Sunday, August 28, 2011

CTFU: Super Mega Edition (Part One) - Budgeting Time

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

As a result of trying to fix somebody else’s money problems, someone who shouldn’t reasonably be behind on their bills because they have the income to make it by (with a little assistance from the American taxpayer), I started to think about why it is that I’m such a fan of time and project management. I don’t make enough money to really pay my bills. I do still budget my money, and I do still do things that will help me in the long run. I just always find myself eventually borrowing money from my dad.

Lately, it’s been a little better. I’ve been able to work a lot of hours, and have not had the same scheduling conflicts that normally happen with having more than one job. Seriously, I would be willing to work 98 hours a week to get my bills caught up and my debts (especially to my dad) paid off, but what I’m looking at, at that point, is having to have all of my jobs lined up in such a way that I work all the hours between the same fourteen hours a day with very little downtime between each job, and I would have to sleep all hours I wasn’t at work. The problem is that after a while that’s not healthy for anyone. I’m willing to do it, but I’m not sure my body would be.

My budget becomes an odd juggling act between paying my bills first, saving money where I can by paying things in advance or buying in bulk, and then actually requiring myself to have a little bit of disposable income. Yes, requiring. If I didn’t require myself to have a little bit of a life, I would burn out, and that has the potential to be much worse than budgeting poorly. You doubt me? Well, let’s segue into the point of this post, which is partially time management, and I’ll attempt to prove my point.

One of the tenets of time management is to set aside time to relax. For the love of Lakein, set aside some time to relax! Why relax? Isn’t time management about getting maximum efficiency out of every second of your life? Of course it isn’t. The detractors of the time management practices would have you believe it is, but it’s not. Many of the time management gurus tell you to set aside time to just relax. Get enough sleep. Get enough recreation. Don’t feel like you have to be on every moment of the day.

This is a tough idea for someone like me. I want to work every moment I can. I want to multi-task whenever I can. I want to take every penny I make and pay my bills and debts. I want to do all of this and only sleep two hours a day. And most importantly, I don’t want to burn out while doing all this crazy shit. I don’t ask much, do I?

Knowing that that would be my tendency, I require that I spend some time simply relaxing, and I require that I spend a small amount of my money on things that will improve the recreational quality of my life (after my basic bills are paid).

So what this brings me to is that I fall back on time management as a way of having something to budget that I technically have enough of. Not enough for everything I’d like to do, but at least enough that I can budget it.

One of the other tenets of time management is focus. You can get a lot done when you focus your efforts on one task. I find that I don’t work very well when I’m right up against a deadline. I’m not sure that I totally believe everybody who says they do. I think some people do, but by and large, I don’t think people do their best work when they’re under the pressure of getting something done by a certain time. I think this argument could go a long way to discrediting my belief that you should do so much work on your projects per day, because that’s a daily deadline.

My answer to that is simply that there is a difference between spending a whole day on your highest priority items and trying to get as many of them done as possible, and having a hard deadline. I’m referring to this blog, specifically now. I was all about having three reserves to start with, and slowly moving it up to fifteen reserves by the end of the year, but I found that it was still hard to maintain, because I was still up against a hard deadline. So how do you get away from a hard deadline with something like a daily blog that you contribute three and a half posts to each week?

I decided that what I would do is just start writing as much as I can for the blog for about a month, focusing on writing a minimum of two posts a day. Over the next twenty weeks I will be responsible for about 70 posts. That will bring me right up to the end of the year. My thought was what if I spend the next 35 days writing that many posts? That would fill in almost every day for the year. Rather than take the rest of the year off though, I could instead write when I have something worth writing and rearrange the scheduled drafts to accommodate new stuff I write. In essence, I would still make myself responsible for writing about three and a half posts a week, but I won’t feel quite as pressured to write a lame one just to have something to post.

That’s where the CTFU: Super Mega Edition comes in. In the past, the CTFU operations have been an attempt to bring the blog current, or to catch up my reserves. It will now go to the next level, which is to make the blog no longer a hard deadline for me, as long as I maintain my lead.

I’m looking at making this a ten-part set of articles by reviewing all of the “ideas” I’ve written down when brainstorming, and then dealing with some of them. I’ll adjust the number of parts up or down according to how much material I actually have. I’ll start those topics in the next part.

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