Do you feel like you’re always running out of time? Like your to-do list just gets longer each time you cross a task off? Like you’re always late to events or turning in projects past deadlines? You’re not alone.
Time management, a term for planning and organizing your time each day, is a problem for a lot of people—even if they don’t know they have it. But if you are constantly experiencing the above problems, it may be something that you struggle with.
That’s why we rounded up 12 time management strategies that can help you start feeling like you’ve got time under control.
Time Management Tip #1: Complete A Time Audit
First, you’ll want to find out where you’re spending your time. You may think that it takes you an hour to answer your emails each day, but it could turn out that you’re spending double that amount. (Or more!)
For two or three days, write down the amount of time each task or project consumes in a notebook. Track everything from the time it takes you to answer emails in the morning to the time it takes you to complete presentation preparations in the afternoon.
Time Management Tip #2: Determine Your Goals
Once you complete your time audit, it’s time to find places for improvement. For example, you might notice that you spend three hours answering emails each day. You might notice that your meetings always go over by fifteen minutes. You might notice that even though you plan thirty minutes for lunch, you end up with fifteen.
Once you notice these problems, you can create goals for improvement. For example, you could aim to:
- Spend less time on trivial tasks
- Give yourself more time for lunch
- Stop going over meeting times
With these goals in mind, you’ll be able to measure the success of your new time management strategies.
Time Management Tip #3: Arrange Your Tasks In Order Of Difficulty And Priority
Have you heard the phrase “eat the frog”? Mark Twain said that if you eat a frog each morning, you’ll know that the rest of your day will be easier. Complete your most challenging or important tasks first thing in the morning, and less important tasks later in the day. This way, you will spend your energy on your most difficult task first, then use the rest of your energy on smaller tasks.
Record your tasks in your notepad, then rearrange them by priority level. By writing down these tasks, you’ll be able to clearly see what work is on your plate for the rest of the day.
Time Management Tip #4: Batch Similar Tasks
To keep your mind on a roll, batch similar tasks together. You’ll stay in a similar mindset while you complete each task, empowering you to finish projects faster.
Got 30 minutes left at the end of the day? Take care of all your 5-minute tasks. Instead of being burdened by these small tasks tomorrow, you can knock them out all at once.
Time Management Tip #5: Focus On One Task At A Time
It’s vital that you focus on one task at a time. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that productivity drops as much as 40% when professionals multitask.
There are many tools, like time blocking, that can help you stay on task, but ultimately, the onus is on you to remember that you need to tune out distractions and focus on the project at hand.
Time Management Tip #6: Try Time Blocking
The process of setting firm time limits around tasks has been around for a while, and with good reason: time To begin time blocking, all you need to do is schedule out your projects like you do your meetings.
First, identify non-negotiable events, like meetings and appointments, and block off time for those. Then, schedule out time for your priority projects, followed by trivial tasks.constraints can help people get things done on time.
A productivity planner might work well if you choose to try time-blocking; it has pre-designed sections that empower you to write out your day by hour.
Time Management Tip #7: Plan Your Day The Night Before
To reduce decision fatigue, it helps to plan your day the night before. Take thirty minutes or so each evening to carefully review your to-do list, prioritize tasks, and time block, if you choose to use that strategy.
This way, you’ll simply have to follow a schedule or task list, not create and follow these guides in a single day.
Time Management Tip #8: Ensure Every Meeting Has An Agenda
Meetings are often time-wasters, and every professional knows it. If you have to attend meetings, you should try to ensure they are efficient and effective.
Each meeting should have a clearly defined goal and agenda. These details should be included on a meeting invitation for everyone to review before the meeting. If a meeting was not organized by you, reach out to the organizer to ask for their plan.
A good rule of thumb is that every meeting should be no longer than 30 minutes. If it is longer (and you didn’t schedule it), push back against the timing. With some perspective, the organizer will probably agree that 30 minutes is enough time for any topic.
Time Management Tip #9: Capitalize on Extra Time
Think 5 minutes isn’t enough time to do anything of value? Wrong. When you finish a meeting, project, or task early, there are plenty of small tasks you can complete so they won’t plague you later. Tasks include:
- Creating an agenda for an upcoming meeting
- Scheduling appointments
- Forwarding project details to a coworker
- Cleaning your desk
- Reorganizing your to-do list
Time Management Tip #10: Delegate
A lot of people have problems handing off work. They think that they are the only ones who can do it correctly, and therefore the burden is on them. But if you’re part of a team, work can and should be shared between team members.
Delegating tasks gives you more time to focus on important projects, and can also serve as an opportunity for a professional on the lower end of the totem pole to gain experience. If delegating makes you feel lazy, try to think of it as giving less advanced professionals more work experience.
Time Management Tip #11: Say No
Part of having excellent time management skills is being able to defend your time. That’s right—you need to make an effort to not only prioritize tasks and organize them, but also ensure that you don’t add on unnecessary tasks just because someone asks you to.
By all means, if you have an extra 30 minutes at the end of the day, feel free to help your coworker set up for the office party. But if you were planning to use that time to take care of small tasks that have been piling up all week, don’t hesitate to tell your coworker that you’re busy.
Time Management Tip #12: Take Time Off
Throughout the day, take scheduled breaks from your work to keep your body from shutting down. Get away from the computer screen and take a walk around the office or around the block.
Finally, once the day is over, leave work at the office. There is no benefit to spending extra time in the office or completing projects at home (unless it’s a job requirement). Research has proven that working over 40 hours might make some workers less productive.
Looking for tools to boost your time management skills? Find productivity planners and notebooks here.