20 BEST TIME MANAGEMENT TIPS TO INCREASE YOUR PRODUCTIVITY
If you’re looking to get more done in the day, here are 20 best time management tips to increase your productivity and efficiency both at home and in the workplace.
SIMPLE TIME MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUES
Time is the one thing that we can’t create more of, but with a few simple strategies you can use your time more wisely.
Here are 20 best time management tips to increase your productivity and efficiency both at home and in the workplace. They’re simple, intentional strategies that can really make a difference to what you can achieve.
So, whether you’re looking to be ultra-organised or just want to find some ways to carve out a little bit more free time for yourself and still get done what you need to, these time management techniques will help!
20 TIME MANAGEMENT TIPS
#1 Write a To Do list
This can be on paper, on your phone, even a post-it note on the fridge, but definitely write down the things you have to do rather than keep them in your head. A mental list of things to do can easily be forgotten and jumbled. Keep a visual list somewhere you’re likely to see it and you’ll find it easier to:
- Know what needs to be done
- See what’s most important or urgent
- Cross things off as you go
- Carry over the things you haven’t done to do tomorrow
#2 Use a calendar
It doesn’t matter whether your calendar is a paper one that sits in the kitchen or on your desk or you use an electronic version but it’s helpful to have one somewhere.
A calendar is so useful for making sure that you know where you have to be and when you have to be there!
However, a calendar is only useful if you actually use it so I’d suggest making sure that you get into the habit of writing everything down in it. Whether that’s after school clubs for the kids, work commitments for you or your partner, dentist appointments, birthdays and anniversaries, even when you’re meant to be doing the food shopping.
Pop everything down on the calendar so you can see at a glance all that you’ve got to do. If you find your calendar bulging at the seams and you’re too busy for anything, then stop and think about whether you really need to do it all and read on to #3 point below!
Keeping a visual calendar will also help you keep tabs on who needs to be where, help you remember to buy a present for Auntie Mary’s birthday next week and that you need to fill out the permission slip for your eldest’s school trip next half term.
My husband and I also share Google Calendars so we can both see what’s coming up for both of us. It makes booking appointments, attending school events with the kids or our planning life around work and school so much easier!
#3 Be intentional
One of the most effective ways of managing your time is by learning to say no to things that you don’t want to do or don’t add value to your life in some way. When you say yes to everything, it’s easy to find yourself too busy to catch a breath. You don’t get any free time to just do what you want, even if that’s to do nothing at all (which is ok too!), and you also leave yourself no wiggle room in case of any problems.
When you say yes to one thing, you’re also saying no to something else. Make sure that you’re saying yes to things that really deserve your time and learn to say no to things aren’t in alignment with your priorities. Check out my post on how to get intentional with your time and find ways to say no! It gets easier with practice, I promise!
Planning is your friend when it comes to time management. Spend a little bit of time at the start of each week to plan what’s coming up for you during that week. Plan your To Do list at the start of each day. Use Sundays to plan, organise and get ahead for the week. Plan your goals for the year, your priorities for the month, meal plan what to feed your family.
There are lots of ways to plan your life to make it easier, simpler and more efficient. I’m not talking about rigid planning that doesn’t allow for anything fun or spontaneous, but general planning to help you keep on top of things without major effort from you.
#5 The 80 20 rule
The 80 20 rule is also known as the Pareto Principle (after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto who first used it back in 1895). The 80 20 rule states that “80% of the output or results will come from 20% of the input or action”. Putting it another way, the rule suggests that two out of ten items, on any general To Do list, will turn out to be worth more than the other eight items put together.
In terms of time management, the rule is one of the best ways to focus your mind and energy on what you have to do, instead of allowing yourself to be swayed by the things that just shine or shout the loudest! When looking at your To Do List, make sure that you prioritise the tasks that will bring about the best results. Then focus your time on achieving these tasks before moving onto anything else.
#6 Eat the biggest frog first
Mark Twain once said “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” In terms of time management, it’s best to eat the biggest frog first.
The biggest frog is the one job that you don’t want to do. It’s the one you’ll procrastinate over and find a million other things to do instead. But the big frog will still be there at the end of the day, sitting on your To Do list, ready and waiting for you the next day and the next…
Unless you summon up the energy, motivation and willpower to eat the biggest frog first. Once you do, your To Do list will seem so much easier and more manageable. You’ll feel a sense of achievement and feel motivated to carry on. Go on, eat that frog!
#7 Deal with your one most important task first
If I asked you to tell me all the things on your To Do list, I bet there’s probably ONE MOST IMPORTANT TASK that stands out above all the others. It may take the longest, be the most urgent, the thing that you keep putting off but keeps reappearing on your list day after day. Whatever it is, one way to make sure it’s done is to DO IT FIRST.
Make it your job to do this one task before you do anything else on the list. Get up early, allocate a specific portion of your day or a time slot when you’re not going to do anything else but this one most important task. When you’ve done it, tick it off your list.
Remember how you feel when you’ve ticked it off and can feel it dropping from your list, the weight from your shoulders and the thought out of your mind. You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and it will spur you on for the rest of your day! If you do nothing else on your list today, at least you’ll know that your one most important task has been done.
#8 Eliminate time wasters
Things that waste our time take us away from the things that really deserve our attention, but they don’t do anything to help us get done what we need so we can do things we want. There are so many things that we do that waste our time on and often we’re not even aware we’re doing them! One of the most popular posts on my blog is my post on 20 things that waste time during the day, so check it out and see if you recognise any of them!
#9 The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s. It uses a timer to break down work into intervals, usually 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. Each interval is known as a pomodoro, from the Italian word for ‘tomato’, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Cirillo used as a university student!
The technique works because you’re breaking down large tasks into smaller ones that are spaced out with short breaks. It trains the brain to really focus for short periods of time and encourages us to improve our focus and concentration during these times. Spend any longer on a task and your mind tends to wander and we start to get easily distracted. As you’re working in short bursts, you’re also being consistently productive.
At the end of each pomodoro, you assess what you’ve achieved and this can boost your motivation. You also appreciate that big tasks can be more easily tackled when they’re broken down into smaller, more manageable chunks. Try it for yourself and see how it feels! Here’s how:
- Choose a task you need to do
- Set the Pomodoro (the timer) to 25 minutes
- Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
- Take a short break (5 minutes is a good length of time)
- Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break
That “longer break” is usually around 15-30 minutes, whatever it takes to make you feel recharged and ready to start another 25-minute work session. Repeat that process as many times as you need and see just what you can achieve!
Batching is a great way of being more productive. I use it a lot for running my website but it applies equally if you’re running your home and in the workplace. Batching means grouping together similar tasks and doing them all at once.
Studies have shown that when we switch tasks it can take a while before our brains adapt and get focused on the new task at hand. Our brains are still catching up from the previous tasks and gathering the necessary information to help us with our new task. Hence, not only do we lose focus and concentration but we also lose productivity.
So, exactly why does batching help with time management and productivity?
Well, imagine doing the ironing. You have to get the ironing board out, top up the water levels in the iron, switch the iron on and wait until it’s hot. You need to get hangers to hang your ironed clothes on and plenty of space to do the ironing at all.
It’s more productive to iron lots of items having gone through the effort of all the steps above, rather than just ironing one shirt and then putting the board and iron away, only to repeat it all when you need another shirt ironed.
Batching means that any preparation work and set-up is put to maximum use rather just a one-off. So, whether you’re writing emails, cooking up a load of freezer meals, doing the housework, making phone calls, running errands or just doing the ironing, batching work is the way to go to make the most productive use of your time.
If you’re enjoying this post and want more help in making your time work for you, check out this popular little workbook!
#11 Avoid multi-tasking
We’re often led to believe that multi-tasking is a great skill to master. And it is when you’re having to take on board lots of information, in a short space of time. Yet, it’s difficult to really focus on any of these tasks in great detail so multi-tasking is only really of benefit to store information to process at a later date or for quick jobs that don’t require much detailed thought.
A study from the University of California Irvine found that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task after getting distracted.
So multi-tasking can actually WASTE your time because it takes a while for your brain to get back to the task at hand. Focus on one task at a time and you’re much more likely to get it done, quicker and better.
#12 Get rid of distractions
In the same way that multi-tasking isn’t great for our productivity and efficiency because it makes us lose focus, distractions from the noisy and shiny world around us don’t help either for the same reason.
Here are some ideas to reduce distractions that just tempt us into stopping what we’re doing and inadvertently finding something more fun or appealing to do!
- Turn off all notifications on your phone, computer, and tablet.
- Leave your phone in a different room to where you’re working so you can’t just quickly check it. Not quite out-of-sight, out-of-mind but nearly!
- Work, read or study with noise-cancelling headphones (just make sure the kids are safe first).
- The internet is a distracting place. Turn-off your Wi-Fi when your tasks don’t require internet connectivity.
- Don’t browse social media when working at all. If you can’t resist, designate “distraction time” and browse it for a couple of minutes or keep it for your lunch break.
- If you have an office, shut the door.
- Create routines at home for you and your kids where you have quiet time as a set part of the day. The kids can use this for napping, reading, colouring or playing quietly whilst you can use the time to do things that are better in silence.
- Practice daily meditation because it trains your mind to let go of thoughts which interrupt you so you can centre on just one thing.
Don’t feel that you have to do everything yourself. At work we’re more used to the concept of delegation but why not use the same principle at home?
Delegate housework, cooking, feeding the pets, watering the plants, cleaning the car, washing up after dinner. If you’re not the only one living in the home, then you’re not the only one making the mess so ask for a little bit of help and many hands will make light work!
#14 Leave wiggle room
There’s nothing worse than double-booking yourself or arranging things back-to-back so that you’ve got no flexibility or, as I call it, ‘wiggle room’. Things go wrong, take longer than needed, pop up when you least expect them.
Factor in some down time, or allow more time in between activities and appointments, so you can use it to catch up if and when you need to without stressing yourself out.
#15 Set reminders and alerts
Use your phone to remind you when to take the dog for a walk, get ready to do the school run, be at the dentist’s. You’re much less likely to forget or run out of time for these things and you can give yourself an extra 5 minutes to get ready rather than running around like a headless chicken trying to get out of the door! You could even set a reminder on your phone for things like meditation, time to read your book.
Don’t go overboard, but if there’s something that you need or want to do, treat it like it’s important and make a time slot for it.
Setting reminders and alerts like these means you can rely on your phone to tell you what you need to do and when, rather than relying on your brain!
#16 Write things down
If you need to remember something, whether that’s something to buy at the shops or an invite to a party, write it down. Don’t rely on your memory. It will just clutter up your brain and there’s a high chance that you’ll forget whatever it is when you really need it!
#17 Keep a clock handy
This may sound like an obvious one but it’s an important one for knowing what the time is! You’ll be more aware of where you need to be, how long you’ve spent on things, whether you’re running late or early, how much time you’ve got to do something (even if that’s just chilling on the sofa). You won’t be able to give yourself or others any excuses such as “I lost track of time” or “I didn’t realise what the time was.”
#18 Practice punctuality
Some of us prefer to be punctual, even early. Others are always late. Be punctual wherever possible and you won’t end up playing catch-up with yourself. Try to be a little early if you can and this is even better! It can help reduce stressful problems such as running late because you got stuck in loads of traffic, couldn’t find a parking space or had to go back home because you forget your bag!
Not strictly speaking a time management tip but a very effective way of being more productive and efficient. Declutter your desk, your filing system, your email inbox, desktop, photos, kitchen drawer, stationery. Keep what you need, save and file the important things, get rid of the stuff that just clutters your space (and your mind).
You’ll be able to find things quicker, won’t lose as much and your work or home space will be much more visually appealing and way less visually distracting (much like the distractions we talked about in point #12!
#20 Decide on your priorities
Be clear on your priorities in life, focus on these and stop getting distracted by the things that just shout the loudest from your To Do list or phone. Keep these priorities in mind when you’re planning your day, mapping out your To Do list for the day or working out how best to spend the time that you do have. Don’t get swayed into doing what other people think is most important (unless your boss tells you so!) and don’t get caught up on the little details that you won’t really remember next week, let alone next year.
Set yourself some goals, practice daily gratitude or journal to be clear on what’s most important to you in life and find a way to make sure that you’re doing a little bit every day towards these priorities.
YOUR NEXT STEP…
I hope you found these tips helpful. Here are some other resources which you might like:
- 24 habits for your daily routine
- How Minimalism improves time management and productivity
- 5 ways I use my phone to organise my life
- You might also want to get your copy of How To Make Your Time Work For You. It’s a powerful and popular workbook that will help you carve out more time for the things you want to do instead of just what you need to do. Packed full of question prompts and suggestions to help you get more out of your day, carve out some time for you and generally be more efficient with the time you do have. Learn more here.