Chances are you’ve taken the time to create a household budget. But have you created a budget for your time and and your energy? This is especially important if you’re chronically ill.
If you’ve found yourself at a crossroads over the past year or so, you aren’t alone. We’ve all been affected by the pandemic – even if we were fortunate enough not to contract the virus. It changed our lives.
But one of the unsung blessings of change is that it forces us to rethink everything we took for granted. After all, we were reminded that life is full of surprises (not all good ones) and of how quickly it can change. It was a bold reminder that some things are far more important than money.
And time is one of them.
You can make more money. But you can’t make more time.
I swear, sometimes I feel like I need to be beaten over the head with a piece of information that should be so obvious. Illness – especially serious or chronic illness – forces us to live with uncertainty.
So why is it so hard to convince ourselves that it’s not only okay – but that it’s necessary – to manage our time the way we manage our money: with purpose and intent?
When we are suffering from chronic illness, we try to do all the right things. We budget our money as best we can because our medical costs are higher than those of a healthy person.
We see our doctors regularly, ensure that we get the treatment that we need, and we take our prescriptions. We learn what our potential “triggers” are so that we can avoid a flare.
We do a lot of planning – and our fair share of trying foresee the “what ifs”. But it occurred to me that we don’t think about how we spend or “budget” our time and energy. It’s a shame – because that’s the one budget we really need to have!
Chronically ill? There are four reasons why you need to budget your time
If you’ve ever created a household budget, you’ve experienced the benefits of paying attention to what you spend and planning your spending based on your income and your financial goals.
Think of budgeting your time and energy in the same way: they are resources you have, and it’s up to you to decide how to spend them.
1. Managing your time helps you manage your energy
Have you ever made an impulse purchase? Years ago, I bought a lovely, dressy jacket. (It was on sale!!) I knew I’d have limited opportunities to wear it. Make that zero.
I never wore it. Not even once. And it really doesn’t look that good on me anyway. It was pricey, and not only did it consume my money, but it’s been hanging in my closet, probably stuffed between a couple of other things I don’t wear, complete with the tags, ready to be donated.
This isn’t all that different from overspending or mismanaging our energy. We’ve squandered a valuable resource that we could have used in a much better way.
We often talk about “pushing through” when we’re chronically ill. We may spend time doing something that we know will push us to the limit physically.
And then we pay the price. Maybe it takes a couple of days to recover.
Is it worth it? Usually, no!
Overextending ourselves by spending time and energy that we don’t have and can’t easily replace, limits what we can do tomorrow – or for the next few days. This is why many chronically ill people talk about counting their spoons.
2. Proactively budgeting your time helps you reach goals you’ve set for yourself
Pay attention to where and how you need and want to spend your time and how you’re actually spending it.
Write it down.
What patterns do you see?
Which activities were a productive use of your time?
Can you identify areas where you wasted your time, and you regret it?
Did you overdo it at some point? Could you have used your time and energy differently to prevent it?
What are your priorities?
Being mindful of how you spend your time and how you feel (emotionally and physically) as a result can help you make better use of the time and energy that you have.
3. Budgeting your time when you’re chronically ill gives you more flexibility
We’ve all found ourselves surprised by an unexpected expense – a car problem, a household repair, or unanticipated visit to the vet because your dog apparently has some mysterious allergy (speaking from experience). If we have money set aside, we can manage this.
We can also set aside our time. It may mean leaving some unscheduled time on our calendar, or it may mean saying “no” to something that we might otherwise feel obligated to do.
Life is unpredictable enough. Having flexibility in how we manage our time and energy makes it much easier to pivot when we need to.
4. Having a budget reduces stress
We feel better when we have a plan. And a budget, like a solid plan, can become our roadmap – leading us steadily toward a destination. Even if we occasionally find ourselves off course, we have a tool to help us find our way back.
There’s comfort in crafting our plan, in putting ourselves in charge of our journey, and in giving ourselves permission to say “yes” to all of the things that are important and meaningful to us, and to say “no” to those that aren’t.