Budgets are not unlimited, and neither is your time, your focus, or your energy. Yet most of us operate as if the latter's supply is limitless.
This is true for the individual, the team, and the companies they work within. Everything comes at a cost. Cultivate an awareness that when you say yes to something new, you are also saying no to something else. Develop the presence of mind to slow down and ask what you are saying no to. See the price tags around you on your time, money, energy, and focus.
We, humans, are notoriously poor at estimating effort. Have you ever been told you take on too much? Bit off more than you can chew?
It's only wise to account for and estimate how we use finite resources.
A few of us create financial budgets for our homes. Most businesses operate using a budget, although surprisingly, I have come across many that don't. Financial budgets provide a transparent ledger of what has been earned and expensed. At the end of the month, it's a binary red or black. Finances are easy to measure and relatively clear to project.
Yet our time, energy, and focus are rarely accounted for.
When I had my digital agency, I tried accounting for how I spent my time. I used Harvest to track everything I did in 15 min intervals. It was tedious. For a while, I could keep it up. In fact, I got neurotic about tracking, and that's when I stopped.
I did the same thing with calories; my physical energy. At the time, I used DailyBurn to track everything ingested and every activity that burned calories off. Once again, it became more of a burden. The ROI wasn't clear, and I stopped.
For focusing, I thought time-blocking was the answer. Entrepreneurial leader Warren Rustand shared that he repeatedly time-blocks every 15 minutes for up to three months out. For the record, Elon Musk is said to schedule everything out in 5-minute time blocks. Impressed, I thought if I could block out my focus during the work week, I'd surely be more effective at maintaining focus. Nope, I just got more and more stressed. Sticking to the black and white schedule didn't account for the flexibility needed to respond to genuinely urgent items. It didn't make room for finding a flow-state or capitalizing on opportunities that suddenly appeared.
What's a solution?
The priority we place on time, energy and focus is relative to each of us. Elon Musk has the same hours in a day that we all do. He focuses his energy better than 99.9999% of the rest of us. He makes the time he has infinitely more productive and meaningful for him. Although his levels also feel unattainable for the majority of us, some even call him an alien to feel better about their own inability to execute at that level.
I suspect there is a middle ground here, someplace between where we currently reside and the aspirational execution of someone like Musk.
Budgeting Time, Energy and Focus
"For tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today."
~ African Proverb
Successfully budgeting your time, energy and focus is as simple as taking 15 minutes per day to plan tomorrow or as far as you are confident. This looks like cracking out the journal every night for 10 minutes. I've created these journal question prompts to help me think about the days ahead.
- What are the three most significant things I accomplished or learned today?
- What are the top three things I want to accomplish tomorrow?
- What am I grateful for today?
- What thoughts are chewing up my headspace or energy?
- What do I need help with this week?
- What can I delegate?
My responses instruct how I set up my calendar the following day. I typically time block out 100% of my day the night before, 60% is blocked off two days out, and maybe 30% is blocked three days out. Each night the blocking rolls forward. This allows me the flexibility to respond to team and client issues while also prioritizing my time and focus. It's a hybrid approach that has worked well for me; hopefully, it works for you.