I remember the day we began a financial budget.
So many bills! No uniform paychecks. To top it all, there were those pesky bills that came at different times of the year – some annually, some monthly, some bi-monthly and some at some random moments of the year that could only be remembered by mnemonics. (No Darn Fooling Around – Due in November, late in December, due in February, late in April. Those are your property tax bill installments. You’re welcome.)
The task seemed huge if not impossible.
I was supposed to turn this tome of information into a coherent whole that could be managed and, more importantly, controlled? What did I look like? Super accountant woman? Look! There in the spreadsheet! It’s the gas bill! It’s the mortgage! It’s expenses! Down, down and balanced!
I am beginning to think that managing time is a lot like managing money.
We don’t really know where it’s going unless we take a good long look at the regular expenditure.
As in budgeting money, there is little to be gained in trying to save it without knowing the amount that is currently being spent. It takes us longer to get ready to go anywhere with three children, so it helps to know how much longer and set aside a budget for it.
This budget must be worst case scenario, not best case. There will be so-called “last minute” spills and diaper changes. Someone will begin a fight with someone and discipline will be necessary. Budgeting for worst case scenario is the only way, in my experience, to never be late.
Often we try to fit our daily routine into someone else’s time arrangement only to feel like colossal failures. I would argue that this is like trying to download a financial budget of someone else’s income and try to make it fit. It’s just not going to work.
There are only 24 hours in everyone’s day but there are individual routines, personalities and, for lack of a better word, family cultures we encounter. Some families take their food seriously, some don’t, for example. Some take longer for school, some take naps, others play video games. The same 24 hours must be divided according to what we want to accomplish and how long it takes us given the personalities of the children and the adults with whom we live.
The first step then is not to save time or even to manage it. The first step is backwards: observing and noting how long it really takes.
Budgeting is a necessary step, but it’s the second one.
I had a friend in school who didn’t understand how to take notes. She would listen to lectures and try to write down every word, which was impossible.
“Just write down what’s important!” I told her. “It’s simple!”
“But how do I know what’s important?” she asked.
She hadn’t taken the first step, which in this case was to research the kind of questions most likely to be on the test. Without that necessary research, everything seemed important. Without taking an inventory of how long it takes us to accomplish a specific task, especially the repetitive ones that are so common in our lives, adopting any time table or schedule will be doomed to failure.