As humans, it’s natural to want to constantly improve and set new personal records. But when it comes to time management, many of us hit a roadblock. Even highly successful CEOs fall prey to bad time management.
No matter what your job title, here’s how to make the most of your minutes.
What is time management, and how can we improve?
In its simplest form, time management is how we make use of our time. Our productivity is based on what, and how much, we do in a given time. What we can accomplish in a day dictates how quickly our projects can progress. The more distractions and time-consuming tasks, the less actual progress we make.
A U.K. study cited by Inc.com showed that average workers were productive for fewer than three hours a day. That’s less than 15 hours of productivity in the average 40-hour workweek. To work more efficiently, you need to know how to make the most of your time.
These are some of our most battle-tested time management tips to maximize productivity. Many you can start using right away.
1. Manage your focus, not your time
It’s easy to schedule every minute of your day with a huge to-do list. But it’s much harder to predict the right circumstances to focus on a complex spreadsheet or write a presentation.
Instead of managing your time, manage your attention. When are you most creative or energetic? When could you use a break for something mindless? Spend a few minutes at the start of each day to plan out your must-do tasks. Designate specific blocks of time to deep-dive on a project, brainstorm with your team or manage your phone notifications. When you have a plan, it’s easier to ignore distractions and stay on task.
2. Debrief the day
Spend a few minutes at the end of the day assessing how things went. Did you accomplish everything on your list? Did you get hungry or sleepy during the midafternoon slump? Did you block out the right amount of time for tasks?
By reassessing how things went, you can better plan the next day. Maybe bump up the time you need to work on reports. Schedule a quick afternoon walk to clear your head. Keep notes so you can pick up any patterns and adjust.
3. Prioritize your tasks
We have such good intentions when we write our to-do lists. Then the inevitable “urgent” task pops up.
Our advice: Do the hardest or most annoying things first. Otherwise, you’ll spend all of your time doing little things to avoid it.
4. Learn to delegate
Are you a “Yes” person? Are people always asking you to help out on new projects, review presentations or sit in on candidate interviews? Most diligent workers want to show dedication and a team-player attitude. But it’s not always the best use of your time, or the company’s.
If something makes the most of your talents, say yes! But if it’s a distraction or doesn’t take advantage of your skill set, suggest someone who’s better suited.
5. Update your to-do list
Refocus your lists on outcomes versus tasks. “Finish project” is likely not doable in one day. Put those on your weekly or monthly to-do lists. What’s the biggest must-do for today? Choose one element of that big project to keep you moving forward.
6. Use apps effectively
Option overload is real. Identify your specific time-eaters and focus on apps that solve them. Check out some of our favorites for help with meeting notes, password keepers, autocorrect tools and keyboard shortcuts. Slack’s Workflow Builder integrates with many different apps to shave time off arduous tasks.
7. Schedule fewer meetings
Yes, you still need meetings. But they need to be meaningful. Set a time limit for watercooler chitchat and then move on to business. Have an agenda with allotted times per topic. If you don’t have an agenda or a clear outcome, maybe it doesn’t need to be a meeting.
In a 2020 article, the McKinsey insights team estimates that collaboration tools facilitate increased productivity by up to 30%. Take advantage of the many productivity and collaboration apps you can integrate directly into your existing workflows.
- Maybe use Miro, a collaborative whiteboard app, to brainstorm or as a visual project hub.
- The Workast app makes it easy to create tasks and track daily priorities as part of your project management.
- With the Asana app, you can turn conversations into actions and tasks to share the workload across your team.
The solution to time management
There’s no one-spell-fits-all magic potion, but there are plenty of things you can try now to improve your time management skills and be more productive. The best solution is the one that works for your specific roadblocks and time-stealers.
Your assignment: Start with your daily plan. Prioritize tasks based on importance and reassess often. Use tools and apps to improve your workflow and make the most of your time. Remember that time management is a skill. You can keep honing it to continuously work better, faster, easier.