Make a Personal Time Budget

How a time audit can help you stay head of stress

How to Make a Personal Time Budget

Is your high schooler burned out or struggling to find time to do the things they enjoy? If so, a time audit and personal time budget may help. Time audits help us organize minutes and hours in a way that aligns with our priorities. While it won’t eliminate over-stuffed schedules, it can be empowering to know that you’ve made conscious decisions about what to include in your day.  Have your child follow these steps from our executive functioning team to help them take control of their time:

Step 1: Make a Zero Balance Time Budget

Did you know there are 168 hours in a week? Here’s how to budget for those hours: Make a two-column list with everything you need and want to do in a week in the left column and your estimate of how much weekly time you realistically hope to spend on each. Add tasks (including taking time to relax) and adjust your numbers until you’ve accounted for exactly 168 hours. A few things that many of our students forget, but that are important: sleeping, eating, basic self-care (like toothbrushing and showers).  Check out our Zero Balance Time Budget sample if you need a place to start. Pro-Tip: If it feels impossible to accurately estimate the time required for certain activities, spend a few days tracking how you actually use your time and use that data to guide you.  

Step 2: Identify Categories

Now that you’ve tackled the nitty gritty, try to group similar activities into a handful of categories that will give structure to your week. This step is important to avoid creating a plan you will find impossible to keep track of or stick with. As a general rule, try to sort tasks into groups so that each category takes up 10 or more hours a week. Here are three we’ve seen used and what might fall into them:

      • Self-Care: eating, sleeping, and basic hygiene
      • For Fun: pleasure reading, time with friends, watching TV 
      • Down Time: social media (and how much time we lose to it) and the reality of unexpected tasks

Step 3: Define an Ideal Week

Now, lay out an ideal week for yourself by scheduling a full Sunday-Saturday in a way that is reflective of how you hope to spend your time. Start with anything that’s time-bound, such as school, tutoring, and sleep. Think critically: is it best for you to do homework right after school and use “For Fun” time as a reward or do you need some time to allow your batteries to recharge first?  Pro Tip: Create a color-coded visual on this website using category names instead of class names.

Step 4: Implement Flexibility

Now that you’ve got a customized schedule, use it as inspiration—but don’t feel beholden to it.  In fact, we’d recommend you make a plan to adjust this schedule after you live with it for a bit or each semester; it should evolve with you!  You can absolutely adjust from week to week (if you get a last minute invitation or cancelling “For Fun” in favor “School Work” to prepare for a big test, for instance), but this tool allows you to do that with purpose and the full awareness of how those adjustments will impact your balance.  

Doing a time audit and creating a time budget are valuable tools for time management, prioritization, and general stress management. If your child needs personalized help mastering these skills and devising structures that work for them, contact our executive functioning team. 

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