Professors, managers, colleagues, and business gurus have been teaching the importance of time management for decades. But, what is time management?
In this post, we will explore what the experts actually mean when they talk about the benefits of time management. We will also share some of the top time management tips to help you manage your time more effectively.
So, What Is Time Management?
Dictionary.com defines time management as “the analysis of how working hours are spent and the prioritization of tasks in order to maximize personal efficiency in the workplace”.
Essentially, time management is an umbrella term that refers to a set of processes, skills, and techniques developed to help organize, allocate, and manage time when completing tasks and projects and working towards goals.
The core objective of developing better time management skills is to learn to differentiate between the tasks and activities that will move you toward your goals and those which distract from your progress. As you learn to manage your time you will begin to allocate the bulk of your time and effort to those activities that move you forward and deliver the greatest rewards, delegating or eliminating those tasks that take up your time without delivering results.
Why Are Good Time Management Skills So Important?
Most already know that effective time management skills can help you get ahead at the office, after all, time management and productivity often go hand in hand. Improving the way that you manage your time can also help you improve your study and research habits earning you higher scores academically. However, The benefits of good time management extend beyond improved performance and productivity. When you improve time management at work or at school you will often notice marked improvements in your personal life and health as well. Let’s take a look at the many ways that better time management can impact your life.
Better Work/School Performance
This one is obvious. When you take positive steps to improve time management skills you will inevitably see a spike in your productivity levels and may notice significant improvement in the quality of your work as well.
As you learn to manage time more efficiently you will be able to focus your full attention on your most valuable tasks. This means that these tasks are likely to be completed quicker, and because you were able to give them your best effort in a distraction-free environment, they are likely to showcase your very best work.
Stronger Professional & Personal Relationships
This one is slightly less obvious, but no less impactful. When you are able to manage your time more effectively you will build a solid professional reputation as someone who can always be counted on to deliver their best work on time, and on budget. This reliability and consistency will build stronger relationships with co-workers, managers, and clients.
Your personal relationships will benefit from your new time management skills as well. When you are able to complete your professional work quickly and deliver results on time, you are able to truly relax and enjoy your free time with friends and family without concerns over missed deadlines, or bringing your incomplete work home with you.
Greater Advancement Opportunities
It naturally follows that as the quality of your work improves and you begin to develop a strong reputation for being able to consistently deliver projects and tasks on schedule your value in the workplace will begin to climb as well. As team leaders and managers notice your ability to perform they are apt to offer the opportunity to take on more responsibility, participate in larger projects, and eventually climb the ladder to higher-paying, more challenging positions.
As you hone your time management strengths and your work or studies begin to improve you will find yourself feeling the boost of confidence that comes from success and hard work. The more that you continue to deliver high-quality work on a consistent basis, the more your confidence in your abilities will climb.
Better Mental & Physical Health
Chronic stress has long been associated with poor physical and mental health. When you are constantly rushing to complete work that is past due, or buried under a seemingly endless pile of tasks or projects to complete with no end in sight, you are bound to feel anxious, and overwhelmed.
The longer that you continue to experience this constant pressure and stress the more your health is likely to suffer. Chronic stress can impact your sleep patterns, and your diet, and leave you feeling irritable and exhausted.
By contrast, as you learn how to manage time well, and begin to reap all of the benefits we have discussed above, you should begin to feel the weight of the stress start to ease. You can relax, and recuperate your energy during your downtime. You can enjoy your meals rather than mindlessly gobbling potato chips while you race against the clock to complete overdue work. All of these small changes can add up to big physical and mental health improvements over time.
What Are The Best Ways To Improve Time Management?
It is time to get down to the meat and potatoes of the matter. We have discussed the benefits of better time management. Now let’s talk about some of the best actionable ways to manage time.
Establish Clear, Realistic Goals
Without well-defined goals, it is easy to get distracted and veer off course. The ability to set clear AND realistic goals is at the core of a successful time management plan. The key is to create precise goals that are detailed in scope. Goals that are vague or overly broad can leave you feeling overwhelmed and lacking clear direction.
Create A Schedule And Stick To It
Once you know what you need to accomplish, put it in writing. A to-do list is a great start but it can be a bit too simplistic for managing complex projects or multiple tasks. Try to develop the habit of scheduling your daily, weekly, and monthly tasks in a calendar or planner-type document, or application instead.
Once you have added your tasks and projects to the proper calendar or planner, go back through and add deadlines. Take some time to think about each task and determine a fair amount of time to accomplish each one. Adding deadlines to your tasks will help keep you accountable and ensure that you keep your forward momentum going.
In this case, what you don’t do is as important as what you do. We human beings are not known for our stellar attention spans. It happens to the best of us. We start out with the best of intentions, ready to power through our workday, the next thing you know we discover that we have just spent two solid hours sorting our email inbox and haven’t made any progress on our daily tasks. Start taking notice of the tasks and activities that take you off course during the day. Every time you notice one of these distractions jot it down and take the necessary steps to eliminate it in the future.
In the next section, we will explore some of the best time management techniques and tools to help you tackle your toughest time management problems.
Best Time Management Tools, Tips, & Techniques
There is no one best way to manage time. Every individual has different time management problems. The perfect tool for one person may prove counterproductive for another. We have provided a brief overview of some of the most popular and effective tools and techniques below to give you a headstart on finding the right solution for you.
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is one of the most popular time management techniques making the rounds today. Essentially The Pomodoro Technique, or Pomodoro for short, operates on the theory that people work best in short concentrated bursts of dedicated focus and effort.
Pomodoro involves setting a timer for 25 minutes and working on a specific project without distraction during that 25-minute block of time. When the timer expires, you need to stop working regardless of the status of the project. You then take a 5-minute break, before beginning another 25-minute time block.
The Pomodoro Technique can help you stay motivated, and focused, however, some find it counterproductive to be forced to stop working on a task when they have solid momentum going.
Time blocking works on a similar theory to Pomodoro, with several key differences in implementation. Time blocking is not as rigid as Pomodoro. You will still schedule your tasks and projects in designated blocks of time, and stick to these set time blocks. However, you are free to make the time blocks longer or shorter to accommodate the realistic scope of the work needed for your project and your own unique work style.
Time blocking is an effective technique to help break down large projects that might otherwise be overwhelming. You can easily spread your time blocks out over a week, a month, or longer, creating multiple small deadlines that will ultimately lead you to goal completion.
Regardless of the technique that you choose, you are going to need an accurate way to track the time that you spend actively working on each specific project or task. There are a wide range of time tracking apps and time tracking platforms to help you create an accurate record of the time that you spend working on productive tasks, and some are even able to monitor and record the time that you spend on non-productive activities. The latter can be useful in helping you to identify those hidden time-wasting behaviors that you may not even be conscious of.
Project management tools come in many different styles with each generally designed to cater to a specific type of team, or manage a specific style of workflow. At their core, project management tools are generally designed to facilitate collaboration between team members, plan out project timelines and budgets, and track the status of the individual tasks that must be completed to finish each project.
You will find project management tools built for freelancers, students, and individuals who are looking for ways to organize their personal tasks or client projects. You can also find an array of robust project management apps with built-in scheduling, communication, accounting, invoicing, and time tracking features capable of meeting the needs of larger teams and organizations as well.
These are just a few of the many tools available to help you improve your time management skills. Spend some time evaluating your unique project needs, and your individual work style to find the right combination of time management solutions for you.