7 Time Management Tips to Help You Master Productivity
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.
Good time management leads to personal productivity and success in all areas of your life.
It includes prioritizing the things you need to do, setting a time limit on certain projects or items, taking control of your calendar items, and effective techniques to manage your time wisely.
Why Are Good Time Management Skills Important?
Time is one of your most precious resources. 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 use 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.
Here are some time management tips that will help you organize and manage the 24 hours in your day as efficiently as possible.
1. Develop Effective Time Management Skills
My first time management tips are the fundamentals of developing the skills you need to make the best use of the time you have. When you master these, you will develop the self-discipline to overcome any bad habits you might have and become an expert at managing your time effectively.
One of the best ways to make sure you have a productive day is to make a 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, get started, and 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.
Avoid Time Wasters
We all get caught in the trap of allowing distractions to steal the precious time we should be spending on more important tasks.
For example, 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.
Instead, start the day with your most important tasks and schedule a couple of times during the day when you will answer emails.
Social media and notifications on our phones can also be very distracting at work. Keep your phone away from you or off to avoid distractions from your most important item. Check social media in the evening after the work day is done.
Batch Related Tasks Together
Time batching and task batching is my next time management tips for increasing your productivity.
When you make your daily to-do list, batch similar tasks together so you will do similar things at the same time, which is task batching.
To practice time batching, schedule specific parts of your day for related tasks, such as when you schedule meetings, make phone calls, check emails, check work-related social media or other sites, complete projects, or do any other related work.
When doing this, also remember that a “learning curve” exists in everything you do. This means that when you start something new, it may take a little more time to learn how to do it, but the more often you do it, the learning curve begins to flatten out and reduce the time required to complete each task as much as 80 percent by the time you complete the fifth identical task.
Focus on One Task at a Time
Whenever possible, take care of one task at a time. Multitasking actually keeps us from doing our most productive work since our attention is divided in too many directions. The human brain can only handle so much before you feel overwhelmed.
Stay focused on the task at hand until it is done. It is amazing how much time you can waste by picking up an assignment and looking at it or starting it, and then putting it down and coming back to it again and again.
Set an Earlier Deadline
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.”
Try moving your deadlines a day early on the calendar, or even earlier. This not only reduces stress levels of trying to meet last-minute time limits but also creates a sense of urgency that can boost productivity.
A sense of urgency is the habit of moving fast when the 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!
By giving yourself an earlier time limit, you will get out of your comfort zone to overcome procrastination, have buffer time reserved if you need it, and improve your work quality.
2. Tackle Your Most Important Tasks First
One of my most effective time management tips is to start your day with your most demanding tasks. You will be amazed by how much time you will save by following this strategy of doing the things that matter most first.
Use one of the following time management tools to boost productivity each day.
Eat That Frog!
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 it is probably the worst thing 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.
Practice the Pareto Principle
The Pareto Principle states that 80% of your success comes from 20% of your efforts. Make sure your most focused work is on the 20% of your work tasks that will have the greatest effect on reaching the goals you have set.
Apply the ABCDE Method
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, spend time organizing your different tasks by priority level:
- A tasks are your most important and must be completed today.
- B tasks only have minor consequences if you do or do not complete them.
- C tasks have no consequences if you do not get to them today.
- D tasks are those you can delegate so you can accomplish your A tasks.
- E tasks are items you should eliminate altogether from your to-do list.
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.
3. Leverage To-Do Lists as a Time Management Tool
Making a to-do list is a time management tip I use every day. Seeing your tasks in writing gives you an accurate picture of how you should best manage time throughout the day as well as the whole week.
Create a To-Do List for Every Day
Use the strategies we have discussed to create your to-do list for each day. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen. Or, you can use one of the many additional resources available, such as time management apps and word processing programs.
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.
Use Different Types of To-Do Lists
First, you should create a master list on which you write down everything you can think of in your life 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.
Second, use your master list tasks to create a monthly list at the end of each month for the month ahead.
Third, make 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, transfer items from your monthly and weekly lists onto your daily list. These are the specific daily tasks you are going to accomplish that day.
Check Off Tasks as You Complete Them
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. Steady, visible progress propels you forward and helps you to overcome procrastination.
4. Take Advantage of Email Time Management Tips
Email is essential for conducting business, but many of us experience too much time wasted checking and answering emails.
To avoid wasting time, keep your inbox clean and organized. If you don’t need an email, delete it. Unsubscribe to lists you rarely use or create filters to skip your inbox and go directly to labeled folders.
Pick a couple of times during the day to answer all of your emails at once. Don’t just answer them as they come. Some of my best advice to use your time effectively is to not be a slave to your email notifications.
Keep your emails short and sweet. Discipline yourself to use your email as a business tool. If your responses are quick and to the point, it will free up more time to get through more emails and make all correspondence easier to read.
Check your email twice a day. Check it once in the morning after you have been at work for a few hours. 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.
5. Use Time Audit as a Time Management Tool
My next tip to manage your time like a champion is to conduct a time audit. This involves keeping track of how you spend your time every day.
Use paper and pen, a spreadsheet, time tracking app, calendar planner, or any other tool you prefer.
Track time and tasks by writing down everything you do and when you do it. This includes when you check email, talk to a coworker, complete projects, do site work, eat lunch, get distracted or interrupted, and every other way your spend your time.
Schedule a time on your calendar when you will begin and end your time audit. For most people, it will start at the beginning of your work week and last through the end of the week. However, if your monthly calendar is irregular, plan ahead and schedule your time audit during weeks that most accurately represent how you spend your time.
When you analyze your time audit, you will be able to see where you might waste time waiting on people or things and if you are spending time on your most important priorities. After you track your time you will know how to manage your time better.
6. Protect Your Mental Health
Finally, perhaps the most vital of all my time management tips is to ensure you stay mentally healthy. This is essential to your happiness and success in all aspects of your life.
My best advice for protecting your health is to apply all of the tips we have talked about so far, as well as focus on creating a healthy work-life balance.
One example of how to do this is to harness the power of positive affirmations. Positivity will change your quality of life and using positive affirmations is a powerful method for programming your subconscious mind with “positive self-talk.”
Another example is using visualization to program your subconscious mind. 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.
A third example is to relax and meditate. Sit or lie in a quiet place where you can be completely alone in the silence. Create a picture of the coming event, for example, 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.
A final example of how to focus on mental and overall health is to imagine that you are already excellent at time management. When you focus and 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.
Reach Your Goals With Good Time Management Skills
Now that you have these valuable time management tips, start tracking your time, making your lists, and prioritizing the most important things. Give yourself buffer time to lower your stress level, and practice important techniques to keep a proper work-life balance. Use my 14-step goal-setting guide to jumpstart your progress to become a master of your time, success, and future.
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 Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.