21 proven time management tips
What is the best way to manage your time and what are some good time management tips? In this list, you can find a careful selection of the most powerful time management practices. They can help you streamline your personal or your team’s work processes, optimizing the use of working hours and the quality of the resulting output.
If you want to expand your knowledge of top time management techniques, don’t miss our detailed article on the best systems that will skyrocket your productivity
#1. Plan, plan, and then plan some more
is the simple, but relentlessly powerful mantra of time management. It starts with creating a list of your tasks and then distributing them in the most appropriate way across your week. Creating daily plans also comes in handy. You can even preview the order in which you aim to go through the pending work in your day, as well as the breaks you want to take in-between tasks.
It’s imperative to juxtapose your daily and weekly plans against your overarching goals.
You can guide your goal setting by embracing the SMART acronym - make sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. That’s how you can ensure you spend your time on activities that help you accomplish your goals.
#2. Prioritization is key
The way you create your action plans should be based on a thorough understanding of your goals and their hierarchy. You should learn to recognize which tasks directly contribute to achieving what you aim for, and which don’t.
Once you have identified the different levels of importance and urgency, you should stack the essential ones at the top of your to-do list — the ones that are both important and urgent. By doing this, you can prevent losing track of their status, or postponing them unnecessarily.
#3. Conduct time management audits
If you want to know where your time goes throughout the day, your best helper is the time management audit
. It’s very easy to prepare and its benefits are many. There are various time audit templates online, so you can also consult one of them when preparing your own audit.
First of all, you have to write down how you plan to use your time during a certain week or month. Then, track the hours each day and note what kind of activities you complete. When you have the real-life data, you can easily compare whether your intentions match what you accomplish in your working time. Afterwards, you can make the necessary adjustments so that you gradually bring together your targets and your actual daily schedule.
#4. Reduce distractions in your workflow
You probably (and secretly) are well-aware of the various distractions that you give in to daily. We all have our digital guilty pleasures, like endlessly scrolling social media. However, efficient time management depends on reducing distractions.
Eliminating them is far too ambitious, but restricting the time you dedicate to them is definitely possible. You can, in fact, turn distractions into a treat after each accomplishment in your day. Thus, they can work towards your productivity rather than against it.
#5. Learn to delegate
One of the main causes of exhaustion and burnout with entrepreneurs and many other professionals today is the inability to let go of tasks. Delegation is priceless
when it comes to your personal time management, and is a method for developing trust and cooperation in your team.
The first steps can be difficult, if you’re not used to surrendering responsibility. However, you should find the balance between your healthy diligence and the unhealthy feeling that you’re the only person who can get the job done. With time, this will improve your relationships with partners, colleagues or teammates, and delegating tasks will become natural and much easier.
#6. Assign time slots for your tasks
Put clear deadlines for each task. Even if you don’t have a clear date from a client or partner, it’s imperative to have one in your schedule. You don’t want to be dragging out a task for weeks, while putting the rest of your work on hold. Procrastination gets to all of us
, so it’s up to us to enforce an effective approach for overcoming it.
You can start by assessing the time you project that you would need for completing the task. Then you need to come back to our old friend prioritization and see when to schedule it, considering the rest of your responsibilities. You can split the task into smaller bits, so that you spread it over a few days, if necessary, but make sure that you set a clear time target for each bit.
#7. Embrace single-tasking
And defend it relentlessly. One of the biggest sources of stress in the way that we work (and live) today is multitasking. While a few years back handling multiple tasks at once was seen as a top skill, nowadays people have come to realize this approach has detrimental effects on productivity, concentration, and overall well-being.
There are various methods you can use to bring your focus on a single task and get rid of “half-work.” It’s useful to close your mailbox and social media channels, for example, and work on the task at hand only. You can also restrict calls and other potential distractions. Then you can set time slots for focusing, such as half an hour or an hour.
#8. Organize similar tasks together
This tip is tightly linked with the previous one. Instead of scattering them across the day, it’s more effective to batch tasks of the same kind together. By doing this, you can save time by completing them at once.
For example, you’ll be more productive if you send a couple of emails at once, rather than handling them individually throughout the day and breaking up the work on other tasks.
#9. Plan the most important tasks first thing in the morning
This strategy is obviously connected with good prioritization, but needs special attention. The reason why the most significant tasks should go first is not only the fact that you might forget them otherwise.
For most people, mornings are the most productive time of the day. Even if you don’t feel fully awake yet, your brain is still fresh and able to process information in a much better way. That’s why it’s best to use this time for the most complex tasks, or the ones that need the highest level of focus because of their priority. Read about time blocking in this guide
#10. Know when to stop
Even if you have allocated time slots for your tasks, you may be easily tempted to continue working on them after their allotted time is up, especially if you feel they are important or complicated. However, you should learn to set limits no matter what.
Seeking perfection is admirable and is a powerful quality. At the same time, it can turn into a great enemy to your effective time management. As you tackle more and more projects, you’ll get better at judging when you’re truly done with a job, and when you’re just wasting time trying to make it more “perfect” than it really needs to be.
#11. Plan pauses between work streams
Having breaks between different activities is essential for keeping your brain fresh and for escaping the mental overload that is so pervasive today. When you’re planning the slots for different tasks, it makes sense to also schedule pauses for stretching and switching gears.
For example, if you have to work on legal contracts all morning, it’s good to plan a quarter or half an hour break before you dive into writing emails. This will give you a chance to do the mental jump, and will help you fight exhaustion. It’s up to you to find the best way to spend the pause. However, it’s best if it is not related to using any of your digital devices, so that you truly have some screen-free downtime.
#12. Find your work pace
Planning time slots for tasks and scheduling breaks between them is only the beginning. With time, you should go to the next level and discover the right work tempo that fits your personality.
You can achieve this by paying attention to the hours when you’re the most productive, as well as to the moments when your energy and concentration go down. It’s very useful to also consult your logged hours and check efficiency throughout the day
. By analyzing the data and being aware of how you feel, you can discover what needs to be altered in your daily routine to maximize productivity and reduce stress.
#13. Set clear goals for work meetings
For many types of professionals, a big chunk of their daily working time goes into meetings
. Whether you’re a freelancer, a small business owner, or a team leader, you’re probably facing the same situation. Because meetings are time-consuming (but important), you need to make sure that you are well-prepared for each one.
First of all, make sure that each meeting you agree to is truly necessary. Sometimes a call or a chat can serve the same purpose. Once you establish that the meeting is important, then you should prepare a clear agenda of what you expect to accomplish from it. Of course, you should also set a timeframe, so that you don’t end up spending half of your day in chit-chat.
#14. Learn to refuse work
Saying “no” is a healthy mechanism that we need in most areas of life. When it comes to work, however, it can be the approach that saves you from burnout. It’s worth trying, despite the fear of how the other party will react.
Whether it’s a new freelance gig or another task for your team project, you should know when to refuse. If you’re swamped with work and you can clearly see that extra tasks will be a heavy burden, your best bet is to be honest and straightforward with where your limits are.
#15. Don’t work on vacation and on weekends
That’s a strict rule that you should respect, whatever it costs you. The only work-related thing which is worth tackling on a weekend is planning. It may take you an hour, but it’ll pay off during the week.
Other than that, working while on a holiday or during other time which is dedicated to leisure is harmful. In fact, your performance will eventually suffer from this bad habit because you truly need some downtime away from work.
#16. Think about single items, not your whole task list
Here is another overarching strategy that will save you a ton of trouble: never zoom out on your whole (and super-long) task list when you are busy. It will only bring you stress. In moments like this, it’s very easy to start feeling like you can’t handle it all. But actually you can.
Instead, break tasks into smaller parts, and look at single items rather than the whole pile of work that’s waiting for you. Then you can adapt to the smaller tasks that need to get done right now, and handle them one by one, calmly and productively.
#17. Analyze your daily habits
When you’ve done your time audit and adjusted your work schedule accordingly, you can also take a step further in managing how your days will be structured. It’s useful to take a close look at the rest of your activities beyond work.
For example, if you’re working from home and not from an office, you can take a look at how often you find distractions in household tasks, or jump to the fridge for snack breaks. In the case of office work, you can pay attention to your rituals, necessary and unneeded interactions with colleagues, and even eating habits. Once you have a good overview, you can figure out how you can eliminate excessive distractions, and bring in meaningful relationship-building with teammates and partners.
#18. Use the best time management apps
Even though applying all these good practices is quite a lot to take on, the good news is that you’re not alone. Today there are loads of time management apps
that can be your faithful partners in crime in achieving effective organization and productivity.
There are multiple types of platforms that can help you streamline your workflow — calendars, task managers, and many more. The calendar is a good starting point for your planning, as you can visually arrange your tasks for the week and month. You can also make use of organizers and task managers, where you can input projects and tasks, add information for them, and set deadlines for completion. Naturally, having a time tracking app is highly recommended, as it will help you with your time audits and overall planning.
#19. Sneak exercise into your day
You already know that exercise is very important for your overall well-being. But what’s more, it turns out that regular physical activity also contributes to better time management.
How? Exercise helps you better cope with stress and feel more solid in your life. It’s proven and it works. The first step is to find, you guessed it, time for it in your schedule. The best approach is to have a couple of training sessions per week before or after your working hours. You can add stretching, meditation, or physical relaxation pauses throughout the day as well. If you’re just getting started, begin with small steps that you feel comfortable with, and expand gradually.
#20. Diversify your routine
Nobody likes feeling bored. If you feel stuck in your everyday routine, take a step back and figure out what can bring some freshness to it. The best solution, of course, is to take a vacation, but if that’s not possible, you can use some tricks.
You can work from home, if you’ve been in the office for too long. Try rearranging your working space as well. You can also start the day with exercise, or reorder the typical way in which you plan your working hours. The trick is to create physical and mental space for innovation and unconventional thinking.
#21. Change your landscape now and then
You won’t believe how much of a load you can take off your shoulders if you just switch to a different physical location. This counts both for working away from the office or your home desk as well as going on a proper vacation. Changing scenery is a preferred method for rekindling creativity for writers and artists, but it also works for all types of professionals.
When you get the first signs of anxiety, boredom and overload, hit the road. If you don’t have days off, or if a project can’t be abandoned right now, then just change the landscape. It can be your cottage, a day in the park, or a trip to the beach - any place that will give you a breath of fresh air.
Get started with your improved time management approach
Once you analyze and realize how you are spending your time, you can improve your organization habits to achieve more and reduce stress. With these useful tips, you can remodel your daily routine for the better.
Bonus: Cheat Sheet
21 Time Management Tips
Looking for a better and a more productive way to manage your team's time? Well, look no further. We've laid out some simple tips for effective time management.