The secret to success is not money but time. The biggest challenge in chasing time is that, unlike money, you can’t borrow it, save it or store it for later. Once spent, you can't reclaim it. So, the only solution is to manage it effectively. Still, according to the latest 2022 research, a staggering 88% of people don't use any time management system despite believing that better time management would reduce stress at work, increase productivity, improve focus, and result in better workplace relationships. It's time you take strides in your career with the following 25 tested time management techniques.
Top 25 Time Management Techniques
Here is the ultimate list of time management techniques for work and daily life. Incorporate them into your schedule to see unparalleled results.
1. Emphasize Results, Not Hours
Prioritizing hours and physical presence over results and action creates a culture of inefficiency. You tend to ignore the basic laws of human nature, such as:
- The human brain gets tired and doesn't work well.
- Idea generation takes place on its terms.
- When forced to do tasks beyond your capacity, you tend to develop a strong repulsion towards it.
So, one of the best time management techniques is to prioritize how much you should truly accomplish. Creating a list of tasks done at the end of every day motivates you to be productive rather than just busy.
2. Complete the Most Important Task First
It is imperative for most of us to start our day with smaller and easier tasks. However, it is best to tackle the most important and complex work for effective time management. It is important to ensure that you try to complete this complex task quicker rather than devoting all your day to it.
3. Automate Repetitive and Mundane Tasks
Leverage the power of various management software and technology to automate repetitive tasks. This practice will give you enough time and energy to focus on more value-driven tasks. For instance, if you have to enter data available as a hardcopy into an Excel spreadsheet, why type the data when you can use the MS Excel App's upload picture feature? It will transfer all the data from the hardcopy to the excel sheet within seconds.
4. Pomodoro Time Management Technique
One of the most popular time management techniques for work developed by Francesco Cirillo is to parse your work into 25-minute work sessions or pomodoros. A 5-minute break will follow each work session. Also, after four cycles, you can take a 20-minute break.
The most important part of this technique is making the best use of the 25 minutes of work time by focusing on your work. Set the alarms for each session and repeat the process until finished with the task.
5. Kanban Technique
Adopted by Taiichi Ono for Toyota Automotive, Kanban is a visual time management technique that allows you to follow the progress of your projects. It boosts productivity and effectiveness. Using your project management software, a whiteboard, or a pen and paper, you begin by determining the number of stages in your task. Create the columns to move tasks within a project across these stages. For instance, you can have columns such as:
- Backlog: For brainstorming and defining all your activities.
- To Do: For the tasks, you'll work on.
- In Progress: For the tasks you are currently working on.
- Done: For the tasks you have finished.
6. Getting Things Done Technique
Introduced by David Allen, this is a five-step method for brainstorming your tasks and segregating them into a straightforward to-do list. The CCORE steps involved are as follows:
- Capture: Jot down all tasks that spring to mind.
- Clarify: Decide which ones are actionable.
- Organize: Segregate tasks under different labels, providing them with contexts such as office, home, and more.
- Reflect: Review your tasks from time to time and determine the next step and urgency.
- Engage: When everything is sorted, simply start working on them.
James Martin devised this time management technique in his book Rapid Application Development. In this method, you allocate periods or timeboxes to activities. You must work within the decided time and stop when the set time runs out. It is very similar to the Pomodoro technique but gives you more flexibility.
You define your goals and allot time accordingly. You can parse a difficult task into shorter time periods to make the task easier to manage. When the allocated time is up, stop working and take a break.
8. Time blocking for Time Management
Time blocking became one of the popular time management techniques when Elon Musk highlighted its importance. It comprises four stages:
- The planning stage: For defining activities and identifying priorities.
- The blocking stage: For assigning a specific time block to each task— minutes or hours, specific days, start and end times. A longer time block suits priority tasks. It is best to allocate these to the time of day when you are the most productive. Jot everything in a calendar for seamless execution.
- The acting stage: For working on the first daily task. You have to work your way down your schedule with timed breaks in between.
- The revision stage: If an activity takes shorter or longer than the estimated time, revise the schedule for other tasks for that day.
9. Biological Prime Time
Utilizing your highest energy levels in a day is the best way to maximize your prolificity at work. So, begin by determining your prime biological time and allocating your priority tasks to this time.
Discovering your prime biological time requires you to experiment with your work over several days. Track your energy, focus, and attention span for every hour within a fixed time period, say, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Analyze your result after several days to notice a certain time of day that stands out. Start allocating your future priority tasks to this time.
10. Break Down Huge Projects
The best time management technique for students and office workers is to divide huge, complex projects into more manageable smaller chunks. Setting project milestones and achieving more in a lesser time without draining all your energy is the best way to maximize productivity.
11. Group Similar Tasks
Another effective way is to formulate batches of similar tasks so you can finish them in one go. This technique minimizes the set-up and slows downtime, improving focus and reducing clutter.
12. Delegate Responsibilities and Outsource When Needed
A wise person knows that he cannot do everything himself. Delegate tasks to efficient team members. You can also outsource tasks. The most important part of this process is to:
- Find the most suitable person.
- Provide clear and concise instructions.
- Define the goals for them.
- Collaborate to achieve the objectives with ease.
13. Always Finish What you Start
Leaving tasks midway is more stressful than relieving. The left-out work creates a distraction in the new task. You try to go back and complete the first, and the cycle continues. Therefore, it is more practical to determine beforehand what tasks you will be able to complete. Work on those and move on to something else only after finishing the first.
14. Pickle Jar Theory
Looking for some practical time management techniques for work? This method is a great fit for all workers as it allows you to differentiate the useful from the unuseful in your schedule.
Imagine a jar containing sand, pebbles, and rocks. The rocks being large, stay on the top while the fine sand settles at the bottom.
Here the sand is all those activities that usually disturb you during the day, including social media, emails, and phone calls.
The pebbles are important assignments to be completed but can be handled by someone else too. They can also be tasks that you can handle some other day.
The rocks represent the most significant tasks that must be completed by the day's end.
So, whenever you plan your day, categorize the tasks by importance, figuring out which ones are pebbles, rocks, and sand.
15. Use Calendar
Whenever you plan for effective time management, keep a calendar at hand. It is crucial to know which tasks have to be completed, by whom and when. Remember, you should not completely pack your calendar with tasks. There must be space for unforeseen tasks that may demand immediate attention.
16. Defeat Procrastination With the Two Minute Rule
Using the two-minute rule helps beat procrastination. It is one of the most rewarding time management techniques. According to this rule, if a task can be finished within two minutes, you must do it immediately and not put it away for another time or another day.
17. Learn to Say No
Steve Jobs rightly said that only by saying no can you concentrate on really important tasks.
However, this tip does not mean that you will end up declining an important task offer; rather, you must determine tasks that must be said no to. Warren Buffet's rule is the best to draw the line:
He says to begin by writing your 25 career goals. Mark the five most crucial ones and strike out the rest of the 20 goals.
Applying this technique to your daily tasks will help you preserve valuable time and focus on high-priority tasks.
18. 1-3-5 Rule
The 1-3-5 Rule is yet another promising time management technique that relies on focusing your attention on the following each day:
- One big thing
- Three medium things
- Five little things
The completion of your big task fills you with a sense of accomplishment and motivates you to continue. Similarly, medium tasks push you to progress with your larger project, and the little and easy tasks inspire you to move forward.
19. Setting Deadlines for Each Session
Setting deadlines is one of the best time management techniques for students. For instance, you can set a clear time limit for writing an essay, say Thursday at 5 p.m. This practice helps get rid of procrastination and ensures timely delivery.
20. The 10-Minute Rule
This rule is simpler than all others on the list. It can be followed in the below-mentioned sequence of steps:
- Select a task and start working on it immediately.
- After ten minutes, pause and reflect on your focus. If you wish to stop working, you can. Else, you will continue for another 10 minutes.
- You work for 10-minute time periods until you wish to stop working on the task.
21. Acknowledge the Planning Fallacy
Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky proposed this time management technique in 1979. The planning fallacy is all about underestimating the time that activity would consume. This cognitive bias often disturbs the entire schedule and causes us to miss deadlines.
Acknowledging the planning fallacy can help you take steps to avoid it. For example, you can track how much time your daily tasks take and plan the upcoming day accordingly.
22. Dedicate Time to Improvement
Enhancing your skill set, learning new information, and growing as a person helps you save considerable chunks of time. With a constant commitment to improving yourself, you're better to adapt to changes better and emerge more efficient in almost everything and anything you do.
23. The 80/20 Rule
This rule enables you to achieve 80% output by investing only 20% effort. All you have to do is identify tasks that lure in maximum revenue and prioritize them.
It is also called Pareto Analysis. It states that 20% of your actions are responsible for 80% of outcomes. Therefore, the key idea is to find your 20% activities that make a difference — and focus on them.
24. To-Don't List
Research suggests that 38% of people use a to-do list to manage their time. In contrast to this approach, you can list all the tasks and activities you won't do– a To-Don't list.
You can curate this list before each workday. Write down all ideas, activities, or habits you'll aim not to do. These can include:
- Overly ambitious ideas
- Bad habits you want to quit.
Cross over each of these at the end of the day if you manage to avoid them.
25. Say No to Multitasking
For the longest period of time, people have been idealizing multitasking. They fail to realize that switching between tasks dwindles your focus, and it takes much longer to return.
The process wastes a lot of time, and you end up attaining less despite investing more effort. So, multitasking is definitely among the best time management techniques.
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