15 Essential Time Management Skills & Strategies
One of the cornerstones of success is time management skills. Whether you work in a field with hard deadlines or long-term goals that require a steady pace to be achieved, time management skills must be mastered.
We've compiled a list of 15 tips that can add up to a more efficient work style that can help you reach your potential.
1. Identify the Biggest Priority of Each Day
A good time management skill to implement is to review your priority tasks at the start of each day and identify the one that is most important. Make that task the central goal that you focus on during the day.
This ensures that you'll put most of your attention and effort on it. If you do this every day, you'll find that due dates become less of a problem.
2. Reduce Impossible Backlogs by Delegating Tasks
When your workload reaches the point that catching up has become a holy grail, it's time to manage your time and delegate the more mundane tasks.
If you have subordinates or colleagues with open calendars, choose tasks that don't require your personal expertise to complete and spread some of the work out. Time management skills like this take the pressure off and let you focus on the more challenging tasks, but it'll also foster team collaboration.
3. Rule Your Smartphone and Distractions
When it comes to time management skills, conquering your mobile devices is critical. A proven time management skill is to avoid multitasking between work and social media by placing your mobile devices in a safe place with their sound turned off during working hours.
There's nothing wrong with checking them during breaks, just keep the breaks to a reasonable amount of time. The same goes for browser tabs that stay open on your workstation with social media or news sites. Close them during work hours or consider using browser add-ons like Newsfeed Eradicator for Facebook to keep you from getting distracted.
4. Re-program Your Wake-Up Time
If you find yourself sleeping in and missing your productive morning hours, it can seem impossible to control those sleep patterns once they get set.
The trick to this time management skill is to change your wake-up time gradually in increments of 15 or 30 minutes. This isn't enough of a change to leave you too sleepy to resist napping.
This time management strategy will get back to waking up an hour earlier in a week by shifting your sleep hours slowly.
5. Stay Mentally & Physically Healthy
It's important to pay attention to your physical and mental health in order to stay productive throughout each day of the work week.
Your energy levels may suffer if you aren't physically active, so make time for exercise, even if it's just going for a walk at lunch. It'll also impact your productivity if you burn yourself out early in the week by putting in too many hours, so give yourself enough mental rest and entertainment to recharge.
A lot of time management skills are easier to conquer when your mind is clear and focused. Meditation apps like Headspace or Calm can also be great tools for restoring your mental equilibrium and focus.
6. Avoid the Multitasking Trap
Multitasking can seem like a one of the better time management skills to have - especially when the number of tasks on your desk multiply. That's not the case, however. Once you're dividing your time and attention between more than two or three projects, you'll find your productivity drops off.
You might not have enough time in your day to make significant progress on any one task. When you find yourself multitasking, take a step back and focus on the highest priority task, and work on that. You'll manage your time better and get more done.
7. Say No When You Need To
Completing difficult tasks on time requires you spend the time needed to get them done. That means you may need to refuse to take other tasks or participate in meetings that will take you away from your priorities.
This is one of the more important time management skills to work on, especially when unnecessary socializing gets in the way when you're under the gun. Learn to prevent others from pulling you away from your core tasks that need to get done by saying no when it's needed.
8. Make a List of Prioritized Tasks
When the tasks you need to get done during a day, week, or month are numerous, one of the best time management strategies is to keep a written task list.
Time management skills take discipline, and maintaining a list is no exception. Whether it’s on a notepad, whiteboard, or a task manager on your computer, a prioritized task list will help you stop smaller tasks from falling through the cracks. You'll also find it helps you plan each day.
9. Schedule Uninterrupted Work Hours
To make the best use of your time, create larger blocks of uninterrupted time.
Because it takes time to get into a concentrated work-mode and time to exit it to do other tasks like attending meetings, breaking up your work day into many small chunks is inefficient.
By the time you begin to get productive, it'll be time to head to a meeting. A proven time management skill is to schedule larger blocks of time to avoid this problem.
10. Work During Off-Hours
When it comes to time management skills, a trick to try when you're finding it difficult to schedule blocks of quiet, uninterrupted time is to schedule time during hours when others won't distract you. For example, you can try scheduling blocks early in the morning or later in the evening.
It may seem like overkill, but when you need to meet a deadline, it can give you the productive time you need to get a difficult project done.
11. Give Yourself Scheduled Breaks
A way to combat the urge to distract yourself with more pleasant or diverting things like checking your smartphone or reading news is to set aside time specifically for these activities.
This time management technique has the psychological trick of making yourself wait until a designated time to engage in those distractions. Stick to the amount of time you set aside, and you can recharge your batteries with those distractions before going back to work.
12. Change Up You Weekly Work Days
Effective time management skills require you to be self-aware and change strategies if things aren't working. If a particular day of the week just isn't a productive one, take that day off and work a different day in its place. By the same token, if you're burned out and need to take a day off, then make that day up on a weekend.
This time management strategy stops you from wasting time on the clock when you aren't going to be productive. Working on a day you often have off can also be a great time management strategy.
13. Automate or Delegate Mundane Tasks
There are only so many hours in a day. Time management skills allow you to squeeze as much productivity as possible out of those hours to focus on the tasks that you do best or require your expertise.
Mundane or repetitive tasks can often be automated with today's technology. If a task feels like wasted time, look for other ways to remove it from your task list besides spending too much of your own time on it.
14. Spend Time Each Morning Reviewing the Day Ahead
Another great time management skill is to spend time at the start of each day reviewing your schedule, due dates, and long-term projects.
If you rehearse the schedule in your mind before the day begins, you'll move through it more smoothly. Meetings and due dates won't catch you off guard, and you may think of a better way to organize the day given what's happened recently.
The schedule you have in Outlook may have been set a week ago, and priorities can change. A quick review will help catch the changes that are needed.
15. Snooze Your Smartphone and Get A Good Night's Sleep
Smartphones have a way of keeping us awake when we go to bed and keeping us in bed when we wake up. You can take control of these habits by not keeping your phone next to your bed at night.
Effective time management skills require you to be able to prioritize and focus on a task. A lack of sleep can sabotage your time management efforts, so make sure to ditch the phone before bed.