Time management, it’s one of those phrases that’s always buzzing around us. But when it comes down to it, not a lot of us really get what it truly means or how to get our daily twenty-four hours under control.
Consider this: most of us are clocking in a solid six to nine hours under the sheets. Then there’s the time we spend making meals and eating—there go a couple more hours.
Throw in the daily commute, with its never-ending traffic jams and those little, out-of-nowhere time-suckers, and bam! You’re looking at a dwindling window—maybe 10 to 12 hours if the stars align—to actually get things done.
That’s your job, your studies, maybe squeezing in a hobby or a workout, catching up with friends, or quality time with the fam. And don’t even get me started on birthdays, weddings, or the holiday hoopla.
So, what’s the trick for juggling this packed tightrope of tasks without dropping the ball and spiraling into a stress mess?
Sharpening those time management skills.
This article is going to dive into the nuts and bolts of time management. We’ll walk through what it really means to own your hours and how to wield this superpower to squeeze every last drop out of your day.
Table of Contents
- What Is Time Management?
- Why Doesn Time Management Matter?
- 15 Practical Time Management Skills
- 1. Find Your North Star
- 2. Prioritize
- 3. Use the Power Hour
- 4. Batch Similar Tasks Together
- 5. Delegate Tasks
- 6. Schedule Your To-Dos
- 7. Set up Deadlines
- 8. Block out Distractions
- 9. Overcome Procrastination
- 10. Stop Multitasking
- 11. Learn to Say No
- 12. Leverage
- 13. Track Your Time Spent
- 14. Take Regular Breaks
- 15. Deal With Stress Wisely
- Final Thoughts
What Is Time Management?
Time management is like having a strategy for your day. It’s the art of figuring out how to spread your minutes over the stuff you’ve got to do, want to do, or need to do.
It’s all about playing the hand you’re dealt with each day, which is exactly 24 hours, no more, no less, and coming out on top—productive, efficient, and one step closer to where you wanna be.
But it’s not about jam-packing your schedule so tight that you can barely breathe. As I’ve discussed in 8 Misconceptions of Time That Make You Less Productive, this isn’t a contest to see how many tasks you can check off before you crash.
And it’s definitely not about sticking to a plan so rigid that if life throws you a curveball, you’re completely knocked off course.
Nor is it about sacrificing your zzz’s or skipping lunch to tick one more task off the list.
One thing’s for sure: there’s no magic, one-size-fits-all time management spell out there. What zips and zooms for your buddy might just flop for you. The key is to dig deep and craft your very own time-wrangling playbook that lines up with your life, your goals, and yeah, your quirks, too.
Life’s also got a funny way of tossing surprises your way—just when you think you’ve got your day all mapped out. So, it’s not just about setting up a plan, but also about being nimble and ready to adapt when things go sideways.
Peter F. Drucker, the big kahuna of management theory, once said,
“Until we can manage time, we can manage nothing else.”
Let that sink in. Without a grip on your calendar, everything else—from your career moves to your personal life and well-being—just sort of stumbles along.
Getting a handle on your time is square one, the launchpad for every other winning strategy in life.
Why Doesn Time Management Matter?
Why should you even care about managing your time? Well, it’s a game-changer. I’ve hashed this out in The Importance of Time Management, but let’s keep it simple here.
Good time management is your secret weapon for making smart choices about how you play your day. It’s about knowing which tasks to put at the top of your to-do list and deciding the perfect time to knock ’em out.
And when you get the hang of managing your time, you don’t just do more stuff, you do it better and faster. You dodge the stress bombs of procrastination, missed deadlines, and those gut-wrenching, down-to-the-wire crunch times.
There’s this survey by TimeWatch that spells it out: a whopping 91% of folks agree that nailing time management could slice stress at work and make them more productive, while 86% believe it would help them zero in better on the task at hand.
But it’s not just about crossing off tasks on your list. It’s about consistently carving out time for your goals and dreams. When you put the big rocks in first, you’re paving a surefire path toward hitting those targets without fail.
Effective time management is a lifesaver for keeping your work and play in harmony. With the right moves, you can balance your professional grind with personal time without feeling like you’re shortchanging either.
When you get wise about managing your time, you’re setting yourself up to live better, work smarter, and hit the bullseye in every area of life. That’s not just a win. That’s a standing ovation.
15 Practical Time Management Skills
Let’s roll up our sleeves and dive into the nitty-gritty with these 15 time management skills that are pulled straight from our Time Flow System.
1. Find Your North Star
Finding your North Star is like setting up a SMART goal’s less nitpicky cousin. It’s about nailing down what you’re aiming for in the big picture. You know, that shiny beacon that guides you through the night.
Now, those SMART goals with their need for specifics are fine and dandy, but let’s be real—they can be a bit much. They’re like that friend who can’t just say “let’s grab coffee;” they need to plan it down to the latte art.
For a lot of us, by the time we’ve figured out every little detail of a goal, we’re too zapped to even start. And just like that, our grand plans are snoozing on the back burner.
Here’s the thing about North Stars: they’re less about precision and more about direction. They’re your “general idea” compass, not a step-by-step GPS.
Our System gets it—you need a sense of where you’re heading, but you don’t need to know every pitstop along the way. After all, life’s full of plot twists.
You don’t need a high-powered telescope to kick things off; a simple compass pointing you the right way will do the trick. It’s about getting into gear rather than waiting for the stars to align perfectly.
We’re all about that quick-and-dirty planning life. Take 5-10 minutes to sketch out a direction for the month or week, and then take the plunge.
Remember, the only way to finish is to start. So let’s focus less on pondering every possible path and more on actually trekking forward.
Prioritizing usually is all about sorting your to-dos based on stuff like how long they’ll take, how urgently they need to be done, how important they are, the steps involved, and what you’ll get out of them. That’s the textbook way, sure.
But at LifeHack, I flip the script a bit. I teach people to think about prioritizing in terms of energy. Yes, energy. Because here’s a nugget of truth: all the time management in the world won’t save you if you’re flat out of juice.
Think about it. All those productivity systems holler about time: “Manage your time better!” “Plan every second!” But they’re missing a big piece of the puzzle. Our energy levels are like the tide—they’re up, they’re down, and if you try to swim against them, you’re going to get nowhere fast.
Let’s say your plan’s chock-full of high-octane tasks—whipping up proposals, tossing around new ideas—looks good on your planner, right? But ask yourself this: is it realistic? Can you keep up that pace without burning out before lunchtime?
When you’re laying out your day, you’ve got to factor in your mental wattage. Balance those brain-heavy tasks with the less demanding ones.
Don’t drain your batteries to zero. Keep an eye on your energy, and you’ll find you can get more done without hitting the productivity wall.
3. Use the Power Hour
Imagine giving yourself one golden hour every single day—that’s your Power Hour. It’s not just any hour, though. It’s sixty minutes of pure, undisturbed hustle on what really matters.
Here’s how you roll with it:
First up, you’ve got to play detective and figure out when you hit your stride. Are you a morning person, or does your brain light up when the sun goes down?
Once you’ve nailed down your peak hour, guard it like a treasure. That’s when you do the big stuff, the important stuff.
During your Power Hour, you go full ninja mode on distractions. Phones off, emails on hold—make it so you and your task are on a deserted island, Castaway-style. Just one focused hour where it’s just you and the job at hand.
Trust me, give this a whirl, and you’ll be amazed at how much you can slam dunk in those focused bursts. You’re not just doing tasks; you’re crushing them, and all it takes is one Power Hour a day.
4. Batch Similar Tasks Together
Batching is about rounding up tasks that are alike and knocking them out together, back-to-back. It’s like doing your grocery shopping for the week in one trip instead of going to the store every day.
Instead of hopping from one kind of task to another and losing your rhythm, you group similar to-dos and tackle them in one go. It’s like setting up a mini assembly line in your day.
It keeps you in the groove and stops you from wasting time getting your head into a different game for each task.
Let me break it down with my own example. I split my work into a fab five:
- Workshop development
- Business development
- Administrative stuff
Each of these is its own batch. When I’m writing, I’m just writing—no emails, no calls, just words. When it’s time for coaching, I’m all in—no spreadsheets, no PowerPoint, just people.
By bundling similar tasks, you streamline your workflow like a boss, saving you time and keeping your brain from frying with all that back-and-forth.
5. Delegate Tasks
Delegating isn’t about shirking your duties. It’s about being savvy with your to-do list.
Delegating means you’re smart enough to know that you can’t—and shouldn’t—do everything yourself. It’s like being the conductor of an orchestra. You don’t play all the instruments; you lead the musicians to create a symphony.
Think of delegation as your superpower. It’s about giving tasks to people who can do them well, maybe even better than you could. It’s not passing the buck; it’s passing the baton. You’re still in the race, but you’re not running every leg of the relay yourself.
By delegating, you’re clearing your plate of the stuff that others can handle, so you can dig into the bigger tasks—the ones only you can do. It lightens your load, slashes the stress, and ramps up productivity.
When you delegate, you multiply your effectiveness. It’s like having extra hands on deck. It’s about using leverage. Just like in physics, leverage magnifies your force; in work, it magnifies your impact. Give tasks away wisely, and watch how much more you can achieve.
6. Schedule Your To-Dos
Just writing down what you’ve got to do is a great start—it’s like clearing the clutter from your brain. But, if you want to make sure things get done and not just sit there on paper, you’ve got to schedule them.
When you give your tasks a specific time slot, it’s like making an appointment with your to-dos. It means you’re serious about tackling them. This isn’t just about crossing things off a list; it’s about making sure the list doesn’t control your life.
By putting your tasks on a calendar, you’re less likely to let the trivial stuff eat up your time. Plus, it’s a solid defense against the procrastination monster. Knowing you’ve got a time set for each task, you’re more likely to jump in and get rolling.
Now, here’s a pro tip: use what we call Focus Blocks. These are chunks of time you carve out in your day, protected from the chaos, dedicated to what’s got to be done.
The Time Flow System we cooked up at LifeHack isn’t just a fancy planner. It’s a method, a way to consistently chip away at your goals and take back the time you thought was lost.
Check out the Time Flow System, and start making time work for you, not against you.
7. Set up Deadlines
When you set a deadline, you’re making a promise to yourself to finish something by a certain time. It’s like putting up a finish line for a race. It gives you something to aim for.
When you give your task a deadline, it gets your brain in gear. You start to work with a bit of fire under your feet. It’s not just about rushing; it’s about clarity. It’s knowing that this thing, this task, it’s got to be wrapped up by next Friday. That’s non-negotiable.
And let’s be smart about it. Break that big, scary task into little steps, each with its own mini-deadline. This way, you’re not just staring at one giant mountain to climb—you’ve got a map showing all the little footholds and rest stops along the way.
So go ahead and set those deadlines. Make them real. Write them down. And watch how they create a path for you to follow—one where stuff actually gets done.
Set up Deadlines
8. Block out Distractions
Distractions are the enemy of getting stuff done. And in today’s world, they are everywhere! Your phone buzzes, your email pings, and just like that, you’re down a rabbit hole that has nothing to do with what you were working on.
How to tackle them? Block them out. Seriously, it’s that straightforward.
When it’s time to focus, make your workspace a no-fly zone for distractions.
That phone? Put it on airplane mode or leave it in another room. Those notifications on your computer that pop up every five seconds? Turn them off. And if you can, find a spot where the hustle and bustle of the world around you can’t intrude.
When you block out distractions, you’re making a power move. You’re taking control of your environment and your attention. And when you do that, you’re free to get into the zone, where work doesn’t just get started—it gets finished.
Every ding and buzz is a potential detour off your productivity highway. So put up some roadblocks and keep cruising on to where you need to go.
Block Out Distractions
9. Overcome Procrastination
Procrastination is a silent dream-killer. It’s like a sneaky thief, swiping your minutes and hours before you even realize they’re gone. And before you know it, you’re in a panic, scrambling to catch up, while stress levels go through the roof.
Beating procrastination isn’t about some grand battle. It’s about knowing yourself—like, really getting why you keep pushing that important task to tomorrow, or the day after, or… well, you get the picture.
So take a moment and play detective in your own life. Ask yourself, “What’s the real reason I keep putting this off?” Are you scared of failing? Is the task just too dull? Or are you telling yourself you work better under pressure (even though deep down, you know you don’t)?
Once you’ve got your answer, tackle it head-on.
If it’s fear, then remind yourself that nothing great ever came from comfort zones. If it’s boredom, then find a way to spice up the task. And if it’s the thrill of the last-minute rush, remember the stress isn’t worth it. No one looks back and wishes they were stressed more, right?
In the end, beating procrastination is about taking small, deliberate steps. It’s about being honest with yourself and taking control back from the part of you that wants to put off until tomorrow what you can—and should—do today.
10. Stop Multitasking
Here’s the thing about multitasking—it’s a myth. It’s like trying to juggle six balls when you can only really handle one; you’re going to drop them.
Sure, you feel busy, like a circus performer spinning plates, but what you’re really doing is spreading your attention too thin, and that’s a recipe for mistakes.
Research has shown, like in studies by experts like Rubinstein, Evans, and Meyer, that your brain isn’t actually doing multiple things at once like some supercomputer. What it’s doing is frantically trying to switch between tasks, and that switching? It wastes time. Every hop from one thing to another is like hitting the brakes on your productivity car.
So, what should you do instead? Simple: monotasking. Pick one thing and give it all you’ve got until it’s done. Then move on to the next.
By focusing on one task at a time, you’re not only going to do it faster, but you’re also going to do it better. It’s about working smarter, not harder. And that’s how you win the productivity game.
11. Learn to Say No
We’re wired to want to help, to jump in, to be the go-to person. But every time you say ‘yes’ to something that’s not critical, you’re actually saying ‘no’ to something that might be more important.
You might think turning down a request is kind of like turning your back on someone, but it’s not about being unkind or selfish. It’s about being smart with your time and energy.
Picture this: your time’s a pie. Say ‘yes’ too much, and suddenly everyone gets a slice, and there’s nothing left for you—or for the tasks that truly matter.
Learning to say ‘no’ is like putting a fence around your time. It protects your focus and keeps you clear on what you’ve got to do. And people respect a fence. They might even start to think twice before asking you to add one more thing to your plate.
So, when the next “Hey, can you…?” comes along, pause. Think.
Do you really have the bandwidth? If it’s going to stretch you too thin, it’s okay to pass. Give a polite “no thanks,” and stay true to your priorities.
It’s not just okay to say no—it’s often the smartest thing you can do.
Learn to Say No
Leverage is about getting the most bang for your buck, time-wise. It’s all about finding the sweet spots where a little bit of effort goes a long way.
Think of it like this: if you have a lever long enough, you can lift a heavy object with less force. Apply that same thinking to your day. Look for tasks that give you more results with less sweat. That’s leverage in action.
And sure, passing tasks to others is one way to do this, but let’s not overlook tech and tools. We live in a golden age of automation.
Why spend hours on something when the right app or software can handle it for you? From setting up appointments to crunching numbers, there’s a tool out there that can do it without you lifting a finger after the initial setup.
So, don’t just work harder; work smarter. Use automation to handle the repeat stuff. It’s like cloning yourself for the busy work so you can focus on the big picture. That’s leverage – and it’s a game-changer.
13. Track Your Time Spent
Time tracking is like keeping a budget, but instead of dollars, we’re dealing with minutes and hours. Knowing where your time goes is the first step to taking control of it.
When you write down how long each task takes, you start to see the truth. Some things gobble up your hours and give little back. Other things, you’ll notice, might not take as long as you thought.
You might think you’re just spending a few minutes checking emails or scrolling through social media, but if you track it, you might be shocked to find out it’s more like an hour or two. That’s time you could’ve used on something with a bigger payoff.
By tracking your time, you’re shining a light on your day. It’s about making the invisible visible.
Once you see where the time is slipping away, you can plug those leaks and get back to steering your day in the direction you actually want to go.
14. Take Regular Breaks
You’re busy, and there’s no time to stop, right? But here’s the thing: to keep your brain in tip-top shape, you’ve got to give it a breather every now and then.
It’s like this—imagine your brain is a muscle. You wouldn’t work it non-stop at the gym without resting it. You need to let it recover to get stronger.
Your brain works the same way. When you go, go, go without a pause, your brain’s performance starts to drop. You think you’re getting more done, but really, your work starts to suffer.
What you want to do is sprinkle short breaks throughout your day. These aren’t just times to stop working; they’re chances for your brain to reset and come back stronger.
Stand up, stretch, take a walk, or just gaze outside. Do something that isn’t work. You’ll come back to your tasks with fresher eyes—and that’s when you often have those a-ha moments.
Think of these breaks as part of your work, not a detour from it. They’re essential to keep your focus sharp and your energy up. So, go ahead, take five. Your brain will thank you, and your work will too.
15. Deal With Stress Wisely
Stress messes with your head and your time. When stress kicks in, it’s like throwing a wrench into the gears of your productivity. You get distracted, you might dodge work, and the clock just keeps ticking while stuff doesn’t get done.
But stress isn’t just about feeling off. It actually does a number on your brain. Research shows stress can shrink parts of your noodle, making it even harder to handle your business.
But you’ve got to get a handle on stress, both for your well-being and your to-do list. And it doesn’t have to be a big production. Sometimes, all it takes is a few minutes of deep breathing.
That’s right—inhale, exhale. Simple as that. Studies back it up; this breathing thing can dial down the stress hormones that throw you off balance.
So next time you feel that pressure building up, find what chills you out. It could be those breathing exercises, a quick walk, or jamming to your favorite tune. Whatever it is, make it your go-to stress buster.
Manage Your Stress
Time management is about learning the ropes to keep your day from spiraling out of control.
When you get down to brass tacks with the skills we talked about, you’re not just shuffling tasks—you’re making each minute count. You’re lining up your ducks so you can knock them down faster and smarter. And that’s how you start to build momentum, getting more done without feeling like you’re running in mud.
This isn’t just about crossing off tasks on a list; it’s bigger than that. It’s about less stress hanging over your head, finding a sweet spot between the grind and your downtime, and filling your days with work that’s worth your while.
So, give these strategies a whirl. Start small if you have to. It’s like flexing a muscle—the more you use it, the stronger it gets. And before you know it, you’ll be getting more out of your days, and hey, maybe even enjoying the ride.
That’s not just good time management; that’s a better way to live.
|||^||TimeWatch: New Time Management Statistics in 2022|
|||^||London School of Management Education: Delegation: The Impact of Delegation and its Benefits|
|||^||The Guardian: The Power of Deadlines|
|||^||American Psychological Association: Multitasking: Switching costs|
|||^||Cleveland Clinic: Why Downtime Is Essential for Brain Health|
|||^||National Library of Medicine: The impact of stress on body function: A review|
|||^||Front Psychol.: The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults|