Creating a Time Budget Spreadsheet


Recently, I was questioning why I felt like I was running out of hours in the day even though I only have class 4 days per week, and mostly half days at that. I feel like I have just enough leisure time to avoid going insane.

But that made me curious about how many hours I was getting and whether or not that really was enough.

Creating a Time Budget Worksheet

I love spreadsheets and use them to manage everything else, so why not also my time?

I created a time budget worksheet to allocate hours each day. I assigned activities the following 3 categories:

  • Operational. These are the necessary tasks to keep myself and my home running smoothly.
  • Work. Includes both paid work and volunteer work.
  • Leisure. Exercise and free time!
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Why budget your time?

The reason you should budget your time is the same to budget your money: to ensure you’re spending where you want to.

Budgeting your time not only gives you the opportunity to schedule important tasks, it can help you organize your errands and work to be the most efficient and productive.

How much leisure time does a person need?

Leisure time is an indicator of well being. That means how much leisure time the average citizen has in a country is a determination of how well that nation is doing.

In Canada, the average person has just over 5 hours of leisure time per day. That’s more than35 hours per week! It’s no surprise the Great White North ranks as the 6th happiest nation in the world.

But what I really wanted to know is: can I find a balance in my time that will maximize productivity while still leaving me enough time to enjoy life?

What gets measured, gets managed

My classes this term have been focused on things like strategy and operations management for business. From what I can see, good ideas aren’t exclusive to corporations. You can translate them to your personal life.

A well-run business knows how its labor and resources are being utilized, so can this be true of a well-run life? I went ahead and quantified how I spend my time each day.

My Time Budget Template

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 1.45.59 PM

Like the layout? If you’re running Numbers on your Mac and want to create your own time budget, you can download the template by clicking here.

Like all budgets, the above is variable and subject to external forces. Exam time drives my homework up and leisure time down. Sometimes I skip a yoga class to put in extra hours on the site.

Occasionally I forego sleep to conquer yet another continent in Civilization V. But overall, I think it’s a good estimate of my average week.

A breakdown of my time budget categories

Household Tasks include everything from errands to meal preparation, as well as house cleaning.

School represents total time spent on campus, including the commute to and from, where Homework is school assignments I complete on my own time.

Online Business represents all the tasks that keep the site running, which include writing posts, managing advertising, answering emails, and typical housekeeping. It also includes my freelance writing jobs.

I was a little surprised by this number, but lengthly posts with external research and lots of editing can take hours to put together (if you factor in the spreadsheets, this post took you’re reading right now me almost 2 hours to put together!). Don’t ever let anyone tell you blogging is passive income!

I Volunteer 2-3 hours a week on Mondays. I hesitated between putting this with work stuff or leisure. I decided that because it’s a scheduled obligation, it falls in with the rest of my work, even though it’s unpaid. I’m not paid to go to school either and that’s certainly work!

Leisure activities represent everything from reading to watching Netflix to going out with friends. Unsurprisingly, I have a lot of time on the weekends and next to no time mid-week.

Any surprises in how I spend my time?

Between school and managing this website, I’m logging 6-hour workweeks.

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 1.59.20 PM

So much for the student life being an easy ride! No wonder I’m tired. I’m just kidding, 50-60 hours per week of work is my productivity sweet spot.

Working this much is my career Goldilocks bed that’s just right. My school and writing time are inversely related, and I do my best to spend what’s needed on both:

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 2.17.11 PM

I categorized sleep, personal care, and household as “operating” because in my mind they’re the “operating costs” of running a business: there’s always baseline, you just pay the piper and move on with it.

No matter how much I work or play, I will always need 8 hours of sleep per night. However, I was surprised that nearly half of my time just goes to keeping myself together. So much for the 80/20 principle. Wonder if hiring a maid would be worth it?

I’m getting nearly 10 hours less leisure time per week than the average Canadian

But what’s wrong with that? Nothing! Just like money budgets are not one-size-fits-all, time budgets aren’t either. Your task is the same: live within your means.

Fortunately and unfortunately, you can’t borrow time on credit


Unless you’re a character in this great dystopia fiction film starring Justin Timberlake called In Time, in which case, you can. Seriously, it’s an awesome movie (and available on Netflix!) that encapsulates the topic of today’s post:

  • Are you spending your time the way you want to?
  • Are you getting the most out of your time?
  • Should you be allocating your time differently?

Tell me where and how you spend the time, what you wish you had more time for, what you wish you had less time off, and what you’re going to do differently!

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15 Comments. Leave new

  • I went from being at work 60-70 hours a week to 35, and I honestly have no clue what to do with myself anymore. I’ve struggled a lot to pick up new hobbies or make new commitments (like volunteering or a fitness class) because for the last 4 years I literally did not have the time for anything beside work and basic personal maintenance.
    I find myself either watching tv/Netflix or going to bed early. I need to use this time more productively!

    • Wow that’s a big difference.. yeah gaining 35 extra hours definitely shouldn’t be used for Netflix (or should it? New episodes of Breaking Bad just arrived and House of Cards season 2 isn’t bad!)

      Time is way harder to manage than money IMO

  • Hi there,
    I really enjoyed reading this post! I’m going to copy your template and track a normal week for me to see how it all measures up. In general, I sleep 7-8 hours per day. I get enough. Sometimes I will have to deal with 6-7 on a weeknight, but some weekends I can get 9-10, so it all balances it out. For the most part, I’m not usually excessively tired and I have lots of energy. When I have an early work day, or a late night, I try to plan accordingly so I don’t miss out on sleep because when I’m tired I am not a very easy person to deal with. I also nap quite frequently to get my 7-8 hours per day. As far as work, my normal work week is 35 hours, about 40 including commuting, and I work on average 5-8 hours of OT per week right now. I am also a part time student and probably spend 3-5 hours per week on that. Volunteer committments vary, but I’d say an average of 5 hours per week, sometimes less and sometimes more. I spend at least 1.5-2 hours per day on fitness (including time to/from gym) so that is 10-14 hours per week on average. Housework, again, an average I’d say would be 2 hours per day, but I spend more on weekends and less through the week. In this category I would include grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and laundry. I am lucky that at home I can multi-task sometimes so I might grab some leaisure time while dinner is cooking or laundry is washing. I guess the rest is leisure time. During a normal week I’d probably spend at least 1-2 hours on a coffee date or something with a girlfriend, see my family for at least a couple hours, and spend a few evenings with the boyfriend. Under leisure I would also include time I spend reading books, reading online, going for a walk, etc. I guess a lot of categories can overlap a bit… walking could be under fitness, the gym could be under leisure if I hang out with a friend there, etc. Sorry my comment is so long! Looking forward to seeing the results of my spreadsheet.

    Tell me where and how you spend the time, what yo wish you had more time for, what you wish you had less time off, and what you’re going to do differently!

  • When I’ve tracked my time, I got really granular – 5 minute intervals instead of the 1 hr that you display here. I tend to not keep on task for an hour at a time so I would be concerned about under-reporting my leisure time (I worked 50 minutes out of this hour but surfed the internet for 10 minutes so that counts as 1 hour of work). Do you have any thoughts about that issue? How much are you rounding up to the hour?

    • Oh, and it’s super time-consuming to track in such detail so I wish it wasn’t my inclination! I can’t study my time (outside of work) very often because it takes so long.

      • Oh I totally sneak leisure time into tasks — like reading during my commute or putting on a Netflix show while folding laundry, working on the blog at school, etc. I still count the hours based on whatever the main task was (ie. if I’m reading on my commute, I’m still commuting), just because if I wasn’t stuck in that one obligation I probably wouldn’t be choosing the extra thing to save the time, so it’s not totally leisure. This might not be justifiable reasoning, but it’s what I’m going with.

        I round up in 15min increments, which is a little generous but I don’t need a schedule calculated down to the minute!

  • I have to track my time at work in 6 minute intervals as per our lawyers request. I get it for cost analysis and billing clients, but sometimes it’s really hard to break up an hour into 10 parts. Plus, I feel like I spend all day just tallying numbers for this. We use a free program called Grindstone that pops up asking if you’re working on something – drives me a little bonkers.

  • As a total data nerd, I am totally going to track my time in this spreadsheet…excited to see what it looks like. To me time is more valuable than money (within reason) I can’t believe I’ve never considered monitoring my time with the care and attention that I do my money. Thanks for the encouragement! A big difference for me is that I would consider both online time and exercise as leisure time. Both are definitely hobbies, and my runs and hikes are often with friends–and followed by laughs and conversation over tea or glass of wine, so that helps. 🙂

  • That’s brilliant! When I saw household tasks, I read as “cleaning” and assumed you were crazy OCD 🙂

    I need to keep track of my time. I am sporadically productive, usually when inspired. Creative work is sometimes difficult to schedule.

  • I bill my time at work but have never thought to measure it in my personal life. I think this is a great idea. We justify the expense of our current neighborhood with how much time it saves us in commuting, exercising, and by keeping us near entertainment.

    You spend far less time on campus than I did as a grad student. Was it different for you last semester?

    • A little bit. We had mandatory seminars last term that added 8 hours to every week, which is substantial. For the most part though my actual in-class time is very low.

  • Great post! I need to try this and see how much leisure time I’m getting. I spend a lot of time on the blog, but I’m really enjoying it, so it doesn’t really feel like work to me. I’m impressed by the amount of time you spend on cleaning or laundry!

    • I have to stay on top of laundry because I have a tendency to let it get way way out of hand.. also I own some nice items that take a lot of care (hand wash, hang to dry, iron). Everyone tells me they never iron anything. I iron everything!

  • Devin Flanigan
    November 2, 2020 5:18 am

    Curious if you have this available for Excel?


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