The idiom “there are only 24 hours in a day” is a funny one. It’s obviously true, but the point isn’t to state something we all know: It’s to remind ourselves of the gap between what we’d like to achieve in a day and the time we actually have to do it all.
Time management strategies can help to bridge this gap. They assist you and your team in making the best of the limited time available per day. Try out the 10 time management strategies below to stay on track and feel accomplished at the end of the workday – we’ve also included six bonus tips to help you make the best of your time.
- Why should you care about time management?
- 10 time management strategies
- Six tips to help with time management
Why should you care about time management?
Time management ensures that everything you need to do can be completed in a manner that won’t feel rushed or pressured. If your team can diligently improve time management and complete a larger number of work tasks in a shorter amount of time, they will have more time for other work tasks. That means a more productive and efficient team!
On a personal level, time management can also give you and your team more time back for your lives outside work. Sometimes, putting yourselves before your work today – maybe heading home a bit early when you’re all well ahead of schedule – means you’ll all do better work tomorrow.
10 time management strategies
A more productive team and more time back for yourself – sounds like a great combo, right? The 10 time management strategies below can help you achieve this balance.
- Audit your time.
- Set time limits on your tasks.
- Be careful with to-do lists.
- Plan ahead.
- Don’t go at it alone.
- Follow the 80-20 rule.
- Break large projects into smaller pieces.
- Use time blocks.
- Group similar tasks together.
- Use time management tools
1 Audit your time.
Auditing your time means tracking how you and your team spend your time over, say, the course of a workweek. Noting which tasks you’re doing can tell you how long specific tasks typically take. With this information, you can carve out realistic time blocks for future efforts while eliminating processes that waste time.
2 Set time limits on your tasks.
There is such a thing as spending too much time on a task. Instead of incessantly tweaking your work, set a time limit for completing a task, then call it final, at least for now. You can always come back to it after a day or two with fresh eyes – or, better yet, ask someone else to review your work instead.
3 Be careful with to-do lists.
Yes, to-do lists are the foundation of effective time management. However, overstuffed to-do lists or task lists that don’t distinguish between urgent and low-priority tasks can pose a sense of urgency that may stress you out, leading to even more delays.
Place your important tasks in a section at the top of your lists, then include some optional ones that you can push back a bit if need be. This tweak will make managing your time so much easier – just make sure you’re not regularly leaving tasks incomplete.
4 Plan ahead.
When you have a lot of tasks in front of you, it can be tempting to rush through them all or just do whatever tasks first surface in your head. The problem is that these approaches can lead to low-quality work or overlooked tasks. Try planning out your whole month – yes, the whole thing – instead.
Planning ahead in this way is simple. Just take each project’s monthly tasks and distribute them evenly across your calendar. Completing a task is much easier when you know how much or little you’ll have to do immediately afterward.
5 Don’t go at it alone.
Delegating and outsourcing work is key to good time management. If you’re overloaded with work, find other team members to handle your tasks. If your whole team is swamped, outsource the work to a qualified third party if possible.
6 Follow the 80-20 rule.
You might have heard the notion that 80% of our results come from 20% of our actions and shrugged it off as too good to be true. But when you hear it framed as just another way of saying that our most important tasks yield the most results, then it makes sense. So keep the 80-20 rule in mind during high-stress periods – start with the most pressing work, then move on to the rest.
7 Break large projects into smaller pieces.
We’ve all seen a big project in front of us and felt overwhelmed. Most of us have also seen that project broken down into smaller tasks and felt a wave of relief. You’ll feel far less stressed if you check one tiny box every day instead of moving full-steam ahead with no mile markers.
8 Use time blocks.
Time blocks are periods where you focus solely on one task without doing anything else — no checking email, no answering the phone. Whenever you block out time for one task – say, two hours for finalizing a report – you should also create blocks for the rest of your day. Just be sure to build breaks into the time between blocks so you don’t overwork yourself.
9 Group similar tasks together.
Consider grouping similar tasks into one day to get everything done faster. The human brain can, up to a limit, repeatedly execute the same task with fewer mental obstacles than switching between disconnected processes. To use a driving analogy, staying in your lane often takes less effort than switching.
10 Use time management tools
Time management techniques become much easier to properly stick to if you have time management tools in your wheelhouse. Think about it like this: It’s not hard to delegate tasks to your team, but it can be tough to keep track of them without a shared task system. Meetings are one of your biggest spaces for identifying needs and assigning task to your team.
Use a meeting management tool like Fellow to turn your conversations into action items, automate tasks and ensure you don’t accidentally leave out any important details.
Six tips to help with time management
All the above time management strategies have proven effective time and again, but each one will also take some getting used to. And even when you do become comfortable with managing your time wisely every day, you might still slip up or feel stressed. In times like these, turn to the below time management tips for some grounding.
- Remember: You’re not perfect.
- Always cushion your time.
- Learn to say no.
- Eliminate distractions.
- Conduct daily reviews.
- Don’t be shy with your online calendar.
1 Remember: You’re not perfect.
If only we could all do everything exactly the right way the first time. Unfortunately, that’s a fantasy – and you shouldn’t beat yourself up for occasional mistakes or missed milestones. It’s okay to occasionally miss the mark despite extensive planning. After all, we’re only human, and respecting that — or even planning for it — can go a long way when something important is on the line.
2 Always cushion your time.
Have a task due in two weeks that you can complete in one? Don’t wait ‘til next week to start – if you have everything you need, then get going now. That way, if unexpected obstacles arise – an onslaught of new work, unforeseen team member absences – you’re not sitting there next week wishing you’d started last week.
3 Learn to say no.
Almost everyone struggles to some extent with saying no, and the pressure to say yes can feel especially strong in work environments. That’s as true for small business owners pushing for growth as for entry-level employees dead-set on climbing the corporate ladder. The thing is, taking on too much can spread you thin and lead to overlooked or poorly executed tasks. If you’d said no instead – which is allowed – you wouldn’t have faced this problem.
4 Eliminate distractions.
Especially now that working from home is so common, distractions are everywhere. And when work gets stressful, tedious, or just uninteresting, distractions in eyeshot or arm’s reach are likely to pull you away from work.
Put all your distracting devices and objects somewhere you can’t reach until you complete your tasks. Then, when you’re done, dig out your distractions and enjoy them – you deserve it.
5 Conduct daily reviews.
At the end of your workday, look at your task list. Did you achieve everything you set out to do? If not, how can you achieve it all in the future? Answer these questions, then plan future task lists around them. More productive workdays – and less deadline stress – can result.
6 Don’t be shy with your online calendar.
Your company’s shared digital calendar can be more than your hub for planning team meetings. You can also add time blocks there to keep yourself on schedule and show your team when you can most easily be contacted. Your team can do the same, which means you’ll get a full view of what everyone’s up to. This means online calendars aren’t just great time management tools – they’re project management must-haves.
Time is money
Time management strategies can help manage expectations, meet goals, and lower your stress levels while ticking every box. They lead to fewer instances of your team members needing more time than expected to deliver on promises – and that means more time for other tasks. They say “time is money,” but in our view, time management is priceless.