23 Ways to Improve Your Time Management—The Best Tips & Tricks

  • August 10, 2020
  • by Kate Kurzawska
  • No comments

In today’s hectic world, time management is one of the most important skills. You only have 24 hours in a day and need to use your time wisely to accomplish all tasks and goals. After all, time is money.

Why Is Time Management Important in the Workplace?

According to the Cornerstone Dynamics’ research, up to 80% of the average working day is spent on activities with little or no value. It shows that people are not good at time management. And the consequences are far-reaching, from lowered productivity to burnout.

Time management is important in the workplace for several reasons:

  • It improves efficiency and work performance
  • It helps to organize work and smartly manage tasks
  • Reduces stress and risk of health issues and burnout
  • Helps to maintain healthy relationships with coworkers, family and friends

Effective time management helps to maintain a work-life balance. How you manage your time at work and what effects it brings translates into your well-being, happiness, and success in personal life.

To help you manage the time and make the most out of every day, we’ve compiled a list of the most powerful and proven time management tips. Let’s get right to it! ⏱

 

1. Audit your time

One of the first and best ways to become better at time management is to understand how you’re spending your time. That way you will know what’s taking most of it, what you’re wasting it on, and how much time you dedicate to each activity.

You can do it either manually by monitoring clock and writing down all your tasks with timestamps (which we strongly discourage because after all, you don’t want to waste time on something that should actually save it), or use an electronic solution—time tracking software that will automatically track the time you spend on all your projects and tasks.

Understanding where your time goes is the basis for taking further steps. It will help you take the right approach and choose the most suitable time management technique.

2. Find your deep focus zone

One of the most popular claims in the world of productivity is the myth that the most productive and successful people get up early in the morning. For example, Apple CEO Tim Cook gets up at around 3:45 a.m, and Oprah Winfrey says she gets up at 6:02 a.m. While it may work for some, there are people who prefer to work in the evening or even at night. And that’s alright.

The opinions on this topic largely vary and there is no one-size-fits-all. You need to discover a golden mean and determine when you’re most productive. Getting up too early may be counterproductive and bring negative results such as sleep disorder and lower performance.

Find out what works best for you, experiment, but don’t get discouraged that when some people are already awake, you’re indulging in your deep sleep phase. As Bryan Lufkin from BBC says, “For some people, forcing yourself to wake up before the chickens because that’s what your business idol does may not be the smartest or healthiest way to start the day. “

3. Put everything on paper

Human’s short-term memory can keep information from 20 to 30 seconds. We forget things and for this reason, you should write things down. David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, in our podcast, said that “keeping stuff in your head gives you a false sense of control. (…) Most people don’t really realize that their head is a really crappy office.”

In his book, he suggests writing down everything that’s in your head, from a grocery list to your tasks. It helps to capture your thoughts and get into a systematic process of completing the assignment.

Additionally, writing things down helps to clear your mind, organize ideas, and get focused on work.

4. Prioritize

It’s hard to complete your work if your tasks are all over your head, calendar, posted on sticky notes, or written down in many different places. It’s much easier to organize your task list when you have a plan. You can do it in several ways:

  • Eat the frog: this method was popularized by Brian Tracy in his book (and originally was created by Mark Twain) and assumes to do the worst, biggest task first thing in the morning.
  • Eisenhower Matrix: created by Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, the method helps to prioritize tasks by urgency and importance while sorting out less urgent and important tasks which you should either delegate or not do at all.
  • ABCDE method: you put an A (most important), B (important), C (nice to do), D (delegate), or E (eliminate whenever possible) next to each task or activity and prioritize them according to the letters.
  • SMART goals: SMART is an acronym and lets you manage tasks by objectives—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound. You define the category of the objectives and prioritize accordingly.
  • Master list: It’s a simple method where you create a master list of your task with sublists, each depending on the priority of the items.

Or, if you prefer, do it your way, whatever works best for you.

5. Don’t multitask

The science is very specific about multitasking—it’s not good for your brain. According to a study conducted by the Stanford University professor Clifford Nass, multitasking weakens the cognitive ability,

“We studied people who were chronic multitaskers, and even when we did not ask them to do anything close to the level of multitasking they were doing, their cognitive processes were impaired. So basically, they are worse at most of the kinds of thinking not only required for multitasking but what we generally think of as involving deep thought.”

The key takeaway? If you think that multitasking is good for productivity, you’re wrong. So stop multitasking and focus at one thing at a time.

6. Learn to say ‘no’

Time management is also about refusing to take on another task. Too much work causes stress and exhaustion. And that eventually may lead to work overload and burnout. Saying no can help you stay sane, relaxed, and keep the workload balanced.

Next time when someone approaches you with a new task, say ‘no’. Refuse, it pays off!

7. Take breaks & rest

Sometimes we all have ultra-productive days when we don’t want to take breaks as it may interrupt the productivity flow. And that’s alright. But when you do it on a regular basis, even when that flow is gone, you’re hurting yourself.

We need breaks to refresh, relax, and help our brain clear its storage room from too much information. That also means getting a full night’s sleep, the recommended 7-8 hours. Besides short breaks for a walk, meal, or a nap, make sure to let your body rest after a full day of work.

Good time management means being rational and working responsibly so take care of your basic needs.

8. Delegate or outsource

It’s okay to delegate! And there are four reasons for that:

  1. You simply have too much work and are not able to perform all tasks
  2. You get lost in your tasks and don’t know how to streamline your workflow
  3. The task is not fit for your skills
  4. You experience productivity drop

Task delegation is one of the easiest ways of reducing workload. And if there is someone who can make a task better than you, delegate it. Of course, it’s not about giving out the tasks to anyone just so you have nothing to do. It’s about smartly organizing your work and sharing it with other people for better results and efficiency. You can also outsource many of the business activities at a reasonable price. 

9. Create a schedule

One of the best time management tips is to create a schedule for your work. It doesn’t have to be anything complex, but it’ll make it easier to organize time and see the bigger picture for all your events.

You can choose something that works with you from many available options—Excel templates, paper calendars, dedicated apps, a simple to-do list, or, if you’re more of a creative person, make a schedule yourself and adjust it to your needs.

10. Don’t strive for perfection

Being a perfectionist has its positive side but when it comes to time management, it can be a curse. A psychologist and author Alice Boyes encourages to “shift your mindset, be less perfect about some things, so you can concentrate on what’s important.”

Sometimes it’s better to do things just to get them done instead of focusing on every little aspect that may not be important in the long run.

11. Review your to-do list

Except for using a to-do list, add a ‘done list’. See what you’ve done and what you didn’t manage to accomplish. Reflect and draw conclusions.

Lee Cockerell, the former Executive Vice President of Operations for the Walt Disney World® Resort, emphasizes the power of reviewing your actions:

“Always fix yesterday first, I think it’s called reflection. Reflect on yesterday. What could you have done better?”

That speaks for itself so let’s get to another point. 😉

12. Use a calendar

Calendars have been used for ages and they don’t seem to go anywhere. People still rely on them to manage time and organize tasks.

A calendar is a universal tool. You can use it to plan work and personal tasks, as a to-do list, a bullet journal, or in any other form. It can give you a detailed and transparent insight into your daily, weekly, and monthly agenda to stay on track with all your assignments, events, and tasks.

13. Leave buffer time

Laura Vanderkam, an author, speaker, and writer says that one of the best strategies in managing time is leaving buffer time for unexpected events, “Leave open space. This is honestly one of the best strategies you can do. When you pack your schedule completely full, then you don’t have space for things to go wrong.”

Unexpected phone calls and meetings, a broken pipe at home… You never know what’ll suddenly pop up in your schedule. It’s best to be ready than sorry!

14. Communicate with your team & clients

Communication is the key to success, especially when it comes to time management. Because how you manage your time, dictates how you can collaborate and network with other people. And that’s especially important when you work with others, be it coworkers or clients.

There are several things you should always communicate to master your time management at work:

  • Your typical work hours—to avoid late-night phone calls from clients or a manager
  • Whether you’re available for contact outside of your typical working time—it can be helpful in important projects or if you want to keep a work-life balance
  • How much time you usually dedicate to particular tasks and projects—to avoid missed deadlines and unrealistic expectations
  • How much free space you have in your calendar—not to overload yourself with work

It’ll help you better plan and allocate time. Also, it’ll be easier for other people to understand how and when you work.

15. Batch similar tasks together

There are tasks that don’t necessarily must be split into separate ones. Take phone calls and answering emails, for example. You can put them in one category and improve your time management process.

Instead of extending your to-do list, shorten it, and combine similar tasks.

16. Use technology

Why not automate tasks and optimize work as much as possible? If you really want to master your time management at work, make sure to make technology part of your daily processes. And it doesn’t mean that you should invest in robots! Look for apps that correspond to your business needs, processes, and tasks and implement them in your workflow.

Among some of the most popular software, you can find time tracking apps, productivity, project and task management apps, online planners, and many, many more.

There’s plenty of tools to choose from and the benefits are great—much less time spent on administrative activities, improved concentration, a centralized hub for managing projects and data, or increased productivity. There’s many more, just check it yourself!

17. Block out distractions

Maura Nevel Thomas, productivity speaker and author, suggests practicing attention management. “Attention management is the practice of controlling distractions, being present in the moment, finding flow, and maximizing focus, so that you can unleash your genius. It’s about being intentional instead of reactive.” It can help you stay focused because “rather than allowing distractions to derail you, you choose where you direct your attention at any given moment, based on an understanding of your priorities and goals.”

Additionally, you can use a time management app for blocking distractions, such as RescueTime, Focus@Will, or StayFocusd

18. Plan your meetings

There’s not a single person on the planet Earth (or is there?) who enjoys meetings. People usually hate them or perceive them neutrally. Mainly because most of them don’t bring much value. Statistics show that more than 67% of meetings are considered as failures, with 92% of participants multitasking, and 49% doing other, unrelated work.

That’s why you need to plan meetings. A good plan should include a timeframe, clear expectations, key takeaways, and a clear agenda. You should respect other’s time and be very strict about the duration of the meeting.

Also, productive meetings mean engaging all participants and hearing their problems and opinions.

19. Limit your meetings or… leave them

Let’s stick to meetings for a bit longer. Except for planning meetings, it’s also a good idea to limit them. Take Elon Musk, for example. According to this article, one of his top productivity rules is to minimize the number of meetings. Since most of them are unproductive, the best idea is simply to get rid of them and spend time on productive activities.

Additionally, according to Musk, it’s okay to leave a meeting, “Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value. It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.”

 

20. Find an accountability partner

Having a person that supports you in work can help boost time management. It gives you a sense of responsibility and motivates you to work. It’s someone who can show you a different perspective, teach how to perform better, and give advice when you’re facing a problem.

An accountability partner can be your other half, a friend, sibling, or coach, even a trusted coworker to whom you report your progress and discuss work every day. It can improve your time management as it prompts you to focus on work and spend less time on unproductive activities.

21. Unplug

Do you know that your brain is more active when it’s not focused on doing something specific? Studies show that unplugging and letting your thoughts wander is good for your brain, body, and mental health.

Unplugging increases brain activity, helps it to function better, allows the brain to fully process reflective thoughts, spatial ideas, and visual informations.

Allow yourself to rest from work, electronic devices. Even such smallish activities like taking a nap or going for a walk can boost your productivity.

22. Find your favorite time management technique

There are many time management methods but not all will work for you, especially, if you have a specific system of work.

Some of the most popular and universal techniques are the Pomodoro technique, time blocking, or Pareto principle.

There’s no one-size-fits-all, but you can mix and modify different methods to create the best system for your needs.

23. Track your time with Timecamp!

Now that you came to know all the most helpful time management tips, it’s time to put them into action! And there’s no better way to do them than to use a time tracking software. Timecamp can help you become productive, accountable, and profitable.

It automatically tracks your time, all productive and unproductive activities (including websites, files of documents, and apps), and gives you an night into how you spend your time.

Additionally, you can use it to automate processes and optimize workflow. Timecamp has plenty of helpful and practical features such as tracking billable time, timesheets, reporting, attendance, budgeting, invoicing, and it integrates with many other productivity and time management apps.

Conclusion

Time management doesn’t have to be boring! There are many ways to work on your productivity. The most important thing is to treat time with respect and make sure you’re using it the best way you can.

What are your favorite time management tips that you find inspiring and effective? Let us know in the comments and enjoy your time management!

Kate Kurzawska

Kate is a freelance translator, copywriter, and a content writer specializing in time tracking software, time management, and productivity. When not researching new software, she's reading books, or spending time outdoors.

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