Looking for some no-nonsense time management strategies?
Poor time management skills not only affect your professional life but also take the shine off your personal life. It can be hard to focus on personal commitments when you always worry about missing deadlines.
And it would help if you had a plan to turn things around.
Fortunately, there are proven time management strategies that can help you break this chain of unproductivity.
In this article, we’ll share ten time management strategies that will boost your daily productivity and help you get more work done in less time.
This article covers:
(click on the links below to jump to a specific section)
- What is Effective Time Management?
- 10 Proven Time Management Strategies
- 3 Ways Effective Time Management Can Better Your Life
Let’s get started.
What is effective time management?
Effective time management is a systematic and mindful approach to utilizing all the hours of the day.
The best part of effective time management — you go to sleep stress-free, knowing that you’ve seized the day.
Sounds too good to be true?
It’s because most people perceive time management as keeping yourself busy by following a rigid schedule and working long hours.
But that’s simply not the case.
Efficient time management is about making a realistic and adaptable schedule to achieve what matters the most to you.
10 proven time management strategies
Now that we know what time management is about, let’s check out ten time management strategies.
Each time management tip shared below will help you create and stick to your schedule with ease.
1. Identify your productive hours
As much as you’d like to remain productive 24/7, you’re productive only for a few hours each day. These are the hours when you are brimming with energy, ready to take on any challenge.
Just think of the work you could finish using these peak productivity hours!
In turn, you’ll also be saving some amount of time.
But how do you identify your peak hours?
Here’s a simple exercise:
- Pay close attention to your energy levels throughout the day.
- For each hour, assign a rating (from 1-10) to your energy level, mood, focus, and motivation.
- Avoid external stimulants like caffeine as much as possible.
- Follow this exercise for a week.
When you start noticing a pattern, look for the time frame with a consistently high score.
This exercise allows you to create a daily schedule based on your energy and not the time of the day.
You can schedule the most complex tasks to the productive time slots and the menial tasks when you’re least productive.
2. Prepare for your day in advance
We’re all guilty of wasting time on either social media or working on an unnecessary task.
This might happen because we start each day without knowing what we want to accomplish.
Planning your day ahead can help identify tasks that add the most value to your life.
Make it a part of your morning routine, and you’ll never lose focus on your goals!
Use this quick 4-step planning ritual:
- Keep aside 15 minutes each morning to chalk out your daily goals.
- List out all the things that you plan to accomplish.
- Use the Pareto or the 80-20 principle to understand which tasks are most valuable.
- Based on the insights, prioritize these tasks ranging from the most important task(MITs) to the most trivial.
- MITs are likely going to be the most time-consuming and challenging tasks of all, so plan your entire day around them.
Alternatively, you can use the Eisenhower matrix for a more-thorough prioritization of tasks.
It helps you differentiate between an essential and urgent task. All your tasks can be put into four quadrants based on how important and/or urgent they are, allowing you to focus on the most crucial tasks.
3. Automate or outsource tasks
Prioritization has many benefits.
You get absolute clarity on which routine tasks are necessary but do not add much value to your business (such as data entry, handling customer complaints, etc.)
And if you’re an employee working with an improbable deadline, you can politely ask your team members to share the workload with you.
4. Beware of procrastination triggers
Procrastination can cost time and money and lead to stress and anxiety.
But what causes it?
Perfectionism is the biggest trigger for procrastination.
Due to the high standards we set for ourselves, we might fear failure and avoid doing the task altogether.
However, the next time you face this perfectionist trigger, just begin the task right away without overthinking it.
Research shows that taking that first step breaks the mental barrier. You’re more likely to continue your work till you complete it or make significant progress.
Another neat strategy to beat procrastination is to declutter your space.
A messy workspace robs you of mental clarity at a subconscious level. This lack of clarity becomes another excuse to delay work.
It’s hard to focus on work when many distractions lie on your desk.
At the end of each day, take five minutes to arrange your workspace and keep it tidy. Get rid of unnecessary paperwork, stationery, and gadgets that might disrupt your workflow.
5. Aim for deep work
In his book ‘Deep Work,’ Cal Newport talks about the importance of directing all your focus and brainpower towards tasks that deserve them the most.
But let’s face it. Your attention is an asset, and social media companies are competing for your attention every second of the day.
So how do you stay focused and get work done?
Here are two techniques that can help you concentrate:
A. Pomodoro technique
The Pomodoro Technique is an excellent way to train your focus.
Here’s how to use it:
- Choose a task, ideally from the MIT list you created earlier.
- Set the timer for 25 minutes.
- Focus intensely on the task. Keep all distractions away from the desk. Switch off your phone if you need to.
- Stop working when the timer rings and take a 5-minute breather.
After you’ve completed one Pomodoro cycle, start another cycle and take a longer break of around 15 minutes after four cycles.
At this point, you’d have worked for 100 minutes without getting distracted. That’s enough time to make some good progress towards your goal!
The Pomodoro technique helps you break large projects into small tasks that easily fit your daily or weekly schedule.
These short bursts of work help you sustain focus without getting fatigued.
B. Time blocking
Another important thing that people often ignore is to focus on only a single task at any given time.
While multitasking seems like a logical productivity hack, it’s actually a bad habit and highly counter-productive.
The human brain is not optimized for handling multiple tasks at a time. By switching between tasks, it becomes harder to concentrate on each one.
Time blocking offers a great alternative to multitasking.
How does it work?
Divide your day into one-hour blocks — each of which you can use for a specific task or a group of similar tasks. This way, all your daily tasks are scheduled in advance.
Time blocking is a highly effective time management strategy for two reasons:
- It saves you from the multitasking trap. Every task, from the most important to the least, has been accounted for in advance. Even a distraction gets its own time block.
- It helps you escape Parkinson’s law that states: ‘work expands to fill the time available.’ Since you set rigid boundaries, one task does not eat up another’s time (or, in some cases, the whole day.)
6. Say yes to saying ‘No’
Saying yes to all the work that comes your way (no matter how trivial) is a recipe for missed deadlines.
Saying no is an essential skill if you want to manage your time better.
Always take a moment before you take up a new project to assess how it fits your short and long-term schedule.
Besides saving many of your hours, it frees you from future guilt, regret, and anxiety that comes from not completing the work on time.
7. Choose your time management tool wisely
Employees, managers, and even leaders are always looking for ways to improve their work efficiency.
The key to efficient time management is knowing where your time is spent.
And how do you do that?
You could have a highly efficient tool do that for you.
Time Doctor is a powerful performance management tool that major companies as well as small businesses use to boost employee productivity with ease.
It tracks all workday activities, giving you real time, actionable insights to improve time management.
Work data from Time Doctor include:
- Start and end times of each task.
- Top projects and tasks by hours worked.
- Total hours worked per user.
- Users with highest and lowest productivity.
- Productivity breakdowns by day, week, or month.
- Top used websites and applications.
- Daily timeline overview.
Since this data helps you know how long it takes for your team to complete their work — you can set a realistic deadline for all projects.
This way, you can see how much time it takes to complete your tasks — further simplifying task management.
8. Recharge yourself
Being highly productive helps you finish work faster and leaves you with extra time on your hands.
But how do you stay productive in the long run?
Productivity is closely tied to your physical and mental well-being. Nourishing your mind and body can surely help you remain productive as you grow older.
Here are a few practical tips to get started:
A. Take regular breaks
Taking short breaks between bouts of intense work reboots your body and mind.
It breaks the monotony of the task and helps you regain focus and interest.
However, these breaks shouldn’t just be about watching YouTube or browsing social media.
It’s essential to move your body — get up from your chair, stretch your body, grab a bottle of water, etc.
You could also use these breaks to clear out smaller tasks from your task list — things that can be done in under two minutes.
B. Sleep well
Sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on your productivity and work life balance. You stay groggy the whole day, and fatigue sets in sooner than you’d like.
Here are some useful tips for a good night’s sleep:
- Go to bed at a fixed time, as it helps you fall asleep faster.
- Avoid using your smartphone before going to sleep — the blue light from its screen can impact your body’s natural sleep cycle.
- Sleeping long hours during the day could hamper your night’s sleep. Instead, take a quick 15-minute nap for an instant productivity boost.
- Do not consume caffeine after 5 pm. Opt for a stress-busting brew like chamomile tea as an alternative.
9. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is simply being aware of your thoughts, words, actions, and surroundings at all times. It brings your attention to a specific activity that could waste your time.
It’s getting increasingly popular as a holistic time management strategy.
Using mindfulness apps like Headspace is a great way to get started.
They gently nudge you to stay in the present moment throughout the day.
However, mindfulness isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Most people are conditioned to behave in an impulsive manner, and it’s a big task to retrain the brain.
This is where training your will-power becomes crucial. It lays a solid foundation to turn any time management technique into a habit.
Use these simple tips to be mindful and achieve indomitable will-power:
- Take a moment to think before you indulge in any activity that gives you instant gratification.
- Weigh in the pros and cons of that action. Does it help with your progress, or is it just another distraction? Momentary pleasures are always a hindrance to getting things done.
- Reward yourself for making the right choices. This tricks the brain to look for pleasure in doing the correct thing.
10. Review your day
When it comes to efficient time management, reviewing your day is as important as planning.
It’s when you find out how well you could execute your schedule.
Highly successful people make it a priority to do a daily review.
Here’s a quick process to get you started:
- Keep aside 10 minutes before you call it a night.
- Jot down things you were able to accomplish.
- Scan your task list for any important task that you couldn’t finish.
- List out the reasons why you were unable to follow your schedule.
- Classify these reasons as avoidable and unavoidable.
- Look out for avoidable causes that appear consistently over a week.
- Always refer to this list when you create a daily schedule.
Besides giving a sense of accomplishment, reviewing helps you identify the most evasive time wasters in your life.
3 ways effective time management can better your life
Let’s check out how efficient time management can boost your career and personal life:
1. Improves career prospects
Time management skills give you a definite edge in your professional life. You’ll be able to see projects through to completion faster than your peers.
This way, you can reduce overall project costs and keep your clients and employers happy.
2. Healthy work life balance
When you manage your time well, you avoid any undue work related stress that could lead to burnout.
You also get to spend a lot of time with your family and friends. This way, effective time management helps create a healthy work-life balance.
3. Freedom to work on personal goals
During the daily grind, poor time management leaves you with little or no time for your personal goals. As a result, you give up on them prematurely.
But not anymore!
Apply the time management techniques we shared above to free up your schedule. It’ll help you realize that even your most ambitious personal goals are very much achievable.
Time is your most valuable asset, and learning to utilize it better can add incredible value to your life.
The effective time management strategies we covered here can help break your old unproductive patterns and cultivate healthy habits.
You can learn and master these amazing techniques just like any other life skill — through practice and persistence.
Make time management a priority, and see your productivity go through the roof!
Liam Martin is a co-founder of Time Doctor which is software to improve productivity and help keep track and know what your team is working on, even when working from home.