Whether it’s in our work or our personal lives, we all struggle with time management from time to time. In fact, many of us may not even be aware of how poor our time management is, with only about 1% of us able to accurately rate our own time management.
Read on to learn some useful tips and tricks you can use to build a strong foundation of time management skills.
What is time management?
Simply put, time management is the act of organizing the time you spend on specific activities. It includes prioritizing tasks, minimizing time wasting, and ultimately making sure that everything is completed on time.
Good vs bad time management
Benefits of good time management
With good time management, you can:
- Be more productive – less time wasted means you can spend time on what matters.
- Achieve your goals more easily – get everything done that you want to do.
- Reduce stress – tasks won’t feel overwhelming when you plan them out efficiently.
- Create better quality work – less rushing means you can take more time to ensure quality.
- Take control of your time – you decide what you do and when you do it.
Implications of poor time management
On the other hand, poor time management presents a variety of negative consequences.
Long stretches of taking it easy and then rushing to finish at the end – does that sound familiar? This kind of workflow can sometimes still get the job done, but it’s both risky and stressful.
Time is arguably the most precious resource to us of all because it’s the one we can never recover. Using it efficiently lets you make the most of what you have available.
Loss of control
Very often, bad time management isn’t a conscious choice, and we may find ourselves slipping into bad habits. This makes it easy to lose control of your time without even thinking.
Poor quality work
Rushing your work is a recipe for disaster – with less time to work methodically or double check your work, the quality can suffer.
No one wants to be the person who always hands in work late. Poor time management can lead to a reputation of unreliability and lack of work ethic.
12 easy tips to improve your time management
1. Track your time
Before you can make any improvements, you need to know which parts you need to improve. Time tracking is a valuable method of assessing how you spend your time and whether you spend it wisely. Luckily, there’s a wide variety of software available that can help – check out our own time tracking module to see what Vault can do.
Time tracking is especially useful when you work with billable hours. Find out how to make the most of them here.
2. Use a system
The good news is, you don’t have to just wing it when it comes to scheduling your time. The time management matrix and the Pomodoro Technique are just two popular examples of systems for managing your time.
3. Prioritize important tasks
One easy mistake is to waste time focusing on less important tasks, meaning you have to rush urgent tasks later.
Many people find lists useful when managing their time. Try making a list of tasks in order of importance, with the important or urgent tasks first. This gives you peace of mind knowing that you won’t have to rush.
Read on: Don’t be overloaded, plan better.
4. Schedule your time
You can go one step further than a list and block out time to complete specific tasks. This gives you an overview of what you will realistically be able to do with your available time.
If your tasks are piling up, there may be some on the list that you can delegate to a coworker so you can share the work
6. Avoid procrastinating
This is always easier said than done, but it’s hard to understate the issues that procrastination causes. Prioritizing, scheduling tasks, and taking breaks can all be great ways to beat procrastination. Additionally, many people procrastinate because they don’t know where to start. An effective way of overcoming this is by breaking your task down into smaller tasks, making it much more manageable.
7. Limit interactions
When possible, avoid unnecessary interactions at work. Whether you’re working in the office or at home, try to set aside a few hours with no interruptions each day, and let your colleagues know to contact you at other times (unless it’s urgent).
8. Shush social media
If you have your phone next to you, it's easy to become distracted by notifications. Turn the notifications off and set yourself a rule to only check your phone during a break or when you finish a task.
9. Don’t multitask
If you have a to-do list, follow it one task at a time. For some, multi-tasking can reduce concentration, so it’s better to finish one task before moving onto the next.
10. Better done than perfect
The perfectionists among us will already know how easy it is to get stuck tweaking a task until it’s 100% perfect. While it's important to do your job well, sometimes this time spent endlessly perfecting is time that would be better spent on another task. And if it absolutely must be perfect, you can come back to it later after completing other tasks.
11. Focus on the result
No matter what you’re working on, keep the end goal in sight – remember, the result is what matters most.
12. Take some time to relax
None of us are machines – while it’s important to stay focused, it can also be very difficult to maintain that focus without time for a break. Take a moment to step away from the screen and refresh your body and mind.
Why not do some stretches, go for a walk, make a coffee, or get some water? Once that’s done, you can come back to your work re-energized and with a fresh mindset.
Read on: How to master your time management.
The 4Ds golden rule
Unimportant tasks can quickly distract you from more pressing matters, but these 4 Ds are a good way to decide which tasks to prioritize and when.
Decide whether the task is even necessary or not. If you don’t need to do it, delete it.
If the task is urgent or can be completed quickly, do it now.
If it would be more efficient to have someone else deal with the task, delegate it.
If the task will take a long time to resolve, set aside time later to sort it out.
Every person is different, so a method that works amazingly for one person may be useless for another. When it comes to time management, there’s no quick fix, unfortunately – while an app may help, it can only help in conjunction with good habits and commitment. However, these tips are a great way to start building good time management habits and taking control of your time.