With its non-renewable nature, time is our most valuable asset.
Whether we're talking of measuring employee engagement in a large company or achieving the goals from those New Year's resolutions we never shared in public, sophisticated time management skills are sure to guarantee success, as they are equally important in both professional and personal settings.
Furthermore, in the post pandemic world scarred with losses the value of time will be greater. Thus, adapting to reality under the terms of high uncertainty and searching for practical ways of bettering time management is actual as never before.
Take these 10 proven, simple steps we list below, and you'll be able to improve your time management without extra effort.
Set Goals to Improve Time Management
Why do we need goals?
From a broader perspective, without a purpose, we feel fretful, which leads to a lack of discipline and procrastination. Hence, goals are an important component of time management as they contribute to:
- creating a roadmap for projects
- building consistent performance of the tasks.
It calls into question what smart goal setting for improving time management looks like and what exemplifies smart time management goals.
How to set goals to improve time management
To set goals to improve time management, it is essential you consider the following:
- Goals can be either specific or general in nature. Yet, for each task, they should be clearly defined and clear-cut (what you do, why you do it and when you start and finish).
- Goals can be set for immediate or long-term projects. In business environments, it is mandatory to write them down to ensure compliance with legal and internal requirements.
- When setting goals, it is important to identify any probable obstacles that may hinder progress toward achieving expected results. An obstacle could be anything from a lack of knowledge about how to do something to not having access to certain materials needed in order to complete the task at hand. Once an obstacle has been identified, it’s easier to come up with a solution.
Prioritize Your Work
Lack of prioritizing leads to stress and fatigue.
To deal with curveballs effectively, you need to remember that priorities should not make you rigid.
On the contrary, to achieve results, we need to be flexible and take a proactive approach: it will help us adjust to changes without beating ourselves up or making a negative impact on our time management.
To master the art of prioritizing, there are lots of techniques. One of them is to identify what activities require the least effort but bring the maximum in terms of outcomes and focus on them.
Below, we discuss this step in more detail along with practical tips on how to prioritize for better time management.
Do, Delay, Delegate, or Drop for Better Time Management
To manage it all, we must focus on 4Ds: Do, Delay, Delegate, and Drop.
Once you made your plans, evaluate them using these categories.
How To Do, Delegate, Delay, Drop To Improve Your Time Management
Remove from the list those plans you can delay (keep this plan using your idea management tool or similar)
Delete those plans you can drop.
Pay special attention to those you can delegate: mastering the art of delegation is not as simple as it may seem and requires preparation with assigning the one who can perform tasks and, most importantly instructing them with guidelines on how to do it.
Now you can focus on 'doable'.
By incorporating this strategy into your daily life, you will get an instant overview of all upcoming projects and tasks at hand regardless of their complexity.
How It Improves Your Time Management: Categorizing plans under 4Ds helps automate decision-making and determine which things are under the radar and which tasks can be postponed without fear of negative repercussions.
In today's fast-paced world, juggling tasks can feel like a full time job. Even as technology advances, it seems there are more non-essential things to do than ever before.
But the keyword here is the focus, which is the opposite of multitasking.
Focus is important for not diverting and reaching your goal without fail, so it's best to turn off distractions and stay focused on the task at hand, or else you'll waste time bouncing from one thing to another.
The dangers of multitasking were exposed multiple times. Bringing too much on your plate can cause mental fatigue, cloud reasoning, and, in the long run, decrease output.
Nick Wignall nailed it in one brilliant quote:
Confusion is the mother of procrastination. Productivity is the child of clarity.
Refusing the idea of multitasking in favor of concentrating on a single task wholeheartedly will help you not only allot time wisely but get in the flow and move one step at a time for ensuring the best and most sustainable results.
How to avoid multitasking for better time management results
Since it may be a challenge, we offer simple techniques to help you stay focused on your tasks and ensure they're never out of sight.
- Track time to identify your personal productivity peak. Why does it work? Due to having different preferences in organizing workspace and different work habits, we differ in time when we perform at our best.
- Apply a digital time tracker. Self-monitor your work timeline for a week in a row: it will show you the hours and tasks you feel most engaged in. Allocate these time slots for a SINGLE task you find challenging and do it.
Another technique to try for multitasking prevention is ABC.
Unlike the traditional strategy of ABC overview of tasks, we mean ABC in sales for Always Be Closing transported into the realm of time management. Taking an ABC approach of salespeople, you will train resilience, feel more confident, and prevent turning tiny tasks into big monsters.
- When having a task at hand, intend for focusing on it for just 2 minutes. This 'closing' time can be just enough to make an effort and address the issues of procrastination and low motivation.
Breaks if taken properly are like magic. They can give you a boost of energy to proceed faster and more efficiently. Just use your break to contemplate, gain a wider view of things, and time to recharge.
In particular, when you are stuck, consider as many productive-breaks-techniques as possible. Even exotic ones like... talking to the duck. This original way of taking control of your time and your emotions is known as 'yellow duck debug'.
How to take breaks to improve time management
When utilized for the purpose of improved time management, it is based on the idea of taking breaks in a productive way.
Overall, when you pause your work, make sure you unplug completely. Rather than staying online and fighting the resistance of checking emails or news on social media that inevitably leads to 'doomscrolling', all you need to do is... talk to the duck.
Organize Your Workspace
To improve time management in the workplace, you need to keep only one word in mind, and it is DECLUTTER.
Organizing your workspace so that it nurtured your mind rather than distracted you is the baseline. According to Princeton University researchers' studies, task performance suffers from the disarray of space. It means we need to get rid of extra, which promises to be liberating, time-saving, and productive.
How to organize your workspace to improve time management
If you do not know what to start with when it comes to mastering the art of decluttering, we highly recommend this step-by-step guide that we tried and it worked miracles.
We admit it may not be effortless, but the rewards of a decluttered mind, i.e. creating space for the brain to access new information, certainly outweigh the effort of adjustment.
As Seth Godin put it:
A new habit takes at least thirty uncomfortable days to form, and a new habit is unrelated to the external forces (positive and negative) that we’re so good at finding and embracing.
Not to overload mental space, you can try bullet journaling.
Bullet journaling (the BuJo method) helps you avoid the struggle of choice by itemizing things you have to deal with. Furthermore, it assists you not only in staying in control but in releasing stress by freeing the mental space.
When done regularly, this practice turns into one of the most effective productivity systems. It keeps a record of what is important and enables users to focus on the completion of the tasks in an unobtrusive and well-planned way.
Setting up a schedule for completing tasks helps reduce procrastination by giving you a deadline for each task and keeps you accountable for meeting those deadlines. Enforcing everything into the calendar results not only in improved time management but also in increased productivity.
How to enhance your schedule
To make the most of the schedule though, you need to apply scheduling along with:
- task batching
- time blocking.
Also, think about ways to schedule breaks into your day.
Becoming skilled at scheduling by applying time blocking in particular means that you can achieve your goals more easily and enjoy a higher level of personal and business productivity.
If briefly, tasks should be broken down into shorter steps so that they are easier to accomplish. Time allocated for each of the planned tasks should be put on your weekly/monthly calendar, which will enable you to keep a visualized picture of the workweek.
Set Boundaries on Work
We may feel tempted to try for more and to go for a complete win. But if we get too far ahead of ourselves, we might realize the limits of what's possible.
We are all familiar with the phrases “burnout” and the “burned out.” Seldom do we hear the term used as a positive.
Many people resort to burning themselves out until they physically can't continue in the same position, quitting and thereby minimizing any potential compounding of skills and work relationships.
In worst-case scenarios, we push ourselves until we’ve hit burnout when we physically can’t continue in the same positions and quit, which often leads to frustration.
At times when we feel we lost track of time or get confused and stuck, it is productive to look back for validation of obtained results. This technique breaks down to creating an I-Did list. The items on the list can vary depending on what time you want to analyze and include achievements of a year or tasks completed in a day.
How It Improves Your Time Management: It is not only an effective way to regain power but also to see things from a different perspective.
To unlock the potential of our brain, ironically, keep in mind that we have limits on processing information confirmed by scientific research. Hence, take steps to prevent information overload.
To feel in better control, start with the basics. The ideal to-do list is no more than 5 items. Planning too excessively might cause anxiety and lead to an imbalance in time consumption.
Build Morning Routine that Suits You
Following a well-developed morning routine is a great way to start a day as it helps you stay focused on what you want to achieve and navigate a day under a load of work and life obligations stress-free.
If you enrich your morning routine with these 50 ideas, you are guaranteed to manage more with less effort.
It's also worth noting that setting a proper morning routine makes a big impact not only on your productivity for the coming day but also on the quality of your sleep. According to studies, waking up at the same time regardless of the weekday helps your body sync with circadian rhythm at best and prevents sleep deprivation.
To organize your work in the morning effortlessly, we also recommend trying the ALPS technique.
The ALPS method stands for a technique of managing your time by following just 4 steps: Activity, Length, Plan, and Supervision. The technique was offered by Professor Lothar J. Seiwert, a recognized time management expert and an economist.
Organizing your work in the morning, give a name to the activity you want to engage in, allocate its duration (length), plan its performance, and monitor the process in progress.
How It Improves Your Time Management The ALPS strategy is elegantly simple and effective because it is universally applicable to both work and personal environments and saves time and resources throughout all the stages of planning and performance.
Use Time Management Tools and Apps
We know we can't tackle all time management issues, but it is for a reason that there are lots of popular tools to improve time management and extensions for productivity, – when used properly, they do help.
What tools and apps to choose to improve time management
To adapt your tech stack at best, try the top 6 tools from the list below.
OmniFocus: Digital Planner
It is an efficient planner for professionals catering to the needs of individuals and teams.
According to reviews:
It's well suited for people who follow GTD, too.
OmniFocus has a functionality enabling you to lower stress and increase control over tasks and projects.
By activating its forecast options, you can have a laser-focus view on what is your top priority of the day.
Focus Keeper: Pomodoro Timer
It is a Pomodoro technique-based app that guarantees to deliver its users the improved focus as the name suggests and, most importantly, keep it on prioritized activities without fail. The app tagline states: Work with time. Not against it!
Keeping priorities in check will help you prevent not only time mismanagement but also address burnout before it becomes an issue.
NordPass: Password Manager
With more accounts we create, there comes the challenge of keeping track of passwords. NordPass is one of the best password managers for securing sensitive information, and not overkill in terms of features though it also offers advanced functionality for most demanding clients.
It helps you stay safe and keeps your passwords in one place saving you tons of time and energy.
Mint: Expense Tracker
Introduced by Intuit Inc., this app can be recommended as the best choice for both effortless tracking of expenses and learning budgeting skills on the go. Its capabilities include:
- easy-to-start tracking of your expenditures
- setting financial goals hassle-free.
The success of the tool is based on the incorporation of machine learning in its design and automation of mundane tasks.
Forest: Productivity Assistant
Since we firmly believe that prioritizing mental health and work life balance leads to improvement of time management skills, we are never tired of recommending this app of perfection that uses gamification (plant trees and see them grow) for enhanced customer experience.
There is a good reason for Forest to be ranked as a top productivity app in 136 countries. Aside from its beautiful design, it brings multiple advantages to its users:
- training focused vision
- effective unplugging
- decrease of 'codependent relations' with the phone
- polishing time management and organizational habits.
TMetric: Digital Work Time Tracker
In the work environment, it is an optimal tool for creating a realistic data-based employee engagement matrix.
Applicable to any industry, TMetric provides employee time tracking that caters to industry-specific time management and tracking needs.
According to extensive research, it was stated:
90% of remote managers believe that remote tools will become standard even for non-remote staff.
TMetric is an example of such a tool as it belongs to software that delivers the best experience of remote and in-office work with the aim of improved time management.
This WORKS even if you are a newbie▶️
- Goals help you focus on what is important, rather than getting distracted by other things stealing your time and energy. Setting goals will keep you on track and ensure that you stay motivated through thick and thin.
- In prioritizing, use the rule of do, delegate, delay, and drop for getting a clear overview of what is important and what can be discarded.
- Of all the various ways you have to improve your time management and productivity, discovering your peak performance time by analyzing your time tracking data and using it for performance without multitasking are the most effective.
- Breaking down tasks into smaller parts will help you meet your goals by making them more manageable and achievable.
- Learn how to take productive breaks.
- Set healthy boundaries on your work time and guard them.
- With so many responsibilities being thrown at us, it is great to have something to help you. Handy tools to improve your time management like time trackers and digital planners are always there no matter what time of day.
And a timely reminder – not more productivity hacks, but applying techniques systematically and training your mind are the only drivers leading to true productivity.