21 Time Management Strategies for Greater Productivity
“I must govern the clock, not be governed by it,” Golda Meir, former Prime Minister of Israel, once said. More than 50 years later, her statement resonates with all who wish to implement effective time management strategies and techniques to boost productivity and efficiency.
Indeed, making the most of the available work hours has long been an organizational pursuit as much as an individual desire among professionals. But all of us aren’t highly proficient in managing time – which is why 24 hours seem less time for some, while others can get much work done efficiently.
The answer lies in utilizing time management strategies and techniques that we will discuss at length in this blog. But even before we dive into how you can manage your time better, let us first understand what time management is and why it matters.
Time Management Definition and Examples
Time management is the process of creating a roadmap of the available time by prioritizing deliverables and working on specific tasks deliberately. Several tools, techniques and methods aid this self-driven process, helping increase productivity, efficiency and effectiveness. The practitioners of time management also benefit in terms of better work-life balance and improved clarity about work-related commitments.
Let us understand this with a simple example. Suppose a professional has committed to delivering a project in three months. He, however, is also engaged in multiple ongoing engagements. Then, he will have to identify the most urgent deliverables, assess how much time he will need to complete them, and determine whether or not the scope for re-work exists.
After considering the above-mentioned factors, he can allocate the work hours to specific tasks and attempt to complete them within the predetermined timeline. This process of managing finite time to complete tasks effectively and efficiently is an example of time management.
Why Are Time Management Strategies Important?
Time management strategies for professionals are crucial for several reasons. For instance, professionals may wish to manage their time better to better their work-life balance. Either way, time management strategies proffer several benefits, as mentioned below.
1. Enhances Productivity
Effective time management improves productivity by allowing you to focus on the task at hand. Since you have already planned what needs to be done, you don’t lose time contemplating the deliverable. Instead, you are single-mindedly engaged in the predetermined task or tasks and focus intently on what is in front of you. And while we can tout the virtues of multi-tasking, working on one job at a time impacts productivity positively.
2. Improves Efficiency
Time management strategies, like making a routine or setting priorities, help declutter your mind and organize the work schedule that works best for you. As you are well-organized and manage your time skillfully, chances are you will experience heightened efficiency. This approach also improves motivation levels, egging you on to work in a distraction-free setup.
3. Helps Create a Better Work-life Balance
Managing time helps you balance professional and personal commitments more efficiently. Work-life balance has been in short supply, especially after workplaces pivoted to remote and hybrid setups, thinning the lines between private and public time. Creating a robust time management strategy allows you to deal with professional commitments in a more organized manner, also making ample room for your personal chores with more time at your disposal.
4. Enables You to Negate Distractions
Specific time management strategies like blocking out time for work are great ways to create a distraction-free work environment. If you have blocked time on your calendar, suggesting that you are unavailable for specific durations, your colleagues or bosses are less likely to reach out to you. And you can focus on your work, knowing well that, unless urgent, you are guaranteed quiet time.
5. Helps Manage Multiple Stakeholders and Work Commitments
Organizations are increasingly working with global teams and clients, thanks to remote workplaces and modern tools and systems that enable seamless collaboration and coordination. However, this sea-change in workplaces has increased the complexity of projects and expanded the scope of work for employees.
And managing them requires careful consideration of the available time and using it most efficiently. Hence, time management is a critical ally in the race to navigate unpredictable and multifaceted new-age workplaces.
21 Time Management Strategies for Work
Thus far, we have discussed the definition and benefits of time management strategies. Now, let us take a detailed look at some of the ways in which you can implement them and up your time management game.
1. Create and Follow a Routine
Setting a routine and diligently following it builds discipline and focus. Professionals can benefit immensely by creating a routine, a timeline of sorts, of important activities that they will likely perform during a typical workday. For instance, checking and replying to clients’ routine queries and emails, daily catchups, and reporting daily proceedings to their managers can help. If they can set a fixed time for these activities, they can budget their available time better and also enjoy a sense of stability and predictability. Besides, it is a great time management strategy for students, too.
2. Find Your Productive Hours
Every individual has a different style of working. Some of us enjoy working early mornings – without the usual distractions. Others prefer working late nights. There is no ‘golden hour’ where humans enjoy maximum productivity because it varies among individuals. So, instead, you must assess what works best for you.
Once you know your most productive hours, align your routine to work on the most challenging and time-sensitive tasks during that period. You can accomplish significantly more by making such minor adjustments, as you can get the most work done in the least possible time.
3. Decide on Your Priorities
A typical work day is busy for most of us. There is a long list of deliverables to attend to, unanswered emails to reply to, briefing our managers about the progress of tasks, and catching up with clients to keep them engaged. While juggling multiple priorities is the norm, it doesn’t necessarily get work done faster.
What’s more, working on several tasks at once can be distracting for most. So, deciding the priorities helps you focus on the most important tasks and accomplish them promptly and systematically. It is an important time management strategy for professionals who find themselves overwhelmed with too many tasks and too little time.
4. Create a Distraction-free Environment
Concentrating for prolonged periods is more challenging than ever, with an unprecedented increase in digital apps. In addition, with businesses shifting to remote and hybrid offices, employees are using more applications to coordinate and connect. Therefore, finding quiet time to concentrate on tasks can be difficult as you try to drown out notifications, chat pings, and email alerts.
These constant distractions can take a massive toll on your productivity levels. Therefore, try to create a distraction-free environment by putting your phone and computer in ‘silent’ or ‘do not disturb’ (DND) mode. It would also help if you found a noise-free, well-lit, and well-ventilated workplace.
5. 80% Is Good Enough!
Chasing perfection is a great idea and worth emulating for most of us who wish to grow professionally. However, perfectionism can also be detrimental to your effort to manage time efficiently. Sometimes, it is better to deliver a task that isn’t ‘perfect’ to the stakeholders than to complete it after extending the deadline.
Of course, we don’t recommend sharing incomplete work, but it is better to complete a task within the deadline, even if it is not ready to your satisfaction. You can always seek more time to share a revised version, one that is closer to what you intended to create. Such an approach helps save every stakeholder’s time and manage your time more suitably.
6. Choose Your Meetings Wisely
Meetings are integral to workplaces, more so now, as Zoom calls, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams have replaced in-person catchups. But meetings also cost you a lot of time, especially when they are scattered throughout your day’s calendar or if you work on the creative aspects of the business.
For instance, making a business plan, writing a blog or drafting an internal communication memo in the name of the CEO. These aspects of work require lots of distraction-free time to think and ideate.
Ideally, you should assess the following:
- What is my role in the meeting?
- Can I skip it and not lose out on important business information?
- Does it impact my learning curve?
- Does the meeting have a defined goal and agenda?
- Will the meeting help me move forward with my task or project?
The answers to these questions should help you decide whether or not you should attend the meeting. If a 5-minute telephonic catchup or an online chat suffices, then it makes sense to skip the longish meeting and utilize the time to work on more business-critical activities.
It is also a good idea to block some time for meetings, i.e., clubbing your meetings, so that you can focus on meetings for a specific duration and use the remaining time to work on tasks.
7. Pick Up Tasks in Smaller Batches
We all feel overwhelmed when we take up tasks that need many hours of work. The feeling of despair and never-ending work can bog down even the most diligent workers. Low motivation levels can be counter-productive, and workers may spend more time accomplishing tasks.
A good way to beat such blues is to break a large work requirement into smaller, bite-sized deliverables that need comparatively much lesser time. There is a scientific reason behind this approach: The human brain releases dopamine on accomplishing goals, increasing motivation to do more work. So picking up smaller tasks can boost your confidence and help you complete work faster, which makes it a fantastic time management strategy.
Time blocking is another time management technique that helps you plan out time in advance by dedicating a specific amount of time to a particular task.
8. Keep Some Time for Emergency Deliverables
Project changes are common and can come in as last-minute client requests. And such abrupt changes to the project scope can throw your work schedule into a tizzy. It can derail your plans and delay your timelines for tasks that would take a backseat because now you must focus on addressing the urgent requirement.
Thus, it makes sense to budget some extra time for unforeseen work coming your way. While you can’t always predict such disruptions, making some time for ‘urgent’ requests can save you from time crunches. If such requirements do not arise, you can always use the time for your scheduled tasks or breaks or to upskill yourself for the future. Either way, you benefit from effective time management.
9. Delegate Tasks Whenever Possible
Delegation is a fantastic way to build trust among team members and prepare future leaders. So, managers should consider delegating tasks wherever possible. Delegating work also frees up your energies to focus on the bigger picture, ideate and strategize to take the business to the next level.
It also helps you align the best resource for the job, as, despite your skills and abilities, you may not be ideally suited to take up the task. Hence, it is a vital time management strategy for those who wish to establish themselves as effective leaders and guides to budding professionals.
10. Take Periodic Breaks
Burnout is real, as several trends that upended the longstanding employer-employee relationship have underlined. The Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting, and The Great Reset have demonstrated employees’ desire for a greater balance between work and personal life. Burnout can greatly reduce your productivity and efficiency as well as diminish your mental abilities.
Therefore, ensure that you take frequent breaks from work to rejuvenate yourself. Such intermittent pauses are an effective time management strategy. And a great opportunity to reflect on the work done so far and how to work on the tasks ahead.
11. Analyze How You Spend Your Day
No matter how well you manage your time, the scope for improvement exists. So, you should consider analyzing how you spend your day. For instance, how many meetings you attended, how many emails you replied to, and how much actual work you could get done.
This granular differentiation between administrative and business tasks can reveal deep insights into how you can manage your time better. Then, you should apply these learnings to plan better for the work day ahead, focusing more on high-value outcomes than routine chores that do not offer significant returns on your time spent.
12. Work on the Most Important Tasks First
Working on the most challenging and time-consuming assignments first thing when you begin your work day is a time management strategy that many highly successful entrepreneurs swear by. This approach offers great results because your attention span and cognitive abilities are the best when you are fresh.
As you complete the most important and difficult tasks of the day first, you are free to spend the rest of the day on low-priority tasks. You also feel motivated about your accomplishment.
13. Avoid Procrastination
While easier said than done, avoiding procrastination can save you considerable time. Some confuse procrastination with laziness, but the two are entirely different. Procrastination refers to knowingly delaying urgent tasks for more enjoyable but less important work, which has negative consequences. It also indicates a lack of decision-making skills.
Piers Steel, one of the world’s leading researchers on the science of motivation and procrastination, believes that 95% of people procrastinate to some extent. So, it is a common problem, but a problem nonetheless. To address this, identify that you are wasting time and then ask yourself why you put off tasks for tomorrow. Once you answer these two questions, you can work on the challenge proactively.
Suppose distractions or the lack of clarity about the tasks are key reasons that make you think unnecessarily; speak with your manager immediately. Proactive intervention can greatly remedy your habit of procrastination.
Time Management Techniques and Frameworks For Work
Time management techniques are diverse tools and scientifically validated processes that we use to manage our time more effectively. These techniques have been devised to improve productivity, as mentioned below:
14. The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro technique is the concept of working with the available time instead of working against it. Traditionally, this time management technique involves using a tomato-shaped kitchen timer. Here, the user divides a workday into multiple 25-minute sessions. A five-minute break called the ‘Pomodoro’ follows these 25-minute sessions. After back-to-back 25-minute sessions and five-minute breaks, users can switch off for longer durations of 15–20 minutes.
While so many intervals between work may seem to break the flow and lower productivity, this on-off approach creates a sense of urgency. This way, users focus on completing one task faster, as they don’t divert their attention to working on multiple deliverables. As a result, this approach leads to better time management.
Francesco Cirillo, the inventor of the Pomodoro Technique, defined it as a method “made up of processes, tools, principles and values to learn how to deal with time and turn it from a vicious predator to an ally to boost productivity.”
15. The Eisenhower Matrix
Former US President Dwight Eisenhower invented the Eisenhower Matrix. This time management technique helps users prioritize tasks by bucketing them into categories or quadrants. Users prioritize tasks based on their urgency and importance. Let us understand the Eisenhower Matrix with the diagram below.
In the First Quadrant
Users can bucket tasks that they need to complete immediately. Users can not delegate these tasks as they are most suited to work on them. For example, as an editor, you need to urgently edit a press release for a product launch for tomorrow’s newspapers. Then, you will categorize the task in the first quadrant.
In the Second Quadrant
Users can list work they can finish in a longer timeframe. For example, you wish to walk 30 minutes daily to improve your health and wellness. Or you want to learn a new skill to improve your chances of promotion. These tasks are important, but you do not need to attend to them urgently.
In the Third Quadrant
Users can list tasks that they must attend to urgently. However, they can delegate them as these tasks do not require their direct input or involvement. For example, replying to a client’s routine email or attending a group meeting that doesn’t concern you directly.
The Fourth Quadrant
Is used to list the habits and personal attributes you wish to change in the longer term. Users can discover and improve in areas they think they need to do better. For instance, they spend too much time in meetings or need to improve their communication and interpersonal skills.
The Eisenhower Matrix technique enables users to create seamless categories and an order of priority, thus also negating procrastination. Moreover, it is easy to use and does not require tools and software. Instead, users can create a matrix using pen and paper.
This uncluttered approach to time management explains its sustained popularity among countless professionals seeking to manage a large workload and constantly deliver on their work commitments.
16. Automating Time Tracking
This strategy is more relevant to business leaders and decision-makers. Manual time-tracking processes are highly time-consuming and error-prone. Punching “in” and “out” time manually is a monotonous task that costs businesses precious billable work hours and breeds employee disengagement.
Automating time tracking can help employees manage their time more effectively. They can utilize the extra time for activities that help them achieve their professional goals. For instance, some employees can use this time to build or nurture client relationships, while others can upskill or reskill for a future business requirement. So, it is a great time management technique.
17. Automating Employee Scheduling
Employee scheduling refers to the process of allocating resources for business requirements and managing the work pipeline. Most organizations use manual or stand-alone solutions to manage employee schedules, skills, certifications, attendance, and time off. Here, managers must spend considerable time making sense of the fragmented data and finding the best-fit resources.
Such processes are grossly inadequate for increasingly complex project requirements and cost businesses in terms of valuable work hours of the managers. Therefore, automating employee scheduling is a crucial time management strategy that, especially, enterprises must consider.
18. The ‘Getting Things Done’ (GTD) Method
Getting things done, or the GTD method, was invented by American productivity consultant David Allen in 2001. This time management technique “alleviates the feeling of overwhelm and instills focus, clarity, and confidence.” In the GTD method, you need to manage work by:
- Capturing ideas and tasks: Write down all the ideas and tasks you can think of.
- Clarifying tasks: Think about what the tasks mean and what work needs to be done to complete them. Or whether you can put them on hold for now.
- Organizing tasks into categories: Here, you bracket the tasks into categories.
- Reviewing often: In the fourth step of the GTD method, you constantly reflect on the work that needs to be completed and assess its progress. You keep updating the progress as you complete the work.
- Completing tasks: Engage yourself in the tasks that you complete immediately.
The GTD method is beneficial as it reduces stress, enhances clarity, offers more choices, and allows users to better reflect, clarify and organize their thoughts and, therefore, tasks.
Additional Time Management Strategies and Tips
We have listed 18 time management strategies and techniques that can improve your ability to manage time judiciously. Now, let us look at some bonus time management tips to enhance your productivity and efficiency.
19. Use Online Calendars
Online calendars are fantastic tools. They are free, easy to use, ubiquitous and enable individuals looking to streamline their work. Google, Microsoft and several other service providers and online apps can help you track and manage your deliverables. Plus, they come with in-built integration features that you can use to schedule meetings, coordinate with colleagues and family members, share work and stay on top of upcoming deliverables.
In addition, users can opt for the paid version to access more advanced features and capabilities. Finally, they are accessible on mobile devices, which allows you to stay updated while on the go.
20. Utilize Online Collaboration Apps
Numerous platforms in the market facilitate real-time online collaboration, communication and data sharing.
For example, users can choose from platforms like Microsoft, Slack and Google, etc., to share information, ideas and strategies with their colleagues and jointly work on projects to increase work output and pace of delivery, increasing overall efficiency. Such online apps have erased boundaries, allowed users to connect with their team members, and make collective decisions, while working remotely or in a hybrid setup.
21. Incorporate Time Management Tools
Professionals can use time management tools to enhance focus and better manage their timelines and available resources. These tools help organize and prioritize their tasks. Some typical examples of time management tools include time-tracking software and calendars.
What’s the Best Time Management Strategy for Work?
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to time management. Diverse strategies and techniques exist for mastering the art of maximizing output from the available time. But you must assess your drawbacks and challenges to choose a mix of tips, tricks and approaches to manage your time effectively. Remain open to changes and tweaks, and examine what works for you and what does not to create the perfect plan.
Everyone has equal access to time. But how you manage time makes all the difference. So, create your most productive and efficient time management strategy and witness consistent professional and personal growth.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are five time management strategies?
The most important five time management strategies are as follows:
- Create a distraction-free environment
- Automate time tracking
- Automate employee scheduling
- Delegate tasks wherever possible
- Analyze how you spend your day
2. What are the ten golden rules of time management?
The ten golden rules of time management are as follows:
- Delegate tasks wherever possible
- Work on the most important tasks first
- Take frequent break
- Budget some time for emergency deliverables
- Pick up tasks in smaller batches
- Choose your meetings wisely
- Automate employee scheduling
- Automate time tracking
- Decide on your priorities
- Create a distraction-free work environment
3. How do professionals manage their time?
Professionals manage their time by using a mix of tools, processes and online apps. They can employ one or a mix of the following to better manage their time.
- Employ online collaboration tools
- Automate manual processes
- Use the Pomodoro technique
- Use the Eisenhower Matrix
- Create and follow a routine
- Prioritize deliverables
- Create a distraction-free environment
- Delegate tasks whenever possible