15+ Most Effective and Proven Time Management Techniques
- December 1, 2021
- by Kate Borucka
- 13 comments
Time management is something that some people struggle at, whereas others are champions of productivity. No matter the case, to actually master it, you need to know how to do it the right way and use an automation tool. The Internet is full of tips, tricks, and methods. But they may not always work. You have to find those proven and used by time management experts.
Time can be tricky. And so, it’s important to know how to fit your work and daily activities into it. If you struggle with managing your work or want to experiment with your current methods, check out our list of the most effective and proven time management techniques.
Table of Contents
How Does Time Management Help?
The concept of time management has gained significant popularity over the last three decades. That’s because it helps to better plan and organize activities, increase productivity, and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
So how does time management improve performance? The main goal is to consciously control how you spend time on important tasks and activities, whether at work or in your personal, daily life.
Mastering the right time management technique can help you in many areas:
- You’ll be able to accomplish goals successfully
- It’ll be easier to set priorities
- You’ll eliminate bad habits such as procrastination, not being goal-oriented, or will decrease low attention span
- Developing time management skills will reduce stress, and keep you motivated
- You’ll have a clear idea of how you need to plan all your tasks
Additionally, developing the right time management skills in the workplace and using dedicated apps can higher your chances of staying on top of things.
Time Management Techniques vs Work Management
The concept of time management has gradually evolved and now covers many themes related to work and daily life. All kinds of theories have been mixed with techniques and approaches. People like to adopt and adjust them to their needs, type and style of work.
However, there is a significant difference in time management and methodologies used to manage work. It’s especially visible in larger organizations that need to streamline business processes for better results and higher performance and at the same time meet the high demands of clients and customers. This could be done with the help of process documentation which manages all the organization’s requirements.
Work management involves time management as one of its assumptions is to optimize the time necessary to deliver a product while maintaining efficiency and quality. It incorporates professional co-related practices, rules, and specific procedures set in a logical order that you can reuse and adjust for your team to perform better.
Some of the popular methods or frameworks for managing work (also known as project management techniques) include Kanban, Scrum, Agile, Lean, or Six Sigma.
Overall, time management techniques based on work management systems are commonly used by many people to manage working time but extend to wider aspects such as the entire scope of work in a project, the flow of works, teamwork, and collaboration.
What Is The Best Way to Manage The Time?
According to the research conducted by Development Academy, only 1 in 5 people (18%) have a proper time management system. In other words, not many people know how to be productive. But with a little help, you can become the master of your time.
Here are popular time management techniques you can use to improve your time management skills.
1. Plan your day in advance
Planning is the first, the best, and most proven of all time management techniques. Firstly, because it helps to properly organize your work. Secondly, because it gives you a detailed insight into all the things you need to do. If you can plan your daily, weekly, or monthly tasks, the rest comes easily.
There are many ways to plan and organize your work:
- Fancy calendars and personal organizers, either in digital or paper form
- Time management apps and tools
- Dedicated to-do-lists
- Post-it-notes, notepads, schedule templates, bullet journals, and other paper forms of time managers
- The Morning Sidekick Journal—a motivational journal that helps to improve habits
You can mix, combine and adjust different options to master your time management.
2. Limit e-mail intake
Checking and answering e-mails is a burdensome task. Nobody likes it, yet everybody does it. Statistics say that “the average worker spends around 30 hours a week checking email.” Think about all the tasks you could do during that time.
Limit the time you spend on e-mails to the minimum to keep those 30 hours for work. If you check it in the morning, reply only to those most important which need an immediate answer. Leave the rest for breaks between tasks or go through them at the end of the day. Also, make sure to mark those unimportant messages as “spam” so they don’t dump your inbox. However, if you decide to actively use email, make sure to secure your domain, integrate DMARC and continually check your DMARC report to minimize the chances of being hacked.
If you want to know more about managing emails, read about the “Inbox Zero” technique. It’s one of the most popular time management strategies for email management.
3. Find your productivity zone
Some people are early birds, whereas others are night owls. We all are different and like to work in different parts of the day… or night.
Sam Carpenter, the author of the book Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More, coined the term Biological Prime Time. It describes a time management technique where you find your most productive hours of the day and schedule work for when you have the most energy.
Get up super early if you’re most productive in the morning. Or stay up late at night if you prefer to work in the darkness. But don’t force yourself to change your habits just because it is said that people reach productivity at certain hours. Find your most productive hours and stick to them. Whatever time management strategies work for some people, may not work for you. Period.
And don’t forget about the deep work phase – a time during your work time when you focus solely on important tasks.
4. Eat the frog
Mark Twain said, “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.”
It’s all about prioritizing. Do the most important tasks first, and when you’re done, switch to those less pertinent. It will help you better organize the workflow and you will become efficient. It’s as simple as that!
5. Take regular breaks
Working without breaks may bring you more harm than good. We need breaks so that our brain can refresh and then refocus on work.
You can use the Pomodoro technique, or go for a short walk. Read a chapter of your favorite book or make a cup of coffee. Or spend your free time learning something new watching documentary films on video streaming platforms like Netflix. You can use a VPN to get a reliable connection. Picking up a new hobby like playing an instrument (check out Musician Authority for ideas) can also be a fun and stimulating way to spend your breaks.
Take breaks to improve your time management techniques and feel refreshed. This will give you a significant productivity boost.
Of course, it’s okay to work in a long string when you have a super-powerful flow… sometimes. But doing so in the long term will make you feel tired and will reduce your creativity. Breaks are good for your productivity and well-being.
And for the employees, remember that you are entitled to have breaks. It’s your right and the employer is obliged to obey it. If you’re not getting breaks, contact the appropriate legal entities in your state.
6. Say “no” and delegate
Everybody has their limits. We simply cannot do everything people want us to. It will lead to burnout and work anxiety. That’s why it’s so important to be assertive and say “no” when people want to assign you additional tasks.
Remember, there is nothing wrong with refusing to do things you’re not able to do. As well as with delegating tasks. Especially if there is someone who can do the work better and faster than you.
7. Focus and block distractions
Notifications, pop-up messages, e-mails, colleagues constantly talking to you. It all pulls your attention away from work.
There are many ways to stay focused. You can put your phone away, turn off social media notifications or block distracting websites. But the best way is to concentrate and do what you have to do. It’s worth limiting your presence in social media to the minimum because it takes a lot of your time and doesn’t bring much value into your life.
8. Set goals
Set goals and you will exactly know which direction you’re heading to. Goals are part of the organizational processes and they are extremely important in time management.
To take advantage of any time management technique, the key is specificity when setting goals. Break down bigger visions into monthly targets to hit. OKR software makes this process easier for the teams.
For example, if you’ve decided to start your online boutique this year and your goal for the semester is making $80k in revenue, this month’s targets might be closing a contract with 2 wholesalers, hiring an intern to help with shipping, and finding a marketing channel with a lower cost of acquisition than your current one.
Goals set your path to reaching success. They are the rungs in the leader to the top. Goals determine your organization’s main objectives, priorities, and vision. But they’re also helpful in getting things done faster and more effectively. However, setting goals is the easy part, the real challenge is sticking to them. One way to ensure that you always stay on top of your set goals is by monitoring them in powerful tools like Databox. With this intuitive dashboard tool, individuals and teams can easily track, manage, and review set goals at a glance.
9. Stop multitasking
Many job offers state that multitasking is one of the key skills of the candidate. But it’s better to throw such an offer right to the bin. The truth is, multitasking damages our brain.
It seems that juggling several tasks at once is a great time management technique. In fact, it dramatically decreases productivity. The study conducted at Stanford University has shown that “When they’re [multitaskers] in situations where there are multiple sources of information coming from the external world or emerging out of memory, they’re not able to filter out what’s not relevant to their current goal. That failure to filter means they’re slowed down by that irrelevant information.”
Do one task at a time to stay focused and engaged in your work.
10. Allocate your time
Do you know how much time you spend on particular tasks? Gotcha! You’re probably among the majority of people who have no idea how much time they dedicate to activities every day.
If you know how much of your time you allocate to tasks, projects, and different activities, you will be able to better organize your workday and workflow. The simplest way to do it is to use time tracking software. It will help you precisely predict future estimates and better allocate time to new tasks.
11. Create a morning routine
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up? If it’s making a bed or exercising, you’re on the right track. But if it’s checking social media, you’re doing it wrong.
Having your own morning routine will unquestionably power you up for the rest of the day. From a psychological perspective, it’s the first thing you do in the morning that determines the outcomes you will achieve during the day. Try from such small things as making your bed, then have a healthy breakfast, and leave social media or other tasks for the end of the day.
A good morning routine will set you in the right mood and motivate you to work.
Exercising is a great way to boost energy levels. It’s a way for the body to get rid of the tension caused by stress. It can also help clear your mind of unnecessary or disturbing thoughts, which only make your work worse.
Put on your running shoes and go for a jog! You will see how much regular exercise can help in mastering time management techniques.
13. Tools, tools, tools
In today’s highly developed world, tools are an inseparable part of our work. This is especially true when you’re hiring on-demand employees that you don’t know as well as regular employees. If you want to be able to fully use time management techniques, you should implement the following into your daily work:
- Time tracking software — helps you to track the time of your work and keep a hand on all projects and numbers including billable time
- To-do-list — enable you to schedule and plan your workweek
- Project management software — many time tracking tools have the feature of project management. Use it to better manage your projects and clients, and track the progress of daily tasks
- Communication tools — Skype, Slack, Zoom, or TimeCamp Planner — these are crucial for internal and external communication
- Apps helpful in creating good habits – it can be a simple calendar or productivity journal, but if you’re a demanding user, try Habitica or other fancy productivity apps
- Marketing automation – With marketing automation tools like AVADA and Hubspot, you can target customers with automated messages across email, web, social, and text. That will definitely save a lot of your time and make marketing less of a headache. Moreover, you can automate your social media efforts using social media automation tools and social media marketing tools to cut down your efforts and boost your productivity.
Use TimeCamp – our time tracking software to boost your productivity.
14. Reward yourself
Have you finished the task or project you were working on? Good, now take a break and do something for yourself. Drink a cup of coffee, listen to your favorite music, or call your friend.
The little rewards are a great way of motivating yourself. Stacy Johnna, a project manager at Best Reviews List says “It’s similar to a rabbit chasing the carrot tied to its ears. It may seem a little odd but when you think about the satisfaction and joy you will feel after completing your work, you will find out it’s worth it.”
So go on, take that nap, go for a walk, or read a chapter of your favorite book!
Proper communication can save a lot of time. If you don’t convey your plans, intentions, or requirements clearly, people won’t understand their tasks, or yours. And that will lead to conflicts and misunderstandings.
Also, don’t forget to use dedicated tools and apps to enhance communication between you and your team or clients. It’s an easy, fast, and convenient way to transfer messages, schedule meetings, or exchange any form of information.
👉 Read also: How to save time at work?
Other Time Management Techniques
Many popular time management techniques are based on practical approaches that aim to complete tasks within a specific timeframe and in a specific manner. Over the years, various methods have emerged that help to improve management skills and boost efficiency.
Here are other good time management techniques used by people all over the world. Take a look, choose your favorites, mix, combine, and adjust them to skyrocket your productivity!
Pomodoro technique is a time management technique that was invented in the late 1908s by Francesco Cirillo. As the name suggests, the technique uses the popular Pomodoro timer as a tool in setting time constraints.
Its aim is to manage time in an effective way and focus on a single task
The Pomodoro technique consists of 4 “pomodoros” — 25-minute intervals separated by breaks. When one Pomodoro ends, you take a 5-minute break. Afterward, you set another 25 minutes and keep repeating the action. After completing the 4-Pomodoro cycle, you take a longer break.
PRO TIP: you can use time tracking software with a 25-minute timer to precisely track your time with the Pomodoro technique. That way, you’ll get reports on your work automatically.
The Eisenhower Matrix is a time management technique 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.
In this technique, you create 4 quadrants with the following categories:
- Do first: do the essential tasks first
- Schedule: schedule every less urgent but still important task for later
- Delegate: delegate to others (if possible) urgent tasks but less important
- Don’t do: don’t do tasks that are neither urgent nor important
The Eisenhower Matrix is a goof task management technique for eliminating bad habits and prioritizing tasks.
The deep work method was already mentioned but it’s a popular technique worth reflecting upon. Cal Newport, the author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, distinguishes between deep work and shallow work.
During the deep work phase, you focus solely on the important task and avoid distractions at all costs. So no phone calls, social media, meetings, and other distractions. This certain period in your schedule is good for when you have high energy levels.
For shallow work time, do small tasks that don’t require you to be sharply focused, e.g., routine tasks, emailing, etc.
GTD (Getting Things Done)
Developed by David Allen and described in his books, the Getting Things Done method is one of the most widely and successfully adopted time management systems.
The idea of the GTD system is to clear your mind of all the tasks, projects, and issues and take specific actions to complete them. It’s an effective five-step method:
- Capture: write or record in any form everything that has your attention
- Clarify: decide what to do with it— do, don’t do, or delegate
- Organize: file tasks into different categories; use task management tools and to-do list to make sure you’re making progress
- Reflect: make regular updates on your work to ensure you’re on track and that nothing bothers your mind
- Engage: take actionable steps to be accountable for your time
ABCDE method was invented by Alan Lakein and outlined in his book, “How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life”. It can help you prioritize tasks and optimize the time necessary for finishing them.
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.
Each time a new task emerges, you should add it to your ABCDE task list.
Time blocking is a simple time management technique that helps you become aware and strategic of how you spend your time. In time blocking, you divide your day into chunks of time—time blocks.
During these blocks of time, you focus on one specific task and do it with an imposed time limit (e.g., “I’ll be answering emails from 9 am to 10 am”). It’s like putting your to-do list on the calendar and stretching it throughout the day.
👉 Read also about Best Time Blocking Apps.
Time boxing is similar to time blocking; however, in time boxing you put a specific time limit on a task (e.g., “I’ll have all emails answered by 10 am”). It’s a more strict version of time blocking.
Day-theming is another offshoot of time blocking. In this technique, you time-block your weekly schedule with a theme of work for each day. So your daily schedule is dedicated to specific tasks from one category.
For example, on Monday you have a day spent on planning and organizing work and taking care of administrative work; Tuesday – a day dedicated to working on one specific task in a deep work mode; Wednesday you can dedicate to education, and so on.
In this method, you group similar tasks together and time block your day to work on them. You can label every task for a specific category to make batching easier and more effective. For example, you can put activities such as answering emails, calling clients, and meetings into one category as administrative tasks.
Task batching lets you squeeze as many tasks that are similar into one master activity so you don’t stretch your day into time-consuming undertakings that disturb your work.
Rapid Planning Method (RPM)
According to Tony Robbins, the creator of the Rapid Planning Method, it’s a system of thinking, not a system to manage time.
The RPM is about deciding what you’re going to focus on realizing your vision. RPM also stands for Results-oriented/Purpose-driven/Massive Action Plan.
This system can help you to focus on the most important tasks you want to and need to do, and determine the best course of action to achieve it.
80/20 Rule (Pareto Analysis)
Pareto Analysis, also known as the 80/20 rule assumes that for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes or efforts. So 20% of your work input will result in 80% of results.
Here, eating the frog will be helpful. You need to focus on the most important tasks and work on them till the end to actually achieve desired outcomes.
SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound.
- Specific: you need to define your goals as clear, concise, and significant so you know exactly what you need to do.
- Measurable: in order to achieve your goal, you should be able to monitor and assess its progress. You can do it by using metrics, numbers, or smaller tasks that will indicate advancement.
- Achievable (or Attainable): your goal needs to be realistic; something that you can stretch yourself for but not too far.
- Relevant: a goal should align with your projects and tasks, and long-term plans. You also need to set manageable tasks.
- Time-Bound: a goal shouldn’t stretch too much in time because it’ll be harder to achieve it. Instead, it should have a time limits with a specific deadline.
To set SMART goals, you can use SMART goals templates or create your own system of tracking goals.
The 1-3-5 Rule is a simple strategy to manage your tasks. Each day you dedicate your work time to 1 Big Thing, 3 Medium Things, and 5 Little Things.
That way it’s easier to accomplish your goals—you’re not able to always work on bigger tasks. You only can do so much and there are limits to what you can accomplish.
POSEC is an acronym for “Prioritize by Organizing, Streamlining, Economizing and Contributing.” This method was developed by Steven Lam, author of “The Posec Method of Time Management”.
POSEC method adopts five needs you have to address for better work management:
- Prioritize your tasks, life goals, and what’s important to you
- Organize your tasks and goals and plan how to work on them
- Streamline tasks, chores, and all the little things you don’t want to but must do
- Economize what’s enjoyable and is not on the priority list but still have to be done
- Contribute to the community and pay attention to what makes a difference around you
This method is loosely based on Abraham Maslow’s theory of the hierarchy of needs. POSEC is a reflection of this hierarchy—you have needs that you must meet so you can move up a ladder of success and efficiency.
The Glass Jar
The Glass Jar or The Pickle Jar Theory is a good method of visualization.
The glass jar is a visual figurative expression of time—each day you fill your glass (time) with different things (activities): rocks, pebbles, and sand. Rocks are big, important tasks; pebbles stand for urgent tasks; and sand for distractions.
The aim of this technique is to plan your day in such a manner, that the glass jar is filled with tasks according to the level of urgency.
The 4Ds method is very similar to the Eisenhower Matrix. It’s best for planning and organizing larger projects in teams.
Here’s how you act in the 4 Ds technique:
- Do what needs to be done. As simple as that.
- Delay work that can be done later and isn’t a priority on your list.
- Delegate what you don’t have to do to the person with the right skillset.
- Drop (or Delete) every non-vital task that doesn’t bring value to the team and project.
If you’ve watched the famous sitcom Seinfeld, you may have heard about the “Seinfeld Strategy”. Although Jerry Seinfeld doesn’t admit to creating this method, many people adopt it to better manage their time.
In Seinfeld Strategy, you get a big wall calendar and a big red marker. Then you try to stick to a habit every day by putting a big red X over that day. After a few days, you’ll have a chain that should grow longer every day, if you keep consistency in your actions.
You can read more about the origins of the strategy here.
What Time Management Techniques Do You Use?
Do you manage your time properly? Or maybe you still fight with procrastination, laziness, or lack of motivation? Try to use the above techniques, step by step, and you’ll see how your life can change for the better. And don’t forget to track your time to understand how you work and use your time!
Maybe there are other time management strategies you use that are not on the list? Share your tricks and tips and let us know what works best for you!
July 24, 2019 at 13:37
It was great,but I think if it was more professional it would more effective
July 25, 2019 at 06:48
Hossein, what do you mean by “professional”? Happy to see you like the article! 😉
November 26, 2019 at 21:24
This article was awesome for personal time managing but if you have a business or a project where you need to manage your time and resources I have just found this awesome tool, it is called elapseit:
February 17, 2020 at 23:41
Thanks alot! This is going to go a long way in helping me fight procrastination, and I will also recommend it for a few friends who might need it.
May 8, 2020 at 12:52
the contents are every good
July 17, 2020 at 10:12
It’s interesting to know that planning my day in advance has been proven by other people to be the most effective technique when it comes to time management. I seem to plan every activity I’d have for the rest of the day but I always end up not accomplishing anything on my schedule. It might be a good idea to just arrange everything beforehand, including having a meal kit delivered to my apartment, so I can focus on the projects I need to finish.
September 4, 2020 at 09:59
Really good article. Helped me a lot with my assessment! Many thanks!
January 27, 2021 at 15:34
I’m pretty good at planning my day. I have a perfect schedule and I stick by that schedule to keep on track. Once in a great while it will get messed up but only if something happens to mess it up. So with that I will have no trouble
January 27, 2021 at 22:33
Great article. I like how it breaks everything down. Thank you!
February 10, 2021 at 12:41
very well written. I find a lot of information. Thanks
July 25, 2021 at 19:15
I thought it was very helpful especially for me.
March 7, 2022 at 16:25
very good and informative
October 11, 2022 at 08:06
A lot of things you have shared and I totally agree with advance planning of days or week will assure the success. And most importantly, prioritizing & delegating the task will maximize your output. I saw that if you plan your day in advance, will be completed by the time you allocated.
It’s like magic. Most of the people doesn’t know or did not apply in real time.