Time management is a crucial skill for your personal and professional success. With work, family, and other commitments constantly competing for your attention, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed out. Mastering specific time management techniques can help you become more organized, productive, and less stressed.
Developing good time management skills takes self-discipline but is worth the effort. The payoff has the clarity and control to spend your time achieving goals and enjoying life. Here are 10 of the best techniques for mastering time management.
The Eisenhower Matrix is a straightforward technique for organizing tasks based on urgency and importance. It divides activities into four quadrants:
- Urgent/Important – Critical tasks needing immediate attention
- Important/Not Urgent – Significant jobs without a pressing deadline
- Compulsory/Not Important – Tasks seem urgent but are not actually that important
- Not Urgent/Not Important – Tasks with little value that you should minimize or delegate
This method helps you determine priorities. Start by tackling urgent/important activities, then move to important/not urgent ones. Limit time on less critical tasks.
It states that about 80% of results come from 20% of activities. You can use this principle to identify and focus on the 20% of genuinely vital tasks.
- Step 1 – List all your tasks and activities over a given period.
- Step 2 – Rank them by importance, time required, and other factors.
- Step 3 – Identify the top 20% most meaningful for results.
- Step 4 – Prioritize these activities and dedicate more time to them.
Finding your top 20% helps you concentrate energy where it really counts.
Batching tasks is grouping similar activities to complete them all at once. For example, responding to emails, phone calls, or meetings can be batched into time blocks.
Benefits of batching include:
- Fewer transitions between different tasks
- Better focus on one activity at a time
- Avoiding constant context switching
- More efficient execution of repetitive tasks
Look for ways to consolidate similar tasks to maximize your time and productivity.
Harness technology to become more efficient with your time. Take advantage of tools like:
- Calendar apps: Schedule appointments, block off focus time, and set reminders. Examples: Google Calendar, Outlook.
- Task manager apps: Organize to-do lists with due dates. Examples: Todoist, Microsoft To-Do, Apple Reminders.
- Time trackers: Record how you spend time to identify areas for improvement. Examples: Toggl, Clockify.
- Note-taking apps: Record meeting notes and ideas quickly. Examples: Evernote, OneNote, and Apple Notes.
Leverage apps that suit your needs to optimize time management.
Unproductive distractions eat up valuable time during the workday. Keep a distraction log to raise awareness of time-wasting temptations like social media, pointless meetings, YouTube videos, office gossip, etc.
- Record distractions as they occur, along with the time spent.
- Review your log weekly to identify waste you can eliminate.
- Block distractions like social media during work periods.
- Set a timer to avoid falling “rabbit holes” online.
Reducing distractions can dramatically boost productivity and focus.
The Pomodoro technique alternates focused work periods with regular breaks. This provides mental freshness while minimizing distractions.
- Set a timer for 25 minutes of focused work.
- When the timer rings, take a 5-minute break.
- After four Pomodoro cycles, take a more extended 15-20 minute break.
The timed segments help you work more concentrated. The frequent short breaks prevent burnout.
Do your most challenging or mentally demanding work during times of day when you have the most energy and focus. Your peak hours may be morning or afternoon. Avoid scheduling complex tasks when your point is low or around lunch.
Dedicate high energy times to:
- Completing projects requiring deep thinking.
- Learning new information.
- Handling complex problems.
Save easier or repetitive tasks for when you feel tired and need a break.
Build structure into your week by assigning themes to specific days:
- Monday – Administrative day. Catch up on emails, phone calls, and paperwork.
- Tuesday – Meetings/Collaboration Day. Schedule meetings and creative sessions.
- Wednesday – Focus day. Buckle down on your current project.
- Thursday – New Projects Day. Research, plan, and start new initiatives.
- Friday – Wrap-Up Day. Tie up loose ends, and organize a to-do list.
Themed days provide order and ensure you make time for what’s essential week-to-week.
Spend 15 minutes at the end of each workday to outline and plan for tomorrow. Review your calendar and task list then:
- Determine your most important three tasks to accomplish.
- Allot time blocks for each priority task.
- Batch similar tasks together.
- Schedule buffer time between meetings.
- Set reminders for critical deadlines or appointments.
Planning tomorrow eliminates the morning rush and panic. You start your day clear and focused.
Beyond daily planning, set aside time each week for bigger-picture thinking and goal setting:
- What went well last week? What could improve?
- What new opportunities or challenges lie ahead?
- What are my priorities and goals for the next 3-6 months?
- What specific actions will move me toward those goals?
Periodic strategic thinking nurtures focus, progress, and achievement. Don’t get so caught up in urgent tasks that you neglect charting your larger course.
With practice, the proper time management techniques will transform your productivity and success while lowering stress. Prioritize important tasks, leverage helpful technology tools, minimize distractions, create structure, and take time to plan and reflect. Keep your eye on your objectives and manage your time wisely to get the most out of it.
Aim to spend at least one hour each week intentionally managing your time. This includes reviewing schedules, prioritizing tasks, planning your week, and reflecting on progress. Daily, allot 15 minutes at the end of your workday for planning tomorrow.
Expected time wasters are internet/social media, excessive meetings, lack of delegation, interruptions, inefficient processes, cluttered workspace, lack of priorities, procrastination, and fatigue.
Plan your most difficult chores for when you have the most energy and focus. This is usually morning for early birds and afternoon for night owls. Know your rhythm.
Review your priorities weekly and conduct a deeper quarterly goals review. Priorities and goals can shift, so revisit them regularly to ensure you’re focused correctly.
Multitasking is ineffective for doing your best work and being fully present. Focus on one activity at a time, minimizing distractions and context switching. For productivity, specialize versus multitask.