We all know intuitively that we must manage our time rather than letting time manage us, as they say.
But, for many of us, it’s sure harder than it sounds!
In this article, we’ll first explain what time management means, including some academic studies to show you its importance and the correlation between managing time and productivity, happiness, and good grades.
But don’t stop there!
Just after that, we’ll give you our list of the best time management tips and actionable advice so you can learn how to manage your time effectively!
What is Time Management? Is It Really That Important?
Time management is defined as the process of consciously planning and controlling the amount of time spent on particular tasks and activities, specifically with the goal in mind to maximize efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity.
Managing time effectively is crucial to everyone, young and old, across all professions and fields of study, as well as in our day-to-day lives.
For students, time planning was found in a study to be the “most significant correlated predictor” towards overall academic achievement. Another study found that “students’ perceived control of time” had the greatest correlation with their GPA.
For professionals, it’s just as important. One study found that teachers and educators who improve their time management skills “increase job satisfaction and motivation and make their professional and personal lives more meaningful.” Another study states that company managers and executives require proper time management as one of the cornerstones of effective leadership.
And, for the rest of us, proper time management and organization can simply, but significantly, improve our everyday lives.
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Best Time Management Tips to Know
Are you ready to work smarter, not harder?
Then let’s begin!
Here are the best time management tips and tricks to know:
1. Set Realistic Goals That Benefit Each Other
According to the article “Time Management: A Realistic Approach,” by Valerie P. Jackson, M.D. of the Indiana University School of Medicine, one of the key steps to successful time management is setting realistic goals.
We all have both short-term and long-term goals. What we must do, she says, is to make sure that there is some correlation between these two goals lists. If you have no (or very few) near-term goals which also help achieve your bigger-picture future goals, you’ll probably not accomplish them, meaning they’re a waste of time, practically speaking.
Most importantly you must perceive, both consciously and unconsciously, that your daily achievements are helping you to gradually accomplish your distant objectives.
2. Invest in a Proper To-Do List
One of the best ways to get started in figuring out how to manage time effectively is to invest in a proper to-do list. As we’re well into the 21st century, I suggest going for a digital task list, such as a mobile app.
My personal favorite is Todoist, which is free (but has a premium version which is amazing!). On Todoist, you can group tasks into projects, add subtasks, set priorities, share your lists with friends and family, set due dates, include comments, and so much more.
3. Use the Pareto Analysis to Prioritize Tasks
The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, is the theory that about 80% of effects result from just 20% of causes, and vice versa.
The Pareto Analysis attempts to classify which of your actions are on the 80/20 side, so to speak, and which are on the 20/80 side. Once you understand which activities and tasks are easy but have high impact, you can be more productive and better manage your time.
4. Avoid Being a Perfectionist
Valerie P. Jackson, M.D. had this to say about the problem with perfectionism towards healthy time management:
“If we insist on being perfect in every task, we minimize the chance that we will actually complete the task. In fact, perfect is the enemy of good. If 80% of the effort produces 95% of the product, does it really make sense to reach for that final 5%? Will anyone notice? Will it affect the outcome?”
According to Psychology Today, “Because they equate their self-worth with flawless performance, perfectionists often get hung up on meaningless details and spend more time on projects than is necessary. Ultimately, productivity suffers.”
5. Track Your Activities
Tracking the time spent on your various activities, as well as the specific activities you do each day, is one of the best ways to manage your time more effectively and efficiently. Activity tracking allows you to evaluate your progress and establish benchmarks, and, in time, you’ll be able to gradually weed out time-wasters.
If you want to go simple and free, use Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel and just create a spreadsheet of your daily activities. However, if you really want to manage your time more effectively, go for a full-fledge time tracking app.
6. Find & Eliminate Time-Wasting Activities
One of the tenets of time management is to locate and remove those actions which waste time. If you’ve properly tracked your activities throughout a day or week, you’ll have a better picture of what’s a time waster.
If you’re strapped for time but finding you’re taking 30-minute showers, taking an hour to prepare a lunch that you eat in 5 minutes, or going on Wikipedia or Twitter tangents, you can start with these as far as areas for improvement.
7. Categorize Activities Using the ABCD Analysis
The ABCD analysis categorizes your tasks into four levels of priority based on urgency and importance:
- A – Urgent and important
- B – Important, not urgent
- C – Urgent, not important
- D – Not Important, not urgent
If you can categorize your schedule and chores by using the ABCD analysis, from emails needing a reply to preparing for an upcoming exam to even washing the dishes from last night, you’ll be following one of the most important strategies of managing time.
8. Avoid Procrastination
Valerie P. Jackson, M.D. says that, aside from perfectionism, procrastination is the biggest stumbling block when managing time. “When we put off tasks (usually distasteful tasks), we often increase our anxiety level, further delaying our work on the task.”
9. Use a Calendar & Stick to a Routine
A to-do list is useful for acknowledging the details and small tasks, but a calendar is a must-have item for proper time management.
Time is a precious resource, and there’s no getting it back once it’s gone. A calendar facilitates time management by allowing you to plan out your day, week, and month ahead, ensuring you give every important task, meeting, or other event the allotment it deserves. On top of that, you’ll be sure not to miss anything important!
10. Remove Distractions
Distractions are the worst. They waste time, sap motivation, and reduce productivity, among other things. Knowing how to remove distractions is one of the most important time management skills to know.
If you’re writing an important paper, silence your phone and mute notifications. If you’re tempted to look at it anyway, hide it in another room until you finish. Is there an annoying noise from construction outside? Turn up your Spotify playlist to drown out the noise.
11. Set Time Limits
If you spend too much time on one task, you may very likely find that you don’t have time to handle all the activities to follow.
If your inbox is flooded with emails, promise yourself you’ll only knock out as many as you can do in one hour, for instance, rather than leaving it open-ended. Have an exam you’re cramming for? Set a study time limit for that, as well, to ensure you have the capacity to manage the other important tasks in your life.
12. Get Organized
Imagine this type of Monday morning:
As you’re getting dressed for work, you need to dig through the pile of unfolded laundry to find something to wear. You didn’t wash any dishes the night before, and so you just eat a slice of ham or two over the sink. You get to your desk at work, and have to clear a space to set your laptop and phone. Once you boot up your computer, you have to use the search function to locate the documents you’re working on, because various icons fill your desktop screen with no rhyme or reason…
Does this sound familiar to you?
I’ve definitely had more than a few of these types of days, and the problem with them is that they cascade one into the next. You’ll remain behind and find it difficult to catch up.
If you don’t have organization in place, take some time to do so. You might not have been planning on spending time organizing your computer’s files and folders, but it’ll quickly make up for the time spent and shortly after pay dividends. Do your laundry and dishes the night before so that you can wake up with less stress and get to work without delay.
And, once you’re organized, be sure to maintain your organization skills. Stay on top of these things, and you’ll have a better handle on managing your time, as well.
13. Use the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is one of the best time management methods out there. Developed by Francesco Cirillo and named for the tomato-shaped kitchen timer he used, the Pomodoro Method has stood the test of time.
It essentially goes like this:
- Choose a task to complete.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes.
- Work on that task and only on that task.
- Take a 5-minute break and place a checkmark on a piece of paper.
- Repeat this “pomodoro.”
- When you complete 4 pomodoros, you are allowed one longer break (up to 30 minutes).
The Pomodoro Technique is an excellent way to manage your time, breaking down your work into manageable chunks. This prioritizes flow and focus for you, which in turn stimulates productivity and efficiency!
14. Say “No” & Don’t Feel Guilty About It
One of the biggest time-wasters is taking on more than you can handle. I, myself, often have a problem turning down requests, and it can definitely wreak havoc on my schedule as I try to squeeze something onto an already-packed agenda for the day.
If you don’t have the bandwidth, let them know. It’s not only better for you, but it’s better for them in the long run, as well, as you might not give it the dedication it deserves, leading to poor work or inaccuracies, among other things.
And, try not to feel guilty about turning down requests for help. As Valerie P. Jackson, M.D. states in her article, “Nothing good comes from an unreasonable sense of guilt. In fact, worrying just makes a task take longer and also makes it less pleasant to accomplish.”
15. Ask for Help
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
There are some tasks that you simply can’t do on your own, and many where a helping hand would more than halve the time spent. If you are in a leadership position, delegate any smaller tasks which are proving to be roadblocks to others, when necessary.
Including another person with your tasks may just allow you to maximize your productivity and workflow. And, sometimes, they may just be able to get it done quicker and more effectively than you would have!
Well, that’s all for now on our top time management tips, and we hope they help you increase your effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity! Got any questions, feedback, or more points to add on how to improve time management? Let us know in the comments below, and thank you for reading!