Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Time and Money, Part 1

For years, one of my off-and-on areas of interest has been "Time Management." I've been using a DayTimer for over 20 years, and I have read pretty voraciously on the topic of how to make the most of limited time. I'm getting on that kick again as the new school year looms, and just wanted to share a couple of thoughts "out loud."

One of the more common formulations in TM books is that we all have only 24 hours (or 86,400 seconds) per day credited to our account, and they all evaporate at the end of that period. Nobody has "more" time, nor less. You can't bank it for later (although, arguably, you can "invest" time in activities like planning that then pay back "with interest" later on in the day or week). Therefore, time, like money should be carefully budgeted.

It seems to me that this is a pretty good formulation for most grown-up people with "regular" jobs. Barring a couple of weeks' vacation, Joe Normal may spend 7-8 hours sleeping, 8+ hours working, and therefore have only 8-ish hours remaining for everything else from a shower, a shave, three meals, two commutes and all other discretionary activities put together. Of course, weekends have their own rhythym, with chores and church, etc. However, I'm not normal (insert sarcastic comment here).

I think that in the category of time, much like money, the trick to a budget is neither how much you make (and in the case of money, that's fixed anyway), nor how much you spend, but rather how much difference there is between the two. Spend it all, you're broke. But a big chunk "left over" makes you rich. In money terms, you can be broke making six figures, and rich making very little. As a teacher, the summer is a period when my time "income" stays the same 168 hours a week as everybody else, but the "bills" are very low, as I don't have to spend my usual 8 (really more like 10-11) hours at work every day. I'm quite wealthy in time-terms during June, July and August. Want to take a nap? Cool. Want to read a novel by the pool? Great. Want to paint the back hallway? Let's sleep till 8 AM and paint around 9, after a leisurely breakfast.

But all that changes, and rapidly, when school starts back up. In money terms, it's like suddenly taking on a new jumbo mortgage. Suddenly there's a 50+ hour work-week and a twice-daily commute, in addition to the other necessities of life. And even some of those necesities are multiplied. I know I'm not engendering much sympathy here, but in the summer, I only shave about twice a week. That goes to six days from late August through May.

Anyway, I am starting to hear the footseps of the school year closing in on me again, which has led me back to thinking about time and how to make the most of it. Over the next few days, I intend to post a few thoughts about time and quality of life.


bekster said...

Something that really gets me is that I not only have to figure out WHAT I need to on what day but WHEN during the day it makes the most sense to do it. Some things that need to be done are really not that hard, BUT if I have to do them either 1) when I just wake up, 2) directly after a hard day of work, or 3) right before I go to bed, it makes them extremely annoying. If I plan to do something on a continuous basis during one of those times, I will eventually fall off the bandwagon. It's too bad that leaves very little other time left to do the stuff...

BTW, when does school start for you? Also, did you ever find/replace your day-timer?

MichaelPolutta said...

Natalie has been deep in school planning, so I hear you on "hearing the footsteps."

I put an anniversary post up today on my blog. Check it out.

I need to improve my time management - but I think a lot of that would flow naturally from clearer and more consistent thought processes regarding my goals and priorities. Too much "tyranny of the urgent" in my life. Well, that and too much selfish laziness...

Pete said...

I was going to jokingly make a comment about wasting time on blogs... but then, that would be a waste of time... wouldn't it.