Time management 101: How to manage time

Managing your time well is a necessary skill in today’s always-connected, rapid-paced business world. If you struggle with effective time management, fear not: working more efficiently is a skill anyone can build. Whether you’re a dawdler, perfectionist, procrastinator, or simply unsure where to begin, this page offers time management strategies you can use to get on top of your professional projects.

Why you should boost your time management skills

Knowing how to manage time well can help you complete your projects faster and in a more organized fashion—even during your busiest workdays. Better time management skills can also:

  • Help you meet deadlines more easily and rapidly
  • Improve your relationships with colleagues, business partners, and vendors
  • Boost your reputation at your company and throughout your industry
  • Increase your wellbeing and reduce stress, which can even improve your health
  • Contribute to your overall career success

Of course, working more productively doesn’t mean you should work longer days or sacrifice work-life balance. Knowing when to step away from your desk for a well-earned break and when to log out for the day is all part of working smarter.

Time management tips

Managing time well can turn a hectic, chaotic workweek into a productive one. These 10 time management strategies can help:

  1. Triage your workload before diving in. Resist the urge to work on the first item that falls into your lap each morning. Prioritize your projects and tasks by deadline and how important each one is to your organization. Finish the most critical pieces that are due the soonest first. Then move on to critical pieces that are due later.
  2. Delegate whenever possible. Identify which projects you can outsource to junior employees or vendors. Leave room in your schedule to explain any necessary details and make yourself available in case questions arise. Try to outsource routine work to the same person or team so that you don’t have to explain the details each time.
  3. Plan ahead. Whenever a new project appears on your plate, set aside a little time to look over the specifications—even if you can’t get started for several days. Determine whether you have all the details you need to complete the project, and if not, where can you obtain the missing information or who you can turn to for answers.
  4. Create a project schedule. Break larger projects into individual tasks, list them out, and estimate how long each one will take. Plug each task into your calendar or project tracking tool so you know when you must start and complete work on it. Identify which, if any tasks, you can delegate to your teammates or business vendors.
  5. Organize your projects. Before you dive into the meat of a project, gather the contact information you’ll need for stakeholders and partners and set up the necessary files, folders, and online chat groups. A little advance legwork can save you time and stress later when the project heats up.
  6. Avoid multitasking. Toggling back and forth between projects all day long breaks up your flow. Instead, focus on completing one task at a time and save similar, smaller tasks like replying to emails or filling out spreadsheet columns to tackle all at once.
  7. Take time to recharge. Step away from your computer for a short while before you transition from one concentration-heavy project to another. Doing so can give you the mental reset you need to stay energized throughout the day.
  8. Put caps on meetings and stick to them. Before you schedule or agree to attend a meeting, ask yourself if it’s really necessary. Schedule meetings for the shortest amount of time you think you’ll need and do all you can to avoid them running over time.
  9. Minimize distractions. Turn off your phone and log out of all social media accounts unless you need them for your work. If you’re focused on a difficult or rush project and want to reduce instant messages from colleagues, don’t be afraid to use the “busy” or “do not disturb” settings of your team’s workplace chat app.
  10. Set longer-term goals. Keep track of important but non-urgent projects to do throughout the year and build them into your monthly or quarterly schedule. Break down each one into stages or milestones and break each of those into smaller tasks. Goals without a roadmap don’t usually get completed.

Tools to boost your time management skills

The web is brimming with apps designed to help you work more productively and stay organized. Digital tools that can help you with effective time management include:

  • To-do lists. Besides helping you stay organized, keeping a daily and weekly to-do list can help you keep stress at bay. Maintaining a digital record of the tasks you need to complete frees you from having to remember or spend added time thinking about them. And creating a daily to-do list can help keep you focused on the most urgent and important tasks you need to complete each workday.
  • Calendars. Your digital calendar isn’t just there to remind you when your next staff meeting is happening. Use it to mark deadlines for your high-priority projects, see your weekly and monthly due dates in one view, and block off time for intensive projects you want to focus on without distractions.
  • Spreadsheet, scheduling, or project management apps. The more complex the project, the more sophisticated the tools you’ll need to track its milestones, tasks that comprise each milestone, due dates, team members working on each task, and when each deadline has been met.
  • Time tracking apps. Tools like Clockify, Toggl, and My Hours track how much time you spend on each task or project. Try using one of these tools for a month to see how long you spend on each aspect of your job. (How much time do you really spend shooting the breeze with coworkers?) Then work to cut the timewasters from your schedule.

Start using time management strategies to increase productivity

Learning how to manage time well takes effort. We all know we should limit the time we spend on nonessential tasks at work, like sending funny cat memes to coworkers and replying to personal text messages. But that doesn’t mean we always live up this ideal.

Like any habit you’re trying to build, cultivating good time management skills takes practice. You have to put in the work to reap the rewards. The sooner you start using these time management strategies and tools, the sooner you’ll have more control over your workload.

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