My Story – Richard Robinson

It seems like I never have enough time to do the things I want or need to do.

A critical tool in my profession tool belt for meeting this challenge, has been the Activity Time Budget (ATB). For me, the use of the ATB in my workscape has made me less anxious, and enabled me to feel more empowered about how I manage and spend my limited resource of time.

I was first introduced to the ATB concept in 2007 as part of a newly formed cross-functional project team. The budget was presented as a way to ensure planning and reporting activities were being prioritised during the work week and not being pushed into the weekend – and for some, to make sure time wasn’t being invested in activities that provided little return.

In this setting, I spent time listing the activities that I carried out in my role, categorising and defining work allowances into project work (65%), administration, planning (20%) team meetings (10%) and professional development (5%). As I was working across multiple projects, client work took up the bulk of my week. To ensure that I had the time to commit to these activities, I blocked out time in my calendar each for planning, personal and project administration as well as room for professional development. As a team we all agreed to hold our planning time sacred, and shared access to our calendars so that we all knew when each other was ‘interruptible’.

[Key Tip: To make the ATB real in your life, book time in your calendar as a way of spending your budget. It keeps you honest and, when booking time with yourself, it prevents colleagues from slipping in a meeting because they think you’re free and available.]

In each of my roles over my career, whether that’s involved leading a team, or being a leader of a workstream, ATB has always offered me a way to reconcile my time with activity that’s truly important. As a result, I’ve been able to plan out my days and weeks most productively.

On another occasion, I introduced ATB as part of a team I led. The team was feeling frustrated by not being able to find the right balance and cadence between operational activity and delivering strategic projects for the organisation. As a group, we highlighted the need to prioritise agreed set amounts of time to do activity related to planning project delivery. At the time, we didn’t drill down into a full set activities/categories. What was most important was to give my team members explicit permission that they should prioritise this work in their week (20% as a start). Each team member committed to blocking out this time, at time slots that each suited them for a single month to trial this. Team members were also given the flexibility to have this time in a different setting, away from their traditional workspace to help remove distraction and aid with prioritising this work over other things. After a month, collectively, the team felt grateful for the control this gave them, and for some individuals, they took the opportunity to adjust their AT budgets to include all other remaining work activities.

I’ve found it to be useful to do a new AT budget for each new role, as context changes what is important. I’ve always got Administration time in all my budgets, and it includes the activity of reworking or adjusting the budget to be current and relevant. I check: Do I need to rebalance my categories? Do I need to put more time into a particular activity for the next month or quarter?

Recently I started at a new organisation in a role overseeing a number of concurrent projects as part a large technology transformation program. In establishing my new AT budget, I thought about what types of activities were important in my first couple of months. Given my role worked across the business, I identified that key activities for me were stakeholder engagement, relationship building, and understanding the business’ processes, plans and strategies. With support from my manager, for the next two months I decided on a proportion of 50% of my time to dedicate to these priority activities. The balance would be spent on project work and team participation.

My best laid plans on managing my time in a new organisation, were thrown into disarray due to the business need to respond to COVID19 disruptions quickly. I found myself running from one (virtual) meeting to another, and not having the time to context switch, plan and follow up on actions. After catching my breath, it was time to review and rebalance my ATB to bring some calm back to my workspace and cadence to my work. Now I have regular amounts of time in my day set aside for follow up actions and opportunities for planning. Investing time in relationships to build trust and rapport with colleagues is so important that I’ve budgeted time for that too in my current ATB. And most importantly, in these times of high stress, I have budgeted one hour in my week to adapt and restore my professional self, by stepping away from normal work activity.

My work life has greatly benefited from me taking control of how I spend and invest my time on activity that is truly important.


Richard Robinson believes in the value of sharing about ideas the work, so he gladly invested time to write and share his story. With the rest of his work week time, he currently juggles pounding the pavement in pursuit of his running goals with leading transformation initiatives across the education sector over the past 15 years, all whilst stopping to ask – “why is that”?


You can learn about how to create an Activity Time Budget by taking one of the Self unLimited Learning options: Tutorial Series; and eLearning programs (i.e. Becoming Self unLimited)