Budgeting Your Time

November 1, 2010

Budgeting your time is about using deadlines effectively.

You divide a large project up into smaller tasks that each have their own individual deadline. Whether you are working for a company that assigns you a deadline or if you have the freedom to plan your own, chances are the “finish line” is a main question at the forefront of any project planning.

So to make sure you meet that final deadline, it makes sense to budget your time at the beginning of a project so you can foresee oncoming problems and adjust as needed during project implementation.

To demonstrate how to budget time, let’s say you and your team of 4 family members are moving into a rental house.

Step 1: Just like any good budget, start with your categories and make a list of the tasks that have to happen in order for you to complete the larger project.

For the family moving into the rental house, it might look like this:

  • Pay Deposit and First Month’s rent
  • Separate stuff to move from yard sale junk
  • Box up yard sale stuff and label correctly
  • stack moving boxes in ideal location for pick up
  • contact moving truck
  • contact family members make sure they are available
  • cross reference available family time with movers availablility
  • move large items like fridge, washer, dryer
  • Clean new house
  • move in

Step 2: Prioritize the tasks and organize them sequentially. For instance, on this list you will notice that some tasks, like “clean new house” will need to be prioritized since that task needs to happen ahead of “move in”. Possibly even ahead of things like “move large items”. Cleaning the new house would undoubtedly require you to have paid the first and last month’s rent before you come in and clean, so the “Pay deposit and first months rent” task would need to be at the top of the sequence. Be sure that you organize your time not just according to time allowed for each task, but that you take into account when each task needs to occur in relation to the other. If you are not careful, you could end up with one task ready to go but having to be put on hold because it was ready out of sequence with the pre-requisite tasks.

Step 3: Set a time allotment for each task. This does not have to be exact, and the hope is that they would come in under-budget, but setting a deadline for each task helps keep the project on track by keeping everyone involved on the same page about what is expected and where they should be at any given time. Setting these “mini-deadlines”  also allows you as the project manager to evaluate how the project is progressing. If you are arriving on a given task deadline without that particular task having been completed, you will be able to adjust the project implementation as needed and ideally head off potential disasters.

Step 4: Set a Final Deadline and Communicate with your Team

Once you’ve decided on individual task deadlines, you then project the desired project completion date. Depending on your situation, that date may or not be flexible, but the key is to communicate the rigidity of the date to your team and make sure everyone knows not only when they need to have their task completed but how their task fits into the project overall. As the project manager, it is your job to make sure everyone is on the same page  about the implementation process.

As your project progresses you will likely run into give and take on meeting the mini-deadlines. When you do run into the situation of having a cushion of time, you can consider using that time to protect your project against any time required for disasters along the way. By using–and even planning intentionally for—that “cushion time”, disasters can be absorbed and the project as a whole is still able to meet the final deadline.



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