How to Create a Weekly Time Budget or Ideal Week

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While things don’t always go to plan, creating a vision of what you want can help you get there. A Time Budget or Ideal Week helps you spend your minutes before they simply fly out the window.

Figuring out how much time you have for all your tasks, helps you readjust how you spend your days, helping you to meet goals and feel your best. 

clock tower in sunny fields park, solvang, ca.

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Ever get to the end of the day and wonder what you did with it? You know you probably did some household chores and interacted with your kids, but the day is a bit of a blur.

When you sit back and think about the different activities you wan to do, whether leisure activities or household projects, there just seems like there’s never enough time. 

Yes, you have a busy schedule. And yes, it seems like you need more than a 24-hour day. But, even with a limited number of hours, it’s still possible to tackle the things on your to-do list.

An older mom told me once when I was a younger mom, “There’s enough time to do the things God wants you to do. You need to figure out what those things are.”

I think she was right. I can do a lot of things. I might even be able to do everything I want to do. I just can’t do everything I want to do right now. Various activities may need to wait for a later season. 

vase of yellow tulips and a kitchen timer on a white tile counter near the cooktop.

Discerning what to do (a time audit) is part of the battle, but managing my time use is the second part. That’s where a Time Budget or Ideal Week can come in handy.

As I’ve learned more about neuroplasticity and growth mindset, I’ve learned that our brains will look for the things we tell it to look for. When things feel out of control, it’s often because I’m not telling my brain to look for rhythm and routine. When that happens, life just drifts toward “out of control and sporadic.”

Having a time budget helps me manage my available time in ways that benefit me and my family. I can easily see where to prioritize and how to spend valuable time on the right things.

What is a Time Budget or Ideal Week?

You only have so many hours in a day, week, month, year. And there’s a fair amount of stuff to fit into it if you want to reach your goals, wear clean clothes, eat a good dinner.

An ideal week or time budget is a template of how you’d craft the seven days of the week if everything went to plan. It’s an “ideal” to shoot for.

You might not always hit the target, but if you have an idea of what you want to happen each week, you can better plan for it and plan around the things that pop up that are new, different, or urgent.

A Time Budget and an Ideal Week are basically the same thing. Use whichever term works best for you. 

woman holding an ipad and apple pencil, there's a weekly time budget on the screen.

How to Design Your Ideal Week or Time Budget

1. What do you want to accomplish each week? Write down all your different tasks and to-do’s, big and small, fun and not-so-fun. Things you want to do in your personal life as well as things you need to do for work, family, and home. 

This may include things like date night, alone time, gym, cleaning, shopping, cooking, meal planning, work, church, quiet time or Bible study, self-care, etc.

2. Be realistic. Estimate how long each of these things will take per day or week. Ask your spouse or a close friend to see if you’re setting realistic goals. 

Then do some math. You’ve got 24 hours in a day and 168 hours in the week. The budgeted time need to jive. Do you have enough hours to fit those things in? Are there free hours left over for margin?

Eliminate, delegate, automate, and systemate some of these things so your ideal week has some breathing room or time buffers.

Each time I do this, I am reminded afresh to give special attention to high-priority tasks. My time is limited, do I really want to waste it on social media or other time killers?

3. Write it down. You can do this in a calendar app or a planner. I have a template in my digital planner that I can copy and paste via GoodNotes6 so that I don’t even have to write it over and over again each week. (Good Notes is my favorite tech tool!) I can easily edit week to week.

4. Try it and tweak it. Walk this ideal week or time budget through its paces. You won’t know if it’s truly ideal until you try it. 

Each week will have its own personality, so be prepared to edit for what’s special about that particular time frame, but check that the basics work for you. (It’s the same with a financial budget. Things come up and you have to adjust.)

It’s so nice not to have to recreate the wheel each week. Build a template or default “ideal week” and then tweak from there.

large clock on a picture wall with family photos.

Things to Remember

As you build and refine your ideal week, keep these things in mind:

  1. This is a vision to shoot for, but it’s not a mandate. You can change your mind. Revisit the process during different seasons and adjust for your real life. Maybe you didn’t allow enough free time. Figure out how to delegate specific tasks that you don’t have to do to buy yourself some more time.
  2. Sometimes the days just won’t obey. Be gracious with yourself. Tomorrow (or next week!) you’ll get a fresh start. Try it again and see if it was just an off week or if the time budget needs more tweaking. Do a quick blitz clean of the house and move on.
  3. Communicate with those around you. Your family, housemates, coworkers, etc can’t read your mind. Give them a head’s up that you’re working on your time management. If they’re truly your people, they will support your efforts and not sabotage them. Let them know your most important tasks so that they can be a help not a hindrance.
  4. Do you. My way is neither the only way or the best way. It’s the best way for me at this stage in my life. Think about how you want to spend your days and develop a system to make it happen. Some people shun a daily time budget. That’s okay. But, if you’re not sure, it’s a good starting point.
  5. Each season will need its own time budget. As your schedule and that of your family evolves, you’ll need to adjust. A Summer Time Budget looks very different than a school year one.
  6. I’m here to help! So leave a comment below if you want help tweaking your ideal week.

More Time Management Tips

What works for you?

Leave a comment below and let us know what works for you.

This post was originally published on January 17, 2016. It has been updated for content and clarity.

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  1. Great article. I need to follow your advice as I truly see 2016 as a chance to renew and cut old habits. Question, the organizer you show in the picture above (it has 2016 at the top in the far right corner and on the left the wording is Goals for the year). I’m interested in buying that book. Can you give the details on that book and where I might be able to buy it? My email address is: [email protected]

  2. I’ve done a time audit (several years back) that helped me see where some of my time is going. In general, I like a more flexible schedule. When I have a lot to get done, I find it helpful to use time block scheduling. Instead of a to-do list, I will map out my day in 30 minute segments. This helps keep me focused. I don’t feel like I have to do every single thing exactly when listed, but it does help me stay focused and not procrastinate. If I feel like putting something off, I can look at my day, and see if it will fit in later- usually not. That’s the push I need to keep from procrastinating. 🙂

    It also helps me be realistic about what I am going to be able to accomplish. Only so much will fit into one day, and I will get stressed if I’m trying to cram too much in. I need some time to sleep, relax, exercise, and things like that.

  3. Over the summer, I had a list of goals, and I wasn’t getting them done, until I budgeted my time. I wrote down what time of day I would do what, and I was able to get it done.

  4. I love this post!! I too have taken to planning, budgeting my time in a big way, this year. I certainly hope it will make a big difference in achieving my goals.

  5. Hi, Jessica! Thanks for this idea. I am going to work on this. I am a long time reader of your blog but love to watch your Periscopes on Katch. Very inspiring and helpful! I still love, love the blog too though. Like you, I have several children and no outside commitments. Homeschool, the house, cooking, appointments/activities for the kids, and my family keep me more than busy! I tweaked our school schedule this semester as I realized my goals for what we should accomplish each day were too high. The new schedule is working for us-this will be our second week. I think this time budget will fit in nicely with our new goals. I also agree that a good night’s sleep is important. I exercise and am very active during the day but, at a certain time each night, I crash and need sleep. We moms have a lot to juggle, don’t we?

  6. My problem is that I haven’t been sleeping enough! My 8 month old does.not.sleep! It makes it so difficult to use time when the kids are sleeping to do anything other than sleep myself. Thanks for the reminder to stay on top of goals!

  7. Sounds, good, Jessica! I’ve been sleeping, too, and it’s been good. 🙂

    My goal for 2016 is to catch up. Without going through your lightbulb moments, I’ve discovered that the push goal for that is simply not to put anything new on my plate. So far, so good, and it’s making a huge difference.

    God bless you as you reach for your goals!

  8. I love all the stuff you’ve been putting out lately! It’s all the little pep talks I’ve been needing. Thanks for being that encouraging voice in the back of my head and for the practical ideas on how to get stuff done without losing my mind. You are a gem.