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Last Updated on January 19, 2023

15 Practical Ways to Improve Time Management Skills

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15 Practical Ways to Improve Time Management Skills

Do you often feel stressed out with too much work or too many responsibilities? As time passes, do you feel like you have more tasks at hand than you have time to do them?

The trick is to organize your tasks and use your time effectively to get more things done daily. This can help reduce stress levels and improve productivity at work and at home.

Time management skills take time to develop and are different for each person. Finding what works best for you and your busy schedule is key here.

What Is Time Management?

The term time management is self-explanatory, it means managing your time.

At the end of the day, all you got are 24 hours. Of these, at least six to nine hours are spent sleeping, as recommended by experts.[1] A couple of hours are used to prep and eat meals. Add in three to four hours of commute, being stuck in traffic, and other minor unexpected challenges. So, all you are left with is 10 to 12 hours or sometimes even less.

Within this time, you must complete your work tasks, study, manage a hobby, take care of yourself, socialize, and spend time with your family. Events and special occasions are a whole other story.

How does one cope with so much in such little time? The art of doing this without losing your mind is exactly what time management is.

Why Does Time Management Matter?

Fortunately or unfortunately, you cannot choose to skip time management.

Living in a social world also means having responsibilities. Without fulfilling these responsibilities, you cannot survive.

You have to work to earn money—you need money to be able to eat. If you do not eat, you will starve to death. You have to have some source of entertainment to keep your mind fresh. If you completely isolate yourself, your mental health will suffer.

This is why time management matters. You have to learn to cope with time restraint for your own good.

Without time management, you will only stress yourself out. You will have to sacrifice a meaningful life, which will result in everything going downhill mentally, emotionally, and physically. Therefore, you need to know how to manage time like a pro.

To get you started, below are 15 time management tips that will help increase your productivity.

15 Ways to Improve Time Management Skills

1. Delegate Tasks

It is common for us to take on more tasks than we are capable of completing, often resulting in stress and burnout. Delegation does not mean you are running away from your responsibilities. Instead, it means you know how to manage your tasks properly.

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Delegation promotes efficiency and flexibility. It allows work to be done by different people in different ways, thereby ensuring a high level of success.[2]

Learn how to delegate work to your subordinates as per their skills and abilities and get more done. This will not only free up time for you, but will help your team members feel like an integral piece of the work puzzle.

2. Prioritize Work

Task prioritization (TP) is the ability to arrange and execute assigned responsibilities in order of importance and is considered an important non-technical skill. Prioritization is based on task-related factors, such as length, urgency, importance, procedure, and reward. [3]

Before the start of the day, make a list of tasks that need your immediate attention. Unimportant tasks can consume much of your precious time, and we tend to offer this too much of our energy because they are easier or less stressful.

However, identifying urgent tasks that need to be completed on that day is critical to your productivity. Once you know where to put your energy, you will start getting things done in an order that works for you and your schedule.

In short, prioritize your important tasks to keep yourself focused.

3. Create a Schedule

Individuals who create to-do lists more often tend to procrastinate less. Those who create formal to-do lists procrastinate less and are more conscientious than those who use random or mental to-do lists.[4]

Carry a planner or notebook with you and list all the tasks that come to your mind. Being able to check off items as you complete them will give you a sense of accomplishment and keep you motivated.

Make a simple to-do list before the start of the day, prioritize the tasks, and focus on the essentials. Make sure that these tasks are attainable too. If there is a big task you need to complete, make that the only thing on your list. You can push the others to the next day.

To better manage your time, you may consider making three lists: work, home, and personal.

4. Set up Deadlines

When you have a task at hand, set a realistic deadline and stick to it. Once you set a deadline, it may be helpful to write it on a sticky note and put it near your workspace. This will give you a visual cue to keep you on task.

Try to set the deadline to be a few days before the task is due, so that you can complete all those tasks that may get in the way. Challenge yourself, meet the deadline, and reward yourself for meeting a difficult challenge.

5. Overcome Procrastination

Procrastination is one of the things that affects productivity negatively. It can result in the wastage of essential time and energy. It could be a major problem in both your career and your personal life[5].

Overcoming procrastination can be difficult for many; we tend to procrastinate when we feel bored or overwhelmed. Try to schedule in smaller, fun activities throughout the day to break up the more difficult tasks. This may help you stay on track.

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6. Deal With Stress Wisely

Stress often occurs when we accept more work than we are capable of accomplishing. The result is that our body starts feeling tired, which can affect our productivity.

Stress comes in various forms for different people, but some productive ways to deal with stress can include:

  1. Getting outside
  2. Exercising
  3. Practicing meditation
  4. Calling up a friend
  5. Participating in your favorite hobby
  6. Listening to music or a podcast

According to some studies, stress has a wide range of effects on the human nervous system and can cause structural changes in various parts of the brain. Chronic stress can cause brain atrophy and a decrease in its weight.[6]

The key is to find what works for you when it comes to lowering your stress response. If you don’t have time for anything else, try a couple of breathing techniques. These can be done in minutes and have been proven to lower stress-inducing hormones.

7. Avoid Multitasking

Joshua Rubinstein, Ph.D., Jeffrey Evans, Ph.D., and David Meyer, Ph.D., conducted four experiments in 2001 in which young adults switched between tasks such as solving math problems and classifying geometric objects. When switching from one task to another, participants lost time on all tasks.[7]

Most of us feel that multitasking is an efficient way of getting things done, but the truth is we do better when we focus and concentrate on one thing. Multitasking hampers productivity and should be avoided to improve time management skills.

8. Start Early

Most successful people have one thing in common — they start their day early as it gives them time to sit, think, and plan their day.

If you’re not a morning person, you can try waking up thirty minutes earlier than your normal time. It’ll amaze you how much you can get done in that bit of time. If you don’t want to use it to work, use it to do a bit of exercise or eat a healthy breakfast. This kind of routine will also contribute to your productivity during the day. By goal setting, you’re cutting down the time you need to think about where you’re headed.

9. Take Regular Breaks

Whenever you find yourself feeling tired and stressed, take a break for 10 to 15 minutes. Too much stress can take a toll on your body and affect your productivity.

Even better, schedule your break times. It helps you to relax and gets back to work with energy again later. If you know a break is coming, you’ll likely be able to overcome boredom or a lack of motivation to push through the task at hand.

Take a walk, listen to some music, or do some quick stretches. The best idea is to take a break from work completely and spend time with your friends and family.

10. Learn to Say No

Politely refuse to accept additional tasks if you think that you’re already overloaded with work. Take a look at your to-do list before agreeing to take on extra work.

Many people worry that saying no will make them look selfish, but it is one of the best ways to take care of yourself and your time. When you take care of this, you’ll find you have more energy to devote to the important things which the people around you will ultimately appreciate.

11. Use the Pomodoro Method

The Pomodoro method is a technique of working in short intervals.

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Basically, you set a 25-minute timer and focus on the single task at hand without any distractions.

After one Pomodoro or 25-minute interval is over, you take a break of no longer than 5 minutes.

The 5-minute break is enough to recharge your productivity, but not long enough to break your work tempo. It gives your mind the satisfaction of taking a break without letting your brain lose its trail of focus.

Moreover, after four Pomodoros, you can treat yourself to a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes. You can indulge in a small activity, eat a snack, or simply relax. This is an excellent way to keep you from getting bored with tasks that you have been working on for a long time already.

By setting a timer, you are giving your brain a direction. Your mind knows that it has to focus on one thing for a set amount of time.

You can also view the 5-minute break as a treat for your mind to look forward to. Hence, you boost your overall focus and productivity.

12. Block Out Distractions

What’s distracting you from your work? Instant messages? Phone ringing? Text messages popping in?

I hardly ever use chat nowadays. The only times I log on are when I’m not intending to do any work. Otherwise, it gets very distracting.

When I’m doing important work, I switch off my phone. Calls during this time are recorded, and I contact them afterward if it’s something important. This helps me concentrate better.

Find more tips on how to minimize distractions to achieve more in How to Minimize Distraction to Get Things Done

13. Track Your Time Spent

When you start tracking your time, you become more aware of how you spend your time.

For example, you can set a simple countdown timer to make sure that you finish a task within a period of time, say 30 minutes or 1 hour. The time pressure can push you to stay focused and work more efficiently.

14. Batch Similar Tasks Together

For related work, batch them together.

For example, I categorize my work into these core groups:

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  • writing (articles, my upcoming book)
  • coaching
  • workshop development
  • business development
  • administrative

I batch all the related tasks together, so there’s synergy. If I need to make calls, I allocate a time slot to make all my calls. It really streamlines the process.

15. Leave Buffer Time In-Between

Don’t pack everything closely together. Leave a 5-10 minute buffer time in-between each task. This helps you wrap up the previous task and start off on the next one.

Final Thoughts

When you get clear about what’s on your plate, you’ll be more focused and get more done in less time.

Good time management requires a daily practice of prioritizing tasks and organizing them in a way that can help you save time while achieving more. Use the above strategies for a few weeks and see if they help you. You may be surprised just how much more time you seem to have.

TL;DR

Don't have time for the full article? Read this.

15 Practical Ways to Improve Time Management Skills

Time management is the ability to organize and plan your tasks in a way that no area of your life suffers for others to survive. They all survive; social, academic, career, family, etc.

#1 Time Management Skill: Delegate tasks. This will not only free up time for you, but will help your team members feel like an integral piece of the work puzzle.

#2 Time Management Skill: Prioritize work. Identifying urgent tasks that need to be completed on that day is critical to your productivity.

#3 Time Management Skill: Create a schedule. List all the tasks that come to your mind. Being able to check off items as you complete them will give you a sense of accomplishment and keep you motivated.

#4 Time Management Skill: Set up deadlines. Try to set the deadline to be a few days before the task is due.

#5 Time Management Skill: Avoid multitasking. Most of us feel that multitasking is an efficient way of getting things done, but the truth is that we do better when we focus and concentrate on one thing.

Featured photo credit: Brad Neathery via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Help guide: How Much Sleep Do You Need
[2] London School of Management Education: Delegation: The Impact of Delegation and its Benefits
[3] National Library of Medicine: Factors affecting ­individual task prioritization in a workplace setting
[4] Psychology Today: Do To-Do Lists Work?
[5] MIT: Optimal Time-Inconsistent Beliefs: Misplanning, Procrastination, and Commitment
[6] National Library of Medicine: The impact of stress on body function: A review
[7] American Psychological Association: Multitasking: Switching costs

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