Time management is the task of conscious planning, scheduling, and time controlling to achieve goals in the most constructive manner. Excellent management of time makes up a healthy work ethic, boosts productivity, promotes smart work, and increases efficiency in life. Poor management skills cause mental stress, work pile-up, and disorganisation.
A lot needs to be done in a short duration of 24 hours, and most of us struggle with this aspect of managing time. However, some of us have a good grip on time allocation and successfully complete each task. Such people have powerful skills in managing time.
These 31 time management tips are the holy grail whether you are a corporate employee or a student.
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#1 Do a Time Scan
Good time management starts with a thorough time scan. It is the absolute answer to your question - "How can I manage my time?"
A time scan gives an aerial view of how you spend your time in a day. You can execute this time audit in the following steps:
- Reflect on your daily activities
- Write them down
- Figure out the time you dedicate to each
- Detect areas of improvement
- Make adjustments accordingly
The purpose of a time scan is to give you an insight into where your time really goes. This way, it becomes easier to schedule and make work pockets.
#2 Set Realistic and SMART Goals
The second logical step after doing a time scan is to set goals. These goals should be realistic and SMART - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Before you actually begin your work, sit down, and plan. You can start small by drafting goals for the day and gradually preparing for the entire week in advance. This time management tip is essential for every activity you undertake and is primarily useful for students to avoid getting overwhelmed with studies.
#3 Organise Seamlessly
Merely identifying goals won't do the trick. You’ll have to organise them to manage your time properly. Sorting tasks and timing them is the perfect time management habit. When you schedule your goals, they are laid out for you in a definite manner and in order of their importance. This makes them easily visible and comprehensive.
A great way to go about it is by segmenting your goals into long-term and short-term. Further, cleave these goals and split them up into days, weeks, and months. These targets help you recognise your aims, give you a sense of purpose, and divide efforts in a manner that counts. In this way, you make timely efforts in the right direction.
Your workspace should also be arranged in an organised way. A de-cluttered space is an impression of a sorted mind. Keep your tasks list, desk, drawers, inboxes, etc., in order.
Before preparing a list, you ought to prioritise the tasks at hand. This can be done by following the MITs technique (in 10 ) or by the level of urgency of individual assignments or projects. This way, essential tasks go first and are followed by the less urgent ones in a descending fashion. You can also use the ABCDE Method for prioritising:
A tasks are most important and urgent
B tasks are comparatively less important
C tasks are no consequence, i.e. they aren't essential
D tasks can be delegated
E tasks are free for elimination
#5 To-do List
A healthy practice of being productive and managing time is to prepare lists. It is proven that making lists has a positive effect, one that reduces anxiety and promotes creativity. In fact, preparing a list by hand is even better. Writing manifests your visions and aspirations, making you more optimistic, focussed, and dedicated to the entire process.
It is therefore also suggested to make hand-written notes to gain rich knowledge efficiently.
To segment your time management skills, start by making a:
- Not-to-do list
Tick mark against each completed task as you progress further. It gives a sense of accomplishment and a pump of motivation.
#6 Not to-do List
While a to-do list tells you what tasks to do, a not-to-do list consists of things to dodge.
All worthless affairs that eat up your time should make their way in the not-to-do list.
Get back to your time scan analysis for this. The activity of doing a time audit highlights the distractions you need to avoid. Simply jot them down in your not-to-do list to prepare a mental and physical note. A list of this kind is a useful tool for time management.
#7 Time All Your Tasks
After organising and prioritising tasks by putting them in lists, it is required that you time them. This method of management facilitates the division of time as per priority and need.
Alongside each task in your to-do list, insert a time slot too. This way, you are bound to stick to the deadline you self-assign. Consequently, unscheduled breaks and time-wasters won't be bothersome. Time management becomes more sorted with this step.
#8 Create a Plan of Action
A plan of action is made up of all the daily tasks and chores. It shows what needs to be done, in what time frame, and in which order. Such a plan of action is an amalgamation of the activities of organising, prioritising, and listing.
An efficient way to follow your plan of action is to create it roughly by hand and stick it where it is visible to you at all times. Keeping track of time and project management becomes more ordered.
#9 Don't Multitask
It is a popular opinion that multitasking is a skill that makes you smarter. Science, however, states otherwise. There are plenty of studies that suggest that managing multiple things at a time takes a toll on your mind and body, induces stress, and reduces productivity levels.
Therefore, this time management tip suggests that you focus on a task at hand instead of dividing attention and managing multiple together.
#10 MITs and Frogs First
MITs are the Most Important Tasks that require your urgent attention. The cardinal rule of time management that boosts productivity is to finish important tasks first. It will significantly reduce stress and keep you confident to proceed with other minor activities of the day.
"Eat the frog" is a popular time and work management method where you finish the most dreaded and laborious task first. The bizarre-sounding concept was introduced by Mark Twain when he quoted -
If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first.
Today, the "eat the frog" and MITs techniques are massively used due to their positive effects on project management and scheduling.
#11 Do Away With Distractions
A not-to-do list isn't sufficient. You have to use practical methods to eliminate distractions. Hit the "do not disturb" button on your devices, avoid chatty co-workers, go offline, mute calls, don't check unnecessary emails, social media feed, or entertain any form of electronic distraction. Build a work or study atmosphere where you can focus peacefully. It is these diversions that majorly interfere with your planned time schedule.
#12 Focus On Smart Work
Just like your goals, your work has to be SMART. Smart work is intelligence combined with skill. This adroitness or skillfulness is a result of mastery learning and brilliant time usage. For instance, smart workers use their commute time and easily manage to get less important things done. Therefore, an innovative working strategy states that a lot should be done in little time.
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#13 Start Early
A trick to get ahead of others is to begin early. When you start early, your mind gets ample time to reboot. While it is impossible to bargain more time from a clock, a cheat way is to give yourself an early head start.
Log in 10 minutes early and prepare a mental note of the activities. You will indeed track a difference in your productivity with this time management trick.
#14 Plan Your Week
You deserve the weekend to unplug and detox but planning ahead never hurts. Dwell on the tasks for the upcoming week and make plans and schedules in advance. This truly helps you to stay prepared. It is similar to starting early in some aspects. But instead of doing, you are actually planning stuff.
If planning for the week seems a bit much, try preparing for the next day. This strategy keeps you ahead in the game.
#15 Learn to Say "No"
Before taking on a task, take a peek at your work schedule. If it is already jam-packed, put down the offer or time it for another day. Helping others is good, but you must know your limitations and deadlines before consenting to help others.
#16 Delegation Helps
Apart from learning how to say "no", learn the skill of delegation too. Outsourcing extra work clears up your schedule so that you can devote ample time to the tasks that actually matter. Assigning work to others is a systematic method to get more done in less time and is an integral part of professional success.
Delegation is primarily a soft skill that falls under leadership and team management operations. This effective delegation is a great time saver and reduces workload.
Want to step up your soft skills? Here is an exhaustive guide to acquiring the most demanded soft skills.
#17 Start Right Away
It is futile to wait for inspiration or motivation to strike. Smart time management says, “get down to business right away.”
As others, while away waiting for the "right time", you cut to the chase and aim for the top. Even if your energy levels drop, look for a way out to start working instead of procrastinating.
#18 Don't Stop for Perfection
Should everything be perfect? No way! Because perfection is a delusion.
Moreover, it is time-consuming. After you complete your work, tweaking its individual aspects for that perfect touch up eats up a lot of precious time. It is better to avoid such waste to strive for perfection.
#19 Don't Get Hung-up On Details
Just like making edits to achieve perfection is consuming, adding intricate details also kills time. Adding unimportant details demands constant examination and changes, which lead to frustration and delays other activities.
For optimal time management, stick to the time you assigned to each task and conduct minor detailing work in spare time (if any). Focus on the big picture and don't sweat the petty stuff.
#20 Keep a Clock and A Calendar Near
A calendar and a clock in sight are physical reminders of time. Use these tools to your advantage and track due dates and project progress smoothly.
Nowadays, digital calendars with advanced features like reminders and event creation provide superb assistance.
#21 Take Some Time Off
Studies suggest that the mind needs to unplug after every 90 minutes. This indicates that quick breaks help to function better. You can take some "time-off" after your general saturation level, which is the most effective time management tip. Taking breaks will help:
- Increase attention
- Break monotonous routine
- Supplement productivity
Breaks are a part of time management and must be generously used.
#22 Mind Your Breaks
As much as taking breaks comes with a lot of benefits, they can become counterproductive if exploited. Prolonged intervals can waste your time and derail your energy-efficient productive train.
The solution lies in taking mindful breaks. While conferring time to each task in the planning phase, make special mention of the length of your breaks. More importantly, stick to your decided schedule.
#23 Make-up For Lost Time
Even if you pedantically try to stick to a routine, there will be moments when you lose time during meetings, breaks, celebrations, or drills. Here, you should have a backup strategy in place. Try to make up for the lost time by adjusting it in other slots if you can. This is the essence of time management and a professional work ethic.
#24 Build Systems Into Habits
The best time management system you should transform into a habit over time. It should stop feeling forced or new. That initial discomfort that comes from accomplishing self-discipline and restrictions should disappear eventually. This will only happen when you are content with the schedule and the performance you display at work.
When healthy time management practices shape into habits, you'll become more determined, time conscious, and a focused person.
#25 Focus On The Current Task
The ultimate goal of time management is to do more in less time. It is possible only if you concentrate single-mindedly, without losing focus, on the task at hand. Give your all and steer clear of multitasking and disturbing elements at all costs.
#26 Watch Your Mental Health
Your mental and physical wellness contribute to your performance and productivity. They both work together behind the curtains so that you produce optimal outputs. Hence, such massively contributive factors cannot be ignored.
Supplement your mental health with the goodness of vacation, rich knowledge, creative skills, and junk debunking. A routine practice of taking care of your mind and body will produce positive results, and you will be willing to do more in less time and outshine.
#27 Sleep and Exercise
A sound sleep of 7-8 hours fosters well oiled mental tools. Tired people tend to procrastinate tasks, think slower, and get easily distracted. All these reflect poor time management skills.
On the other hand, workouts have a positive effect on both your body and mind. A good sleep and exercise regime helps:
- battle stress
- replenishes energy levels
- aids decision making
- enhances performance
- makes you happy by generating endorphins
If you are a music lover, learn how music benefits mental health.
#28 Less Is More
Quality always triumphs over quantity. Know that doing less but optimal work is always better than doing more and sub-par work. A secret of all successful performers is setting small and meaningful goals, prioritising tasks, and working constructively.
Taking on more than you can handle is a stress generator and negatively impacts the quality of your output.
#29 Introduce Some Changes
Don't stick to the same time routine that you prepared months ago. A good practice is to review and improve. Find areas that can be refined, look for alternatives, and execute them. Also, you can ask around to gain some inspiration and "pro tips" from people in your circle. Try to incorporate them (if it deems fit) and shake things up now and then.
#30 Seek Inspiration
Time management is a broad umbrella. It has many tiny tasks associated with it. Hence, it can become tiresome and boring. In times like these, stick your neck out and look for inspiration.
There are billions of sources online which motivate and offer time management tips.
Otherwise, closely follow your idols and those heartthrobs you fancy to get secret tricks that work for them.
Those cliched time management quotes will also work just fine.
If you are an artist, tap these exclusive sources of inspiration for things to draw.
#31 Try New Things
Sometimes taking a break is a good idea. But, this leisure time can also be utilised when you take up learning new skills. They don’t necessarily have to be academic but should exercise your mental muscles. Here are a bunch of fun skills that can make you the most interesting person in the room and help you make the most of your time.
Give your time management skills a boost of freshness with these handy tips and tricks to take advantage of your 24 hours and increase your efficiency, productivity and work-life balance.