It can be somewhat consuming looking at a huge to-do list, wondering how you are going to be able to complete everything in time. It can also be stressful if you feel like you have more tasks than time to complete them! If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t fret. Fellow has developed 8 tips for effective time management to help you take control of your day.
What is time management?
Time management is using the hours in your workday to your full advantage. This means optimizing the amount of time in a day to be as productive as possible. Simply put, it is getting more work done, of better quality, in less time. It is coordinating your responsibilities to maximize your effectiveness and productivity.
Why is time management important?
Time management is important for several reasons. It means finding a strategy that is best suited for your personality in order to develop strong planning, evaluation and self-control. Using effective time management strategies means you will be more productive because you are more organized.
Being good at managing your time also means you will be less stressed because you will find a means to only accept responsibilities that you can actually accomplish. It is also going to provide you with a better work-life balance because you’ll be productive enough to leave your work for working hours and enjoy your free time with more ease.
How to improve time management (in 8 easy steps)
1 Set SMART goals
Research shows that when we write down our goals, we are more likely to achieve them.
SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) are a great way to add some structure to your personal time management strategy. SMART goals ensure that you are going to attain the goals you set because they are well calculated and thought out. If you want to get better at time management, these are some questions you can ask yourself to ensure that every item in your to-do list is a SMART goal:
- Specific: what do I want to accomplish?
- Measurable: how will I know when it is accomplished?
- Achievable: how realistic is this goal, based on my workload and resources?
- Realistic: does this align with our overall priorities?
- Timely: what is my target date?
2 Set weekly priorities
If you have regular one-on-ones with your manager, you can use these meetings to define weekly priorities and ensure that you’re using your time efficiently.
A simple and great way to start is by making a list of tasks that require your immediate attention. Create a list at the end of every workday of the items you need to complete the next day. It’s not so much about ticking the most items off of your list but marking off the highest priority task at hand. If timing allows it, touch-base with your manager (even if it’s via email or Slack) to ensure you’ve addressed all of the urgent tasks that need to be completed and that the order of priority is appropriate.
Use a collaborative tool like Fellow to set priorities and organize your action items.
3 Time block your schedule
After you’ve created your to-do list, prioritize the order in which the tasks need to be completed by order of urgency. Then, block separate events in your calendar to work on those specific tasks.
Time blocking helps avoid distractions and will keep you on track, even with a crazy schedule. Mark events/ appointments in your calendar so that you can visually see which tasks you will work on, for how long, throughout the day. Be conscious of which times during the day you are the most productive and use those times to tackle the most demanding tasks. Time blocking also protects your time from any interruptions so that you can stay focused.
4 Delegate Tasks
Delegating work to your direct reports does not mean that you’re throwing work at others to escape your own responsibilities. This is an intelligent and effective time management skill that shows your team that they are an integral part of the success of the initiatives you are completing together. Use the skills and abilities of your team members to get more done. Assigning some duties to others allows you enough time to focus on important things and reduces your workload. Keep in mind that this means that you should be open to being delegated tasks when you are gifted with some free time as well.
5 Take regular breaks
You don’t have to work 24 hours a day in order to accomplish more. In fact, research shows that taking regular breaks is essential if you want to maximize your productivity.
In the process of time blocking your schedule, don’t forget to add short breaks in between tasks. The Pomodoro Technique (explained below) is a great way to break down work into intervals.
6 Avoid Multitasking
Multitasking is usually viewed as a positive skill that enables us to do many things at once. The reality is, multitasking in the workplace should be avoided at all costs. Productivity is immensely improved when we are able to focus on one thing at a time.
The University of Georgia reinforces this idea in their recent publication where they state:
“You lose time when switching from one task to another, resulting in a loss of productivity [Rubinsteim, Meyer, and Evans, 2001]. Routine multi-tasking may lead to difficulty in concentrating and maintaining focus when needed.”
The bottom line here is: Choose quality over quantity.
If you’d like to read a book on the topic of multitasking we recommend checking out The One Thing by Gary Keller 📒.
7 Make your meetings productive
The truth is, we all spend a lot of time in meetings. So, if you want to become better at time management, you need to develop better meeting habits.
Some productivity tips to run more effective meetings include:
- Collaborating on a meeting agenda
- Assigning meeting roles (such as timekeeper and note taker)
- Ending every meeting with clear action items
If you want to make your meetings more productive, we recommend starting with a meeting agenda tool like Fellow.
Fellow is the app where managers and their teams gather to build collaborative agendas, record decisions, and keep each other accountable.
8 Experiment with different time management techniques
People with a growth mindset understand that becoming a time management expert won’t happen overnight. Instead, it’s a skill you should work on every single day.
If you want to level up your time management skills, we suggest experimenting with different time management techniques and understanding what works best for you and your team. We’ve listed three different time management techniques you can try below.
3 Time management techniques that will boost your productivity
1 The Pomodoro Technique
This well-known time management technique will help you divide up your time and focus on the most important tasks. The Pomodoro process consists of the following steps:
- Pick a task you’d like to complete
- Set a timer and spend 25 minutes on this task (no cheating!)
- After 25 minutes of deep work, take a short 5-minute break
- Every four “Pomodoros” (25-minute deep work sessions) take a 20-30 minute break
2 The ABCD Method
This time management technique suggests that you make a list of tasks and then classify each one as A,B,C,D or E.
- “A items” are the most important things on your to-do list. These are things you must do.
- “B items” are tasks that should be completed because they might have minor consequences on other tasks.
- “C items” have no consequences. Therefore, they would be nice to do, but not necessary.
- “D items” are items you can delegate to someone else.
- “E items” are items you should eliminate altogether.
If you are struggling to prioritize your tasks, this is a very effective time management activity to keep focused.
3 The 80/20 time management method
Last but not least, there’s the 80/20 method, which is also known as Pareto’s principle. This time management technique suggests that 80% of results come from 20% of the efforts. In an article by Investopedia, they explain:
“Time management is the most common use for the Pareto Principle, as most people tend to thinly spread out their time instead of focusing on the most important tasks… 80% of your work-related output could come from only 20% of your time at work.”
Using this technique for effective time management is going to serve as a guide for how to allocate resources and time efficiently.
How can you improve your time management skills?
Finding the perfect time management strategy for yourself requires that you are in tune with your productivity at work and that you are able to acknowledge what is working and which areas could use a little work. With only a certain amount of time in our days, it is important to use our organizational skills to stay focused on the task(s) at hand. Use this guide in order to practice effective time management and know that consistently working on your time management skills will enhance your productivity and overall performance.