Be the CEO of Your Life: Using Resource Allocation To Become the Man You Want to Be

by Brett & Kate McKay on October 25, 2012 · 31 comments

in A Man's Life, Personal Development

In the business world, managers spend a lot of time juggling resource allocation. Every company has a finite amount of resources — whether it be financial capital or human capital — to use and spend in order to achieve the company’s strategic goals. Effective allocation generates growth and success, while ineffective allocation results in loss and failure.

This delegation can become overwhelmingly complex and difficult because there are often several departments within an organization competing for a limited pool of resources. Without careful attention and planning by managers and analysts, resources can be appropriated in a way that actually hinders the business’ overall goals.

Stock market analysts often look to a company’s resource allocation to determine the health and direction of that business. It’s usually a better indicator than listening to what the company says are their long-term goals. Businessman Andy Grove put it this way: “To understand a company’s strategy, look at what they actually do rather than what they say they will do.”

How Do You Allocate Your Resources as a Man?

In his book How Will You Measure Your Life?Harvard business professor Clay Christensen argues that individuals face the same challenges as businesses when it comes to wisely allocating resources. For us, our most precious resources are typically time and money. Each of us has several competing “departments” in our life (family, work, school, church, friends, etc.) vying for a slice of this limited pie.

Moreover, Christensen posits that a good way to evaluate what’s really important in our lives is to simply look at how we allocate our resources — just like a stock investor might look at a company’s financial data to determine whether it’s on sure footing. Follow the time and money trail and you’ll find what a man truly values, rather than simply what he says he values.

Imagine that an independent analyst opened the ledger book of your life and looked over reports detailing the way you spend your time and money. You tell the analyst that what you value most is your education, fitness, and spending time with your girlfriend. But what the analyst sees in your ledger book is this:

Time Spent in Given Week:

  • Surfing the internet: 22 hours
  • Work: 20 hours
  • Playing video games: 8 hours
  • Hanging out with your friends: 7 hours
  • Spending time with girlfriend: 6 hours
  • Studying for class: 3 hours
  • Working out: 3 hours
  • Reading for pleasure: 0 hours

What conclusion would an analyst draw about your core values or where you’re going with your life from this report? Would it show a man who makes his girlfriend, fitness, and education his top priorities? Or would it reveal a man who values video games, Doritos Locos, and Reddit memes the most?

I know it might seem a little clinical to look at every aspect of your life, even your personal relationships, in a purely data-driven, budgetary light. But I think examining your own methods of “resource allocation” is a useful way to measure whether you’re actually walking the walk when it comes to your core values or accomplishing your goals. It keeps you honest about the man you say you want to be, and the man you are. And it’s particularly useful in gauging your progress on goals that don’t offer immediate or concrete feedback, such as improving your relationship with your spouse or becoming a better leader.

Become the Boss of Your Life: How to Effectively Manage Your Personal Resources

So how do you start allocating your precious, limited resources to the departments in your life you most want to support and build? The following steps will put you in the corner office of life.

Step 1: Conduct an Audit of How You’re Currently Spending Your Resources

The first step in becoming a wise manager of your time and money is to open the ledger book of your life and do an audit of how you’re spending these valuable resources. Many companies go under because of sloppy or non-existent bookkeeping – the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.

Likewise, many men only have the faintest notion of how they’re really spending their money and time – and they may avoid taking a closer look at these numbers because ignorance shields them from a reality that might stir them to make difficult changes. But if you want to be the boss of your life, you need to be completely aware of how things are running in every department – which areas are blowing through the time and money you give with nothing to show for it, and where to transfer those funds to get the stock of your personal progress surging.

To gain this honest awareness, utilize the following tools to mine and record valuable data on how you’re spending your resources. Gather and record this data for two weeks.

Mint. Mint’s free online service takes all the hassle out of tracking your spending. When you sign up for Mint, you’ll be asked to connect all your financial accounts (checking, credit cards, loans, etc.) into their system. Once you have your financial accounts connected to Mint, just use your debit card as you normally would. Mint automatically tracks and categorizes your spending for you and every month it spits out a report showing how you’re spending your money. In one glance, you can see if you’re literally putting your money where your mouth is when it comes to your values and goals.

RescueTime. Most of us spend a good chunk of our time on our computers and the internet. Does the way we spend our time online reflect what we say our core values are? Find out with RescueTime. It is a paid service that allows you track how much time you spend on certain websites and even how long you use certain apps on your computer. You simply create an account, install the program on your computer, and RescueTime takes care of the rest. At the end of each week, you will receive an email report that gives you a breakdown of how and where you spent your time on your computer.

Time Tracker. Time Tracker is a free browser extension for both Firefox and Chrome browsers that measures how much time you spend on certain websites. Pretty simple.

Eternity Time Log. Tracking your time online is pretty easy and seamless thanks to the myriad of apps and browser extensions out there on the market. But what about the rest of your time? How do you easily track the number of minutes spent playing video games or hanging out
with your kids or exercising? Enter Eternity Time Log. It’s an app for your iPhone or iPad that allows you to quickly and easily track your time. Just start the timer whenever you begin a new activity, give it a tag, and let the app do the rest. At the end of the day or week, you can view a report of how you spent your time. Time Tracker for Android works similarly.

Pocket Notebook and Pen. A classic standby. Keep a pocket notebook and pen in your back pocket and write down any money you spend during the day and how much time you devote to all your activities. Sure, it’s not as seamless as the digital life trackers, but it gets the job done.

Step 2: Create Goals for How You Want to Better Utilize Your Resources

Once you’ve taken an inventory of how you use your time and money, look over the results. Ask yourself what a stranger who examined the data would conclude about what things you value most.

Just like a business, we need to be intentional with how we distribute our limited resources. If we’re not, we risk slipping into “default mode” which usually is the path of least resistance – a weed-ridden, overgrown path that leads to minimal personal growth and stagnation. That’s why it’s so important to purposely allocate our resources so that they line up with our values and long-term goals.

If your current spending (money and time) doesn’t reflect your ideal, start making concrete, intentional goals so that reality better matches your desires.

First, make a list of the things that are most important to you. Keep it short! As business professor and bestselling author Jim Collins puts it, “If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any.” You can, however, come up with three top priorities for your work life, and three for your personal life.

Once you’ve written down your top priorities, decide how much of your time or money you want to allocate to each. With budgeting your money, this is pretty straightforward. When it comes to budgeting your time, however, there are a few different ways to go about it. For example, you can set an hours-per-day goal, or an hours-per-week goal. So if working on a side hustle is important to you, make a goal to spend five hours on it every week. If cultivating your spirituality is a top priority, make it a goal to spend 20 minutes a day studying your scriptures.

Collins, who has sold millions of books, decided years ago to devote 50% of his workday to creative tasks, 30% to teaching, and 20% to other things. He keeps a running total of how he’s done in keeping these goals up to this point in his life. (Photo Source)

You can also decide to track your time spent on different activities as a percentage of your overall time. Earlier in his life, Collins made it a goal to spend 50 percent of his workdays on creative pursuits like research and writing books, 30 percent on teaching-related activities, and 20 percent on all the other things he has to do. Ever since then, he has kept a running tally of how closely his work life has followed these percentage goals.

Step 3: Diligently Keep Track of How You’re Allocating Your Resources

As you set these new goals to recommit your time and money to what you truly value in life, understand that allocating your resources isn’t a one-time deal. Without diligent tracking, you’ll head right back into the default position, and once again find yourself meandering down the path of least resistance.

Collins keeps a stopwatch with three different timers with him during the workday, and uses it to keep track of the time he spends on each of his 3 categories of work. (Photo Source)

Keep on using the tools we laid out in the audit section to regularly track your progress and how close or far you are from the goals you set for yourself. Collins keeps a stopwatch with three different timers in his pocket and carries it with him wherever he goes. Once he begins a work-related activity, he starts the timer that corresponds to the category the task falls into (creative/teaching/other). When he switches to a task in a different category, he stops the timer that’s been running, and starts the one that corresponds with the work he’s now doing. From time to time, he logs this data into a spreadsheet in order to update his running totals on how successful he’s been in dividing up his workday according to his goals.

You obviously don’t have to be this exacting, but do figure out some tracking system that will keep you headed where you want to go.

Step 4: Say NO to Things That Will Sap Your Resources

Beyond diligent tracking of your progress, the biggest thing that will help you stick with your resource allocation goals is learning to say no, and keeping your life as simple as possible. In the business world, this means running a lean, nimble, operation with minimal overhead. In your personal life, it means separating the good from the best, and refusing to take on responsibilities that aren’t in line with your values and goals, even when saying no makes you feel guilty. And it means jettisoning the material possessions that require upkeep and maintenance – the “stuff” in your life that drains your resources away from the departments in your life that mean much more.

A New York Times profile of Mr. Collins revealed how his ability to say no is one of the lynchpins in his intensely successful skills in time management:

“Mr. Collins also is quite practiced at saying “no.” Requests pour in every week for him to give speeches to corporations and trade associations. It could be a bustling sideline, given that he commands a top-tier fee of $65,000 to dispense his wisdom. But he will give only 18 speeches this year, and about a third of them will be pro bono for nonprofit groups.

Companies also ask him to consult. But he mostly declines, agreeing only if the company intrigues him and if its executives come to Boulder to meet him…

Book tours? No. Splurging with the millions he’s earned from his books? No, too.

He and his wife still live in the 2,500-square-foot Craftsman-style house they bought when they moved back from California 14 years ago to Boulder, their hometown. He keeps his overhead low, with a staff of five people, and adds students for research work as needed.

This orientation — a willingness to say no and focus on what not to do as much as what to do — stems from a conversation that Mr. Collins had with one of his mentors, the late Peter F. Drucker, the pioneer in social and management theories.

“Do you want to build ideas first and foremost?” he recalls Mr. Drucker asking him, trying to capture his mentor’s Austrian accent. “Zen you must not build a big organization, because zen you will end up managing zat organization.”

Therefore, in Jim Collins’s world, small is beautiful.”

In your world, small is beautiful too. When it comes to keeping your life simple and getting rid of your crap, “downsizing” is a truly positive thing.  Hand your money and time wasters the pink slip, in order to create a truly blue chip life.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Richard October 25, 2012 at 4:24 am

Some interesting ideas, but I notice a lot of them require handing over significant chunks of personal details, including bank account no’s and details. In these times of I.D. theft etc. this seems a bit careless or worse, naive.

2 Jim October 25, 2012 at 4:49 am

Excellent post. The original HBR article by Mr Christensen was and maybe still is one of the most viewed items on the HBR blog. Your post hits the core of one of our days biggest challenges ; how to live with personal integrity. Not simply the poster integrity pressed on us from parents and society, but a life lived by what we truly value. How do we live our lives? As stated in your post, by what we actually do, not by what we (or others) say we should do.

3 KambizAmini October 25, 2012 at 5:14 am

“Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success.”
― David J. Schwartz

4 Greg October 25, 2012 at 5:15 am

I find the excellent and free ‘toggl’ time tracker to be a huge boost to my productivity at work. Not only does is track my time on billable work, but it’s also highlighted how much of my time is spent on things like admin, telephone calls, emails and helping out in production.
With a set target in mind to hit each week, having a timer running on every task and project I work on, really helps me focus, and resist temptation to open a web browser.
Like many other timer software, the website offer reports, graphs etc, and there are idevice and desktop timer apps too that sync beautifully.

5 Ross October 25, 2012 at 5:49 am

This is excellent advice. It may seem anally-retentive at first, but will lead to some great lifestyle habits. I’m always calling myself ‘a musician’ but really spend much more of my time as an ‘internet surfer’.

6 Slavi Marinov October 25, 2012 at 6:50 am

This is a very important post – good job!!

I’ve experimented with all sorts of frameworks and have read most of the productivity books. So I have my pet peeve with this post.

Why is the 3-stopwatch approach evil? What is wrong with RescueTime? I’ll try to explain.

Both RescueTime and the 3 stopwatches encourage you to multitask (“my tool is going to take care of this for me”). Multitasking has been proven over and over to reduce productivity by as much as 30%.

Is that a lot? Well, imagine having 8 productive hours today instead of 12..

So what works?

A simple… Google Calendar.

It beautifully captures both sides of the productivity coin (measurement & planning).

I plan my day either in the morning or the previous evening, assigning large blocks of time to activities I care about. I don’t just put meetings – I plan EVERY hour.

This forces me to NOT multi-task… AND to focus focus focus. This means for example that while I am working on a project, I don’t check email. Similarly, when I am processing email / task lists, I am not working on anything else. No more “read mail – work – check twitter – oh a shiny new news article – oh a new email message – oh where was I?”

Then, as my day goes by, I would continuously update my Google Calendar. Maybe I was planning to spend 3 hours on the project but ended up spending only 2, and the 1 hour went elsewhere? That gets reflected. Again, I stick like gospel to the principle of not-multitasking.

At the end of the week, I can now look at my calendar and see how well I did – and score myself.

This approach has very little overhead (how hard is it to arrange a couple of blocks of time per day?) The hard part is forcing yourself to be consistent and focused… But that’s what manliness is about!


P.S. If you spend your days outdoors that may not work well, but it will be perfect for all of you working in an office.. Like myself.

7 Jason Christensen October 25, 2012 at 8:02 am

Step 4…Here are some suggestions to help you know when to say, “No” and how to do it without coming across poorly.

8 Drew October 25, 2012 at 8:56 am

As a heads up, the Time Tracker extension doesn’t work with the latest versions of Mozilla, so try “Mind the Time.” So far, it’s working great!

9 Dan Gordon October 25, 2012 at 9:12 am

Really useful post. Great reminder of how easy and harmful it is to waste boatloads of time on low-reward activities that have nothing to do with our goals and priorities.

Now I’ll get to work, lest the auditor find that I say my priority is building my t-shirt business but the data says my priority is commenting on blogs.


10 Steve October 25, 2012 at 9:16 am

Great article and advice. Just remember that life changes like this are easier said than done. If you accept that you will have setbacks and use them as “life lessons” and not scrap the whole idea you will persevere. Remember the inspiring series on Ben Franklin and his virtues, even though he did not live up to every single one he still tried throughout his lifetime. Keep striving and you will steadily become the better person you want to be. @ Brett and Kate, this site is incredible.

11 Mato Tope October 25, 2012 at 9:32 am

Great post!
I also think it’s important to fully focus one one task at a time instead of trying to multi-task. Better to do one thing of excellence than many things of rank mediocrity.
And as Thoreau advises; “Our life is frittered away by detail. . . Simplify, simplify.”

12 Operafaust October 25, 2012 at 9:35 am

Fantastic article. The kind that gets printed out and put in a binder.

13 A.S Falcon October 25, 2012 at 9:37 am

Another kick in the Butt! all the way here in London England – God bless you Brett, Kate & Lil Gus!

14 Carlos October 25, 2012 at 11:25 am

Hey Bret, what do you recommend for finding out more on this topic? Reading How Will You Measure Your Life, or Jim Collins’ stuff?

15 The Morgan Hill Homesteding Project October 25, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Keep track of what you eat as well.

16 Steven October 25, 2012 at 12:06 pm

I can attest to the usefulness of Mint. It may seem a bit dangerous to hand over account information, but Mint is owned and run by Intuit, the same people who make Quicken software and TurboTax. They’ve got security covered pretty well.

17 G.M. Schooley October 25, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Great article, it does seem that simply the act of tracking your time could become a large consumer of your time though. That would be my worry. Also, allowing a third party to track my spending scares me a little bit. I’m wondering what their motivation is to provide such a service for free.

18 Victor October 25, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Thanks for sharing this. Mint is indeed a great way to manage your budget, and budget management is crucial!

19 John Wiehe October 25, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Thanks Brett. I’ll be using the mind-set and tactics as I begin applying for SEO jobs.

20 Luke October 25, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Man, this hit me hard. I waste so much time surfing the internet on reddit and facebook. This article was a good wake up call for me.

21 Alex T.H. October 25, 2012 at 4:33 pm

If you have an Android device, I recommend using Time Recording-TimeSheet App. It’s free and really easy to use. In addition, you can export the result to Excel spreadsheet.

22 Robyn October 26, 2012 at 10:24 am

You don’t need to use Mint if you use your bank’s online banking system. Most banks nowadays will show you in graphs and charts how you spend your money through the accounts you have with them. Granted you may have different accounts with different institutions, but if you are leary of handing over all those numbers, your bank already has some.

23 Jim Collins October 26, 2012 at 11:51 am

Esteemed Brett, Kate, and Readers,

First, I want to point out that I am NOT the Jim Collins referenced in this article; I have learned from his writing.

I do periodically audit my time and it is useful to me. I would however, like to present these two caveats: First, importance is not proportionate to time spent. For example, I only spend about seven minutes a day brushing and flossing my teeth; but it is VERY important for clear reasons. Its importance lies in the fact that I do it without fail. Second, I cannot claim to be able to partition what roles are served by many things I do. My work is largely creative (scientist); I can’t tell you quite what’s going on when an hour goes into gazing into my aquarium or at the curve of my wife’s back while she is sleeping. I DO know that something happens that promotes both my happiness and my creative process.

Perhaps the time audit is most effective at finding our most outrageous wastes of time. I am not proud of everything I have found in my own audits.


Another Jim Collins

24 Native Son October 27, 2012 at 9:12 am

The usual, insightful article. However, I would posit a note of caution. While resource usage information is useful, too much detail in the metrics and the physical collection, measurement and analysis of the resource use data can become counterproductive. It’s easy to get enamored of a detailed set of metrics, and then spend your time measuring and analyzing something that’s not very important to your overall resource allocation problem.

25 Stephen October 27, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Mint is good, but I couldn’t use it when I moved to the UK.
However, I just found a website called Money Dashboard that works just the same, for any UK readers out there!

26 Teddy October 28, 2012 at 7:11 am

Help! I didn’t think I was so technologically illiterate, but perhaps I am… I added the Time Tracker extension to Chrome several weeks ago. It shows that it is active. But I can’t figure out how to see my results. How do I find these?

27 Angel October 29, 2012 at 3:45 pm

To Teddy,

There should be a clock icon right next to your link bar (to the right of the bar), near the top right corner of your browser. It should be active on default. When you click on it, it will show you the activities.


28 Dave November 6, 2012 at 11:29 am

Interesting article. (Also read the Momento Mori article in conjunction with this one)
I just have to say this to younger readers:
When I was in college (1986-89) we had no cable and not internet. I spent a lot of time reading and talking and drinking coffee. We spoke to each other and got to know each other,
Try to do the same thing. I have nothing against technology – but remeber it can isolate you more than you think and take up more time than it is worth.
Also – shut off the cell a few hours a day and ditch the headphones. Look around, Talk to people. Read a book that is not assigned by a teacher, take a walk, do something that does not require batteries.
You may like what happens.

29 kamal November 6, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Timing is everything, Most of them are not monitoring our time. We are not using time productively and that is the cause of most of the work problems. I downloaded software from, Thank you very much.

30 Robert January 8, 2013 at 8:03 am

I think all this really comes down to discipline. The latest gadget or technological flavor-of-the-month is wonderful, but without personal self-discipline, it’s for naught. Prioritizing what’s most important–such as creative, spiritual, and intellectual pursuits–is more important than tight compartmentalization of time. It’s hard to make the time to do those kinds of activities because they are the cognitively most challenging ones in our day, but they offer the biggest rewards.

31 Vinay March 27, 2014 at 12:56 pm

I understand that managing time is very important for everyone and especially for business men its the most important task to be done everyday.

I do several things to take care of my time and tasks, one of it is creating to do lists and then follow the list.

I also use few tools to keep track of time and tasks, such as Google Calender for task management and Replicon timesheet app –

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