12 Effective Time Management Techniques to Boost Productivity
Time waits for no one. These wise words by poet Geoffrey Chaucer dating hundreds of years back, still resonate with our way of life today. Indeed, time is a scarce commodity, and you can't change it. So, it's essential to learn how to manage your activities to fit within the limited time of 24 hours each day.
Regardless of our status in life, we all have the same amount of time in a day. How we plan to use it determines our success or failure in achieving our goals. Time management strategies will help you handle projects and tasks within tight deadlines effectively. When you use time efficiently, you will be able to do more things in less time.
What Is Time Management?
To better understand the techniques below, it's essential to know what the term ‘time management’ means. Put simply, “Time Management” refers to the process of organizing and planning the amount of time you have to accomplish specific goals, projects, or tasks. For effective time management, you have to learn how to allocate the right time to the right activity.
It's up to you to identify and prioritize tasks according to their urgency and importance and estimate the time it will take to accomplish them. Poor time management usually leads to failure to get things done within the set timeframe. Of course, this can negatively affect your career and personal life.
With that in mind, here are 12 effective time management methods to help put you on the right path to success, promotions, and pay raises.
1. Plan Your Work in Advance
Planning ahead of time is a wise strategy to implement in your personal and professional life. Not only does it help you stay organized all day long, but it also ensures that you get the right things done at the right time.
There are many methods that you can try to help you plan out each day, week, or month. These approaches work differently for people, and it's up to you to find one that suits you best. One great option is to use a time management app or tool. You can also try customizable calendars or personal organizers, notepads, bullet journals, to-do lists, or use a combination of these options.
Take a to-do list as an example. It helps give you a clear picture of what to expect and what needs to be accomplished at a given time, each day or week. Creating a to-do list doesn’t have to be a complicated process. You can take a few moments each night before you sleep to jot down a list of things to do so that you know where to resume or start work the next day.
Another crucial time management strategy is to set clear priorities. Sometimes, when starting a project, you may have a long to-do list that makes work seem overwhelming. However, when you divide the project into smaller chunks, it becomes more manageable.
Even so, don’t stop at the list. You have to distinguish the urgent and important tasks on your list and prioritize them. This way, it becomes easier to spot tasks that require your attention, check if you're on track, and accomplish tasks that are more urgent first.
3. Do Not Multitask
Despite what many people think, multitasking doesn’t help you get more things done. If anything, it's the top productivity killer. When you multitask, all you're doing is switching from one task to another, probably leaving most work unfinished.
In a business environment, multitasking can be ineffective and inefficient. According to research by the American Psychological Association, there’s a lag when switching between one task and another, which translates to time wastage and reduced productivity. The study shows that multitasking takes as much as 40 percent more time than if one focused on one task at a time.
To really understand whether multitasking is helping you or wasting your time, try single-tasking. Focus on one activity, task, or project at a time, and then switch to another once the first task is accomplished. You’re likely to see a major difference in productivity, and you might end up saving time in the process.
Most importantly, try to implement the Pomodoro Technique that splits projects into shorter, 25-minute tasks, allowing you to take short breaks in between. This way, not only will your work be more manageable, but you’ll also avoid overworking yourself.
4. Set Aside Time for Emails
Understandably, you need to check and respond to your emails occasionally, a task that can be quite tedious. The thing is, you waste a lot of time checking emails—time that would otherwise be used to handle more pressing matters.
Unless your work responsibility is solely to check and reply to emails, you should practice limiting the time you spend on them. Designate specific times during the day for reading emails. Focus on this task within that set timeframe, and be sure to get most things done.
During this time, everything else is closed. After you're done, or when the time for checking emails is up, turn off all email notifications or popups until it's that task’s time again the next day.
5. Minimize Distractions and Interruptions
One of the most effective time management strategies is to avoid distractions while working. You only have a few hours to accomplish the goals of the day. So, try to minimize distractions and interruptions as much as possible to focus on important tasks.
Distractions can come in many forms, such as e-mails, using social media, a colleague dropping by for a chat, making phone calls, and so on. Find a way to block these distractions and interruptions so you can stay focused on the tasks at hand.
You could try a time blocking method, where you commit a certain number of hours to just one task while blocking off time for other tasks. During this time, switch off or put your phone on silent, don’t answer unnecessary calls, turn off Facebook message popups, and let coworkers know that you're not to be disturbed.
6. Determine Your Most Productive Times
We all have that time of the day when our energy and productivity levels are at the peak. If you're a morning person, you can accomplish more work in the earlier parts of the day. So, organize your time so that you do urgent and important tasks first thing in the morning.
For the night owl, you know you're slow to wake up and need some time to get in the mood for work. Push the most demanding tasks to the afternoon and do other light tasks in the mornings.
Knowing when you're most awake, motivated, or alert enables you to work when you're in your best mood and more energized. Take advantage of this time to accomplish most of the tasks on your to-do list.
7. Work with a Timer
Working with a timer is undeniably one of the most effective time management methods. A timer allows you to set time limits and reminds you to take breaks. In the process, you become more productive without feeling burned out.
The short breaks give you time to refresh your mind, and you can take this chance to get out of the office for a short walk, take a coffee break, or chat with colleagues. You’ll come back with renewed energy and able to work more efficiently.
A time tracker like Traqq, for instance, ensures that you get alerts when it's time to take a break. You also get alerts when you start working without turning on the timer. You can set the timer to notify you of the time tracked every hour so that you can keep track of hours worked. The total hours recorded will help you determine whether or not you’ll meet your targets and objectives.
Moreover, Traqq shows you which apps and websites take most of your time. This allows you to check if you spend your work hours efficiently or on non-work related issues. If you manage a team, Traqq makes it easy to check the activity levels of each team member so that you can coordinate them more effectively.
When you set a timer, you’re likely to push yourself to accomplish your tasks within that set amount of time, thereby boosting your productivity.
8. Delegate Work Whenever Possible
Sometimes, you may have too much work that you feel overwhelmed. In a scenario where you can't finish assignments or projects on time, it becomes necessary to outsource your work. If the deadline is too close, don’t overwork yourself. Instead, share your workload with team members to handle it as a team.
When delegating work to colleagues, make sure they are clearly defined so that everyone knows what tasks they are handling.
9. Work with Goals
Working without goals is like going on a trip with no destination. Goals help to set you in the right direction and form an essential part of time management. Goals allow you to break large projects into smaller, doable chunks.
Whether you're a project manager, a team leader, a business owner, or an employee, setting goals positions you on the right path to success. You’ll learn to make decisions that influence positive results, get more things done within the required time, work more effectively, and become more productive.
10. Maintain a Routine
What's that thing you do every morning after waking up? Is it going for a jog, cycling, taking breakfast, or checking social media? When you know the most productive time of your day, and you have created your goals, it's essential to maintain a structure that helps you accomplish your daily tasks in time.
At first, you may find the process complicated. However, with time and practice, it becomes easier for you to stick to a routine that makes you more efficient and productive.
11. Adjust Your Schedule
We all work in different ways, and one strategy that works for your colleague or friend may not work for you. If you’ve tried certain time management techniques and they don’t seem to work in your favor, learn to be flexible and change your schedule.
Let’s say waking up at 6:30 am and starting the day by checking emails end up wasting most of your morning hours. In this case, consider shifting the task of reading emails to the afternoon or evenings. The point is to find a schedule that suits you perfectly. This will ensure that you always have enough time to accomplish most of your daily or weekly tasks.
12. Just Say “No”
Understandably, you don’t want to upset your colleagues or boss. However, saying ‘no’ can help you save time you had already set aside to work on your projects. You may have your plate full, but your supervisor still wants to delegate a few tasks to you. If you don’t learn to say no, you can easily end up being overworked and stressed.
Saying no can be tricky since you don’t want to be seen as the one who refuses work. However, you can politely explain why you’ll not take on any additional tasks or ask if it can be postponed to a later date. Let them know that re-scheduling the new responsibilities will enable you to finish the current assignments and then embark on those other tasks.
Finally, find the appropriate tool to back up your time management techniques. This can be a time tracker or a project management system that allows you to schedule work and track your progress. If you manage geographically distributed teams, an employee monitoring software enables you to review the performance levels of each worker, assign tasks, and set deadlines.