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Debt Skills and Time Management: How to Master Both

By: Holly Benedetto09.22.22
Close up of an hourglass on a desk with a woman using a laptop in the background

There are only twenty-four hours in a day, and how you spend each one can impact your entire life. If you frequently find yourself trying to magically turn back the clock, you may be in “time debt.”

Ineffective time management skills can cause us to “borrow” time from other activities to try and catch up with obligations, such as canceling one activity to make time for another. This then creates a “debt” to the first activity that needs to be repaid, and the cycle continues.

Unlike other forms of debt, time is a limited resource that is impossible to ever truly gain more of, and in the end, the bad habit of borrowing time will only lead to stress and neglected responsibilities.

By utilizing financial debt management skills, we can’t gain more time, but we can tackle time debt.


Recognizing Analysis Paralysis

Overthinking is a common complaint when faced with any problem. A phenomenon called “analysis paralysis” is the result of overthinking. In an effort to weigh all options and make the most informed choice possible, those with analysis paralysis overcomplicate the issue and delay the decision-making process.

If you have ever spent your entire Friday night unsure of which movie to play, overwhelmed by the “debt” of your to-watch list, unread book shelf, or untouched hobbies, you have experienced a form of analysis paralysis.

Analysis paralysis can affect financial debts as well. Without a clear debt-tackling strategy, borrowers can feel stuck in their financial situation. Interest continues to accumulate as the debt continues to grow, unaddressed.


Strategies to Feel in Control

Practicing good time management habits will help you in your financial life, and vice-versa. Self-discipline is the foundation for both skills.

Whether you’re experiencing time debt, financial debt, or both, try two of the most famous debt strategies – the “avalanche” and “snowball” methods:


Debt Avalanche Method

If your goal is to pay less interest over time, this method may be best for you. To create the “avalanche,” you pay extra money towards the debt with the highest interest rate, while making minimum payments on all other debts.

By tackling the debt with the highest interest rate first, regardless of the size of your balance, you prevent these debts from growing unsustainably. You may pay off individual debts more slowly with this method, but your patience will save you money in the end.

To apply this method to time management, choose one “high interest” task in your life. Interest in this case can be measured by the severity of consequences that emerge from the task being delayed, or the number of hours it will take to complete the task.

Examples: choosing to go grocery shopping instead of ordering expensive takeout multiple days in a row; watching the show with the most seasons first


Debt Snowball Method

If being able to draw checks on your to-do list is what keeps you motivated, this approach may inspire you. The debt “snowball” is created by paying off the smallest debts first before moving up to larger ones, while making minimum payments on all other debts.

You’ll find that you have fewer debts faster when using this method, but interest will continue to accumulate on those larger debts. Just like a snowball rolling downhill and building momentum and size, keep your accomplishments in mind as you pay off each debt.

To use the snowball method in time management, try to complete as many tasks as possible. The adage “never procrastinate tasks that can be completed in 10 minutes” applies here. Find your simplest tasks and get to work.

Examples: Sorting mail or bills as soon as you receive them each day; setting goals to read chapters rather than the entire book


Foster Positive Change

While you’re paying down your debts using whichever method speaks most to you, don’t forget to nurture healthy habits for both financial and time debts.

Take some time to evaluate how you got into the debt in the first place. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I say “yes” to too many things that cost me money and/or time?
  • Do I regularly check in on my debts or to-do lists?
  • Do I set time aside to speak with my partner, family, or anyone else immediately impacted by my debt?
  • What is my relationship with consumerism and overspending?
  • How can I keep my debts from growing while I address the problem?
  • What will I change to prevent this from happening in the future?

Track your progress by keeping a journal, list, or spreadsheet of your goals. Write about how accomplishments make you feel and how you will use those accomplishments going forward. An example journal excerpt could sound like this:

“Recently, I have been feeling overwhelmed by the number of financial and time commitments I have been agreeing to. I don’t want to feel left out of my social circle, but I feel pressured to continue to spend on subscriptions, tickets, and more just to keep up. On top of that, I don’t even have time to enjoy all the things I am paying for!

This week, I decided to cancel my subscription to Netflix and check out the local library and documentaries available for free online. The money I am saving on streaming will be put towards making a larger payment on my debts each month.”

By writing in detail how you feel, what the problem is, and how you plan to tackle that problem, you can set clear, measurable goals for yourself and track your progress over time.


Prioritize Your Health to Optimize Your Life

Our finances affect our health. Debt can cause emotional and physical hardship due to the stress we feel. By incorporating healthy financial habits in other aspects of our lives, we can become more productive and secure.

American Heritage is dedicated to providing no cost, accessible financial literacy resources for our surrounding communities. For additional free financial education content, visit our online Learning Center, where you can find calculators, webinars, more blog articles like this one, and more.



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