Only a few are really complete (for example GTD is one of those, but in practice, people more often compose their own system from a few techniques that suit their personality most. With more than 50 time management techniques available, the selection is huge.
Time-Management Skills: Definition, Examples and Tips for Improvement
Being able to manage your time effectively can help you improve your productivity. Excellent time-management skills assist you to plan your daily workload and prepare for meetings. These skills also allow you to complete your deliverables on time. In this article, we define time-management skills, give examples of time-management skills, explain why they are important and discuss how to improve your time-management skills.
Time-management skills are the skills that help you organise your time effectively to be more productive. Learning to manage your time effectively will benefit your career as time-management skills are useful transferable skills that apply in any job. Time-management skills include:
Planning is a fundamental component of time-management since it helps you identify and plan your daily tasks, prepare for meetings and keep to your schedule. Planning also includes creating work plans to meet deadlines. For example, if you have to draft a research paper, you need to plan the distinct steps you need to complete the paper. These steps may include determining the research topic, deciding on the methods for gathering and analysing information, drafting the document and circulating it to your colleagues for input, before submitting it to your manager for review and sign-off.
Prioritisation is part of the planning process. It involves assessing each of your tasks to determine their importance. Once you have identified these important tasks, you need to plan how you will spend your working hours making progress with these tasks. Prioritisation can also include saying no to additional work requests if you don’t have the time to fit them into your schedule.
Your time is your most precious resource. Learning to say no is a challenging skill to develop, as we always strive to maintain positive relationships with colleagues. Saying no is a critical time-management skill aimed at protecting your time. You will become more comfortable saying no if you practise it first. It is best to start declining small requests to build your confidence before you decline involvement with larger work requests that would impose significantly on your time.
Good organisational skills support good planning. Organisational skills include scheduling appointments, updating your calendar frequently, filing documents effectively and taking detailed notes during meetings. Being well-organised makes it easier to find documentation when you need it.
Strong communication skills refer to verbal and written communication. Effective communication skills can help you explain your timelines and other expectations to your colleagues. This will allow your colleagues to align the completion of their tasks for supporting your timelines and expectations.
Being able to delegate less critical tasks will help you focus on the urgent tasks required to complete your deliverables. Learning to delegate takes time. It is crucial to identify the right person to delegate tasks to. If you learn well, you can assign tasks to experts who can perform a particular task better and quicker than you could have done.
Being able to manage your stress levels can help you remain motivated and perform at a high level. Taking regular breaks, exercising and meditating can help you relax and focus on maintaining your physical and mental health during stressful periods.
Good time-management requires self-discipline. Self-discipline helps you deal with procrastination and distractions. Once you have created a work plan with priority tasks, you need to discipline yourself to keep focusing on these priorities until they are complete.
Skills are closely interlaced with techniques
A proper technique can guide you through acquiring a new skill or shows how to put a certain skill to practice in the best possible way. A proper technique or best practice recommends the right set of procedures and methods to follow and which tools to use.
Now that we know the important difference between time management skills, techniques, tools and personality traits, let’s analyze the core time management skills and how to acquire them. The five most important time management skills are:
How to create a
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The full list of time management skills
There are many other important skills when it comes to time management. We have put together a more comprehensive list of time management skills, so you can make a self-assessment of which skills you need to still develop to become really good at time management.
Asking for help – Sometimes when you get stuck, overwhelmed or there’s no way to outsource, your only option might be to ask for help. Some people find asking for help humiliating,and see it as a sign of not being good enough. But there’s nothing really wrong with asking for help. Actually, it’s more of a sign of strength than weakness.
Automating tasks – Wit hall the technology, there are many options for task automation, especially when it comes to email and social media management. Explore services like IFTTT and Zapier for more information on how to automate tasks.
Batching – There are many things you can batch together to become more productive. Types of tasks, meeting locations, telephone calls (you may use call handling services) etc. Batching can be a good antidote to multitasking and a great way to improve your productivity.
Clarity – Being confused or lost is a big enemy of progress and using your time productively. It means you are stuck and not moving forward. Having a very clear perspective of what you want and how you will get there is the core enabler of good time management.
Completion – Many people have difficulties actually completing a task. They complete a task to 90 % or even more, and then they have an emotional block preventing them from crossing the finish line. You definitely need to know how to get past such a burden.
Coping skills / Stress management – In a complex and stressful environment, you need to stay focused, sharp and immune to many outside distractions. To avoid feeling overwhelmed, you need to develop good coping skills. That includes capabilities such as overcoming stress and dealing with difficult people.
Creating routines – Our brains love routines and patterns. We see patterns even where there are none. But the good news is that when you get used to a routine, it takes almost no effort to follow it. Consequently, routines are a very important part of the time management. Your time management system should consist of a set of routines. For example, every morning you can write down the three most important tasks for the day. It’s a simple routine that can skyrocket your productivity. As an interesting fact: it usually takes 1 to 2 months to get used to a new routine.
Discipline / Beating procrastination – Discipline means that you do something whether you like it or not. It takes discipline to start a task, it takes discipline to follow through with the task, and it takes discipline to finish it. It also takes discipline to beat procrastination and to get things done.
Staying flexible – In reality, things never go according to plan. That means you have to stay flexible to maximize your output in any given situation. As we said, planning is really important, but then you have to stay flexible about how your goals will be achieved.
Focusing / Avoiding multitasking – Multitasking is a big enemy of good time management. Of course, there are times when you have to juggle several things at once, but in general, good time management skills require the mental capabilities to focus on one thing and get it done.
Goal setting – The better you know the direction for where you want to be, the better you can outline your strategy and tasks that need to be performed to achieve the set goals. In other words, your most important tasks are always closely connected to your life and business goals. If you don’t have clear goals in your life, there’s almost no need for time management.
Getting in the flow – “Flow” is one of the most productive states you can be in. You forget about everything and just create and deliver. If you want to get into the flow, you have to work in peace on a challenging task, while being empowered by intrinsic motivation.
Organizing things, including lists and notes – An important part of time management is organizing yourself and your environment in a productive way. That includes having a clean desk, a system for filing, note-taking, making and following checklists, and so on.
Problem-solving – When you work on your tasks, problems always arise. Your job is not to dwell on these problems, but to tackle them and solve them in the most efficient way. Never waste time.
Punctuality – If you are not on time, you are late. How could you be good at time management, if you’re always late. Being late is often a clear sign that you don’t have control over your time. A messy desk can be such an indicator, for example.
Time management skills
If this seems counterintuitive – it isn’t. The world’s most successful people know the importance of self-care . Warren Buffett plays bridge and practices ukulele in his spare time. Oprah Winfrey meditates. Simon Cowell climbs trees and watches cartoons! The point is, sometimes the best thing you can do is give your brain a break from the task at hand.
Time Management Skills: Definition and Examples
Time management is the method of planning and balancing your time between different activities. Good time management helps you to complete a given task in a specific time frame amidst challenges and tight schedules. When you manage your schedule and deadlines, strong time management skills help you better your reputation and move ahead in the workplace.
Time management skills are those that help you use your time effectively and achieve desired results. Time management skills can help you allocate your time properly and accomplish tasks efficiently. Some of the most important skills related to successful time management skills include:
Staying organised helps you to keep track of your responsibilities and priorities, like what you need to do first and when to do the rest of it. An organised list of tasks acts as a map to guide you from morning to evening and helps increase your productivity. A well-organised plan helps you break down large goals into smaller, easily achievable tasks and enables you to complete those tasks on time.
Prioritisation is the key to successful time management. When you prioritise your daily tasks, you ensure that you will complete the important tasks first. Write down every single task starting with the top priority. For instance, you can break down your tasks as the following:
Goal setting is the process of defining your aims and objectives with a certain plan to help you achieve the set goals. Setting goals is a key step in excelling as a professional. Without goals, you may find it challenging to complete your tasks in a well-organised manner. Setting both short- and long-term goals can lead to success in your career. An example of a short-term goal may be to increase sales in your department by 40%. A long-term goal could be something like completing law school or starting your own business.
Communication skills are a major component of success in life. Effective communication promotes trust and makes your plans and goals clear to people you work with. It plays a crucial role in resolving conflicts and preventing potential conflict situations. Strong communication helps you delegate more work, which lets you focus more on the important tasks
Planning is the core of time management. With a proper plan, you can prioritise your tasks accordingly, which can help avoid confusion and unnecessary stress. A planned work schedule helps you complete the tasks in the given time frame. For example, a plan for a project manager might include ordering supplies, scheduling labour, acquiring the proper permits and so on.
It is an important process to manage multiple tasks satisfactorily. While managing a project, you can delegate some of the tasks to your subordinates. This will help in reducing your workload so that you can focus more on important tasks, such as planning, business analysis and others.
Positively handling stress keeps you motivated and helps you complete tasks at the scheduled time against all adversities. Exercise, yoga or having snacks during breaks can help you reduce stress. In fact, including stress-relieving activities or self-care rituals into your daily schedule can positively impact your productivity on work-related tasks throughout the day.
It’s vital that you maintain some flexibility in your schedule. Often, a task will take longer than you expect or your supervisor will give you a priority task you weren’t expecting. Clearly note in your daily schedule where you have space to adjust in preparation for last-minute changes.
How to improve time management
Have you ever found yourself using the phrase, “There just aren’t enough hours in the day”? Everyone feels this way from time to time, whether you’re a working parent, busy entrepreneur , student or any other human in our fast-paced world. Now think about it this way: Everyone has the same amount of hours in the day. So what separates the Warren Buffetts and Sheryl Sandbergs from the rest of us? The answer is time management skills .
What is time management?
Time management is your ability to use your time effectively, be productive and accomplish not only your daily tasks, but your larger life goals. It means knowing the difference between being busy and being productive : When you’re busy, your mind is preoccupied with your to-do list, skipping from one task to another without focusing on anything. When you’re productive, you have a plan for tackling everything you need to do and you’re able to get laser-focused on your goals .
Real time management skills go beyond making a daily planner or writing an endless to-do list that only seems to get longer, not shorter. The first step toward learning how to improve time management is realizing that it’s a mental game that anyone can master – and that you will be paid back tenfold for your investment of time and energy.
Benefits of having good time management skills
There are many things in life that are outside of your control, but how you spend your time is not one of them. Using your hours to work toward the outcomes you value the most will help to not only bring you success, but will also sustain that feeling of fulfillment that comes from accomplishing your goals and bring you plenty of other benefits.
What would you do if you had the time to do things you enjoy? Would you learn to play an instrument, dig a garden or play a sport? You can get your time – and your life – back. Because what is time management if not the ability to do what you want, when you want, as much as you want?
Time management skills aren’t just about time – they’re about your entire mindset. When you shift your perspective , let go of the beliefs that are holding you back and commit to living the life you desire, you’ll also unlock the sense of confidence that only comes from having a deep belief in yourself.
How to improve time management
To make the most of your time and achieve the life that you dream of, you must create a mental shift in how you think about time management. Stop thinking of time as a resource that’s out of your control. It’s true that there are only a limited number of hours in a day, but you can develop time management skills to focus your attention on what really matters. Use these 11 strategies to allow your brain to zero-in on your highest-value outcomes without getting swept up in distractions.
1. Align your focus
“Where focus goes, energy flows,” says Tony. The first step is getting clear on what it is you really want, and then aligning your ultimate goals with the actions you need to take today. If the tasks that you need to complete aren’t aligned with what truly matters to you – your core values – then you’ll never find the time to do them. This is the methodology behind Tony’s Rapid Planning Method – by focusing on an outcome, you develop the organization needed to meet your goals.
What do you consider your ultimate goals? If you’ve listed many things, take pause. An endless list of goals is the same as having no goals. Ask yourself: What actions produce the most value? What outcomes align with your purpose in life ? Once you have a direction to move in, you’ll get a better sense of what actions deserve your attention and which ones don’t.
2. Use chunking
Better time management skills start with zeroing in on what you really want – whether that’s strengthening your relationship, accelerating your career, starting your own business or living a healthier lifestyle. From there, create smaller goals that all “ladder up” to your desired end result. Tony says, “Most of your stress is because you’re thinking about too many things at once.”
If you’re facing an overwhelming number of tasks around an outcome, remember that you can create better to-do lists by chunking all related tasks into smaller groups so that they are easier to manage and tackle. That way, you can better visualize and identify the steps you need to take to reach your goal.
3. Determine your priorities
How do you know where to direct your energy in order to see the results you want? How do you know if you’re working toward your core values? Conduct a core values audit: T rack your activities for two weeks, taking note of which core values your actions connect with, and audit yourself with a keen eye as you evaluate how to move closer to your goals.
Once you have several weeks of progress written down, take an objective look at how you’ve been spending your time. Eliminate any activity that’s not connected to your core values and goals. Replace these activities, like checking social media too frequently, with something that serves your ultimate plan, like cooking healthy meals or regularly exercising . After several weeks of practice, you’ll find you don’t miss the time-consuming tasks you eliminated.
4. Set smart goals
SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and anchored within a Time Frame. Be clear with the outcome you plan to achieve and designate the time needed to reach your goal. Rather than telling yourself you want to lose weight this year, set a clear goal: one pound per week or five pounds per month. Don’t forget to be realistic. If you tell yourself you’re going to go from middle manager to CEO at your company, that’s an incredible goal to set, but realize it might take longer than six months.
By being specific with your outcomes, and having clarity on what they are and why you want them, you can have the laser-guided focus you need to achieve them. Not only that, but you’ll feel a greater sense of fulfillment when you do hit your objectives.
5. Learn to say no
One crucial element of learning how to improve time management is getting comfortable with saying “ n o” to things that don’t help you reach your goals. When you say “no” to something that isn’t adding value to your life or supporting your core values or goals, you are saying yes to something else that is: time to be with family, exercise or enjoy some much-needed sleep.
Time management skills
Unfortunately, poor time management and too much screen time can result in fatigue, moodiness, and more frequent illness. To reduce stress, reward yourself for time management successes. Take time to recognize that you have accomplished a major task or challenge before moving on to the next activity.
Know How You Spend Your Time
Identifying your most time-consuming tasks and determining whether you are investing your time in the most important activities can help you to determine a course of action. Having a good sense of the time required for routine tasks can help you be more realistic in planning and estimating how much time is available for other activities. Many apps exist to help you keep track of your time, as mentioned in Strategy 3.
Managing your time effectively requires a distinction between what is important and what is urgent (MacKenzie, 1990). Experts agree that the most important tasks usually aren’t the most urgent tasks. However, we tend to let the urgent tasks dominate our lives. Covey, Merrill, and Merrill (1994) categorize activities into four quadrants in their Time Management Matrix: urgent, not urgent, important, and not important. While activities that are both urgent and important must be done, Covey et al. suggests spending less time on activities that are not important (regardless of their urgency) to gain time for activities that are not urgent but important. Focusing on these important activities allows you to gain greater control over your time and may reduce the number of important tasks that become urgent.
Creating a "to do” list is an easy way to prioritize. Whether you need a daily, weekly, or monthly list depends on your lifestyle. Be careful to keep list-making from getting out of control. List manageable tasks rather than goals or multi-step plans. Rank the items on your “to do” list in order of priority (both important and urgent). You may choose to group items in categories such as high priority, medium priority, or low priority; number them in order of priority; or use a color-coding system. The goal is not to mark off the most items, but to mark off the highest priority items (MacKenzie, 1990). A prioritized “to do” list allows you to set boundaries so you can say “no” to activities that may be interesting or provide a sense of achievement but do not fit your basic priorities.
What is time management?
It’s almost impossible to use time well if you don’t know what to do with it. Students can benefit from having short- and long-term goals. For example, a short-term goal might include completing their homework early each day, so they have ample time to practice music. Their long-term goal could be to play in the school or church band, or the Australian Youth Orchestra!
By assessing what needs to be achieved within a given timeframe, tasks can be rated according to their importance. Setting priorities for each day, week, month and year can help students accomplish their goals. It also helps to ensure activities that are vitally important but not urgent – such as personal devotions, adequate sleep and exercise – are given precedence. Some people like to prioritise easy tasks for early in the day and use the boost to move forward. Others prefer to tackle bigger jobs first.
Once priorities are set, it’s important to have a plan for getting them done. Some people are naturally well-organised, and others need some help. Strategies like maintaining an up-to-date calendar and keeping a tidy study environment help. There are many useful software programs and apps to aid organisation.
4. Managing stress
Nobody performs at their peak under excessive stress. Students need healthy ways to manage the pressures of study while maintaining productivity. Getting enough sleep and exercising are all great ways to keep stress at bay, and actually make learning more efficient.
How to strengthen your time-management skills
Strengthening your time-management skills will improve your work performance and can be to your advantage when you search for new job opportunities. Use these steps to enhance your time-management skills:
1. Set short- and long-term goals
Planning incorporates goal setting. Setting goals helps you understand what you need to complete for a specific outcome. When you set longer-term goals, try to identify short- and medium-term milestones that support your long-term goal. For example, suppose your goal is to get promoted to a senior management position. In that case, you need to identify the requirements you would need to meet to qualify for the promotion, such as completing a leadership qualification or improving a specific skill. When you set goals, ensure they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based (SMART).
Related: 13 Leadership Styles and Their Characteristics
2. Determine your priorities for the week
To prioritise tasks, you need to know their due dates and impact on other parts of your organisation. Prioritisation becomes easier with practice. Once you have identified important tasks, you can create a weekly and daily task list to ensure that you focus on these priority items until you complete them.
3. Create a schedule
Create a schedule with the tasks, responsibilities and other activities which need your focus. Having a schedule is essential, but so is ensuring that you adhere to your schedule. You can create a schedule by using your calendar to allocate sufficient time to each of your tasks, meetings and other responsibilities. At the end of each day, you need to review the day to determine if you are still on track with your schedule. If deviations from your plan occur, it may affect your goals and work tasks, and you need to reassess your schedule.
4. Delegate less important tasks
You can delegate activities that are not urgent to your team members. Delegating ensures that you use their skills and abilities. It makes them feel like they are part of the team. If you delegate tasks, you reduce your workload and you can focus on your priority tasks. After you have delegated a task, you also need to follow-up to ensure that the task gets completed to the required standard.
5. Practice stress management techniques
You need to take frequent breaks during working hours to manage your stress levels and maximise your productivity. Frequent breaks enhance mental well-being and performance. Make sure you get enough exercise, sleep and time to relax to allow you to perform optimally at work.
6. Focus one task at a time
Focusing on multiple tasks may cause a loss of time when switching between tasks. It is better to concentrate on one task at a time. Focused work increases productivity and improved concentration. Concentrating on one task at a time can help you complete tasks faster.
Related: How to Stay Focused When You Work From Home
7. Limit distractions and interruptions
To enhance your focus on a single task, develop strategies to avoid distractions and interruptions for giving it your full attention. Turn off anything that can distract you, including notifications from your phone, email and social media. For example, if you want to spend 40 minutes writing a document, do not answer your phone or read emails during this time.
8. Incentivise yourself
Think of incentives you can use to reward yourself for completing challenging tasks. For example, you can allow yourself some time on social media when you take a break after spending an hour drafting a document.
Related: Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation
9. Use meetings productively
Usually, meetings take a lot of our time. To improve your time-management skills, you can make sure meetings are productive by collaborating with colleagues on the meeting agenda and assigning a note-taker and timekeeper beforehand. Also, you need to ensure that the session ends with specific action items.
10. Become self-aware
A simple way to improve your time-management skills is to become more self-aware. Knowing when you are most productive can help you focus on tasks at the right time of the day. For example, if you concentrate better and are more creative in the mornings, it may be more productive to focus on writing tasks in the morning. If you know your energy levels are lower in the afternoons, consider tasks that require little energy, such as reading documents.