Have you noticed that some people always manage to finish all the tasks they need to do for the day during the day, and other people rush from one task to another unable to complete anything throughout the day.
What’s the difference?
One group of people have good time management skills, and the other group has weaker time management skills.
Time is a precious resource, and in our fast-paced world we all need to learn how to manage it wisely. Time management is a valuable skill for every employee, regardless of industry, position and experience level to have.
In this article, we’ll discuss what exactly time management means, how to stay productive and how to improve your time management skills.
What Are Time Management Skills?
Essentially time management skills are all those qualities and abilities that allow you to use your time efficiently. People with solid time management skills can analyze their workload, prioritize tasks, eliminate distractions and can stay focused in order to get more things done in a set amount of time.
Plus, effective time management reduces stress at work and gives you space to be creative.
Here’s a list of the most crucial skills involved in time management:
Being well-organized means that you know exactly what you have to do and when. Being organized will help you to save time, and you’ll be able to dedicate more of your precious time to tasks that require your full attention.
To manage your time well, you need to learn how to identify the most important and urgent tasks on the to-do list, and you need to complete the tasks in an order that makes sense.
The ability to plan all your daily activities and to stick to that schedule is another valuable skill. A clear understanding of what you will do and when helps you to stay focused, and you will be able to complete all the tasks you have within the allotted time frame.
Delegation is especially important in managerial positions. Sometimes people resist it because they don’t want to lose control over tasks. But learning what tasks to give out, and when to delegate work, is vital for effective time management.
Now that you know what time management skills are, let’s move on to what tools and techniques can help you to use your time more efficiently.
Time Management Techniques and Tools
There are many time management techniques that can significantly improve the way you work, help control distractions and to stay focused. Here are a few examples to try out:
Francesco Cirillo created the Pomodoro technique in the late 1980s. He used a kitchen timer, shaped like a tomato (Pomodoro in Italian), to break down his work loads so that he always had intervals between tasks. That is where the name Pomodoro came from.
The idea is quite simple: You concentrate on a task for 25 minutes (one Pomodoro), then you take a five-minute break. After four rounds, you take a more extended rest. This method allows you to plan your working days more accurately and efficiently.
Of course, you don’t necessarily need a kitchen timer to apply these principles. There are plenty of apps and browser extensions that can help you set up work and rest intervals. Try: Focus To-Do, Marinara Timer, or PomoDoneApp.
Time Blocking Method
Time blocking is one of the most effective ways of making sure that you complete everything you have planned for the day.
Time blocking adds structure to your working day and it provides you with a clear schedule.
Again, the technique is straightforward. You divide your day into blocks of time. Then you dedicate each block to a specific task. For example, 9:00 - 10:45 working on a presentation, 11:00 - 11:30 checking emails.
You can use any calendar app, like Google Calendar or Apple Calendar, or even a paper planner for this time management technique. Just don't forget to add buffer times between each block to allow for time adjustments during the day.
Time tracking is another simple, but highly effective method of managing your time. Most of us can estimate how much time we need for a specific task. But often, our estimates are way off. Monitoring and then analyzing where we spend our time is key to understanding what areas need improving.
Time tracking tools like Toggle, Harvest, or RescueTime can be of great help.
Depending on your lifestyle and job position, some time management methods might be more effective than others. I encourage you to experiment with different techniques and their combinations to find out what works best for you.
How to Improve Your Time Management Skills?
No matter what method you choose, becoming a time management expert will not happen overnight. You’ll need time and practice to improve these skills.
Here are a few more tips on how to enhance your prioritizing, planning, and scheduling abilities.
Use a priority matrix
It’s essential to distinguish between urgent and important tasks, because sometimes we fall into the trap of doing tons of urgent things that are actually of little significance, and we end up with no time left for something that is really important.
To keep your tasks organized, divide them into four groups:
- Urgent and important. Do it now.
- Not urgent and important. Do it next.
- Urgent and not important. Do it later or delegate.
- Not urgent and not important. Eliminate.
Follow the 80/20 rule
The 80/20 rule, also known as Pareto's principle, suggests that 80% of results come from 20% of the effort that is put into the work. In time management, this rule helps people to allocate resources more efficiently.
Thus, understanding which 20% of your work brings you closer to achieving your most important goals serves as an excellent guide for prioritizing tasks, and preparing your schedule.
Do complex tasks when you’re most productive
Some people are more productive in the morning, and others work better in the evening. Determine when you have the highest energy levels and plan the most important tasks to be completed at that time of the day.
The idea of doing two or three things at once might be appealing, but the truth is that this approach will not save you time. Prioritize, plan, and focus on one task before moving onto the next.
Incorporate these simple strategies into your daily routines, and soon you’ll notice that you become more organized, productive, and capable of achieving more, in less time.
Useful tools and links