What is time management? Is it a manager telling you how to manage your time? Or is it simply keeping yourself as busy as possible to ensure you are always performing at peak productivity levels?
The reality is there’s a careful balance to managing time wisely enough to get everything done as needed without putting too much pressure on yourself.
You’ll find that the hardest workers are not always the best managers of time, but this also doesn’t mean you should work less hard. Following effective time management strategies involves incorporating tactics into your daily, weekly, and monthly routine that optimize the available hours of the day.
Let’s dive into 12 of these techniques to see how you can boost your productivity without the need to put in more overnighters at the office.
1. Understand You’re Not Perfect
One of the most difficult things for many people to accept is the fact that they’re not perfect. They think that because they are taking every precaution and planning for every possible scenario, there’s no chance of anything going wrong. Unfortunately, anyone with this mindset will run into a serious reality check at one point or another.
Take a moment right now to realize it’s okay to make mistakes and be imperfect. Keep this mind as you strive to improve your time management skills, understanding that even the most thought out plans can change or fail. These thoughts will open doors for you to improve when these times come, instead of feeling defeated by them.
2. Plan Out Each Day
Even though plans change, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make plans at all. There are many ways you can do this to be successful, so it may take some time for you to determine what works best for you. Many people find it helpful to take a few minutes every night before bed and put together their agenda for the next day.
Take a step back from your list to decide the who, what, when, where, what, why, and how of any intricate responsibilities you have tomorrow. Make sure you leave a few open spaces on your daily calendar as well. This will prepare your mind for the next day’s workload and also allow you to accept additional assignments, if necessary.
3. Prioritize Your Daily, Weekly, & Monthly Tasks
Along with your planning sessions, you should identify the priorities for upcoming days, weeks, and even months. Keeping tabs on future tasks will allow you to disperse your workload in a way that avoids making you overly busy or stressed. You’ll be able to establish a more structured routine for your daily goals and remain productive throughout the week.
One of the best ways to get started is by making a long list of every single task or duty you have in your job. You can then spend some time breaking these down into daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. Once you know these details, it will be much easier to stay focused from day to day and complete everything on your to-do list.
4. Use Time Management Tools
And speaking of to-do lists, one of the best things you can do to manage your time more wisely is by using as many tools as necessary to support your position. There are millions of computer programs and smartphone apps out there waiting to make your life easier with a simple download. Even adding a single time management tool to your repertoire can save you hours of work each week.
A great example worth a look is Toggl Plan’s project management software, which allows you to create everything from checklists to timelines. The daily, weekly, and annual overview features make it easy to plan ahead and shoot for success on every project. You can even incorporate integrations and extensions of other tools you’re already using to improve your overall experience and boost efficiency.
5. Do Not Multitask
Did you know that multitasking can lower your comprehension level and overall intelligence by more than 11%? The effects of trying to complete more than one assignment at a time can have staggering negative implications for both you and the people around you. And for those who don’t think it’s that bad, just imagine making 11% less per year than you do currently.
Beyond your intelligence level, multitasking also inhibits performance with a 40% drop in productivity. If you take a moment to think about this statistic, you’ll discover that you can accomplish twice as much in a workweek when you only work on one thing at a time. Bear in mind, things like listening to soft, relaxing music don’t typically count as multitasking as they can have productivity benefits when used correctly.
6. Determine Your Productive Times
Are you a morning person, a night owl, or do you fall somewhere in between these molds? Oftentimes, these types of questions can help your time management strategies as you determine when you’re most productive during the day.
A morning person who is able to jump out of bed wide-eyed and bushy-tailed a minute before their alarm goes off will likely be able to accomplish more work in the earlier parts of the day. Whereas a night owl might be moving a bit more slowly when they wake up and need some time to get into their usual work grind. Those people are usually able to achieve a higher level of productivity in the afternoon.
Whichever side you’re on, decide when you are most awake, alert, and motivated. That will be your time to do your deep work and accomplish more of your daily tasks.
7. Remove Distractions
Why is time management important? Because the world is full of red herrings ready to steal your attention away from work and your other responsibilities. Some of the biggest distractions in the workplace include:
- Social Media
- Meetings (Unless it’s a strong and productive meeting)
While you may not always be in control of meeting schedules, you do have ways of removing these other distractions that can inhibit your productivity. To avoid your smartphone and the time-leeching world of social media, put your phone on silent and put it in a desk drawer while you work. For things like email, limit the number of instances you check it by having set times to review your inbox 2-3x per day.
And while you should always be genuine and professional when communicating with your co-workers, if one of them is distracting you from your work, it’s okay to gently let them know and advise them of another time you can chat.
8. Use a Timer
As crazy as it may sound, using a timer might be one of the best time management techniques out there. Setting a timer can be an effective way to remind you of breaks, set time limits, and even make you more productive. Timing out portions of your day for breaks is an urgent part of any workday as they give you time away from your desk and a chance to clear your mind for a short time before getting back to work.
Another great use of a timer is setting time constraints for specific tasks. By giving yourself a set amount of time to complete an objective, you push yourself to reach the deadline and end up accomplishing more work before time runs out.
And don’t worry, you don’t have to get one of those loud, obnoxious egg timers like your grandma used to use when she was baking. There are numerous digital options ranging from Toggl’s well-regarded timer to the Pomodoro Technique’s tomato timer.
9. Split Large Projects into Pieces
Have you ever looked at a project and wanted to run for the hills because of how complicated and difficult it appeared? You may want to look at the smaller picture. A great tip for managing your time on a large project is to break down the large milestones and deadlines into smaller side tasks and objectives.
As everything is separated, you can revert back to previous time management strategies we’ve mentioned by planning and prioritizing what needs to be accomplished and when. When you do this, the big picture becomes much less intimidating and that looming deadline seems much more achievable.
10. Learn to Say “No” More Often
Have you ever seen the movie “Yes Man” starring Jim Carrey? The basic synopsis of the comedy presents a banker with a negative attitude who decides to say “yes” to everything after attending a positivity seminar. While it makes for some entertaining situations, the main character eventually realizes that being too willing to do anything can lead to some serious issues.
The basic moral of the story is to avoid becoming the “yes man” or “yes woman” in your office. If you often find yourself overworked or bogged down by too many responsibilities, you may need to start saying “no” when someone asks you to help with something. This can open up a world of possibilities for you to manage your time more effectively and improve the value of the work you do.
11. Delegate Work When You Can
Following a similar concept to the previous two time management tips, you should look for opportunities to outsource your work when you are overly busy. If you are given an assignment with a deadline you won’t be able to reach on your own, then share the load with your team and tackle it together.
This can be especially important for managers and team leaders as the workload can quickly stack up on your shoulders if you’re not delegating properly. To avoid this, ensure your role and the roles of each team member are clearly defined, making it easier to know who should be handling each task as it arises.
12. Recharge Your Batteries
Some might consider this the most vital of all the time management techniques to your overall success, and sanity for that matter. So many industries in the world are always in battle mode, confronting the next problem or resolving the next issue on the agenda. But amidst all the chaos, you should always set aside some time to kick back and relax.
Taking a break from the daily grind to rest your mind and body can play a major role in your ability to stay focused and energized once you return to your desk, warehouse, or construction site.
Whether you go on a weekend camping trip or splurge on a beach cruise for your family, allow yourself some time to recharge your mental, physical, and emotional batteries in whatever way is most comfortable to you.
Pick 3 of These Time Management Strategies
The thought of changing 12 things about yourself right away can feel almost impossible. But what if you simply chose three of the strategies mentioned above and integrated them into your routine? Do you think it would make a difference?
Say “no” a few times this week, review your priorities, or remove some of those pesky distractions that are negating your productivity. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how big of a difference these little changes can make.
Logan Derrick is a full-time business writer and content marketing strategist. For years, he has worked closely with several project management professionals, learning from them and increasing his own knowledge of the industry. Having held multiple management positions in fields ranging from customer service to marketing, Logan has found a passion for helping others learn about project management, marketing, and the powerful tools available to professionals today.