• Lara Austin

Time Bank Continued – Step-by-Step Details…

A quick recap of what I am calling the Time Bank (check out Blog 1, which first introduces the Time Bank). Your time is precious. Creating and maintaining that fine balance between client work, building and working on your business, family obligations, being a parent, maintaining a functioning household, is just that, a balance.

By identifying what your waking hours are, making a list of how you spend all your time, doing a few simple math equations, and you will have a picture of your life. How you spend your time = how you live your life. Time is precious. Time is money. What are you putting into your "bank of time"?

In this blog we dive into the detailed steps to build your own the time bank.  Keep in mind there are many ways to do this, and there will be many variables, but this should give you a solid idea of how the time bank looks and works. I’ll finish up with elaborating on how I’ve felt the positive impact of this tool.

Step 1 – Make the Time

This is going to be hard, but you must carve out a couple of uninterrupted hours to build out your time bank. 

Step 2 – How big is your bank?

Determine what time period (monthly, weekly, daily, quarterly, annually) you are going to calculate your time bank. I started out doing monthly time banks and after a year I have not felt the need to change this. All my examples will be based on monthly, but you can adjust this to what works best for you.

I make this Step 2, because you may need more time for a bigger bank. For a monthly time bank, I block off 2 hours a month to get this done. If you did a daily time bank that may take 30 minutes give or take.

Step 3 – Mindset – Visualize – Critical Thinking

Before you get into actually building and executing your time bank, make sure you spend some time thinking about how you spend your time, and on what you want to be spending your time on.  Are there things you spend your time on, but have no desire to account for that in your time bank? What does your world look like if you had your time in order? Mindset: you do have time to get it all done!

Step 4 – Spreadsheet Time! The What & Time Columns

Steps 5 & 6 walk you through the details. This step is more a read and digest before diving in.

In steps 5 and 6 you will list out these categories in the first columns of the spreadsheet:

What: This is the column you will be listing all that categories of how you spend your time.

Time: In this column, we list how long each category will take you. Don’t forget, if it takes you 10 minutes of drive time roundtrip for your hour-long networking meeting, you want to block off and account for 80 minutes. Or similarly, if you need 15 minutes to prepare for a 60-minute meeting, you need to block off 75.

Example: I used to have a weekly networking meeting that I drive to and attend (60 minutes meeting + 15 minutes networking + 20 minute drive time). This is how it looks in my time bank:

What:                     Time:

Networking           = 95 (minutes) x 4 (networking days in this particular month) / 60 (minutes,                                      which give us the amount of hours to record in time bank) = 6.33 hours or 6 hours 20 minutes (per month in the "bank")

Or an example relevant to the current COVID19 moment: I have a monthly call with one of my coaching clients. I block off 30 minutes before the call, 60 minutes for the call, and 30 minutes afterward for follow-up email and notes. This is how my time bank looks:

What:                     Time:

Monthly Coaching Call            = 2 hours (30 minutes call prep + 60 minutes call + 30 minutes follow up work)

Step 5 - What Column Details

Start with your What column and list your time activities – don't worry so much about the Time column, just try to get all your categories down. To start this (and usually you do this once since it’s things you do repeatedly), I'll go through my typical day and list how my time is spent.

My categories may look like this: shower, get ready, breakfast aka me cooking for my spouse and kid, lunch, homeschooling, client work, working on my business, drop-off/pick-up my kid (in the time of COVID: spending time and being with my kiddo), check homework, dishes, pick up the house, make dinner, eat lunch – you feel me?

Then I look at my calendar to find out, what is already on the calendar? Anything that I haven’t listed gets added to my What column. Usually these are one on one meetings, dentist appointments, that type of thing.  Also, I take into account what month is it. There are always holidays, annual events, random no school days, so I take that into account when I'm building my time bank. For example, November-January look very different for my time bank than February-May, which also differ vastly from June-August and lastly you have September-October. (Hmmmm, do I see a quarterly time bank in my future....?)

I’m just going to throw this out there... just because you spend your time on something, doesn’t mean it makes it to your time bank. Think of your time bank time, as the time that is so precious you block out and build your life around it. My first time bank I had to face the amount of time I was spending on (personal) Facebook and determined I did not want to put Facebook into my bank. I still spend time on FB, but truly only in free time. 

For another example, I love to read. I barely read for a while because I felt like I didn’t have time for it. In my first time bank, I allotted 2 hours a day to reading 😂 A little overkill and perhaps slightly lofty, but my reading did increase significantly. 

In the first Time Bank blog, I mentioned in detail about building in a two-hour buffer for each day. This kind of became laughable because once I built out my time bank there was most definitely not a two-hour buffer every day.  But I found it works out as more free time on the weekend, so the buffer works for me. I still think you should add it to your What column to factor into your total hours. Plus, the buffer helps to account for the shit you just can’t plan for. 

Here’s the buffer calculation:

Buffer  = 2 (hours a day) x 30 (days per month) give us 60 hours a month

And perhaps you can truly build in a 2-hour buffer to your every day, but I have found that's really only possible for me on the weekends. M-F is packed in my everyday life.

Be aware that daily tasks like breakfast, lunch and dinner may seem silly to block out in your time bank – but is it really? For example, if I don’t block out lunch, I can get in the ZONE and totally forget to eat, which wreaks havoc on my body – so it's very important that dedicated time is spent eating and caring for myself. And again, it takes time, so block out that time.

Step 6 - Time Column

Now that you’ve got a full list of categories, you can go back and figure out the exact time ie fill in the Time column.

For each category (row), figure out how often you do that particular activity and then do the math to figure out how much that equals in a month in hours. Be sure to account for buffers and just keep it real with yourself.

The equation: time in minutes multiplied by the amount of days that activity occurs in the month / 60 minutes to turn your number from minutes to hours

Here are a few examples:

- Shower 30 minutes every other day in April, time equation: = (30x15) / 60 = 7.5 hours

- Lunch 30 minutes daily in April, time equation: = (30x30) / 60 = 15 hours

- Daily Workout: = (45x30)/60 = 22.5 hours

Congratulate yourself for making it this far! You now have a month of everything you need to and want to be spending your time on and how much time it takes. This is where the magic starts to happen. Over the next steps you can see if you have enough waking hours in a month to get everything you've listed done.

Step 7 – Waking Hours

Everyone’s time bank will be different. It depends on your obligations, how busy you are, and again, how big you’re building your time bank. Sticking with one month, this is how you figure out your waking hours:

On average what time do you wake up every day? On average what time are you down for the day? I say down verses sleep as I have found I may go to sleep around 9-10pm, but I can’t schedule anything after 8:30pm because my brain is just done for the day. 

My waking hours are 6:30am to 8:30pm or 14 hours a day. I then take my average waking hours and multiply that by the days in the month.

=14 (hours) x 30 (days) gives me 420 hours in my time bank for April

Step 8 – Totals

At the end of your rows of categories, add these of rows and formulas:

  • Waking hours for the month

  • Total hours in your time bank

  • Calculate the difference between waking hours and time in your bank

In the screen shot example below, Total Used April Hours represents the sum of all the hours in the Time column. April Bank is my waking hours aka available time in my bank. Remaining Hours, is taking Total Used April Hours minus April Bank. April is a busy month for me and I chose (likely not - lol), my lifestyle chose no extra time for me in April.

These totals are critical. They tell you if you have enough time in your bank. If you don’t have to enough time, you need to look at your categories and see what/where can you shave off or not do this month.

This is where critical thinking may also come back into play. You have to get real with yourself. Remember when I said I wanted to read two hours a day? That was really difficult to make a reality and to block off that much uninterrupted time.

Another thing could happen too... you could realize how much time you have available!! Oh, the possibilities!! What if you identify your free time and put a plan in motion to fill the time with things that mean a lot to you? New hobbies, volunteer opportunities, you name it. Or maybe you embrace and even plan for lots of free time. It's your bank. It's your time. Reclaim it!

Step 9 – Accounting for 8am-5pm

About 6 months into doing my time bank every month, something happened. I got stressed out. I didn’t have enough time, and all I could think was what is going on?? What happened?

I’ll tell you what happened. I had enough time in my time bank, but I was scheduling too much during the 8a-5pm hours. These are work hours, but these are also pick up the kid from school hours, go walking, have a lunch date hour, etc.

This is how I solved the problem. I now go through and highlight all the cells that have activities that can only take place during 8am-5pm or things I only want to do during 8-5. 

Then off to the side I create another equation. I figure out my working hours in a month. Typically, 8-5, Monday-Friday, 9 hours a day. I also open a calendar and count how many M-F days there are in a month. In April there are 22 M-F days. 

= 9 (hours) x 22 (M-F days in the month) gives you 198 hours

Then I create a formula to add up all my highlighted cells (8-5 activities), and another formula to take the difference in working hours and what I have in the bank during those hours. 

Now I’m accounting for the hours or the tasks that can only be done during the M-F 8-5 hours, and I’m back to taking the stress out of time by using the Time Bank method. 

Step 10 – Get It in Your Calendar!

You’ve built your time bank in a spreadsheet, you’ve adjusted your categories and time so you have enough time to get it done, and now it’s time for the final critical step: Implementation.

I add a category typically in the first column of the spreadsheet that says “In Calendar?” Then, I go through each row and block that activity in my calendar. 

Some things I have to decide when am I blocking this out:

1) is this something that can’t be scheduled over, is not flexible etc? 

2)  Can I shift it around if something comes up?

This dictates whether I mark something as “Free” or “Busy.” This is important as I have a scheduling link I share often that syncs with my calendar to give my accurate availability. 

I can hear some of you now, “I’m already messing up my time bank by scheduling over things I’ve blocked out in my time bank.” Here’s the beauty: I KNOW exactly what I am giving up and/or what I will have to make up for later or shift other time priorities around when something comes up.

This step will get faster every time you do your time bank because many things you can create repeating tasks for x amount of time or with no end date. 

Step 11 - Throughout the Month

Typically, I’ll check my calendar the day before and shift around my time blocks as needed. Then day of, when my reminders go off, I know exactly how I should be spending my time. I am never left wondering what I should be doing. 

I’ve felt insane with my time ever since I became a mother. It’s felt like it’s compounded becoming a business owner. With the time bank, my overall stress has gone down dramatically, my anxiety kept in check and I never get overwhelmed to the point of shutting down. 

Cheers to the Time Bank!

Dive into building your time bank and let me know what shifts and changes you notice in your life in the comments below.

Looking for someone to help you get your time under control? Hit me up for a free 30-minute consultation.

Thanks for reading!

❤️ Lara

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