Workplace Success

Why is Time Budgeting Important—A Case Study on Aku & Samurai Jack

February 8, 2023
IN THIS BLOG

Introduction—Time Confetti & Living Your Life in Three Hours

If you want to achieve realistic goals, you'll need to budget your time. Just as you organize your expenses to save money and get more things done, you can decide how to spend your hours and on what via time budgeting.

Before we fall into the nitty gritty of time budgeting, here are two pieces of sincere advice about making the most of your free time. Since most of us are hustling all the time, use these tips to enjoy what time off you do get. First off, don't toss away those free hours in slivers or like time confetti.

Want free time to really feel like it's full of pure enjoyment and help you relax? Then spend it in bulk and on just one thing with mindfulness. For instance, don't dedicate a work break to reading if that means you'll be unfocused and checking emails while an audiobook plays forlornly in the background.

Secondly, use Behson's calculation from this HBR article to carve out that chunk of free time for yourself. Here's the breakdown:

Total Hours/Week: 168

Hours Spent Sleeping: 49

Hours Spent at Work: 56

Hours Spent Commuting: 7

Hours Spent on Errands: 13

Hours Spent with the Fam: 20

Hours Left: 23 (1,380 minutes/week, which makes 3 hours each day)

Use them to do what keeps you calm when you must return to the daily grind.

And now, back to time budgeting:

What is a Time Budget, and Why's Aku So Bad at Time Management?

Whether daily, week- month, or year-based, a time budget helps you organize tasks according to their priority levels. With one in hand, you can allocate sufficient hours to errands and work more efficiently.

With a time budget, Aku wouldn't need to manipulate time to beat Samurai Jack. We see how his evil schemes keep failing time and time again. Guess why? Because Aku doesn't know how to budget and manage his time accurately—and Jack does. The samurai maintains his focus so well because of the many benefits associated with time budgeting. Don't believe me?  

Let's change that:

What are the Benefits of Time Budgeting?

Since time's a limited resource – unlike money – you can't get as much of it as you desire.

Figure 1. Unlike Aku, you also cannot create a time vortex and throw your archnemesis through it to defeat them.

More importantly, you can also beat Aku at his own game with budgeting because it:

Keeps You from Rushing Headlong into Things

If you want a time budget that works, allocate an appropriate time to each task. Failing to do so could mean you'd rush through activities. In the end, you'll feel stressed and exhausted. That can make it hard to keep things in perspective. Whether you use yours to get things done or spend your allotted hours effectively, it's best to do so with a non-rushed approach.

While rushing to thrust Jack through the time vortex, Aku forgot to factor in its side effects. Consequently, he spiraled into depression in season 5 since he now had to deal with an ageless Jack! What he should have done was use a tech tool like timegram. Since it allows you to pick and log activities you consider productive, you can create time buffers without having them show up on your time sheet.

Figure 2: Daily work log as Highlights in timegram

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You will Find Self-Awareness

Since how you work depends on your habit and nature, so will your time budget. It is important to know how it affects each job, whether you're into reactive or proactive task handling. In this case, self-awareness can help you create more accurate time budgets. That way, you won't assign more time than needed and waste it. Or rush task completion by assigning less than sufficient time.

Figure 3. Whoops! Should have made a time budget.

When the bright idea of sending Jack through the vortex struck Aku, he was moments away from defeat. But instead of making the switch at the beginning, Aku drops the 50 years stronger and more experienced samurai when Aku's at his weakest. #unselfaware much?

You can Set Priority Levels

There are two ways of task management. The first is doing more things but in less time. The second one involves doing the right things and at the right time. So, don't confuse more work with important work and start prioritizing.

Failing to evaluate the tasks at hand achieves only the following:

  1. Gets you to devote your time to unimportant tasks
  2. Makes you more likely to ignore more important goals
  3. Lets you run yourself ragged until you've no energy/time to spend on #2

Identifying your most important tasks is possible with budgeting time. For instance, timegram bundles activities into highlights (app blocks), which you can view at a glance and then plan future tasks accordingly. Focus on the most important projects, team members needing your attention, or the task-of-the-day, instead of wasting more than half your day on unnecessary tasks or more than 5 years in useless meetings!

By the final season, Aku's bored and confused about what to do with his life. That seems logical, given that he hasn't managed to off Jack in 50 years.

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You will Realize the Value of Time

After the planning and prioritizing, it's time to get things done. If you're going through the trouble of budgeting your time, then don't forget to set deadlines and follow through. Two major detractors that you're likely to face and should avoid:

  1. Procrastination – placing your health at increased risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease or plain unhappiness
  2. Multitasking and risking harming your brain

Keep thinking the better you utilize your time budget, the more free time you'll have. If that doesn't work for you, motivate yourself with the payoff of feeling more in control. Use timegram to set and meet initial deadlines and avoid filling up your schedule to the brim.

Figure 4. We know about his depressive episodes. What else might Aku be hiding? Heart disease? Hypertension?

When your time budget is full of value, you won't experience the “Oh no, I still have to do this…and this…and that, too” feeling.

Figure 5. Projects, tasks, and logged activities in timegram – everything in plain sight!

You could Start Overcoming Weaknesses

Identify the time killers or the unwanted stuff that consumes valuable time while keeping you from completing other important tasks. Think about how your current behavior could affect your future. In addition, control the open-ended tasks so they won't keep you from exploring development opportunities.

Allocating limited time to such tasks will help you overcome your weaknesses and become more productive. Budgeting time via timegram lets you ferret out the time traps with its time spent per project/task feature. That way, you can automatically begin to avoid wasting time on them.

During the 50 or so years, Aku kept tabs on Jack after sending him into the future; he failed spot check after spot check. Had he been vigilant, he could have destroyed Jack years ago. For instance, when Jack loses his samurai sword and is weakest, all Aku notices is his "stupid beard."

Your Performance will be at its Peak

We all have certain times when we perform at peak productivity. Some work well in the mornings, while others are full of energy when the normal workday is about to end. You'll also find when you're most productive when you budget time based on how well you perform. Hence, it'll be easy to schedule critical tasks in that window. The other less strenuous chores can be relegated to the hours you're not as active. timegram generates time sheets you can go through to locate your peak productive time. Leverage it to the max!

Figure 6. Had Aku chosen to send Jack back when he himself was at his peak performance time, things may have turned out differently!

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You can Grow More Every Season

When making a time budget template, also include a season analysis in your planning. Confused? Okay, let's consider what you do when taking care of a big expense. You plan how much to save and spend month after month until it's taken care of.

Similarly, consider your role during the current season and where you want to end up. Predict which tasks you need to complete first and how much time that will take. Avoid overspending on other areas or push back things like a vacation to maintain the flow of time. In short, if you want to integrate something important, such as a promotion, in the coming future, shape your time budget accordingly.

Figure 7. Jack breaks geta. Jack isn't afraid to grow. Jack finds solution.

Your Goals will be Realistic

Keep a grip on reality when setting goals for your time budget. When you don't set reasonable expectations, you won't be able to meet them. Your goals should be SMART, and productivity targets not too high or low for the best results. Too high, and you'll likely fail, and by setting them too low, you risk boredom before you reach them.

For instance, in the 48th episode or Jack vs. Aku, our favorite dendriform villain proposes they fight a one-on-one duel. He goes so far as to commit not to use his superpowers if the samurai keeps his sword sheathed. Aku keeps his word only until Jack has him on the ropes. That's when he resorts to—you guessed it—cheating by nabbing the sword and trying to break it. Turns out, the weapon was only a decoy because, unlike Aku, Jack was realistic about how Aku operates.

You can Start Tracking Your Progress

Use your time budget template as an accountability tool. Udemy's survey shows almost 70% of workers must battle distraction for timely submission. 16% of those say it's an all-day fight for them! So, if you're spending much time on the web after logging in, take it as a clue and scale back.

Time tracking apps like timegram can improve how well you stick to your time budget. Since you'll know timegram's running in the background, it can serve as a reminder for task completions. You can also view data sheets to analyze how much time it takes you to complete certain tasks. Then put the info to good use for due submissions. And with its intuitive interface, employees get an enhanced, ridiculously simplified time tracking experience. And that applies to managers tracking the performance of the teams under them, too.

A good example of this is when without knowing how well—or bad—he's been doing, Aku squanders many chances of harming Jack. For instance, when he infects the samurai with demonic flu, he does so accidentally. And then, instead of jumping on it and bringing Jack down, Aku just withdraws in ignorance.

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Your Motivation & Focus Levels will be Off the Charts

When your days get easier to manage, and you have an overview of things to do, aka the time budget, you'll feel a sense of control over your routine. Consequently, you're likely to feel motivated to keep forging ahead. The more focused you can remain, the better your productivity will be. What's more, some of the pressure will ease when you can check things off without overtime or over-exhausting yourself. Knowing how to budget your time makes a healthier, balanced life possible!

Figure 8. That's what your enemies call you when your time budgeting is emotion-driven instead of strategy-based!

Instead of directly confronting Jack, Aku loses all motivation by the end of the fifth season and hunkers down in his lair. His distraction costs him opportunities where he could have easily offed the samurai.

Is there an Example of Time Budgeting?

With the know-how and new tricks in hand when it comes to time budgeting, you may wonder how it applies to real life. I've got your back with a real-life time budget example below:

Before writing this blog post, I had to research, find visuals, and then apply my findings to the analogy, i.e., Aku has been going about things the wrong way. After that, I had to get to writing it. Was that it? Nope, that's because then comes in more work, like sharing the post on our social media channels.

So, if I break down the whole thing into several smaller tasks, it would go like this:

  1. An hour of researching to plot the blog post's outline. You can apply it to any other task, and the result will be the same: things go more smoothly once you have everything plotted.
  2. Three hours of writing with plenty of breaks in between to avoid burnout. You can use this technique, aka Pomodoro, in your endeavors too.
  3. At least an hour devoted to editing. Consider the Pickle Jar technique of time management for this part. Visualize how you should prioritize your tasks, i.e., the different types of pebbles represent different jobs. The biggest is also the most important (A), then come the ones that are seemingly important but not really (B), and finally, non-essential tasks you can either postpone or delegate (C).
Figure 9. Best to Know Your ABCs
  1. Another hour to find or make the visuals.
  2. Finally, half to one hour for other tasks, such as sharing on social media.

I can predict the shape of this time budget example —and any others I make for blogs I'll write in the future—based on past data and experience. However, I'll still allow for an hour or two of buffer time.

How to Budget Time with timegram

We've covered how timegram is beneficial for organizational and managerial time tracking. However, we shouldn't overlook how useful this time tracking tool can be for individual time budgets.

Not to be missed: How Does an Automated Time Tracking Tool Work?

So, let's delve into those depths now:

Record Time Spent

Leverage timegram to figure out where your hours are going to draw up a good time budget. A clear conception of which activities you spend your time on and which ones could benefit from more attention is necessary for budgeting. So, use real-time data from the app's timesheets to figure it out.

Figure 10. Timesheet report in timegram 

With timesheets like the one you see above, it's possible to determine things like:

  1. Hours when you're at your most active
  2. Hours when you aren't
  3. Your performance on a task-to-task or project-to-project basis
  4. Data for different durations, such as weekly or monthly, and specific time slots
  5. Your working pattern
  6. Your peak productivity time

With this info, you can extrapolate your performance for future tasks. What's more, it also points out the areas for improvement.

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Self-Analyse & Improve

Wouldn't it be darn convenient if timegram put together a comparative report of your activities? Or if it visually presented your performance? It would be, and the app totally does that! You'll find such performance analysis on the dashboard you see below.

Figure 11. Team productivity report in timegram

The dashboard collates all the data from individual timesheets to see the hours worked, how well you did overall, and how well you did on specific tasks, days, and so on. So, you get all that info in one place.

Now you can use it to design a good time budget proactively. Start by defining how much you should invest in each important life or work area. And soon, you'll have a budget in your hand.

Try sticking to it, but also remember you're human. So, be ready for gaps and gaffes. Even when you hit most bullseyes, your priorities will evolve, and so will your time budget. Therefore, what's more important is you review the progress each week so that you can adjust your budget accordingly. By doing that, you'll maintain the dynamic and flexible nature of the process.

You could use Allen's Getting Things Done to evaluate how you did in the past week before planning for the one around the corner. When you do that, use these questions for more accurate analyses:

  • Are you under/overspending on a specific category? Which one?
  • Did you allot enough overall time to your time budget?
  • Has your work-life improved? Could it be better?
  • Which key areas did you overlook initially?

Conclusion

Realistically achieve all your goals by learning how to budget your time. You can use it to organize both your work and personal lives, prioritize tasks, understand your capabilities, carve out more free time, and keep growing. Better yet, use timegram to go from zero to working within seconds.

FAQs

Does time budgeting actually work?

Yes! Estimate and allocate time, establish priority, and carve some more free time with time budgeting. Use the hours you have in the best way possible, and make your time budget a successful and functional one.

Does making a time budget have to be so time-consuming?

It takes time to create an expense budget; why should organizing time be any different? However, once you're keeping track of your hours, you'd be able to get everything done. More importantly, you won't be wasting your free time on unnecessary tasks.

Is time budgeting a waste of time?

Only if you're aiming to follow it to perfection. Being human, you'll have days when you procrastinate, get the allotment wrong, and encounter other hang-ups. The trick is to stay flexible, do your best, and let your time budget evolve with you.

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Midhat Hadi

About the author

Midhat Hadi successfully caught herself a PhD in Botany. When she's not gloating, she writes fiction and blogs.

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