Working on your finances? You need to manage your time.

Woman working on her finances at the kitchen table.

Working on our personal finances is not something that most of us enjoy. The task takes time and energy that we’d all rather spend on something more interesting or fun. However, with a little organization and some basic skills, managing our finances can become faster and less of a hassle and more of a routine.

We all need the same set of tools to succeed at handling our finances. The list includes time, some basic skills, and some materials to keep us organized. This is the first of a series of articles that offer an overview of a single budgeting tool; either a money management skill, or one of the supplies you will need.

Today, we’ll focus on one of the most important skills you will need; time management. Good time management is a crucial habit. As important as having a good enough workspace, you need sufficient time to work on your personal finances.

Time management breakdown

Know your routine. You have a limited amount of time, only 24 hours, every day. When you’re preparing to tackle your finances, good planning helps you approach the task when you are most prepared to do it. So think about your routine, and the best time for working on your finances.

Consider whether you are a morning person or a night owl. Every day, you sleep, work, and play. These are legitimate needs, although for an adult, “play” might mean reading, relaxing or exercise. When do you perform each of these? How much time do you need for each?

A good routine truly accommodates ALL your needs. You must work during work time, whether the work you do is at your job, doing house chores, or managing your personal finances. And you must limit your work time so you can get enough sleep and downtime. Because adequate sleep and downtime permit you to stay clear-headed, and do your best work.

Set your priorities. Working on your personal finances is an important task. If you have too many responsibilities and not enough time to meet them all, you must prioritize. When you prioritize, you list all your obligations and rank them in order of importance. If you have to, consider whether you can reassign any responsibilities. Can you adjust any deadlines, goals or expectations to allow yourself additional time? Fulfill your most important responsibilities first.

Prioritize carefully and honestly. Don’t try to fool yourself into thinking you can get by on too little sleep, for example. Taking care of your basic needs, like getting enough sleep, is a top priority. Working on your personal finances when you are too tired to think is no better than entirely failing to work on your finances. You can likely adjust lower priority tasks a little easier than your highest priorities.

Still struggling to fit in regular time to work on your finances? Permit yourself to refuse additional responsibilities. Ask for help. Assign responsibilities to others where possible. Allow those who offer help to do so, don’t say no, accept the offer. Your own well-being, which includes your financial health, your job, and your family should be among your top priorities.

Schedule your tasks. Plan a specific, regular time to work on your budget. You probably have an alarm clock to wake you daily. Maybe you hang a monthly calendar to keep track of appointments. Consider the time you schedule to work on your finances as important as going to work or keeping an appointment you schedule with the doctor. You would probably move mountains to keep a scheduled doctor appointment. It should be the same for your scheduled time to work on finances. When your alarm clock goes off in the morning, you get up and get ready for work no matter how comfy the bed is. Similarly, no matter how engaged you are in another task, when your scheduled time to work on finances rolls around, it’s time to stop whatever you’re doing and go work on your budget.

If you work on personal finances daily, you may need a shorter period of time than if you schedule it weekly. Experiment and adjust until everything fits. Time management is a habit you must practice. Maintaining good financial health is part of your life’s work, so take it seriously. Remember, smooth seas do not make skillful sailors. Prioritizing your budget is hard work. Keep trying. You will improve.

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