Take the time to read this article as it might save you lots of time! It might look like a long list of tips and techniques but if you go through it you will realize how dramatically you can improve your time management skills. It is a bit like learning how to drive a car – at the beginning you have lots of thing to read, study and remember but then everything will come to you naturally… and you’ll be able to go anywhere you want… you just need to practice!

In order to simplify the reading we have divided the 100 time management tips and techniques into 12 sections: analyze, to-do-list, prioritize, plan, organize, block time, say “NO”, downtime, meetings, e-mails social media & similar, tools & systems and others. Every section is independent so that you can decide whether reading only what you believe is most appropriate for you or you can read them all.

 

ANALYZE

Before jumping into planning and improvement areas, try to understand what works and what does not work for you. Analysis is actually the base for improving hence worth investing some of your time on this.

9 to 5 day

1. Take time and plot out what you do every day. Be honest and include everything … even the multiple coffee breaks! It might be painful but it is instrumental to make more intelligent decisions about how to improve the way you use your time.

2. Every day might be different hence carry a notebook and record all your activities for a week at least.

3. Cut big jobs into small chunks and try to harmonize the different blocks (e.g. coffee break, weekly meeting, report writing, lunch, sales pitch…) – we have created #yourtime analyzer to accomplish a similar analysis and you could start from that and customize in order to be more specific with the different work tasks.

4. Make an overall day average about the way you spend your day and underline what drains your time (and/or what drains your energy)

5. Repeat the same exercise for the weekends. Ultimately you might want to make sure you are using the entire week in the best possible way – depending on your ultimate goal whether about optimizing work-life balance, dedicating more time to family or achieving another specific goal, you might still want to evaluate your week-end.

 

TO DO LIST

This is most likely the most common tip to help better manage your time. It is kind of obvious – they say “you get what you measure” and this is valid also for time management. If you don’t write down what you want to achieve then you will not achieve it.

6.  Make a to-do list electronic or on paper! We prefer this last has it seems people better assimilate and memorize if done in the old good way. Jot down the most important and/or urgent items first and work down from there.

7. Some people like using an organizer. The organizer helps being on top of everything whether, to-do lists, projects, and other miscellaneous items.

8. Create the list before the day unfolds. Do it in the morning or even better, the night before you go to bed.

9. Use down time (e.g. switching on the PC or waiting for meetings to begin) to update the to-do list or start drafting the new one.

10. While drafting the list, if a task takes less than five minutes, do it right away. You don’t want a “shopping list” of hundreds items that require 5 mins to be completed. Conversely, put it on the list.

11. Make a time-based to-do list – in other words include a rough estimate of how much time you'll spend on each item on the list. A simple to-do list is helpful but adding a time dimension can dramatically improve your time effectiveness as it can help you better prioritizing and also understanding how much you can achieve a day.

12. Set goals for both the short term and long term as to what you want to accomplish. It might even make more sense for you to have two lists: day to-do-list and medium/long term to-do-list.

13. Carry your to-do list with you at all times… and try to keep an eye at it instead of forgetting it in the drawer…

14. Don’t think of the totality of your to-do list but take one step at time otherwise you might think you’ll never make it… and you’ll never make it. Instead tackle one single task at time.

15. For the “big” (high priority and/or urgent) items in the list you might want to schedule reminders or block time in your calendar either in the PC or mobile phone i.e. leverage technology.

16. At the end of the day, review what you’ve done and make a new list for the next day.

 

PRIORITIZE

While building the famous (or infamous) to-do-list it is instrumental to associate also priorities. One needs to make sure to accomplish certain task first before moving into others – conversely we risk to act first on the task that we like the most which might not necessarily be the most important.

17. Priorities will ultimately depend on your goal(s). Once you know exactly what you want to achieve you can define which task are the most urgent and/or important.

18. Be ruthless about setting priorities. Make sure that what you think is important is really imperative and what is urgent really needs to be done fast and cannot be postponed.

19. Learn how to differentiate between the important and the urgent. What’s important is not always urgent. What’s urgent is not always important.

20. Use an A-B-C rating system to assign priorities so that you can grasp the importance of the task at a glance.

21.  There is not “D” priority! Always apply the 80/20 rule (20% of effort lead to 80% or results) and get rid of the tasks that don’t bring meaningful results (the famous “D” priority).

22. To-do lists tend to get longer and longer to the point where they're unworkable. Have the discipline to keep working always on the most urgent and/or important tasks first.

23. Once you know exactly the priorities (and related time needs), try to understand what can be accomplished within the day and what needs to be postponed and act on consequences (keep turning down things that don't fit into your priorities!).

 

PLAN

Don’t limit your planning to the to-do-list. Have a medium / long term vision that leads to your ultimate objective and plan for it. The medium / long term plan might have quite an impact on the to-do-list.

Plan from A to B

24. Get an early start! We believe on the fact that “the early bird catches the worm”. Early mornings are quiet and you can get some quality time to think thoroughly through and develop a solid and robust plan.

25. No matter when, take at least 30 minutes of every day to review your long term plan and see whether / how this can impact the famous to-do-list. Some people prefer to do this work at night, some do during commute and other keep updating a “living” list – we do early morning!

26. Use a calendar, whether electronic or on paper, to keep your plan on track. Some people love electronic calendars synchronized across multiple devices and others prefer the old agenda/calendar. No matter which one you use the importance is to keep it updated and always with you.

27. If possible try to group related activities – it is more efficient as it might require less back-and-forth between similar tasks.

28. On the other hand check whether big tasks can be broken down into smaller activities that may be easier to schedule. Some, for example, might not be that urgent or important.

29. Try adding some buffer in your timeline – in other words, try to target to be early. People tend to under estimate the time needed to accomplish tasks hence always better to plan for a bit more time and target to be early.

30. Leave a buffer-time also between tasks. You want to ensure your productivity level is always at the maximum and you need down-time. While taking a break, go for a short walk or perform some other mind-clearing exercise.

31. Before every call and/or meeting define what you want to achieve and how. Keep the objective in front of you as this will help you getting to the ultimate result and reduce time wasters. If you did not get the expected result evaluate why and how to improve the next time.

32. Identify and limit anything causing a regular, repeated drain your time or energy. Check whether systems or technology can help or whether you can delegate.

 

ORGANIZE

One of the key factors to success (which relates also to “time management” success) is “focus”. In order to be focused one needs to eliminate all distractions and get as much organized as possible. Think about when you play at TETRIS, if you focus you can then better organize the blocks and manage the game faster.

33. Organize and clear the clutter in your workspace. In this way it will be easier to keep focus and don’t waste time looking for things. Most importantly keep it so – it is a matter of habit! Keeping your workspace organized will save time while having to re-organize every other month might actually not save you any time.

34. Eliminate all the non-essentials whether from your desk, desktop or anywhere you are. “Focus” is the name of the game and the less distraction you have the faster you’ll be able to accomplish the different tasks.

35. Create the business environment that makes you feel more concentrated and productive. Adjust the lighting, turn off your E-mail popups, pump up (or down) the temperature...

36. Keep a clock always visible in front of you or easily accessible. You might get lost in your activity and not realizing how fast time goes.

37. Set reminders “X” minutes before each activity is supposed to end (or start) – leverage technology for that.

38. Schedule similar tasks together if possible especially if the synergies are obvious. It can really streamline the process.

39. Make sure to have a proper filing system for documents and consistently use it.

40. Unsubscribe from e-mail lists if you don’t want to receive their content – they are terrible time wasters.

41. During the buffer time in-between activities take note of what achieved and what other tasks you might need to add on the to-do-list… remember to keep the to-do-list always with you.

42. Some people are multi-tasking but the bulk of people are not able to effectively work on multiple tasks at the same time. If you are among those last then, focus on just one key task at one time. Shut down everything else, clean your desk and do that one thing before start thinking about the next one.

43. Details are important for certain categories and/or jobs but most of the time you might forget about them (remember the 80:20 rule?). Details tend to be a distraction that makes you waste time and become less productive.

 

BLOCK TIME

We are talking about how to time manage your time and the best way to do that is via putting clear boundaries between you and the rest of the world.

44. Schedule some uninterrupted time each day when you can concentrate on important tasks – we generally do that early morning when finding quality time is relatively easy.

45. Agenda tends to fill fast whatever amount of time you happen to have and distractions can come easily. Once you set the time blocks be disciplined and use them exclusively for those A tasks.

46. Trying to do everything everyone asks you to do is a recipe for failure. Don’t get into the trap of wanting to make everyone happy – set clear boundaries.

47. Even if you have an “open door” policy you might need (from time to time) to close the door and avoid drop-in visitors. This will give (hopefully) a clear sign that you need some quality time to do work.

48. Put up a "Do not disturb" sign when you absolutely have to get work done.

49. Put a time limit to each task with a clear block in the agenda and stick to it. Do not drag tasks and if you don’t have enough time, evaluate whether cancelling other activities or postponing what you have started (depending of priority of other tasks).

50. Schedule demanding tasks for that part of the day when you’re at your peak and block time in advance.

51. Schedule time for interruptions. Those are as much important as the “working” time – the interruptions ensure you keep being productive. A good coffee (or tea or walk…) with colleagues or friends can help you being more productive and faster.

52. Practice not answering the phone just because it's ringing and e-mails just because they show up. Plan appropriate time for emails and returning phone calls.

53. Block out other distractions like Facebook and other forms of social media unless you use these tools to generate business.

 

SAY “NO”

Learning to say “NO” is one of the most difficult and at the same time the most needed skill a manager needs to learn in order to become successful. We tend to like making people happy hence tend to say “YES” but time is a limited resource and “NO” can ultimately help achieving the final objective.

54. Don’t take on more than you can handle. When you build your plan and then the to-do-list try to understand whether you have enough capacity or evaluate what you need to strike-through i.e. say “NO”

55. Everything can be an opportunity but successful people understand which one are the biggest and less resource intensive and say “NO” to the others. Try to evaluate what you can decline!

56. Say “NO” politely, but firmly… and if you have time explain why “NO”.

57. Turn off your cell phone and many beepers/pop-ups that inform you about messages. Leverage voice mail messages and even “out-of-office” notes.

58. Say “NO” to social media time wasters. Replace social media bookmarks with work-related sites.

59. Stick to time and say “NO” when people want to drag conversations.

If you want to know more about this topic then you might read our other post "just say NO - save TIME" in which we explain the process to learn how to say NO.

 

DOWN TIME

We all need down time. Down time should not be seen as a waste of time but as a source of new energy, inspiration and ultimately increased productivity (hence better time management).

60. Take mini breaks when you need them during the day to recharge and refocus. Some people advise a break every 90 minutes of work but do as you believe is the best for you and your body.

61. Stop working (and thinking about work) during the long breaks like the weekends, in the evening and on holiday. This will ensure you’re full of energy and still motivated once back at work.

62. Find quality time for meditation or just for a simple and solitary walk. Your mind needs silence to think thoroughly through but also to get re-energized.

63. On the other hand, you might want to leverage the “waiting time”. Whether in waiting rooms, lines at the store, commute, etc. you might want to leverage that time to get things done. You might update your famous to-do-list or you might listen to podcast or might clean up your inbox...

64. Remember to sleep at least 7-8 hours! Sleep deprivation is a known torture method and you don’t want to torture yourself. You need a good sleep amount in order to be productive. Most of the people need 7-8 hour … you might need less or more… just listen to your body.

 

MEETINGS

Meetings are supposed to help a team accomplishing certain objectives while in many cases they are just a forum for people to show off or just to feel useful. Many companies tackle meetings in different ways depending also on the specific company culture, but most of them follow similar guidelines.

65. Do you really need that meeting? Can it be solved with a phone call? Often we jump into organizing meetings when it can actually be solved in other more effective ways.

66. Set clear meeting expectations (i.e. meeting scope) and share with the team before the meeting. Don’t meet just to talk but clarify what you are trying to achieve and keep it present during the entire meeting … maybe write it on a wall?

67. Provide and agenda and a meeting process/flow (ideally with timing for each block) so that everyone is aware of (time) constraints and what is expected from them.

68. Send pre-work if needed and make sure this is done prior the meeting

69. Stick to the schedule and ask (politely) people to do the same.

70. Remove distractions! If not needed ask people to switch off their mobile phones but especially their PC!!!

71. Some companies have meetings standing up or in uncomfortable positions so that they make sure people go straight to the point instead of “making shows”.

72. Park any topic which might arise that will not lead to achieving the meeting objective.

73. Don’t attend every single meeting you are invited to. Try to understand whether your presence is really needed and why – otherwise just skip it.

74. Write a meeting summary within 24 hours with clear agreements and especially next steps so that people know what they need to do and keep things moving

 

E-MAILS, SOCIAL MEDIA & SIMILAR

E-mails and social media are by now instrumental to most kind of businesses. However, if not handled carefully the might become the first reason for failure.

75.  Deal with E-mail at set times each day – generally once or twice a day is sufficient.

76. Open e-mails only once and act on them straight away (if possible). People tend to open and close e-mails and then re-read them which is a complete waste of time.

77. Use and ask to use clear subject lines. It must be clear from the subject whether your specific action is required (and whether urgent) or whether it is just for info.

78. Ask not to be in “cc” and get out of long chains of e-mails if not needed – another time waster – be polite but do ask for it!

79. When things get really urgent and you’re tight on time, ignore email completely. If desperately urgent they will (or should) call you!

80. Get into the habit of switching off email whenever you can, even if this is only for 15 minutes or 30 minutes at a time.

81. Leverage out of office note while on vacation to ask people to send e-mails to you only if really needed. You might even try deleting all messaged received while out of the office – if really important they might write back or call you.

82. Be aware of amount of time you spend browsing Twitter, News or other social media sites as this can be one of the biggest drains on productivity. Try monitoring time spent on those and see whether appropriate for your plan/objective

83. If you’re using social media for business, similarly to e-mails, allocate specific time during the day for those tasks. You don’t have to be there all of the time and you might also leverage some tools/systems.

84. Keep your watch on the desk and keep track of how much time you spend on social media and similar.

 

TOOLS & SYSTEMS

There is a myriad of tools available in the market – some are for free others require a subscription. We might tackle this subject in a separate post but the point is that today even more than in the past we have the chance to have lots of tools that can simplify our life and reduce the time we spend on certain task.

85. If part of your day involves routine repetitive tasks, keep records of how long they take and then try to understand whether some tools and/or systems might help you automatizing. For example Buffer is a great tool to automate posting on social media.

86. Use the technology to get rid of most of the paper in your life – it is generally faster to retrieve documents in your hard drive rather than in your cabinet (assuming you organize both well). So when possible try to work with electronic documents.  

87. Try some of the many scheduling software that allow you to keep a calendar, "to-do' lists, and phone and address books on your computer. You might even leverage project collaboration tools.

88. Track the time spent with tools like Egg Timer (simple online countdown timer). Great for example to give you a beep once the max time allowed on Social Media has been reached.

89. Some people are great at multi-tasking – if you are among them try using double screens. We generally work on one and keep the other screen on e-mails and other messaging apps. It might be distracting for some, but if done properly, it increases productivity (e.g. proper use of e-mail subjects…).

90. Leverage instant messaging apps – those might be faster than e-mails also because require less formal introductions to topics and requests.

91. Search for solutions to problems outside – there are tons of blogs that can help you finding fast a solution before even thinking about organizing a meeting. Depending on the specific topics you might refer to different specific/technical sources or to more generic sites as QUORA.

 

OTHERS

There are a series of other consideration that can help you with time management – some might be more specific to the individual person other might apply to anyone.

92. Remember the triangle with “quality”, “cost” and “time” at the three opposite corners? Then if you want to save time try to understand whether you can compromise on the other two elements.

93. It is known that a healthy lifestyle drives higher work productivity. Hence try to get enough sleep, exercise and eat healthily to boost energy levels and drive up productivity.

94. Learn how to delegate, wherever and whenever you can whether internally or externally (i.e. outsource). Sometimes you might even get better quality work! see our post Delegate Meaning and Techniques

95. Always keep a notebook or some tool to record your thoughts and ideas. Those generally come in the less expected time especially solutions to problems. If you are able to jot them down you will not have to think about them again (assuming you can re-think that very same solution).

96. Turn key tasks into habits. The more you do the better you’ll become. As for driving a car – at the beginning you have lots of thing to read, study and remember but then everything will come to you naturally… you just need to practice!

97. Some people prefer continuity and don’t really need a long break in between working weeks. Those people might find useful working a couple of hours during the week-end so to ensure that there is no down and up peaks in work.

98. Celebrate accomplishments … especially the big ones. It might seem a small frugal thing but it does actually help motivating you and keep energy level high.

99. Sometimes, it’s okay to procrastinate. It might sound counter-intuitive but i) some problems do actually solve by themselves with time and ii) sometimes it is better not to react on the emotions but calm down first.

100. Remember that it's impossible to get everything done... but if you start from the most important and urgent you will get closer to your ultimate objective!

 

Those are our 100 time management tips and techniques! We hope you find them useful and please feel free to drop us a note in case you have more. Let us close with Warren Buffett quote “No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.” … enjoy yourtime!

 

Comment

Print Friendly and PDF