Time management is something that many people struggle with. Whether you are a student, an employee, podcast host, entrepreneur, or just someone who struggles to find enough time for the things that they enjoy, this blog post is designed to help you figure out how to better manage your time and get more done in less time. This article will explore different ways of managing your life so that you can be happier and more productive!
The Ultimate Guide to Improving Your Time Management
1. Start with the End in Mind
One of the first steps for improving your time management is what we like to call “starting with the end in mind.” And all this means is that you start by identifying your end goals. By having a clear vision for where you would like to be in one week, one month, or one year from now will help ensure that everything you do contributes towards making this goal a reality. If you know your heading, you can work out your timeframe, and from there, you can make a schedule that sees you using your time effectively.
2. Start Early
Procrastination is the arch nemesis of good time management! So if you want Captain Good Time Management to beat the Procrastination Monster, don’t wait “until later” to start your tasks. Get started on your tasks/activities/etc. as early as possible, and you’ll have the time you need to get your tasks done well, without stress and anxiety weighing you down.
3. Map Out Your Day
A great way to make sure that you are using your time effectively is to make it a habit to map out the activities of each day. Do this on paper or with your favorite app (we’ll share more on these later) the method doesn’t matter as much as actually doing it. Then take some time, either at the end of each day, or at the end of the week and evaluate how effectively you managed your time. Make any necessary adjustments and let your map help you get to where you want to be as efficiently as possible.
4. Create To-Do Lists
To-do lists are an essential tool for any busy person looking to improve their time management. Make lists of all the things you need to do and even the goals you want to accomplish. You can have short-term, medium-term, and long-term to-do lists.
To-do lists help you keep track of all you need to do for all the different roles you have to fulfill. They help make sure that nothing falls through the cracks, and they also give bursts of motivation whenever you get to cross something off those lists!
5. Prioritize Tasks
Once you have your to-do lists, it’s time to employ a really effective time management technique…it’s time to prioritize your tasks. Order all your tasks from most important/urgent to least important/urgent so you can make sure that the most urgent tasks get done first.
When you start with the most important tasks and get them completed efficiently, it makes everything else seem less stressful and easier!
This strategy is based upon Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Principle. To learn more about it, and how it can help you manage your time better, check out this post.
6. Set Realistic Deadlines
When you prioritize tasks, you can then set realistic deadlines that will help ensure that your prioritized to-do list actually gets done.
Sometimes we overestimate how much time it takes us to get things done, and we overfill our daily to-do lists. And when we see we’re not anywhere close to getting everything done, this can lead to missed deadlines, which leads to stress, and the end result may be subpar work as we cram to get everything done. Learning to set realistic deadlines will improve your time management as you’ll effectively get to all you intend to, and remain on top of all you have to do.
7. Group Related Tasks
Another way to improve your time management is to group related tasks together. By grouping related tasks together, it can greatly speed up the individual tasks. Look for commonalities in your daily to-to lists/map, and order these tasks/activities together.
If, for example, you need to draft your next newsletter, write captions for the day’s social media posts, and respond to two emails, you could group these items together. You’ll already be “in the writing zone” and this means you will cross off the other items way more speedily than if you first wrote your newsletter, then changed tasks to something completely different, and then had to come back, get back into that writing grove, and only then write your captions.
8. Keep Track of Everything You’re Doing
Do regular check-ins throughout the day to monitor your progress. This will help you make sure that everything is going as planned, it will let you know if you need to pick up the pace a little, but it will also give you a clear-eyed assessment of what may need to be rescheduled, well-before the deadline is staring you in the face.
As you’re mastering the skill of good time-management, it might be beneficial to do a number of these check-ins throughout your day, even every hour. But the more you harness and exercise this skill, the less monitoring of your process you’ll have to do.
9. Use Productivity Techniques
To make sure you’re not wasting any time during the day, put some tried-and-tested productivity techniques to the test.
And luckily for us, there are so many to choose from! From the Pomodoro Technique, the Personal Kanban, to the Getting Things Done method, you’ll definitely be able to find one, or a combination of methods that works best for you.
To learn more about productivity techniques, take a look at this post: We Tested 7 Top Productivity Methods So You Don’t Have To
10. Get Rid of Distractions
After the Procrastination Monster, distractions are next in line as an enemy of good time management. And so you need to get rid of those distractions.
And I’m sure you one of the biggest culprits of them all. You may even be reading this post on it…yup, your smart phone. And if you don’t believe, navigate quickly to your phone’s setting to where it gives you feedback on the amount of time you’re spending on your phone…were you shocked?
From this simple exercise it should be clear that getting rid of your distractions, whether that’s your smart phone, Netflix, etc. will give you A LOT more time in the day. Do what works for you. Log out of your Netflix account so that it’s harder to access it, set time limits on your apps, etc. Break these bad habits and you’ll giant steps closer to being a time management master.
11. Organize Your Environment
Your environment, the physical space in which you work can greatly impact your productivity. So make sure that it’s organized and tidy, and is set-up in a way that will help make you the most productive.
A tidy, organized work space will make it that much easier to access all you need to complete your tasks, without wasting any time shuffling through “not what I need” mountains. Keep water somewhere close at hand to keep you hydrated, and even some healthy snacks if you hit an energy lull while in the middle of a task.
12. Take Breaks
It may sound completely contradictory to say that in order to improve your time management you need to take breaks, but it definitely isn’t! Taking breaks throughout the day will help you maintain focus and keep your energy levels up. And this means you’ll have the gusto you need to keep crossing off those tasks efficiently and effectively!
So schedule breaks into your to-do list. Stretch your legs periodically, walk around to get the blood flowing again, or go and refill your water bottle (or coffee mug…). This break away from your task can actually help you focus better when you get back to it
13. Focus On One Task at a Time
Spoiler Alert! Multitasking may be a myth! Studies have proven that splitting your attention between tasks usually means you’re being far less productive than if you were just focusing on one task, and then moving on to the next. So if you’re multitasking in order to improve your time management skills, then I’m sorry to tell you that you probably are getting very little done…
And the reason why is that when we are working on multiple things at once our focus gets diluted, and every time we switch between tasks, we lose time each time we have to reacquaint ourselves with the task. It is much more effective, not to mention efficient, to focus on one task at a time.
14. Find Your System
Remember “Good Time Management” is not a one-size fits all approach. If you want to be an excellent manager of your time, you need to find a system that works for you in your unique situation, and with your personality and temperament.
You need to find the productivity technique(s) that work for you. You need to find the work flow that works for you, and you need to tackle tasks in the order that works for you and your deadlines.
And that means you’re going to have to try different things. Some will work, some won’t, and that’s okay! Once you find your own system, there’ll be no stopping you!
15. Use Technology
Technology is a gift when it comes to mastering time management! Use it! There are so many great apps designed specifically to help you become an expert at time management!
You’ll have to do a little research to find all that’s available and then find the ones that work best for you, but I guarantee it won’t be too tough of a hunt! As I said, there are so many to choose from! To get you started, check out our post on the 10 Top Free Resources To Boost Your Productivity.
16. Learn More About Your Natural Energy Cycle
If you want to take your time management skills to the next level, learn more about your natural energy cycle. And then plan your tasks accordingly. Some people are morning people while others are night owls. You might be all-systems-go from mid-morning until early afternoon, and then you hit that afternoon slump.
If you are aware of your natural energy cycle, you can plan the tasks that require all of your attention and energy for the time that you’re most energized, and the easier tasks you can leave for that slump period. That way, you’re harnessing your natural energy and using it to your advantage. And the results will show in your efficiency.
17. Know Your Motivators
This strategy boils down to rewards. What are your motivators? They may be intrinsic. You feel motivated and rewarded when you cross off another item on your to-do list with a satisfying swipe. Or they may be intrinsic, a good cup of coffee, your favorite treat, or a little retail therapy.
Whatever it is, use these as motivators, especially when you’re trying to built the habits of good time management. Set your goals, write down the reward, then put pedal to the metal and get those tasks done!
Delegating is a really effective time management technique, but is most likely not one that you utilize enough! Do all your tasks have to be completed by you specifically? Or are there some tasks where leaning on the strengths of others would get the job done more efficiently?
Delegating the tasks that you don’t need to do can help free up your time to give your attention and energy to those tasks where your strengths shine! So don’t be afraid to ask for help, delegate, or even outsource those tasks that you don’t actually need to be doing. You’ll then be free to be way more effective in what you do have to do.
And BONUS! Delegating tasks to your employees, team members, etc. will help them build their skills and confidence! Making them even more valuable to your team. It’s win-win all around!
19. Say No!
Ever heard the saying, “Not my zoo, not my monkey.”? Sometimes we’re bad at time management because we’re good at saying yes…even when we shouldn’t! So learn to assess whether or not something is, in fact, your monkey, and when you should say no!
If you tend to be a people-pleaser, this strategy can be particularly hard to implement. But if you remember that taking on more than you should can lead to you producing subpar work, or not operating at your best, you’ll start to see that in some cases, you actually have a responsibility to say no for the good of all involved.
And lastly, if you want to be good at managing your time effectively, you need to learn to de-stress. Stress can make us not think clearly, can hinder our decision-making ability, and can make us second-guess ourselves at every turn.
And none of the above leads to the quick and quality completion of your tasks! So you need to find ways to de-stress. This could be breathing exercises or mindfulness techniques throughout the day. Or it cold be making sure that you mentally “clock-off” at the end of the day – regardless of whether you hit all your targets or missed a few – and unwind.
That way, when tomorrow begins, you’re feeling refreshed and rested, and ready to tackle – and CONQUER – all that the day has in store.
If you are looking to improve your time management skills, this guide will help provide some of the best ways for you to do so. From knowing our motivators and using those as incentives, to delegating tasks that can be done more efficiently by others, there is something here for everyone. Building and honing your time management skills takes…well…time! So put these strategies into motion, but remember to be kind to yourself in the process. And you’ll soon be crushing your goals and completing your tasks…with time to spare.