In this article, you will learn:
- Create a Daily Task List
- Prioritize Your Tasks
- Do the Most Critical Tasks in the Morning
- Track Your Time
- Minimize Distractions
- Avoid Multitasking
- Use Time Management Apps and Tools
- Perform Audits of Your Time Weekly
- Create Meeting Agendas
- Don’t Wait for Inspiration to Start Working
- Schedule Your Breaks
- Keep a List of Backup Tasks
- Organize Your Desk, Task List, Inbox, etc.
- Use Your Calendar
- Skip Ahead When You Feel Stuck
- Communicate Your Workload With Your Team
- Delegate Non Essential Tasks If You Can
- Check Your Email Once a Day
- Learn To Say No
- Group Similar Tasks Together
- Find Your Flow State
- Focus On Your Work-Life Balance
- Practice Removing Bad Habits
- Make Another To-Do List For Tomorrow
- Seek a Mentor for More Guidance
Your potential to manage time determines your success or failure. The better you manage your time, the more you can achieve your work goals.
Time management is essential as it allows you to organize and take control of the important aspects of your life. Thus, you gain more potential to be productive if you know how to manage time better, better organize, and take charge of important events.
As per Stephen R. Covey, the author of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, the essence of time management is best captured in the following phrase: ‘Organize and Execute Around Priorities.’
Thus, prioritizing is mandatory for effective time management. Needless to say, if you fail to prioritize, you prioritize to fail. In this article, we will understand what is time management, why is time management important, and effective time management tips that can help you to be successful at work.
What is Time Management?
Time management is the process of planning and controlling the amount of time you would give to specific tasks, to boost your efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity.
Furthermore, Time Management skills help you to organize better and let you take charge of your time, personal, and professional life.
Thus, you are more productive in the workplace when you feel having control over time and the important aspects of your work life.
Time Management involves planning, scheduling, and prioritizing the routine activities so that you can get more done in less time.
Thus, Time Management is one of the important business skills that must be learned and practiced so that you can achieve the most in the given time.
Why is Time Management Important?
Time Management is important for all aspects of life. But, when it comes to success at the workplace, time management skills are of utmost importance.
There are several benefits that you can reap if you know how to manage your time.
Missing Deadlines Is Out Of Scope
You will be able to complete the work within the prescribed time if you divide your routine tasks into smaller tasks that can be easily managed.
It is way too easy to miss your deadlines if proper planning of how the work needs to be done is not undertaken.
Make sure that you start your work on time so that you can keep up with your daily targets and hence finish the tasks on time.
Reduced Stress and Anxiety
Meeting deadlines brings stress and anxiety. This is because you are always in the wake of completing the work successfully and have no clue whether it would be done on time.
Time Management helps you break tasks, set daily targets, and see how much time you would need to complete each task.
Thus, prioritizing becomes easy as the work is broken down into several smaller tasks. This helps you in managing time, completing your tasks, and hence minimizing stress.
More Focus and Less Procrastination
It becomes easy for you to focus on work when you have a proper schedule that defines the time allocated for each small task.
This is because you have set a deadline for yourself for each smaller task. Thus, you would not procrastinate and ensure that there are no delays in work on the defined tasks.
Gaining Better Career Opportunities
Time Management gets more time on your side and allows you to explore newer opportunities. Gaining new skills, and learning newer aspects of work and business can open up doors for newer opportunities at work.
Improved Performance and Efficiency
You get a clear understanding as to how much needs to be done in how much time when you have a proper schedule in hand.
Thus, such clarity helps you to focus on getting the important tasks done instead of investing time in thinking about what to do?
Furthermore, you can get more done in less time when you only focus on the important tasks and filter out noise.
Time Management Tips For Work
Create a Daily Task List
It is easy to get overwhelmed with your work as you already have too much on your plate. And the very need to maintain a balance between personal and professional life brings stress.
However, it becomes even more stressful when important tasks are left undone. Preparing a to-do list is what comes in handy as it helps you to prioritize your tasks.
That is, it helps you to distinguish between the important and unimportant tasks, keep track of the work yet to be done, allocate time, and thus helps you to get work done efficiently.
Thus, there are certain things you need to keep in mind while preparing a to-do list that helps you boost your productivity.
- Prepare a list of tasks that you need to undertake. See what tasks can you delegate?
- Allocate time for each task to be done.
- Make your to-do-list aesthetically beautiful to keep you motivated.
- Set deadlines for every task and accountability.
- Place your to-do-list in front of you so that you can refer to it time and again.
Prioritize Your Tasks
The next step is to prioritize your tasks based on the nature of your job and your style of working once you have worked out your to-do-list.
Assigning priority to tasks helps you to stay on track, concentrate, and avoid the risk of missing important deadlines. Furthermore, it helps you to be proactive thereby increasing your productivity and managing your time better.
There are various prioritization methods that you can use to see what tasks you do the first thing when you start your day.
These methods allow you to organize your to-do-list according to the degree of importance of tasks mentioned in the list. Such methods include:
Eat The Frog Method
Under this, complex or big tasks are done first with the less important tasks done later.
Under this method, every task mentioned in the to-do-list is assigned a letter or a grade signifying the level of importance of the task. That is, A signifies the most important task and E signifies the least important task.
Eisenhower Decision Matrix
In this method, a four-quadrant matrix is prepared called the ‘Urgent Important Matrix’. Accordingly, the tasks are divided into four quadrants based on whether they are important, urgent, both, or neither.
The Chunking method involves dividing the work as focused, undisturbed blocks of time. Using this method, you avoid the external noise and signify to others that you are not available for the blocks of focused time. This is done so that you can carry out the work uninterruptedly.
Do the Most Critical Tasks in the Morning
One of the primary tips for time management includes doing the most important tasks first thing in the morning if you want to be productive. Productivity does not mean getting more done in less time. Rather it means getting important tasks done day after day.
There are many benefits of doing important tasks first thing in the morning. These include:
- Doing important tasks efficiently as you are full of energy during the morning hours.
- You avoid including unnecessary tasks in your to-do-list that get included way too easily in your schedule towards the latter half of the day. This takes you away from doing things as planned.
Track Your Time
Tracking time is one of the important tips for time management. This is because you do not end up wasting time on distractions and unimportant tasks.
Thus, tracking time helps you to know where and how your time is being spent. Accordingly, you can clearly distinguish between the number of hours you were productive and the number of hours you spent on unimportant tasks.
Therefore, tracking time helps you to understand how to manage your time and make requisite improvements if needed. For instance, you can either delegate the unimportant tasks or automatize them if you are spending too much time on the unimportant tasks.
Likewise, you can also get to know the number of hours for which you were distracted when at work.
It is quite easy to get distracted at work given the digital age we live in. As per HBR, an average employee gets interrupted 50 to 60 times a day. Furthermore, about 80 percent of these interruptions are unnecessary.
As a result of this, they are not able to achieve the ‘Flow’ state, that is, space where they are close to five times more productive.
Thus, these distractions bring stress and anxiety as they make the employees feel unproductive.
So, it is important to know how to manage time better to take control of your time and avoid distractions at work.
Some of the ways in which you can undertake minimizing distractions and thus helping yourself in managing time include:
- Blocking online distractions
- Turning off push notifications
- Indicating colleagues that they should not disturb unless urgent through ‘Do Not Disturb’ signals
- Blocking meeting-free zones in your calendars
- Replying to emails at a time suitable to you and not when you immediately receive them.
- Checking messages, social media, emails, etc. in clusters instead of replying to them randomly.
We look forward to multitasking so that we can get more work done as more work comes our way. Technology has made it easy for us to undertake to multitask.
However, this results in incomplete tasks. This is because we are not able to focus on one project or task for a time period enough to complete the project.
In addition to this, it hampers our quality of work and takes us away from learning as we would not be able to focus cent percent.
Therefore, some of the ways in which you can avoid multitasking and thus undertake managing time include:
- Avoid checking your phone first thing in the morning
- Prioritizing tasks according to the level of importance
- Minimizing external distractions
- Say no to additional tasks that you are asked to do but you have no time
Use Time Management Apps and Tools
You always feel that you have more work to do when in the workplace. But you do not have sufficient time to undertake the same.
However, the reality is there is time to do everything important and must be done. But there might be a possibility that you do not know how to manage time in an optimum way.
Time management skills involve breaking the task you want to get done and charting a way of how you will achieve the same.
Thus, one of the tips for time management is that you can use time management apps to manage your routine tasks that need to be one day after day.
These apps can be used across all devices and help you in managing time as well as daily tasks on the go.
The various aspects in which these time management apps and tools are helpful include:
- Reviewing and arranging daily tasks
- Focusing on particular tasks for a given time
- Grouping tasks in chunks
- Organizing all your images, lists, and attachments in one place
- Project management
- Email management, etc.
Perform Audits of Your Time Weekly
A study was undertaken to observe the work habits of the business owners and their key executives. It was found that 30% of their workweeks were given to time-wasting, low value, and no value activities.
These included low-value tasks like answering emails, wasteful meetings, etc. You can avoid such a huge loss of time can be avoided by undertaking weekly time audits.
A time audit is nothing but a process of tracking the activities on which you have spent time for a consistent period. Then, you can make the necessary alterations to utilize your time effectively once you know where the time is being spent.
High performing employees are efficient not because they have something extra in terms of tools, secret tactics, etc. It is simply that they can distinguish the high priority tasks from mundane tasks.
Create Meeting Agendas
As mentioned earlier, meetings top the list when it comes to time wasters at the workplace. This is because the majority of times they are unorganized, lack purpose, and typically go off track in a way that they stretch beyond the stipulated hours.
Thus, preparing a meeting agenda to avoid meetings being one of the time-wasters is one of the ways to manage time better.
The meeting agenda is nothing but the purpose for which a meeting is to be called. Thus, you decide on the time of the meeting, participants, define the objective of the meeting, take inputs from the participants, list agenda topics, and allocate time when you prepare a meeting agenda.
The meeting agendas help to keep meetings on track, save time and resources, motivate the participants to contribute and provide time for preparation.
Don’t Wait for Inspiration to Start Working
Aristotle said that ‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.’
William James wrote, ‘Recollect that only when habits of the order are formed can we advance to really interesting fields of action.’
Thus, successful people do not wait for motivation or inspiration. Instead, they follow a consistent routine. It is the daily schedule they follow and the habits they practice that define their success. Therefore, make sure you stop procrastinating, follow a discipline, and take small steps towards your goals.
Schedule Your Breaks
This may seem counterintuitive, but scheduling breaks in your work day can do a lot to boost your productivity.
It is true that there is a lot of work that needs to be done in the budgeted time. However, scheduling breaks during work hours helps you to stay focussed, get unique ideas, make better decisions, and prevent burnout.
There are a number of methods that you can follow to schedule breaks during work hours. These include:
This method focuses on doing work in small periods of time. Thus, you can set the timer for 25 minutes and take a 5-minute break once the timer goes off. After you complete 4 such sessions, you can take a long break of 30 minutes.
Ninety Minute Work Blocks
If you need more time for work at a stretch, you can plan the work session for 90 minutes. This helps to boost your productivity.
As per a study, highly productive people work for 52 minutes at a stretch and then take a break of 17 minutes before starting the work again. This too helps you to focus and do work in shorter spans of time.
Keep a List of Backup Tasks
One thing that you do not appreciate when you are the peak of your concentration is ‘waiting’.
You may have to wait to hear from your manager on the next task to be done. Or you would have to wait at the bank to talk to the sales executive for bank-related documents.
Such waiting time can be used to work on petty tasks which make you lose focus when working on important projects.
For instance, you could reply to unanswered emails, take the missed phone calls, pay the requisite office supply bills, etc.
You can also utilize this time for relaxing so that you can get back to work with revived energy.
Organize Your Desk, Task List, Inbox, etc.
You may wonder how office organization can help you in managing time well and boosting your productivity.
But if you think carefully, disorganization can cost you your valuable time and effort. A neat and a properly organized workspace, email inboxes, to-do-lists, etc make way for higher productivity and less wasted time.
This is because you would not have to spend time finding things and shuffling piles. Rather, you could spend your time working on tasks that matter.
Thus, you could undertake the following steps to get started with organizing your workspace:
- Clean your desks and keep only those items that are important for the routine use.
- Use labels to label your shelves, baskets, drawers, etc. to remind you what things are placed where?
- Organize your desktop by putting items into folders.
- Organize your emails by deleting unwanted old emails, unsubscribing newsletters that you don’t read, etc.
Use Your Calendar
The calendar is a great tool to enhance your productivity and in managing time well. This is because a calendar helps you to stay informed about your appointments.
It helps you to know about the day and time when the meetings are scheduled and the purpose for which you need to be there.
However, it is important to use the calendar effectively to avoid challenges like overloaded calendars, overlapping meetings, not knowing the meeting agenda, etc.
Thus, you can follow the following steps to use calendars appropriately:
- Make sure you use only one calendar.
- Record appointments the moment you fix them.
- Use a Scheduling tool to save time and effort and ensure the availability of all the parties.
- Add requisite information so that you know clearly the purpose for which the meeting’s appointment is set.
Skip Ahead When You Feel Stuck
There are times when you are stuck with the task that you are working on. For instance, not able to figure out a proper structure for an article, idea for a logo design, meaning of a code, etc.
No matter how much you strive, you are not able to work on it at that time. This acts as an obstacle in the workflow and tends to slow you down.
In such cases, it is always better to skip the task for sometime and shift on a relatively easy task if possible.
This provides you with the necessary bandwidth to think over the task you are stuck at only to come up with a relevant solution later.
Communicate Your Workload With Your Team
It is important that you communicate the plan of the day to your team once you have prepared the to-do-list in the morning.
Communication is an important aspect of work success as well as one of the important time management tips. Furthermore, communicating your workload to your team members helps in managing your time as well as the schedule of your team members.
This is because your team members will have an understanding of the tasks that you would be working on for the day and the time at which you would be available.
This would enable your team members to adjust their schedule accordingly and know when they can approach you if needed.
Delegate Non Essential Tasks If You Can
HBR conducted a study on how knowledge workers can be more productive? They found that the knowledge workers spend on an average 41% of their day’s time on low valued tasks that could be performed by others.
Similarly, they spend a good amount of time on deskwork and administration activities. Thus, it is important to identify and delegate low-value tasks so that you free up the available time to do work that matters.
It may be challenging initially to delegate the low-value tasks, but would pay off in the long run.
Check Your Email Once a Day
As per McKinsey, an average professional spends 28% of the work day reading and answering emails.
Checking emails frequently cause disturbance and make it difficult for you to recover after such an interruption.
Thus, one of the ways in which you can avoid such a disturbance is checking your emails once a day instead of checking emails as soon as you receive them.
You can turn off the email notifications and make it a practice of checking your inbox once during the day at a time that suits you.
However, make sure you communicate this to your team members so that they are able to reach out to you in case of an emergency.
Learn To Say No
As Steve Jobs rightly said, ‘Focusing is about saying no.’ That is, if you have to get important work done, it is necessary that you are able to focus instead of adding more work to your schedule that will hamper the quality of your work.
You may find it hard to say a no to an unplanned client meeting or work demand when you already have too much on your plate.
Thus, it is necessary to understand how and when to say a no to work that you could have either avoided or scheduled for a later date. You could have even suggested them an alternative like taking up the work at a later date.
Group Similar Tasks Together
Grouping or batching is a great productivity tool for it helps you to organize similar tasks together and do them at the same time.
Obviously, not all tasks are fit for batching. However, there are certain tasks that you do repeatedly that can be clubbed together for better time management.
For example checking and answering emails and phone calls at a specific time during the day.
Thus, there are various ways in which you can group similar tasks. These could be:
- Grouping tasks daily – For instance, answering phone calls and emails during a specific time in the day.
- Grouping tasks weekly or monthly based on output – For instance, designing four logos to be delivered for the week within two days.
- Dividing work activities into a process – For instance, scheduling meetings with the client for logo inputs on day one, thinking over idea and color theme on day two, designing the logos on day three, and finishing the designs on day four.
Find Your Flow State
The ‘Flow’ state is a space where you work at your full capacity with cent percent focus on the task at hand.
Thus, you are engaged in the work in such a way that external factors like fatigue do not interfere. Finding your flow state at work not only reduces stress and anxiety but also boosts your productivity.
So, the flow state can be achieved by:
- Undertaking projects that you would be keen to work on
- Selecting an important task that proves better for your career eventually
- Ensuring that the work is challenging but is not very tough
- Doing work at a time when you can work with concentration and at your best
- Get rid of distractions
- Try to focus on tasks at hand for as long as possible
Focus On Your Work-Life Balance
Increased work responsibility and long working hours can take work-life balance for a toss.
Work-Life balance is important to reduce stress, anxiety, and prevent burnout at work. In order to maintain the work-life balance, you would have to:
- Take up tasks that you can do and outsource the ones that you are not good at.
- Prioritize tasks as important and unimportant.
- Find out hours of the day when you are at the peak of your concentration.
- Define work hours and adhere to them.
Practice Removing Bad Habits
Bad habits prevent you from achieving your goals. They act as a drag on your time and energy. Further, they take a toll on your health both physically and mentally.
Thus, it’s important that you follow the practice of giving up on bad habits. There are a number of ways in which you can practice removing bad habits. These include:
- Choose a replacement for the bad habit.
- Avoid things that provoke you to undertake the bad habit.
- Join hands with a friend or a colleague who can track your progress in respect of giving up on the bad habit.
- Use positive affirmations to keep yourself motivated.
Make Another To-Do List For Tomorrow
You can be a little proactive and prepare a to-do-list in advance if you want extra time for important work tomorrow.
Thus, make sure that towards the end of your workday, you prepare a to-do list for tomorrow so that you can get time on your side for tasks that matter.
Seek a Mentor for More Guidance
You can even seek the help of a mentor who can give you tips for time management and help you enhance your time management skills.
They help you to set targets, assign accountability, and guide you on ways in which work can be done more efficiently.
Therefore, do not hesitate to reach out to the people who are pro at time management either within your organization or outside.