For those of you unfamiliar with money-management-guru Ramsey's tactics, he advises giving every dollar a name (I call many of mine "Phil." Or "Shirley." As in "I shall use this dollar to fill in this gaping fiscal hole" and "surely I didn't spend that much!"). Every dollar is earmarked for something at the beginning of the pay cycle. In essence, it is spent on paper before it is spent fer realz.
At first, I'll admit, I was skeptical. I had previously approached a budget with the enthusiasm usually reserved for un-anesthetized oral surgery. I had also tried (with a stunning lack of success) to make it to the end of the month with still-unspent dollars. But Phil and Shirley always had other thoughts.
Ramsey's zero-based budget has three main tenets:
1.) Before spending a cent, plan in advance how every single dollar will be spent.
2.) Every month is different, so every month gets its own budget. Expenses in June differ from those in December. Don't try to use a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all plan.
3.) If you don't control your money, the lack thereof will control you.
Not only did budgeting my money with intent revolutionize my spending habits, but it also made me think about something else that -- no matter how much I wish things were different -- has a zero-based budget: my time.
"Time is Money."
Every day, I (like you) am allotted 24 hours. No more. No less. I must spend them all. Regardless of whether or not I like the idea, I do spend them all. I cannot save an hour from a day that has few things clamoring for my attention in order to spend it later, when I really need it.
I'm one of those writers who can work all day without taking a lunch break, get to suppertime and wonder just where the dang day went. Especially when I have so little to show for it.
I've never gotten to the point where I used the Dilbert "Time is Money! Meeting Cost Calculator," mainly because I am not brave enough to use it to calculate what my Twitter obsession is costing me. But I have often lamented my inability to add hours to my day, or to be as productive as I think I should be.
Which is why the concept of the Zero-Based Time Budget works so well.
The first day I did it, I focused only on my time for that day. I divided the day into thirds, allotting 8 hours for sleeping, 8 hours for work, and 8 hours for personal time. Sleeping is self-explanatory. I took each of the 8 work hours and got specific:
1 hour for email.
2 for client work.
3 for my work-in-progress.
1 for publishing pro research & querying.
1 for social media.
I did the same thing for my personal time, allotting specific hours for things like working out, playing with my daughter, doing farm chores, spending quality time with my husband, making & eating meals, etc.
At the end of the first day, I looked at what I'd accomplished and felt as if I'd had a religious experience. Not only had I gotten several thousand words written on my novel in progress, but I'd also had several lively Twitter exchanges, kayaked the lake, run a mile, groomed my horses and dogs, played a game with my daughter, and queried several projects to industry professionals I thought would be good fits.
I got more done in a day than I usually did in three! Furthermore, for the first time in forever, I didn't feel guilty for either spending too much time on my work or for spending too much time away from it.
In the ensuing days, I discovered that my first experience with a zero-based time budget was not an aberration. Planning how I will budget the next day's time is now an important task that is completed before I go to bed.
Like Ramsey's money budget, the zero-based Time Budget has three main tenets:
1.) Plan in advance how every single hour (or half-hour) will be spent.
2.) Every day is different, so every day gets its own budget. Time demands on Monday may differ from those on Thursday. Don't try to use a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all plan.
3.) If I don't control my time, the lack thereof will
Earlier this year, I posted One Writer's Guide to Cheating Time, a list of 3 tips I used to make the most of my writing time -- all of which I still use. But the zero-balance time budget is my secret weapon for keeping my life balanced and spending my time intentionally and wisely.
What's your solution to managing your time? Comment below and we'll all share our secret weapons!