Time management is the ability to organize your time effectively so that you can be more productive and reduce the stress associated with overworking. Working smarter – not harder – is the key to getting through your to-do list and restoring your work/life balance.

Good time management involves not only keeping track of the time involved in tasks and cutting it down but also prioritizing the most important tasks in your day and avoiding wasting time on ‘busy work’. 

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Why Is Time Management Important?

In today’s fast-paced society, so many of us are focused on proving how dedicated we are when it comes to our careers, that we forget to be dedicated to the rest of our lives too. As a young adult with few commitments, it can be easy to throw yourself into your job in an attempt to impress your employers, achieve promotion or simply make more money. 

However, as time goes on, many people find it difficult to juggle work with family time and other interests. You may find yourself being pulled in too many directions and trying to keep everyone happy, except yourself!  Since a better work/life balance can improve workplace morale and staff retention, you will actually be doing your employers a favor by finding a way to manage your time effectively and avoiding burnout. 

The earlier you make attempts to manage your time efficiently, the more likely you are to restore balance easily. So try implementing some of these time management techniques into your day and see the benefits they can bring to both your work life and your free time. 

Time Management Tips And Techniques

Plan Your Day

The American author Zig Ziglar said “If you don’t plan your time, someone else will help you waste it”. Although it may seem counterintuitive to use some of your already limited time each day to write out a plan, it can make a huge difference to your productivity going forward. 

Planning each task you need to achieve will help you stay on task and reduce the chance of you becoming distracted or wasting time on unnecessary work.  If you are interrupted by a colleague, you can show them your plan and politely tell them you are in the middle of an important task. By writing out all of your tasks for the day, it can often seem less overwhelming than keeping them building up in your head.

Some people like to plan their day the night before, meaning they can go to sleep with a clear head. Others prefer to make it the first thing they do in the morning, perhaps over breakfast. Either way, commit to making a plan each day and then stick to it as far as possible. Of course, there will occasionally be unavoidable events that will force you to deviate, but your plan will make it much easier to get back on track afterward. 

Use Your Phone To Help You Plan

When planning their day, most people use a list format. While using a pen and paper is a perfectly acceptable way to do this, it means you have to carry the paper with you and ensure you don’t lose it. We definitely don’t want to be wasting precious time re-planning our day!

Assuming you take your phone to work, the most effective way to create lists is to use an app such as Todoist. The free version is perfectly good and allows you to set up various lists and projects to keep all of your thoughts organized. You can sync it across your devices, meaning you can add to your lists from home or work, and you organize your tasks by priority so that you can see at a glance what needs to be tackled first.  In addition, it can be linked up with other productivity apps, including Amazon Alexa and Microsoft Outlook.

Prioritize Important Tasks

You have so many things to get through in a workday, and some are much more important than others.  As part of your planning, be sure to work out which tasks on your list are of the highest priority, and start with them, to avoid wasting precious time on non-essential tasks. 

It may be useful to grade each of your tasks according to the following headings, using a matrix developed by Dwight Eisenhower:

Urgent and Important
    Do Now

Important but not Urgent
Urgent but not important
Not urgent and not important

Quadrant 1 tasks are tackled first, with category 4 being left till last or removed entirely. If you can delegate quadrant 3 tasks to someone else, do so, since these tasks are not important to your long-term goals, leaving you free time to complete quadrant 2 tasks instead. 

Complete The Hardest Tasks First – Eat That Frog!

Once you have decided which tasks on your list are the most important, it’s time to get started. If you have more than one job on your priority list, you still need to decide where to start. 

Mark Twain famously 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.” 

By tackling the hardest or most off-putting task first, the rest of your tasks for the day will seem straightforward in comparison. Additionally, you won’t be carrying the negative energy and stress around with you of thinking of a job you are dreading. 

Productivity and focus tend to be higher in the morning if you have had a refreshing night’s sleep, so it makes sense to tackle projects that require more brainpower earlier in the day.

Once you have ticked off your hardest, biggest ‘frog’, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and everything else on your list will seem like a piece of cake. Just don’t get distracted by, you know, cake! 

Organize Paperwork And Digital Files

In the digital age, sorting out paperwork may seem like a job of the past, but sorting out your files is just as important nowadays if you want to be efficient. So many people who have tidy desks have completely chaotic desktops! If your mind is to be uncluttered, your computer desktop must be too!

Live Binders is a great online tool that will help you keep all your digital documents organized in a way that mimics the benefits of 3-ring binders without any of the drawbacks.  You can create separate binders for each topic, and create tabs and sub-tabs within that category. In addition, you can collaborate with co-workers and upload presentations, videos, and links to websites. 

Try to set aside some time this week to sort your important files from your computer into different categories to make them easy to find. This will save you time week after week and lead to you becoming more efficient and organized overall. 

Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a famous time management method named after the tomato-shaped timer its creator used. It involves setting a timer for 25 minutes and working solely on the task at hand for that time. When the timer goes off, stop for a short 5-minute break, then begin again.  Once you have completed 4 rounds, you have a 30-minute break, then go back to the start.

This is a great technique if you are easily distracted, and it may surprise you how much you can achieve in 25 minutes! It works really well for open-ended tasks and can stop you from becoming bored. 

Time Blocking

Elon Musk apparently owes his high productivity rate to the time-blocking method, so perhaps it’s something we mere mortals should attempt as well. If he can work 80 hours a week and still find time for himself, it’s definitely something we should take advantage of!

Before you start your day, split your time into 30 or 60-minute blocks and assign a task to each time block. Some blocks will be out of your control, for example, if you have meetings to attend, but the rest of the time is yours to organize how you wish. Remembering Mark Twain, try to tackle your least favorite jobs first.

Here is an example of a time-blocked day – and yes, you should allow time to eat lunch and go home before it gets dark!

8 amPlan tasks for today (30 mins)Reply to emails (30 mins)
9 amTeam meeting
10 am Phone call with clients
11 amBreak (20 mins)Reply to emails (10 mins)Schedule meetings for next week (30 mins)
12 pmMeeting with department head (30 mins)Lunch (30 mins)
1 pm Meeting with marketing team
2 pm Zoom call with clients
3 pm Zoom call with clients
4 pmWork on next week’s presentation
5 pmPaperwork
6 pmGo home!

Break Down Tasks Into Smaller Steps

While keeping the end goal in mind is an important part of planning a project, for some tasks, this can seem overwhelming. For example, if your project was ‘Write a Book’, focusing on that within your daily task schedule is not going to help move you forward. Instead, it would be helpful to break it down into smaller tasks, such as: 

  • Write an introduction
  • Draft an outline
  • Create chapter titles
  • Research how to publish…and so on.

If you have a big assignment that will be completed over many days and weeks, spend a few minutes breaking it down into small, manageable chunks and adding these to your plan for the day or week. This will help make your goal seem more attainable if you can see the steps you are taking toward it every day.

Get Up Early

If you’re not a morning person, you have likely already shaken your head to this suggestion and are ready to skip past it – but please don’t!  Getting up earlier than usual in the morning can have a massive impact on you creating more time in your day and achieving your goals. You don’t have to join the 4 am club – whose celebrity members include Michelle Obama, Mark Wahlberg, and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson –  but setting your alarm an hour earlier in the morning will give you the opportunity to fit in your first few tasks of the day while the rest of the house is still asleep.  

It will astound you how much work you can get done in a short space of time in the early hours when your brain is well-rested and fully focused. Many people who start this end up getting up earlier and earlier as they realize how productive they can be. I was never a morning person, but I am writing this article at 5.45 am as the sun is coming up, and I now get such a thrill from being up and being so productive when most people are still snoring!

‘The Miracle Morning’ by Hal Elrod is a great read if you are toying with the idea of making the most of your mornings, and you will find it makes you more productive for the rest of the day too.

Final Thoughts

Being dedicated to your job doesn’t have to mean giving up your personal life entirely to dedicate yourself to the profession. Incorporating good time management into your working week will help you prevent wasting time and allow you to spend more of your free time on the things and people that really matter.