When it comes to being your most productive and efficient self at work, proper time management is a must. Time management is a skill that nearly every employee should have. But it can be challenging to develop. So what is time management? And why is it so important for employees? Let’s find out.
What is time management?
Time management is the practice of allocating your time to tasks productively and efficiently. Often, time management involves planning out your daily activities and exercising conscious control of your time as you complete those activities. Some common themes for effective time management include clear goals, priorities, and expectations.
You can apply the practice of time management to any part of your life, including professional and personal time. But in professional spheres, perfecting time management is one of the most vital skills employees should develop.
Why is time management important?
Practicing time management in the workplace is important because it can help you meet deadlines and be productive at work. Time management can also improve your mental health. You’ll feel less stressed, knowing how to allocate your time for each task. Experiencing less stress at work can help you achieve a better work-life balance.
Having poor time management skills can result in late assignments, poor work quality, and higher stress. You may feel less balanced in your work and experience burnout as a result. Burnout can stifle your creativity and leave you frustrated and angry with your assignments or employer.
By implementing practical time management skills, you can do more than impress your boss and co-workers. You can become an integral member of your team, proving you’re a dependable, productive, and efficient employee. With that in mind, let’s dive into 25 of the best time management tips for work.
1. Create a daily task list
Start every day with a list of the tasks you hope to accomplish. Once you get into work, write down your to-do list and prioritize those tasks appropriately. As you finish those tasks, check them off the list. Enjoy the sense of accomplishment you get with each check, and keep the momentum going!
2. Prioritize your tasks
Writing out a list of tasks is one thing. But you also have to know how to prioritize those tasks. Prioritize the most immediate tasks first. These tasks might be those that are due sooner or take more time to complete. If a task feels too big, break it into smaller tasks to make it feel more realistic. After that, you can organize your tasks based on importance, due date, or requester.
There are a few different methods of prioritizing that you can apply to your to-do list. One is the ABCDE method:
- A tasks the most important tasks.
- B tasks are the less important tasks.
- C tasks are tasks with no consequences—they’re nice but not necessary.
- D tasks are tasks for delegation.
- E tasks are tasks you could eliminate.
3. Do the most critical tasks in the morning
Once you’ve created your list, dive into your most important task. The sooner you can start working on it, the faster you can check it off. If you have a big task that might take all day, break it down into smaller tasks. Completing those smaller tasks can help you feel more accomplished as the day goes on.
4. Track your time
Tracking time is the best way to master time management. Estimate how long it will take you to complete a task. Then monitor the time you spend on that task and compare it to your estimated time. Monitoring your time can help you be more conscious of the flow during the workday. And with the right time management solution, you can track time for each task and keep a history of all the time you spent on a project. You might even find a tool that helps you create and view reports of your time based on project, task, or team.
5. Minimize distractions
Distractions are the enemy of anyone trying to manage their time. Find ways to block out distractions as much as possible. Turn on “do not disturb” on your phone or work computer. Listen to your favorite music to block out noisy office chatter. And if you have to, go offline to avoid things like social media, the news, or emails.
6. Avoid multitasking
Multiple studies have shown that multitasking overloads the brain. Instead of getting more done at once, multitasking can have the opposite effect. Multitaskers are more prone to errors, take more time to complete projects, and focus less. The brain can only focus on one or two things at a time. Switching between tasks only disorients the brain, so avoid it if you can.
7. Use time management apps and tools
Besides tracking your time with a time tracking solution, other time management apps and tools may help you monitor or organize your to-do list. Apps like Freedom can help you block sites that might distract you. Meanwhile, project management tools like Asana, Airtable, and Trello can help you organize, prioritize, and visualize your tasks. You can even sync these apps with your time tracking solution to improve task visibility and track time on projects.
8. Perform audits of your time weekly
If you want to improve your time management skills, the best way to do it is by auditing your time. Every week, record how much time you hope to spend on a project. As you complete assignments, track your time until you complete them. By the end of the week, you’ll have a record wherein you can compare actual time spent and estimated time spent. Use this to make adjustments to your time management plans. Continue to review your results week over week to see trends and gradual improvements.
9. Create meeting agendas
Some meetings are productive, and some meetings could have been emails. To avoid the latter, create agendas for any meetings you’re hosting. Define the meeting’s purpose and share your notes with the team before the meeting starts. Any prep you do beforehand can help you run the meeting smoothly. And if you get done early, everyone will appreciate having time back on their schedules.
10. Don’t wait for inspiration to start working
Working when you’re not inspired or motivated can be hard. However, inspiration can only come with action. And if you’re not inspired or motivated, sometimes, you need to start doing the work. Start now. The inspiration and motivation will follow.
11. Schedule your breaks
Breaks are essential for helping us focus. The brain functions best when toggling between moments of intense focus and unfocus. By adding breaks into your schedule, you can be sure you’re disengaging at optimal times. Use your breaks to get a drink, grab a snack food, chat with co-workers, or go for a walk. Your brain will be grateful for the break.
12. Keep a list of backup tasks
When you’re in your flow, there’s nothing that can ruin your mood quite like waiting. Maybe you’re waiting to hear back from a teammate. Or you’re waiting to see your doctor for an appointment. Whatever you’re waiting on, use those moments to take care of smaller tasks. Catch up on missed calls or respond to emails. You can even take a moment just to relax and catch your breath.
13. Organize your desk, task list, inbox, etc.
Keeping an organized physical and digital space can help you avoid distractions. The organization will also save you from scrambling to find old emails, notes, or a pen in all your clutter. When it comes to organizing your emails, use folders or labels to group project emails together. For your desk or physical space, keep minimal objects on your desk. Organization and efficiency go hand in hand.
14. Use your calendar
Use your calendar to track projects, due dates, and what you hope to accomplish throughout the week. If you use a digital calendar, you can set up reminders, create schedules, set up time blocks, and create recurring events. You can also share your calendar with your team so that they know when you’re available.
15. Skip ahead when you feel stuck
Struggling to find the right words, code, or data? Skip ahead to an easier task if you can. Perfectionism and getting caught up in the minutia can only slow you down.
16. Communicate your workload with your team
Once you’ve made your to-do list in the morning, spend a few minutes communicating your agenda to your team. Communication is vital for a business to function well. Plus, it can help you manage your time—and help your team manage their time. Understanding when you’ll be available and what you’re working on can help your teammates manage their schedules and when they need your time.
17. Delegate nonessential tasks if you can
As you create your to-do list, you can choose to delegate low-priority items to teammates. If your whole team shares their workload, it may be easier to hand off low-priority tasks to teammates with lighter workloads that day.
18. Check your email once a day
Instead of answering every email immediately, dedicate a portion of your day to answering them all at once. Some people may prefer to answer all their emails in the morning. Others may prefer checking their emails while they have lunch. Whatever you prefer, turning off email notifications and only checking your inbox once can free up a lot of your time at work. But don’t forget to communicate your email schedule with your team, in case they need to contact you with something urgent.
19. Learn to say no
Learning to say no can help you avoid an overwhelming workload or last-minute requests. It can put you in charge of your workload and help you set boundaries with others. It can give you a sense of empowerment. Without these boundaries, you may be more prone to burnout and poor time management.
20. Group similar tasks together
As you think about your daily schedule, consider grouping similar tasks together. After all, some tasks require the same type of thought. For example, you might answer all your emails or calls or update your calendar with upcoming or recurring events in the same time block. Grouping these small tasks can save you a lot of time and help you prevent overwork.
21. Find your flow state
Your “flow state” is your ability to “get in the zone” and be engaged mentally. Typically, your flow state exists in a space between boredom and anxiety. Work on recognizing when you find your flow state, and try replicating that environment when you need to get down to business.
22. Focus on your work-life balance
The time you spend away from the office can influence how you work in the office. That’s why work-life balance is so important. If you’re struggling with time management, it could be that the stresses from other areas in your life are affecting your ability to work. Improving your work-life balance can mean getting more sleep and exercise, finding a hobby, or spending more time with your family.
23. Practice removing bad habits
Psychologists believe learning a new habit can take anywhere from 21 to 66 days. Unlearning habits can take just as long. Bad habits can include checking social media or responding to social texts or calls at work. These can get in the way of trying to improve your time management skills. Try to identify your bad habits and work to avoid or unlearn them. Create a strict schedule and stick to it, and those habits may disappear before you know it.
24. Make another to-do list for tomorrow
Want to be extra proactive with your tasks? Use the end of your workday to create a to-do list for tomorrow. When you get in the following day, you’ll have a few extra minutes on your schedule to dedicate to your work.
25. Seek a mentor for more guidance
Find a time management mentor who can help you develop your skills even more. Mentors can help you set goals, hold you accountable, and teach you new ways to work. If someone in your office excels at time management, consider asking them for advice or asking them to mentor you on your journey.
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