A Formula to Stop You from Overcommitting Your Time

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Time is a valuable resource that we often take for granted. We often find ourselves overwhelmed with commitments and obligations, leading to a constant feeling of being overcommitted. In order to effectively manage our time and avoid this state of overwhelm, it is important to understand the concept of time investment and how to make the most of our available hours. This article will provide a formula for effective time management, allowing you to maximize your time investment and achieve a balanced and fulfilling life.

The Reality of Time as a Finite Resource

Before diving into the formula for effective time management, it is crucial to acknowledge that time is a finite resource. We often make the mistake of overcommitting ourselves, taking on more projects and obligations than we have hours in the day. This leads to a feeling of time debt and an unrealistic expectation of what we can accomplish. By accepting the reality of time as a limited resource, we can make informed choices about our priorities and invest our time in what truly matters.

As one of my time coaching clients put it, “I’ve realized there’s only X amount of time, so I need to invest in my priorities and understand that when I choose one activity, I’m not choosing another.” This mindset shift is essential for effective time management.

The Time Investment Formula

The key to successful time management lies in aligning your expectations with the time you have available. The following time investment formula provides a mathematical way to understand the relationship between your expectations and your actual time budget:

Time investment success (External expectations) + (Internal expectations) ≤ 24 hours — (Self-care) Time debt stress (External expectations) + (Internal expectations) > 24 hours — (Self-care)

Let’s break down each component of this formula and explore how it can help us achieve a balanced time budget.

Self-Care: The Fixed Expense

Self-care is the most basic aspect of our daily lives, including activities such as sleeping, eating, and personal grooming. These activities are essential for our well-being and cannot be compromised. To determine your daily time budget, calculate the total time you need to spend on self-care activities. For example:

  • Sleeping: 7 hours
  • Eating: 1 hour
  • Personal grooming: 2 hours

Total: 10 hours

By subtracting this fixed expense of self-care from the 24 hours in a day, we can determine our daily time budget:

24 hours - 10 hours = 14 hours

This calculation represents the amount of time available for external and internal commitments.

External Expectations: Commitments to Others

External expectations include commitments to work, relationships, pet care, and other obligations outside of ourselves. These commitments may vary from day to day or remain consistent throughout the week. It is important to quantify the time costs associated with these external expectations.

For example, if you spend an average of 9 hours at work and 2 hours on hobbies or side projects, you would allocate those time costs accordingly.

Internal Expectations: Commitments to Yourself

Internal expectations are commitments we make to ourselves, such as personal development, hobbies, travel, and financial management. Like external expectations, it is important to quantify the time costs associated with these commitments.

By examining your daily or weekly routine, you can determine the time you allocate to each internal expectation. For example, if you dedicate 5 hours a week to side projects and 3 hours to personal development, you would include those time costs in your calculations.

Calculating Your Time Budget

Once you have quantified the time costs for both external and internal expectations, you can determine how closely your expectations align with your time budget. Plug these values into the left side of the time investment formula and your calculated daily or weekly budget into the right side. Fill in the blank between the two sides with a “>” if your expectations exceed your available time, or with a “<” if your expectations fall within your time budget.

For example:

(External expectations) + (Internal expectations) > (Time budget)

If you find yourself choosing the greater-than sign, it means you have overcommitted your time and need to adjust your expectations. This awareness allows you to make informed decisions about your commitments and prioritize what truly matters.

Strategies for Effective Time Management

Now that we have a formula for effective time management, let’s explore some strategies to help you maximize your time investment and achieve a balanced life.

1. Prioritize Your Commitments

When faced with multiple commitments, it is essential to prioritize what is most important to you. Identify your core values and align your commitments accordingly. By focusing on your priorities, you can allocate your time more effectively and avoid overcommitting.

2. Learn to Say No

Saying no can be challenging, especially when we fear disappointing others or missing out on opportunities. However, it is important to set boundaries and only take on commitments that align with your priorities. Remember, saying no to one thing means saying yes to something else that is more important to you.

3. Delegate and Outsource

Recognize that you don’t have to do everything yourself. Delegate tasks to others whenever possible, whether it’s at work or in your personal life. Additionally, consider outsourcing certain responsibilities to professionals or services that can help lighten your workload.

4. Plan and Schedule

Create a structured plan and schedule for your day, week, and month. This will help you allocate your time more efficiently and ensure that you have dedicated slots for each commitment. Use tools such as calendars, planners, and productivity apps to stay organized and on track.

5. Eliminate Time-Wasting Activities

Identify activities that are not contributing to your goals or well-being and eliminate them from your routine. This may include excessive social media use, watching too much television, or engaging in unproductive conversations. By freeing up time from these activities, you can invest it in more meaningful pursuits.

6. Practice Self-Care

Remember to prioritize self-care in your daily routine. Take breaks, engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation, and prioritize your physical and mental well-being. Self-care is essential for maintaining balance and preventing burnout.

7. Reflect and Adjust

Regularly reflect on your time management practices and assess whether they are aligning with your goals and priorities. Be open to adjusting your approach as needed and continuously strive for improvement.


Effective time management is crucial for achieving balance, reducing stress, and maximizing productivity. By understanding the concept of time investment and aligning your expectations with your available time, you can make informed decisions about your commitments and prioritize what truly matters. Implement the strategies outlined in this article to make the most of your time and create a fulfilling and well-balanced life.

Remember, time is a precious resource. Invest it wisely.

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