Quick and dirty time budgeting for busy, lazy people

Ever heard of the 50-30-20 budgeting rule? It applies not just to money, but to your time as well.

3 minutes

Here’s a concept that’ll blow your mind.

The 50-30-20 rule applies not only to budgeting money, but time as well.

Time budgeting when you don't have time

Think about it. In finance, the 50-30-20 rule states that 50% of our income gets allocated to our needs, 30% to our wants, and 20% goes into savings.

In “time management” (blegh hate that term) I’d say the rough equivalent would be: 50% to maintenance tasks (needs), 30% for fun (wants), and 20% for personal growth (savings)


Maintenance tasks — things we NEED to do in order to function day-to-day. Could be chores, could be admin tasks for the business. Whether personal or not, these are things you need to be consistent in in order to maintain the kind of lifestyle you want.


Fun tasks — hobbies, entertainment, going to social events. These are things you don’t need to do, but want to do. Of course, fun is a need at the end of the day, but the purpose of this exercise is to strike a balance so that we can keep growing and doing what we need to do without burning out. Think of these wants as a balancer to your maintenance and growth tasks.


Growth — learning something new, forming a new habit, training team members are all investments of our time and energy. Just like financial investing, it takes a while to get to ROI but it’s always worth doing. The way I differentiate Growth Tasks vs Maintenance tasks is by doing

I’d argue that those examples are always changing, and very personal. The same way that we all need to buy food (a need) but we get to choose the kind of food to eat. In the same way, our individual lists of tasks would look different. A good example would be me putting social events into fun tasks or “wants” — I have a few friends in mind who would definitely put this under maintenance tasks or “needs”.

Now that we have the definition down, it’s a matter of computing how much time we’re awake, then allocating the proper times to each of the three categories.

1. Compute your average time awake. If you sleep 8 hours a day, 24-8 = 16, so you’re awake for 16 hours a day. That’s your awake time.

2. Calculate the percentages for the 3 categories. 50% for needs is 8 hours if you’re awake time is 16 hours, 30% for wants is 4.8 hours or 4h 48 mins to be exact, and 20% savings/investments would be 3.2h or 3 h 12 mins.

3. I just round the numbers up so 8 hours needs, 5 hours wants, and 3 hours savings.

4. List down the top of mind things you do on a day to day basis and put them in 3 columns: needs, wants, savings

5. Audit how you’re currently using your time using this table. Estimate how much time it takes you to do these things

6. Chances are, you’re doing way more maintenance tasks

7. Another option is to put all savings tasks into another day. This is the concept behind task batching.

Just like in budgeting money, the 50-30-20 rule is flexible. It's intended to guide absolute beginners. Once you have experience, you may be interested in other time management strategies.