10 time management strategies of highly effective people
May 19, 2021
For all of us, a day consists of 24 hours. While no one has the power to slow down time, some people know how to manage it properly. Here are 10 time management strategies used by highly effective people.
What is time management?
Time management is the process of planning and consciously controlling the time spent on specific activities in order to increase efficiency and productivity. It is also a way in which a person uses their own time to maintain a work-life balance.
In other words, having a work-life balance means to be able to effectively carry out both the entrusted tasks and achieve personal goals without stress and pressure.
What do time management strategies offer?
Research shows that time management in a workplace is not always obvious. Looking at the example of companies in Great Britain, it turns out that only 37% of teams manage to finish projects on time (always or most of the time).
One of the reasons behind this is the lack of a time management strategy. For example, being a project manager, you need to be able to plan and manage your work time effectively, as well as that of the teams you supervise. In turn, it leads to better project management – with a greater chance of completing all tasks on time and within a budget.
10 time management strategies:
Effective time management strategies include incorporating specific tactics into your daily, weekly and monthly routine to optimise your time. They are designed to increase productivity while minimising the time needed to complete set goals.
“We are creatures of habit, as are our brains,” writes Hallie Crawford, a certified career coach, speaker, and author. “When we establish routines, we can carry out tasks faster since we don’t have to ‘think’ about the task – or prepare for it – as much, and can work on autopilot.”
1. Plan ahead
Research shows that just knowing what you want to achieve within a certain period of time leads to success. There are many ways to successfully create such a plan. Waking up in the morning without a plan is a poor idea. We advise to:
- spend a few minutes before going to bed and plan the next day;
- leave some empty space on the calendar so that you can take on additional tasks, if such would unexpectedly pop up;
- write down at the beginning of the day the 3-4 most urgent or important things that need to be dealt with and work on those when your productivity is at its highest;
- if you work in the office, it is good to spend the last 15 minutes before leaving tidying up your workplace and making a list of the most important things to be done the next day.
All tips listed above apply to a single day, but it’s also a good idea to prioritise the days, weeks and even months ahead. This establishes a structured routine for your daily goals and helps you stay productive all the time.
2. Create to-do lists
One of the best ways to improve your time efficiency is to make a list of all your job tasks or responsibilities. To make them easier to organise, it is worth dividing them into smaller parts. Prioritising your tasks will help you organise them according to their importance, urgency and the required effort.
Breaking tasks down into daily, weekly and monthly tasks makes it much easier to focus on daily activities, simply following the list. For example, there is Warren Buffett’s technique of writing down 25 tasks, circling the top five, and ignoring the remaining 20.
Or you can try if-then planning. To distinguish important and urgent tasks from a to-do list, you can also use the Eisenhower Matrix. See: How to manage multiple projects and switch between tasks.
3. Emphasise results, not hours
Research from Behance found that “placing importance on hours and physical presence over action and results leads to a culture of inefficiency (and anxiety).” Moreover, sitting at a desk for an imposed amount of time creates a factory-like culture that ignores a few basic laws of idea generation and human nature related to creating ideas, because:
- when the brain is tired, it doesn’t function well;
- generating ideas happens on one’s own terms;
- when forced to execute beyond capacity, you begin to hate what you do.
Instead of focusing on the time, you spend on an activity, think about how much you’ve truly accomplished. Create lists of what you did during the day that motivates you to be productive, not just busy.
4. Define your productive hours
Are you the morning type or the night owl? Or maybe you fall somewhere in between? Taking a closer look at yourself can help you with your time management strategies – identifying when you are most productive during your day.
- A morning person who can jump out of bed wide-eyed before the alarm goes off is likely to do more in the early hours of the day.
- The night owl moves a bit slower because it needs more time to get down to work. These people tend to be more productive in the afternoon.
Whichever side you are on, decide when you are most awake, alert and motivated. It will be your time to do deep work and tasks that require more engagement.
5. Cultivate deep work
In the book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport describes deep work as cognitively demanding tasks. Because they are so important yet difficult, these types of tasks demand 100% of one’s attention. Therefore, it is worth planning deep work at the same time each day.
Newport also suggests identifying your own work habits and blocking common distractions. What’s more, he recommends doing nothing sometimes. On the surface, it looks counterproductive, but you can use it to your advantage. For example, if you are standing in line or going on communication, do not look at the phone but let your mind wander for a few minutes.
6. Set yourself shorter deadlines
The more time you have for a given task, the longer it takes to start it. The tendency to delay work, known as Parkinson’s law, was first explained in an article in The Economist in 1955.
Parkinson stated that “the work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” So if you have more time for a task than you in fact need, there is a chance you won’t get it done faster.
However, if you put in a time limit, you will be more motivated. Setting time limits also encourages you to improve your mental fluidity.
7. Adopt the 1-minute rule
Author and happiness expert Gretchen Rubin has developed her own rule to help you manage your time. It’s a simple concept, called the 1-minute rule, in which when an activity may take less than 60 seconds, do it.
“Because the tasks are so quick, it isn’t too hard to make myself follow the rule—but it has big results,” explains Rubin. “Keeping all those small, nagging tasks under control makes me more serene, less overwhelmed.”
8. Work in ultradian rhythms
Ultradian rhythms are biological intervals of 120 minutes that the human body passes through during the day. We are most productive for the first 90 minutes. After reaching the peak, the mental energy drops for about 30 minutes.
When you know your body rhythms, you can plan your day more effectively. When your energy drops, focus on less critical tasks or take a break.
In these 90-minute sprints, you can also use the Pomodoro technique to work, which means working for 25 minutes and then taking a 5-minute break. See: How to manage multiple projects and switch between tasks.
9. Set your week by using the 2-hour mode
In a program developed by Roger Seip, author of Train Your Brain for Success, two hours a week are spent planning the next week. Unlike regular planning, however, this method encourages you to focus on your goals and research what has and has not been working for you. The two-hour solution focuses on your own goals by dividing the time into:
- Green time – work for which you get paid;
- Red time – time that supports green time;
- Flex time – time unlocked to solve the unexpected;
- Recreation time – like hobbies, relaxation, exercise, etc.
10. Use time management tools
One of the best things you can do to save time, thus work smarter, not harder, is to use the right tools. There are many computer programs and smartphone applications that support time management. Adding just one such tool to your repertoire can save you hours of work each week.
A perfect example of this is TimesheetKiller – a software that automatically tracks your work activities and summarizes them in a timesheet. It offers you a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly review of working time. By analysing the reports, you are able to see how much time you spent on a particular task.
This way, TimesheetKiller gives you an opportunity to plan your work better in the future. And to increase your efficiency even more, you can integrate the app with other work management tools you already use.
You don’t have to use all the strategies mentioned above right away. For example, you can select three and include them in your daily routine. You’ll be surprised what a difference the small changes can make. Also, say “no” to unnecessary things, review your priorities and remove distractions that lower your productivity.
After a few days, you will notice that:
- your productivity has improved;
- it is easier for you to perform assigned tasks;
- it seems you suddenly have more time;
- work-related stress has decreased significantly.
And when you notice the first positive signs of the changes, continue the good habits for a few weeks so that they become a routine for you. Good luck!