Imagine getting everything you need to get done and having time to spare. This is what time management techniques can do for you.
Table of Contents
- Spend your time getting more done
- How time management techniques help you be more effective?
- Effective time management is a skill, so practice makes perfect
- 1. Create a productive environment
- 2. Set goals to manage your time better
- 3. Make a to-do list
- 4. Manage your time with time blocks
- 5. The Pomodoro technique
- 6. Prioritize for better productivity
- 7. Do the scary stuff first
- 8. Plan your week rather than your day
- 9. Focus on one task at a time
- 10. Don’t overload your day
- 11. Create a Routine
- 12. Say “No”
- 13. Reduce distractions
- 14. Delegate
- 15. Work during biological prime time
- 16. Track your time
- 17. Use Technology
- 18. Rest
- 19. Exercise
- 20. Reward yourself
Spend your time getting more done
We all have the same 24-hours in each day, so why are some people so much more productive than others? And how do many of these productive people lead well-balanced lives?
The answer is simple. They squeeze more out of the time they have by applying tried-and-tested time management techniques. We’ll look at many of these techniques below so you too can get the benefits of these techniques.
How time management techniques help you be more effective?
By using time management techniques, you are able to streamline your workflow so that you become more effective and efficient. Sure, it may take a while to figure out which of these strategies work for you and which don’t, but once you put your plan into practice, you’ll be amazed by the results.
Effective time management is a skill, so practice makes perfect
It’s important to bear in mind that time management is a skill, and like other skills, practice makes perfect. You won’t get it right on the first try and it will take a few weeks of trial and error before you find your “groove”.
At first you may feel like you are spinning your wheels and getting less done than you did before as you try to check all of the time management boxes. However, stick with and you’ll see.
But over time, you will see your productivity increase as you strip away those distractions and time wasters that eat up your time.
Don’t worry – that doesn’t mean no more Netflix or YouTube, just less of it. Effective time management is supposed to give you more time for yourself while achieving more at the same time.
1. Create a productive environment
Before setting up your time management strategy, you must make sure your working environment is conducive to increased efficiency.
This may mean different things to different people as it depends on what you do and how you work as to what your optimal working environment looks like.
However, the following tips apply to pretty much everyone:
- Your work environment should have enough space for you to work and be well lit and ventilated.
- If at all possible, have a way to close off your work space so that you won’t be interrupted.
- Keep your desk clear of clutter. Remove papers, notes, wires, toys, trash and everything else that does not directly contribute to you doing your work.
- Create a filing system so you can easily access the information or documents you need. Remember to do the same on your computer.
- Create a place where you can post notes and reminders.
- Create a space with inspirational pictures or quotes that will help motivate you.
- Tidy your desk at the end of each day so that everything is in the right place when you sit down to work the following day.
2. Set goals to manage your time better
Now that you have your working environment sorted out, you should get into the habit of setting goals. This will keep you properly oriented and moving in a positive direction towards an achievement or the completion of a project or task.
Time management techniques form an important part of effective goal setting and goal setting can enhance your time management skills in return.
The achievement you get from achieving your goals will help motivate you to take on more and bigger challenges and increase your success over time.
3. Make a to-do list
A to-do list is an essential time management tool as it allows you to keep track of everything that you need to get done.
Try to organize your to-do list so they are prioritized according to importance and urgency. Then deal with each task on your to-do list and cross it off when you complete the task.
Use your to-do list set priorities and to plan your week so that you use your time well.
A to-do list is a great time management tool that makes a huge impact on your productivity as they allow you to get an overview of everything that needs doing.
However, make sure your to-list does not get too long and is kept up to date.
4. Manage your time with time blocks
An obvious way to manage your time, is to first break your workday into several blocks, or sections. You can structure these as you want to, but here is an example of a daily routine that works for many people:
- First thing in the morning, start with a quarter to half hour block of time to plan your day.
- This is followed by a morning block of time from 8:30a.m. to 11:00a.m. This is when you do your more important tasks from the most to least urgent.
- You can then get some exercise for half an hour followed by a one hour lunch. The latter can be cut down if necessary.
- After this, you will work for two hours, from 1:00p.m. to 3:00p.m.
- This is followed by a one hour rest, although this can be reduced if necessary.
- Finally, use the final hour of the day from 4:00p.m. to 5:00p.m. to read and reply to your emails as well as do a post-mortem on your day and set up priorities for the next day.
This example routine should be modified according to your own situation and nature. For example, you are an “afternoon person” rather than a “morning person” and you would need to spend your time on critical tasks later in the day to be most effective.
However you move things around, be sure to assign a specific time to each time block and stick to them.
And although you might think it counter-productive, be sure to schedule time for rest. Studies have shown that rest improves your efficiency.
Bear in mind that you will also need to anticipate time for “fighting fires” – those problems that crop up out of the blue and must be dealt with immediately. You can use some of your rest time for this, if need be. By making provision for firefighting and anticipating it, your entire day need not be consumed by it.
5. The Pomodoro technique
The pomodoro technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s, involved working flat out for 25 minutes and then taking a five minute break. This method has been proven to increase efficiency and effectiveness. Use a timer on your watch or cellphone to alert you when the 25 minutes is up.
The time blocks that we laid out in the example, above, would be made up of these half-hour productivity sprints that allow you to take massive action and get on with deep work.
6. Prioritize for better productivity
Going hand-in-hand with the previous point, it’s essential to “grade” your tasks by importance and deadline.
Tasks can generally be one of the following:
- Critical tasks. These are very important tasks that take priority over all other tasks.
- Important tasks. These are not “life-and-death” tasks as critical tasks are but the still need to be completed.
- Optional tasks. These don’t have to be completed or have flexible or no deadlines.
Tasks can also be categorized according to their urgency, as follows:
- Urgent tasks. These must be prioritized and finished as soon as possible.
- Priority tasks. After urgent tasks, these have a deadline and need to be completed in good time.
- Open-ended tasks. These have no deadline or deadlines that are far in the future and so can be worked on when you have time.
When setting up you daily plan, you would obviously assign your tasks as follows:
- Critical urgent tasks would be attended to first.
- If you have any remaining time, you would attend to important urgent tasks.
- After that, you would attend to critical priority tasks.
- That would be followed by important priority tasks.
- You would now look at working on optional urgent or priority tasks. These would be activities that would not be essential for the survival or wellbeing of your business but would help enhance your reputation.
- If you still have time, you can then attend to critical and important open-ended tasks. It’s important to keep an eye on these and work on them consistently so they don’t creep up on you and end up becoming urgent.
- Finally, you could spend time on optional open-ended tasks.
You might prefer to allocate time on a Friday afternoon, for example, to deal with your open-ended and optional tasks. This will make sure they remain on your radar without you having to set aside time for them during the other productive workdays.
On a related note, other time management sources advise dividing your tasks into four classes so they can easily be assigned to quadrants. I , however, prefer the six classes of tasks listed above as it allows for more flexibility.
7. Do the scary stuff first
When prioritizing your tasks, try to assign the more distasteful ones to your first time blocks. You need to “eat the frog”, as they say, by getting the tasks you really don’t want to do done and dusted before moving onto to your other tasks.
If you put these nasty tasks off, they will weigh on your mind and distract you, reducing your effectiveness.
8. Plan your week rather than your day
An amazing way to increase productivity is to plan your week as well as your day. On Sunday evening (or Monday morning, if you had a wild weekend), spend some time making a list of tasks you need to achieve that week and assign a specific task to each daily time block.
So, why do you need to set aside time to plan each day?
Your weekly plan will change as opportunities and problem crop up and so your daily plan will need to be adjusted to accommodate these events. This means that some tasks may need to be moved to other days, but with a weekly plan, even substantial changes can be accommodated without your tasks going unfinished.
9. Focus on one task at a time
One time management tip that you should definitely take to heart is to make sure you focus on a single task at a time. Do not try to multi-task. Studies have shown that multi-tasking only results in less getting done overall. What is more, the work produced is of a lower quality than that produced when staying focused.
Assign a single task tour your time blocks and try to stick with it until it is complete, even if that means spreading it out over several time blocks or even several days.
10. Don’t overload your day
When planning your day, try to do no more than two or three tasks. If you have a lot on your plate, try to distribute your urgent and important tasks across your week. Don’t think that you need to get everything done each day.
11. Create a Routine
A routine is a sequence of actions that you repeat until it becomes second nature. Routines take anywhere from one to two months to become “automatic”. However, once they do, they become almost instinctive.
By making your time management plan part of your daily and weekly routine, you orientate your activities around it and think in terms of your time blocks and priorities. This allows you to save time and become more efficient while increasing the tome you can allocate to resting and staying healthy.
12. Say “No”
An important part of time management is the ability to say no to people who are putting demands on your time where there is no upside. Most of us have been raised to think that it is rude to say no, but you don’t have to be gruff or abrasive when you tell someone that you cannot help them. If necessary, ask them if you can help them work on a task at a later date.
13. Reduce distractions
Distractions are like time sinks that suck up your work time. These can include reading and replying to non-critical emails and messages, using social media, watching videos, or just doing things that are unproductive.
I am sure you, like most people, have caught yourself just wanting to watch one short YouTube video for five minutes to relax only to look around and see that one or two hours have disappeared. If you do that three or four times a week, you’ll end up losing an entire working day’s worth of time.
To reduce distractions and cut down on wasting time, you need to remove temptations.
- Turn off your phone.
- Close your door – and consider putting a “Do Not Disturb Except in Dire Emergency” sign on it.
- If you work on your computer, remove links to your browser, e-mail software and social media apps to make it more difficult to access them.
- If you work in a noisy environment, consider wearing noise-canceling headphones.
- Put reminders and inspiring pictures off to the side or behind you so they don’t distract you when you are working. You want your field of vision to be occupied only by the tools that you need to do your work.
Sometimes we have things on our minds that we can’t just ignore – a sick child, expecting an uncomfortable phone call, a recent conversation with a friend of loved one that left you unhappy or the like.
In situations where your mind cannot focus on your work, consider reorganizing your week to give yourself some time to resolve the situation so that it no longer bothers you. Trying to work while distracted will lead to you delivering subpar work, risking your reputation and hampering your efficiency.
Where you can, delegate the tasks you can to colleagues, employees or freelancers.
Delegation is another fantastic way to be more efficient as it frees you from having to do mundane, generic tasks that can take up much of your time. You can then focus on the high-level tasks that typically earn you your income.
However, delegation is only effective if you can provide accurate, detailed instructions for the person you are delegating your tasks to. This is especially true when delegating to freelancers. It may be worth drawing up a step-by-step set of instructions for them to make the tasks you want them to do as “idiot-proof” as possible.
15. Work during biological prime time
You most probably know when you are at your best; when you have high energy levels, and are clear-headed and motivated. That might be in the morning, in the afternoon or in the evening.
Trying to be productive when you are in a low energy state will only limit your productivity.
I, for example, am a morning person. By lunch time I am pretty much spent, so I need to make my mornings count.
Orientate your day around the time you are most productive. This will allow you to optimize the time you spend on your assigned tasks.
16. Track your time
If you want to increase your efficiency even more, consider tracking your time using a spreadsheet or time tracker software.
Yes, tracking your time usage can add to your workload, but like everything, it is bothersome until it becomes part of your routine.
Tracking your time will help you improve your productivity as you can review what you did during a specific time period. This will help you avoid poor time management activities.
You can then review your time allocation at the end of each day so you can manage time more efficiently.
17. Use Technology
Technology can go a long way towards improving your efficiency. Tools like time tracking software, scheduling apps and communication and project management software can go a long way towards doing a lot of the heavy lifting in your daily routine.
It is important to use the right tools, however, and it’s better to pay for premium software if you can as these are more feature-packed and reduce the number of apps you need.
By creating a workflow that integrates the various tools you use, you can complete tasks quicker and do a lot more within the time limits you set for yourself.
Some amazing efficiency software that is worth considering is:
- Time tracking software like Harvest, Clockify and RescueTime. These apps allow you to track your time so you can optimize optimize your productivity and time management.
- To-do list software like Todoist and TickTick.
- Grammar and spelling checking software like Grammarly or Pro Writing Aid. This software checks your writing and suggests improvements, while also catching errors.
- Project Management software like monday.com, Airtable and ClickUp.
- Communication software like Zoom, Google Meet or Microsoft Teams, as well as collaboration tools like Slack, Trello and Notion.
- Marketing and CRM software like Hubspot, Pipedrive and Zoho.
During your day there should be time to work and time to rest. You may think this is counter-productive but studies have shown that taking breaks during the day, and even taking a nap when your energy state is low, allows you to get better results than pushing yourself through your day without substantial breaks.
As we can see from the pomodoro technique discussed earlier in this article, you should try to take regular five to ten minute breaks every half hour. However, don’t just sit at your desk when you take these breaks, Get up and walk around. Grab a glass of water or a coffee, or step outside for a short while.
You should also schedule some personal time during the least productive part of your day, time that you can go to the gym, get some exercise or take a nap. While this time is not spent working, your mind will still be reviewing what you have done and will be coming up with ideas and inspiration for things you still need to do.
Just as rest is an important component of effective time management techniques, so too is exercise. Regular exercise keeps the mind sharp, increases energy levels and reduces fatigue, while offering many additional health benefits as well.
According to an article on the bbfp.co.au website, “One study showed that workday exercise, not only improves well-being but participants noted a 72 percent improvement in time management and workload completed on days when they exercised”.
Other studies show that moving around regularly increases efficiency and reduces lost workdays.
20. Reward yourself
If you struggle to complete your tasks, you might consider rewarding yourself for completing them in a timely manner. You might even consider creating a range of awards according to the results you achieve.
For example, finishing your task one hour ahead of the deadline might earn you a single block of chocolate while receiving positive feedback on how well you did your work might earn you three blocks. Obviously, this is just an example and you should only consider using chocolate as a reward is you are otherwise healthy and in good shape – and a chocoholic, like me.
As you can see for the list of popular time management techniques, above, there are a range of time management methods that can be applied to effectively manage your time. It’s important for you to find the right time management techniques that work for you so that you can establish control over your time. Mastering time management take time and effort but at the end of the day, you will be able to use your time effectively and get more done with less effort.
If you are looking for tips about time management, why not take a look at this article?