Now, it’s nearly the end of 2023. I usually write something to wrap up the year by reviewing my year. I have written a few time management blogs, but this time, I will write a blog about the allocation of time. 

I know we are in a fast-paced era, and I had considered that time is an “asset” and a “limited resource” for myself. Although there are tons of sharings about effective time management, we still need reminders and inspiration in order to one day become a master of time.

Time management is not just using time for study, exercise, work, family time, or reading those fancy big items. Everyone needs breaks from time to time. It’s more important to have a balanced division of time so we can enjoy our lives better, have a fulfilling life, and also improve ourselves mentally and physically. 

One day, I told my son that it’s totally okay to play games, watch movies, or watch TikTok; it’s more about having the awareness of how many slices of your time are used on that day after day, week after week. When we look at each slice, it will help us to see what type of person we are. We are who we define ourselves as, and by the out-of-work or out-of-study hours we spend. 

Last year, I shared a chart of my time usage by using a time-tracking tool. Guess what the biggest piece of pie and 2nd biggest piece of pie are? It’s sleep and work. The third one is housework. Thanks to working from home, my commute time is not that significant on this pie chart. 

However, sleep, work, housework, and cooking are my essentials as a professional and a mom; what are the next big slices for me? They are reading, exercise and piano. Those slices indicate I spent lots of time on the 3 items out of the everyday essentials according to my role.

Let me share some of my thoughts about the time pie:

Time visualization is quite important 

Visualizing the time allocation is quite important, as it helps us to learn more about ourselves. Sometimes, I hear people around me say, “I don’t know where my time went?” or “I listed 5 important tasks for my work day as a high priority, but then I had not tackled one single item when my work day was almost over”. 

Lots of time, we have such a busy day, and everything is important, but week after week or month after month we feel we still haven’t solved the top items on our list. Do you have that feeling? 

Last year, I achieved some goals, such as my goal to read 12 books a year, but I read 25 books in 2022. After I checked my time slice for reading, I spent 120 hours last year on reading. But this year, I lost track of my reading time; so far, I have only read less than half of my book reading goal, as I spent a little slice of time reading this year. But since I went back home to stay with my parents this summer, I definitely have a bigger slice of family time this year. 

Is reading one of my priorities on my list? Definitely, yes, it’s only when I reviewed my time distribution that I realized how much less I spent time reading this year.

Importance of leisure time

Emphasize the significance of leisure and downtime in the time pie. Often, people forget the importance of taking breaks and doing activities they enjoy. Discuss how leisure time contributes to creativity, stress reduction, and overall happiness.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the conversation with my son, it’s totally ok to spend time on leisure habits such as TikTok, gaming, social media, and Netflix. Nowadays, we cannot stay away from them totally. Everyone needs to have breaks and have a mental break from homework, study, and work. If we don’t have a work/study and life balance, we will get exhausted and won’t have emotional and mental wellbeing. When we go, go, go, we’ll eventually hit a wall. There’s nothing wrong with taking breaks. Science says that taking breaks can boost productivity. 

However, what we need to be aware of is that slice of our time. What is the weight of our time spent on those vs everything else? 

I know most people want to be a better version of themselves day after day. Then, we need to have a list of good habits to help us be our future better selves.

Let’s say if we have a few healthy habits: studying, reading, exercising, working, family time, eating healthy, sleep; then, we can look at the time allocation for each habit.

If none of them are on the top 5 slices of our time pie, but something else, such as gaming or social media time, is listed on the top, then we certainly understand what happened to prevent us from improving. 

According to the insight, “The company’s latest data reveals that the typical working-age internet user now spends more than 2½ hours per day using social platforms, which is up by 2 percent (+3 minutes) compared with the daily average that the company reported at the start of 2022.”  Jan 26, 2023 Source: DataReportal

What does that mean? Lots of people say that they don’t have time to read in their busy lives. However, it only takes an average of 5 hours to read a book. We can read 15 books in a month if we switch the time from social media. Although my intention was not to use social media, social media is like a virtual community now; and we all want to be part of a community, as our family, friends, and workmates are all there. What we should do is to at least be aware of the time spent on social media, so we can have time to build our reading habits. 

My tips for allocation 

 I would say my tips for time allocation are as follows:

  • Building awareness and mindfulness is the first step. In my opinion, having self-awareness is always the most important first step. If we are not clear about how we spend our time every day, then use some time tracking tool or Excel to help us track our time. 
    • I used a Google sheet to track my time last year, and now I have that pie chart. However, there are so many free tools to help us track our time. Recently, I found Clockify is a great tool, and it saved me time from manually building the records. I could just build 10 tasks/habits at once, and every time I switched to that task/habit, I just clicked that button to resume. 
    • For example, I built to study, work, sleep, grocery shop, and exercise; every time I click that item, that item will accumulate and continue; it has a visualization chart and helps me to look at the timeshare from the pie chart. 
  • Setting Priorities and Goals:
    • Put the top tasks I want to do every week, then look at the slice share every week or every two weeks to help me understand if I am in the direction of what I want to be.
  • Regularly review our time spending patterns. 
    • Reflect on whether your time allocation aligns with our goals and if adjustments are needed. Life is dynamic, and priorities may change, so it’s crucial to be adaptable. A weekly or bi-weekly review allows us to make changes and ensures that you are consistently progressing towards your objectives.
  • Time blocking 
    • I usually like to block my calendar to focus on some important projects so my colleagues will see my calendar is “busy” and can send an invitation for a time according to my availability. We all know we need time to focus to improve results. For example, when I am working on this blog, I put my phone away and don’t check any messages. It’s a time blocking choice

Different time pies in different life stages

There’s definitely no “one size fits all” scenario for the distribution of time. Our pie depends on what our life stages are. 

For example, some traditional wives cannot argue with their husbands about how much time they put into cooking or grocery shopping as some men are just bad in the kitchen and don’t know what to purchase at the grocery store; they lack imagination for meal planning. So maybe grocery shopping and cooking take more time for those wives.

And, students have different time charts from working professionals, as study must be a bigger time slice for a student than for working professionals.

Then, being a parent has different stages. A parent with young kids usually has a bigger slice of time with their children than a parent with a teen, as teens start to seek their own friends for companionship

Retirees may spend time on something they want to do but didn’t have time to do before their retirement. I notice that people like to spend lots of time on gardening, painting, or writing. 

Time pies are customized to each person’s life pattern, life stage, own motivation or personal goals. There’s not a cookie cutter for allocating your time

Time Allocate to Goal Achievement

Of course, what time we spend will determine what we will become eventually. In the last 5 years, I started to learn piano from zero foundation, and I am still taking lessons today. One day, when I listened to the piece I played when I started, I could not imagine that it was me. Although I am still a beginner today, that piece of the piano was just like some kid playing with the keyboards. 

Although slowly improving, over 5 years, I have improved my skills in piano playing.

Another example, I wrote my first blog 10 years ago. When I read my first 3 blogs, I found the sentences were not smooth, and I could hardly finish reading them.

I decided to improve my writing for my capstone project for my MBA program, so here I am; after 10 years, I am a better writer compared to before

I saw my friend’s painting one day, and I felt her painting was like a “masterpiece” as she worked very hard on it, and she definitely has a talent for painting.

You must have your improvement as well, what is yours? Do pat your shoulder and say, I am proud…

In our entire lifetime, the art of time division management goes beyond blocks and allocation; it’s about building a life that resonates with purpose and joy. 

By building visitations of our time, building awareness, setting priorities and goals, reviewing our time, adjusting our time according to our different life stages, and creating a mindful schedule, we can shape our days to reflect our aspirations. 

Remember, the goal is not just to fill every moment of time but to fill it with moments that matter. As we navigate the sheet of our schedules, let’s embrace the power we hold over our time and use it as a tool and a partner for growth, fulfillment, and the creation of a fulfilling life.

May your time be a reflection of your passions and the journey towards the best version of yourself. Time is a gift; how we share it determines the masterpiece we paint on the canvas of our existence.