Monday, April 8, 2019

Budgets and Bandwidth

Budgets and bandwidth -- two words that have received a lot of attention from me this week. Budgets because I've started sharpening the pencil on next fiscal year's budget for my association, and bandwidth because I've somehow found myself in the middle of four major projects, all hitting at about the same time.

And something occurred to me. Money will only go so far. There might be a hundred things we want to do, but if they all cost money, we're going to have to choose only a handful to focus on. But my time? Well, that's something very different. There has to be an upper limit, but it seems like we can always stretch that resource a little farther.

Maybe I need a time budget? Seriously. I spend so much time on my financial spreadsheets, adding in the cost of some programs, reducing the cost of others -- all in the critical attempt to get that bottom line to balance. We've only got so many dollars. How are we going to spend them?

Well, shouldn't the same concept apply to our time? We've only got so many hours in the day, and fewer still that we can be reasonably expected to keep working. What if we started with a fixed number and assigned a time value to everything we intend to put on our plates? Planning for that Board meeting? That's six hours. Writing that report? That's three. Meeting with and coaching my team? Add two more.

I think we'd quickly see that our time books don't balance. Assigning realistic time values to everything we do will add up to more hours than there are in each day -- and yet, somehow, we keep adding more things to do and we keep getting the right things done.

This is what I think we rightly call bandwidth. Unlike dollars, we can always spread our bandwidth out a little wider to cover more things. Everything we do will get a little less attention, but more things will get done.

Do those around us know we are doing this? They certainly would if we were talking about money. Sorry, all your programs only gets 90% of last year's budget because we need to add in something new. The people on the receiving end of that decision will howl if you pull something like that -- but if you do the same thing with your time and attention, they're likely to promote you to a position of even greater responsibility.

Budgets and bandwidth. Two very different resources used in two very different ways.

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This post first appeared on Eric Lanke's blog, an association executive and author. You can follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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