleep time, eating time, family time. That way we can keep the discussion clear between the two. Next, we need to establish a boundary line between work time and you time.
Many people, particularly those who are inherently very driven, adopt the attitude that they'll work until it gets done. They work however late is necessary to get their projects complete. They work late hours--8 o'clock, 9 o'clock, 10 o'clock, end of the evening-- believing that they're a hard worker and being more productive. The reality is that while you may be able to be successful, to a degree, working long hours, you can be even more successful and productive by stopping at a set time each day.
When you create a line in your day that says 'I will not cross this line between work time and you time', it forces you to be more creative with your time budget. It forces you to analyze your personal systems more and make wiser decisions about how you use the scarce resource of your time. Remember, time will always fill up space. If you allow too much time for things to take place, you'll automatically fill up that space. Rather than giving yourself a blank slate to an endless amount of time, give yourself a limited space, a budget to work with.
You'll find that you get just as much done, but faster. Right now, take a moment and look at your calendar and create that boundary line. Make a commitment of the time you're going to stop work and focus on you time. There is no right or wrong answer here, other than just do it. If you've been in the habit of working till 9 or 10 o'clock at night, try to create a line at perhaps 8:30. Or if you want to stop working on the weekends commit that weekends are off-limits, beginning at 5 o'clock on Friday.
Create that clear boundary line in your calendar and try to make a commitment to never cross that line again.
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