Dr. Kathleen Hall wants you to make friends with time.
Aware that many of us behave as if time is an enemy, the founder and CEO of the Mindful Living Network and The Stress Institute instead calls time “the most sacred and valuable asset in life.”
We get it — shifting to such a perspective in a world in which time feels scarce may not be easy. But the rewards of creating a budget for your time, just as you do for financial expenses, can be immense.
There’s a sense of empowerment that comes from managing your time well, explains psychologist and financial therapist Dr. Maggie Baker, author of “Crazy About Money: How Emotions Confuse Our Money Choices and What To Do About It.” She says that people appreciate reliability and dependability. If others trust you, she says, they’re going to invest in you and give you important tasks. It starts a “very positive snowball.”
So where to begin?
Think about the life you want and set goals guiding you there
The practice of setting and achieving goals changes you mentally, physically and spiritually, Hall says.
Women often find it easier to nurture others, Baker notes. But it’s important to learn to nurture yourself first, she says. Once people value their own time, goals and ambitions, and are accountable to themselves in that regard, they can have extra time to help others, she says.
Find out, really, where the time goes
For a day or two, Baker says, write down how you spend your time.
“You have to develop an awareness of your own habits,” she says, being mindful of negative feedback. “If you focus on beating yourself up, you’re going to spend a lot of energy doing that,” according to Baker, who says she tries to help people “free their energy so they can focus on things that are productive and will make them feel empowered.”
Design your days with both goals and grace
As you structure your schedule, Baker advises building in flexibility to adjust if you can’t follow through with what you had in mind. “You don’t want to get stuck,” she says.
You also can’t do everything, she says, acknowledging that many women feel as if they should have such capacity.
As you plan, be mindful of what times of day are best for you to engage in each endeavor. Noting that each of us is different, Hall suggests that you “budget around your rhythm and what gives you life and energizes you.”
Put systems in place to support you
Itemize, prioritize and categorize. “Don’t make it a running list,” Hall says. “You need it sectioned off.” In addition to grouping similar tasks together, Hall distinguishes simple jobs from complicated ones. Furthermore, she says, tie each item to a calendar, and set both reminders and deadlines.
Use an analog clock. Noting the second hand and seeing one minute go around, Hall says: “That is your life. That’s not just a minute. You will never get that back again.”
Block out distractions and quit multitasking. Eliminating interruptions will enable you to go deeper into your work, according to Hall, who says she uses “do not disturb” signs. As for multitasking, Hall says: “Stop it, stop it, stop it.”
Let go of perfectionism. “Perfection makes you crazy,” says Hall, adding that it also stops “flow experiences.”
Prepare yourself and your space. If you’re working from home, Baker advises setting aside a room, or even part of a room, that’s dedicated to your task; she also encourages dressing as you would if you were working in the office. Such actions help keep your focus where you’d like it to be, she says.
Take care of your SELF — Hall’s acronym for serenity, exercise, love and food. Hall advises setting a timer to remind you to stop every two or three hours and engage in self-care practices, which could include calling a friend, going for a walk, or eating a healthy snack.
Drafting your budget, of course, is only the beginning. In addition to daily planning, you’ll want to review periodically to see what’s working and what needs tweaking. Hall suggests doing this when completing a task that’s already part of your routine; for example, if you pay bills twice a month, review your time budget then too.
“Set a day of the month to review your time management budget and see: Is your life happier, more productive?” she says. She also notes that while you need to do this individually, it’s also an exercise to be completed with others, including family members or staff members; by doing so, she says, you’re sharing incredible life skills with them.
“Your time is the only thing you own and manage and control,” Hall says. “I hope that people can maybe shift the paradigm and treat it as a sacred, fleeting gift.”
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- HerMoney Podcast Episode 271: Budgeting Without Tears
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