How to improve your time management skills

How to improve your time management skills. Woman writing in notebook on table with laptop and other journals.

Life is often messy and making the most of the time you have each day can be a challenge. By learning how to manage your time, you can take control personally and professionally to achieve your goals. Let's discuss time management techniques, the benefits of managing your time, and some tips to manage your time more efficiently.

What is time management?

You can only accomplish so much in a day, so how do you determine what to spend your time on? You can take control of the length of time spent on each activity by creating some sort of schedule.

The time management process involves analyzing what you need and want to do, prioritizing each aspect, and planning how to approach each item. This process is often associated with efficacy and productivity at work. These skills can be transferable to your personal life, too.

Time management techniques

Effective time management is somewhat dependent on how you like to work and the type of work you’re trying to manage. It’s good to keep in mind that you will likely have to try multiple methods to find one that works for you. Here are some of our favorite methods for time management:

The 80/20 Rule (Pareto Principle)

Vilfredo Pareto claimed that 20% of our actions lead to 80% of results, which led to the 80/20 Rule. First, list the challenges you’d like to solve. Identify what’s causing each obstacle and create a measuring system. Give more weight to more immediate challenges by giving them a higher score. From there, categorize listed items by cause and see which category needs to be addressed first by adding up the scores of each associated problem. Then, you’re ready to take action.

The Pomodoro Technique

With the Pomodoro technique, you can break tasks into more manageable time blocks. Choose an item on your list, set a timer, and focus solely on that task until the timer runs out. When the timer goes off, take a short break. Repeat this process until you’ve accomplished the task.

The Eisenhower Matrix

Start using the Eisenhower matrix by creating a matrix with four quadrants. Label the matrix important, unimportant, urgent, and not urgent. If the task falls into the quadrant intersecting important and urgent, do it as soon as possible. If it’s important but not urgent, you can decide to do it when you have space in your schedule. Tasks that aren’t important but have a sense of urgency, delegate. Shift your focus away from anything that’s neither important nor urgent.

Getting Things Done Method (GTD Method)

By writing tasks down and breaking them into action items, you’re using the GTD method. Start by creating a list of tasks then decide which tasks are actionable and prioritize these items. Review your list regularly, cross off your accomplishments, and reassess priorities to decide what’s next. Add more tasks as necessary and keep in mind that you may need to reassess tasks daily.

Rapid Planning Method (RPM)

Developed by Tony Robbins, the rapid planning method begins with creating a list of what needs to be done for the week and categorizing the tasks. Create another chart that organizes each task by your intended result and motivation for including this task. In another column, list action items to help you accomplish each task. The RPM method can also stand for result, purpose, and massive action plan.

Eat the Frog

With the eat the frog approach, you identify the most challenging or most important task of your day and complete it first before any other task. If you repeat this process daily, the practice can eventually become a habit. You can also mix and match these techniques to find what works best for you since many of these techniques work together effectively.

Benefits of time management

If you’re still skeptical, here’s why should you consciously work on your time management skills. Benefits of time management may include:

  • Feeling more in control of your life
  • Improvements in productivity levels and efficiency (which frees up time for hobbies)
  • Reduced stress levels
  • Increases likelihood of reaching goals Improves skills such as prioritization, organization, goal setting, resource management, and concentration

Time management tips

Time management comes in many forms and is only effective if you find a version that works for you. Try not to feel discouraged if it takes several tries to make improvements. Learning time management is a process that takes trial and error. Here’s how to make time management easier for yourself:

  • Set and prioritize goals in a way that works for you
  • Keep track of time spent on individual tasks/activities (How long does it take? Is it worth it?)
  • Continuously analyze what works/what doesn’t and adjust habits accordingly
  • Revisit goals regularly to reassess what’s creating the most value
  • Keeping track of results and the effect on your life (by journaling, for example)
  • Understand your limits and make space for regular breaks
  • Create milestones for far-reaching goals and reward yourself for each accomplishment

You can also increase your accountability by telling somebody (a group of friends or family members) about your goal to improve your time management skills. A support system is especially beneficial when you’re feeling stuck. 

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