Time Management Tips That Will Make You a Productivity Master
Success in almost everything involves time management. It seems like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything that you need to do accomplished, but if you want to achieve much more than others in a shorter amount of time, you must improve how you manage that time.
What is Time Management?
Time management refers to how you schedule and organize your time for different activities. There are many different tools, and techniques to help you get more done in less time.
Here are some time management tips that will help you organize and manage the 24 hours in your day as efficiently as possible.
Learn more time management tips from my free Productivity Webinar.
The Importance of Time Management
Time is your most precious resource. It is the most valuable thing you have. It is perishable, it is irreplaceable, and it cannot be saved. It can only be reallocated from activities of lower value to activities of higher value.
All work requires time.
The very act of taking a moment to think about your time before you spend it will begin to improve your personal time management and increase productivity immediately.
I used to think that time management was only a business tool, like a calculator or a cell phone.
It was something that you used to increase productivity and eventually be paid more money. Then I learned that time management is not a peripheral activity or skill. It is the core skill upon which everything else in life depends.
Eat That Frog!
“The first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog.” – Mark Twain
Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat that frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worse things that is going to happen to you all day long.
Your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don’t do something about it.
If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first. This is another way of saying that if you have two important tasks before you, start with the biggest, hardest, and most important task first.
Discipline yourself to begin immediately and then to persist until the task is complete before you go on to something else.
If You Have To Eat A Live Frog At All, It Doesn’t Pay To Sit And Look At It For Very Long
The key to reaching high levels of time management, performance, and productivity is to develop the lifelong habit of tackling your major task first thing each morning.
You must develop the routine of “eating your frog” before you do anything else and without taking too much time to think about it.
Successful, effective people are those who launch directly into their major tasks and then discipline themselves to work steadily and single-mindedly until those tasks are complete.
“Failure to execute” is one of the biggest problems in organizations today. Many people confuse activity with accomplishment. They talk continually, hold endless meetings, and make wonderful plans, but in the final analysis, no one does the job and gets the results required.
There Are No Shortcuts
Practice is the key to mastering any skill.
Fortunately, your mind is like a muscle. It grows stronger and more capable with use. With practice, you can learn any behavior or develop any habit that you consider either desirable or necessary.
What is your “frog?” What is the one task that you despise doing each day? Once you have chosen your “frog” make it a habit to wake up every morning and do that task first.
Learn more time management tips from my free Kickstart Your Productivity Webinar.
How to Manage Time Effectively
In order to make more money, you must learn how to manage time effectively. There are two major sources of value in the world of work today. The first is time and the second is knowledge.
Today, time is the currency of modern business. By using these 5 techniques to manage your time, you will put yourself on the fast track to success.
1. Develop A Sense Of Urgency
The most important measure of time is speed. The most important quality that you can develop with regard to time management is a “sense of urgency.”
A sense of urgency is the habit of moving fast when opportunity presents itself to you. Develop a bias for action. Fast tempo is essential to success. All successful people not only work hard, hard, hard, but they work fast, fast, fast!
2. Stop Procrastinating
Procrastination is not only the thief of time; it is the thief of life. You must develop the time management habit of moving quickly when something needs to be done. You must develop a reputation for speed and dependability.
As a general rule, small tasks should be done immediately, as soon as they appear. This habit of taking action quickly will enable you to get through an enormous amount of work in a day. It will earn you a reputation for being the kind of person to give jobs to when someone needs them done quickly.
3. Work In Real Time
Whenever possible, do your work in “real time,” as soon as it comes up. Stay focused and do it now. It is amazing how much time you can waste by picking up a task and looking at it or starting it, and then putting it down and coming back to it again and again.
General Time Management Skills
The preparation that you make in the evening for the day ahead will have an enormous effect on how successful you are. Here are some general time management skills that anyone can do that will help you get more done.
1. Always Think On Paper
Take a piece of paper and write down everything you intend to do. Include everything, even your plans to eat a healthy lunch and workout, prepare dinner for you and your family, every detail.
Then organize the piece of paper by asking yourself: “If I could only do one thing on this list today, which one thing would it be?”
And if I could only do two things which would be the second and the third? And then when you start first thing in the morning, start off with number one, and discipline yourself to work only on number one until it’s complete. Then move on to number two.
2. Avoid Distractions Like Email and Media
Checking your email in the morning makes getting off track entirely too easy. It starts with just one email, and before you know it, you’re several hours into your day and you still haven’t started on your number one task.
Keep your phone away from you or off to avoid distractions from your most important task.
3. Make Your List Of Written Tasks The Night Before
The final way for you to make sure you have a productive next day is to make this list of goals and tasks the night before.
Your ability to make good plans before you act is a measure of your overall competence. The better plan you have, the easier it is for you to overcome procrastination, to get started and then to keep going.
By writing down your goals before you go to sleep, you will think about the things you need to do and mentally prepare yourself to do them before you even wake up the next morning.
When you plan each day in advance, organize your list by priority, and stick to your plan, the work will go faster and smoother than ever before. You will feel more powerful and competent. You will get more done, faster than you thought possible. Eventually, you will become unstoppable.
Time Management Tool: Make a To-Do-List
Make a To-Do-List for Every Day
When you consider how helpful planning can be in increasing your productivity and performance, it is amazing how few people practice it every single day. And planning is really quite simple to do. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen.
The most sophisticated technology, time management apps are based on the same principle. Making a list is one of the best time management tools you can develop.
Make Your To-Do-Lists a Habit
Always work from a list. When something new comes up, add it to the list before you do it. You can increase your productivity and output by 25% or more from the first day that you begin working consistently from a list.
Make out your list the night before, at the end of the workday. Move everything that you have not yet accomplished onto your list for the coming day and then add everything that you have to do the next day.
When you make out your list the evening or the night before, your subconscious mind works on your list all night long while you sleep. Often you will wake up with great ideas and insights that you can use to get your job done faster and better than you had initially thought.
The more time you take to make written lists of everything you have to do, in advance, the more effective and efficient you will be.
Types of To-Do-Lists
There are different lists that you need for different purposes. First, you should create a master list on which you write down everything you can think of that you want to do sometime in the future. This is the place where you capture every idea that comes to or every new task or responsibility that comes up. You can then sort out the items later.
Second, you should have a monthly list that you make up at the end of the month for the month ahead. This may contain items transferred from your master list.
Third, you should have a weekly list where you plan your entire week in advance. This is a list that is under construction as you go through the current week.
Finally, you transfer items from your monthly and weekly lists onto your daily list. These are the specific activities that you are going to accomplish that day.
Check Off Your Completed Tasks
As you work through the day, tick off the items on your list as you complete them. This activity gives you a visual picture of accomplishment. It generates a feeling of success and forward motion. Seeing yourself working progressively through your list motivates and energizes you. It raises your self-esteem and self-respect. Steady, visible progress propels you forward and helps you to overcome procrastination.
Time Management Tools for The Office
One of the great time management tips is to work from a clean desk, and in an organized workspace. Just as an excellent chef cleans up the entire kitchen before and after cooking, you should organize your workspace completely before you begin your work.
1. Organize Your Desktop
Put all of your documents away in the appropriate files, both physical and online. Keep your computer desktop clean. If you cannot see your screensaver, there is too much on your screen.
Many people believe that they work more effectively in a messy work environment with a cluttered desk. However, every study that has been done with these people shows that when they are forced to clean up their work environment so that they have only one task in front of them, their productivity doubles and triples, usually overnight.
2. How To Organize Your Desk With Proper Supplies
Get organized and stay organized. Make sure your office supplies and materials are fully stocked and available at hand. You will find that nothing is more destructive to efficiency and effectiveness than having to start a job and then stop, and then start again, for lack of proper preparation or supplies.
People who work with cluttered desks, are found to spend an enormous amount of each working day looking for the materials they need among the clutter around them. Psychologically, the sight of a cluttered desk or office provides visual subconscious feedback that reinforces your perception that you are disorganized. It leads to continuous distraction as your eyes and your attention dart from item to item, and back again.
Learn more time management tips from my free Kickstart Your Productivity Webinar.
Time Management Tools for Email
Keep your inbox clean and organized. If you don’t need an email, delete it. Pick a couple times during the day to answer all of your emails at once. Don’t just answer them as they come.
There are some people who are slaves to their email. They have a bell that goes off each time a new message comes in, whatever they are doing they turn immediately to their inbox to check it.
In effect, they “switch tasks” and then return to what it was they were doing, immediately losing momentum, clarity and output on their most important tasks.
You will be much more productive if you set out time to answer all of your emails at once than to answer them each as they come.
Answer All of Your Emails at the Same Time
When answering email, bundle them all together and do them at the same time. Don’t answer them as they come in. Do all your similar tasks at the same time rather than doing a little bit now and a little bit later.
Batching your tasks simply means doing similar things at the same time. There exists a “learning curve” in everything you do. When you complete a series of similar or identical tasks all in a row, the learning curve enables you to reduce the time required to complete each task by as much as 80 percent by the time you complete the fifth identical task.
Keep Your Emails Short and Sweet
You should make a decision not to allow your inbox to control your life, like the tail wagging the dog. Instead, discipline yourself to use your email as a business tool. Make your responses quick and to the point.
If your responses are quick, it will free up more time to get through more emails and make all correspondence easier to read.
Create Email Folders
If you manage multiple email addresses on one account, create a filter and label for each account. This way you will know what emails are personal and which ones are business related. You can save personal messages for later without having to read through them. This will leave you with your more important tasks.
Check Your Email Twice a Day
Manage your email only twice a day or less. Even better, leave your email off on the weekends and spend more time with your family and friends, and in your personal activities.
Check it once in the morning after you have been at work for a few hours, answer any new emails you may have. This will free up your morning for the most important things you have to do for the day.
Check it once more in the late afternoon after lunch. After that, leave it alone until tomorrow and focus on all of the other work that you have to get done.
Some of the most productive people I know have an automatic response to their email. It says something like, “I only answer my email twice a day because of my busy schedule. If you have sent me an email, I will get back to you as soon as I possibly can. If this is an emergency, call this number and speak to this person.”
How to Manage Time Better
There are three cores in which people spend their time – conversations, thoughts, and actions. How you are managing your time within each of those categories will determine how successful you are in life. No amount of money or resources can get back lost and wasted time.
Learning how to manage time better is crucial to leading a fulfilled life and successful career.
Start to evaluate how you are spending time by keeping a record of what is requiring the most time and attention in your day to day life.
Determining which tasks require the most time is the first step in constructing a plan to be more productive.
How Can I Make Better Use of My Time?
Depending on what you are doing, time can fly by or it can crawl by. Although you may be busy throughout the day, that does not equate to productivity. By managing time more wisely, you will minimize the time you waste in a day and increase your productivity.
Create a list of the most important tasks and allot time for each task. Holding yourself to the allotted time will provide a foreseeable goal and maintain your energy and productivity. Structuring in occasional breaks is very necessary.
Working past the point of your max will leave you unmotivated and less productive. Eliminate tasks that are unnecessary and require you to invest a lot of time. Find shorter substitutes to the tasks that are essential to your day, but are not on the top list of tasks.
Having a clear goal, organized time to work, and set time to decompress will make you happier and will help you manage your time more wisely.
Time Management Tips to Avoid
It is important that you never trust to luck when you plan a project. Hope is not a strategy. Remember the words of Napoleon, when he was asked if he believed in luck. He said, “Yes, I believe in luck. I believe in bad luck. And I believe that I will always have it, so I plan accordingly.”
There are four main problems in time management. Each of them can be avoided by taking the time to think carefully before embarking on a new project.
1. Not Allowing Enough Time
The first is not allowing enough time to complete a multi-task job. This is the primary reason why projects fail and people’s careers get sidetracked or torpedoed. They hope for the best, trust to luck and don’t allow a sufficient cushion of time to complete every step of the project. As a result, the project fails.
2. Assuming the Best
The second problem is assuming that everything will work out all right.
“Errant assumptions lie at the root of every failure.” – Alex McKenzie
Never assume that everything will work out all right. Assume that you are going to have problems. Allow yourself sufficient time and resources to solve those problems and keep the project on schedule.
3. Rushing at the End
The third problem in time management is when you end up rushing at the end. When you rush to complete a project, because you have run out of time or money, you almost invariably make mistakes and do poor quality work that you have to go back and correct later. It actually takes less time to finish a project correctly if you work at it slowly and steadily and do it properly in the first place.
4. Trying to Do Several Things at Once
The fourth problem in project management is trying to do several things at once, and you ending up doing nothing well. You either take on too much at a time, including too many responsibilities yourself, or you assign too many responsibilities to other people. In either case, various parts of the project fall through the cracks and sometimes all the effort is lost. Do things one at a time, and do each thing well before moving to the next task.
Time Management Prioritization Techniques
The more thought you invest into setting priorities before you begin a task, the faster you will get the important things done. The more important and valuable the task is to you, the more motivated you are to overcome procrastination and launch yourself into the job. Try these prioritization techniques.
“The first law of success is concentration – to bend all the energies to one point, and to go directly to that point, looking neither to the right or to the left.” – William Matthews
Time Management Tool: The ABCDE Method
The ABCDE Method is a powerful priority setting technique that you can use every single day. This technique is so simple and effective that it can make you one of the most efficient and effective people in your field. The ABCDE list is a to-do list on steroids when it comes to learning how to prioritize.
The power of this technique lies in its simplicity because it’s so action oriented.
Here’s how it works: You start with a list of everything you have to do for the coming day. Think on paper. Once you have a list of all of the tasks you must complete, start the ABCDE method.
“A” Items Are Most Important
This is a task for which there can be serious consequences if you fail to do it. Consequences such as not visiting a key customer or not finishing a report for your boss that she needs for an upcoming board meeting.
These are the frogs of your life.
If you have more than one “A” task, you prioritize these tasks by writing A-1, A-2, A-3, and so on in front of each item. Your A-1 task is your biggest, ugliest frog of all.
“B” Items Only Have Minor Consequences
A B item is defined as a task that you should do. But it only has mild consequences.
These are the tadpoles of your work life. This means that someone may be unhappy or inconvenienced if you don’t do it, but it is nowhere as important as an A task. Returning an unimportant telephone message or reviewing your email would be a B task.
The rule is that you should never do a B task when there is an A task left undone. You should never be distracted by a tadpole when there is a big frog sitting there waiting to be eaten.
“C” Tasks Have No Consequences
A C task is something that would be nice to do, but for which there are no consequences at all, whether you do it or not.
C tasks include phoning a friend, having coffee or lunch with a coworker or completing some personal business during work hours. This sort of activity has no effect at all on your work life.
As a rule, you can never complete a C task when there are B or A tasks left undone.
“D” For Delegate
A D activity is something that you can delegate to someone else.
The rule is that you should delegate everything that you possibly can to other people. This frees up more time for you to engage in your A activities. Your A tasks and their completion, largely determine the entire course of your career.
“E” For Eliminate
An E activity is something that you should eliminate altogether.
After all, you can only get your time under control if you stop doing things that are no longer necessary for you to do.
The key to making this ABCDE Method work is for you to now discipline yourself to start immediately on your “A-1” task. Stay at it until it is complete. Use your willpower to get going on this one job, the single most important task you could possibly be doing.
Eat the whole frog and don’t stop until it’s finished completely.
Spend Your Time On Valuable Activities
Your ability to think through and analyze your work list to determine your “A-1” task is the springboard to higher levels of accomplishment. It also leads to greater self-esteem, self-respect and personal pride.
When you develop the habit of concentrating on your “A-1,” you will start getting more done than other people around you.
Make a rule for yourself to never do anything that isn’t on your list. If a new task or project comes up, write it down on your list and set a priority for it before you start work on it.
If you react and respond to the nonstop demands on your time, you will quickly lose control of your day. You end up spending most of your time on activities of low or no value.
Review you work list right now and put an A, B, C, D, or E next to each task or activity. Select your A-1 job or project and begin on it immediately. Discipline yourself to do nothing else until this one job is complete. It will become one of the best time management tools you can use.
Time management behaviors are very much a matter of choice:
You choose to be efficient or you choose to be disorganized. You choose to focus and concentrate on your highest-value tasks, or you choose to spend your time on activities that contribute little value to your life. You choose to be positive or you choose to be negative.
And you are always free to choose your quality of life.
The starting point of overcoming your previous programming, and eliminating the mental blocks to time management, is for you to make a clear, unequivocal decision to become excellent at the way you use your time.
Your aim should be to manage your time so well that people look up to you and use you as a role model for their own work habits.
Here are four mental exercises that you can use to increase productivity and program yourself for peak performance to improve your entire life.
Time Management for Work-Life Balance
Finding work-life balance is hugely important. You must be able to balance your career and your home life. Time management is a great way to better achieve this. Here are four time management tips for work-life balance.
1. Use Positive Affirmations
My first tip is to harness the power of positive affirmations. Positivity will change your quality of life and is the first of these methods for programming your subconscious mind is “positive self-talk,” or the use of positive affirmations.
These are commands that you pass from your conscious mind to your subconscious mind. Positive affirmations are statements that you either say out loud or say to yourself with the emotion and enthusiasm that drives the words into your subconscious mind as new operating instructions.
Begin by repeating this positive affirmation over and over to yourself.
“I am excellent at time management! I am excellent at time management!”
Any command or positive affirmation repeated over and over again in a spirit of faith, acceptance, and belief, will eventually be accepted by your subconscious mind. My favorite time management affirmation is this:
“I use my time well. I use my time well. I use my time well.”
You will then find that your external behaviors will start to reflect your internal programming to improve your work-life balance and quality of life.
2. Use Visualization To Program Your Subconscious Mind
The second technique that you can use to program your subconscious mind is through visualization. Mental pictures most immediately influence your subconscious mind. In self-image psychology, the person you see is the person you will be through positive affirmations. Begin to see yourself as well organized, efficient and effective in time management.
Recall and recreate memories and pictures of yourself when you were performing at your best. Think of a time when you were working efficiently and effectively, and getting through an enormous amount of work. Play this picture of yourself over and over again on the screen of your mind.
3. Relax, And Meditate
The third time management method is simple. First, you sit or lie in a quiet place where you can be completely alone in the silence. Through positive affirmations, imagine yourself going through an important upcoming experience, such as a meeting, a presentation, a negotiation or even a date that would improve your work-life balance and your quality of life.
As you sit or lie completely relaxed, create a picture of the coming event and see it unfolding perfectly in every respect. See yourself as calm, positive, happy and in complete control. See the other people doing and saying exactly what you would want them to do if the situation was perfect.
Here is a simple meditation technique my friend Jack Canfield uses to quiet his mind which is slightly different:
- Find a quiet place, close your eyes, and focus on slowing down your breathing
- Repeat an uplifting word or phrase
- Move into a state of quiet
- Imagine yourself surrounded by a sphere of light
4. Imagine You Are Excellent At Time Management
The fourth mental technique is to imagine that you are already excellent at time management. Imagine that you have been selected for a role in a movie or stage play.
In this role, you are to act the part of a person who is extremely well organized in every respect. As you go through your daily life, imagine you are an actor who is playing this part, who is already very good at time management. Act as if you are already using your time efficiently and well.
Pretend that you are an expert in personal efficiency and time management. When you pretend that you are excellent in time management, eventually the action, which is under your direct control, will develop the mindset or the belief in your subconscious mind.
People resolve, over and over again, to get serious about time management by focusing, setting better priorities and overcoming procrastination. They intend to get serious about time management sometime, but unfortunately, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Time Management Motivation
For you to develop sufficient desire to develop time management and organizational skills, you must be intensely motivated by the benefits you feel you will enjoy. You must want the results badly enough to overcome the natural inertia that keeps you doing things the same old way.
If everyone agrees that excellent time management is a desirable skill, why is it that so few people can be described as “well organized, effective and efficient?” Over the years, I have found that many people have ideas about time management that are simply not true.
Here is the key: Structure and organize everything that you possibly can.
Think ahead, plan for contingencies, prepare thoroughly, and focus on specific results. Only then can you be completely relaxed and spontaneous when the situation changes.
The better organized you are in the factors that are under your control, the greater freedom and flexibility you have to quickly make changes whenever they are necessary.
Do you have any time management tecniques that you swear by? Leave a comment below.
About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.