Learn an Effective Time Management Technique

PROBLEM #22: There’s Never Enough Time to get Everything Done.

I know there are people out there that feel this way, because I feel it too. My wife tells me this also. In the midst of making dinner, listening to me ramble about my day, with a kid about to eat a piece of dirt off the floor, she exclaims frustrated, “There’s never enough time to get it all done!” With a simple yet effective time management technique, this is a PROBLEM that we can solve.

If you can’t tell, when my wife mentioned this to me, it set my engineering mind in motion. I think of things in terms of discrete items. So in my mind, when it comes to time, there are two questions:

1. What needs to be done? And surely we can figure out how to get it done.

2. How much time do we have work with?

Effective Time Management Technique:

Let’s answer the second question first, because it’s easier. And this applies to everyone. We all have the same amount of time allotted to us per day – 24 hours. There are 7 days in a week, and 365 days in a year – FOR EVERYONE. So we have 168 hours per week to work with. How we utilize this limited resource is key to this effective time management technique. Are you with me?clock

Ok, now that we got that out-of-the-way, let’s dig in to the first question. To start, I recommend that you budget your time exactly the same as you budget your money. If you know how to budget your money then you can easily use the same method for your time. Let’s budget all 168 hours in our week.

WHAT! you don’t have a budget for your finances? Check out this post for tips on budgeting.

So just like a financial budget: We make a list of all the “things” that need to be done throughout the week. Your entire list of tasks may be completely different from mine or someone else’s list. It all depends on what you do, and what commitments you have in your life. But there are some things that are the same – We all need to sleep, eat, and work. These are for all intents and purposes, required. I know you could skip meals, or go without sleep for a time. But for this exercise, let’s assume a “normal” week.

Required Items

Let’s “budget” 7 hours for sleep a night (I hear some of you saying, Wow, that’s a lot). And 0.5 hours to eat each meal (3 meals/day). This is 1.5 hours per day for eating. A full workweek is 40 hours.

When we add all this up – we get.

Sleep – 49 hours

Eating – 10.5 hours

Work – 40 hours

Total – 99.5 hours/week

This leaves 168 – 99.5 = 68.5 hours left for everything else.

Discretionary/Variable Items

traffic jam

Let’s add in all the other things we spend time doing. This would include driving to and from work, school, the store. The average American spends about 1.5 hours driving per day. This adds up to 10.5 hours per week. Now we are only left with 58 hours.

How long does it take you to get ready every morning? Did you know that military showers only take about 4 minutes? Some of you long shower takers are cringing. Most people take anywhere from 0.5 hours (me) to 1 hour (my wife) or even longer to get ready. This time needs to be budgeted also. If it takes you 1 hour to get ready in the morning, that adds up to 7 hours per week. Some of you may be asking, “Uhmm . . . . isn’t this required?” Remember, we are all different. I’m not going to judge, if you decide to roll out of bed and go straight to work, that’s up to you. But don’t blame me if I don’t go near you – to each his own I guess. Anyway, now we have 51 hours left.

watching tvDid you know that the average American also watches 24-33 hours of TV per week. Are you average? Lets’ assume 30 hours of TV watching per week. Now we are left with 21 hours. Remember this includes the weekend too.


Other Items

What else can you think of that you do on a daily basis? Budget time for it. Preparing meals, reading, cleaning, other hobbies . . . . ? When you are done – hopefully you have time left over. Then it becomes a matter of planning throughout the week to accomplish the tasks on your list. Granted, it can be difficult to estimate the time it may take for some tasks. But just try it. After you do that specific task a few times, you’ll have a better idea how long it takes each time. Then budget time to get it done. If you need more time, you will need to cut back somewhere else (just like your financial budget). For instance, do we really need to watch 30 hours of TV/week? I think you get the idea. Everyone will have a different “time budget”.


I think budgeting time is a practice that most people don’t do – mainly because we don’t think about it. But think about this. Time is the most valuable resource we have. We only have a limited amount given to each one of us. Once that time is gone, you can’t get it back. Learning this effective time management technique is crucial to safeguarding the time we do have.

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Use your time wisely.

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  3. Hi Chris,

    I discovered your blog through the interview you did on My Sons Father. I’m probably the opposite of an engineer – I’m a graphic designer – and I’m always envious of the way engineers’ brains work! So whenever I have the opportunity to learn to think more like an engineer, I’ll happily take it. I’ve been enjoying all the posts I’ve read so far on your site, and this one especially rang true for me.

    I’ve read lots of books and blogs about time management, and this post helped me to crystallize all my knowledge in a way that I hadn’t before. It’s just brilliant to think of managing time like one would manage money! It’s just a little twist, but for some reason it made a big difference in the way I now see my time. Thanks for the great, thought-provoking content!


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