One of the most powerful and valuable skills you can possess in life is effective time management. If you’re not using your time wisely, there is a very small chance you are going to reach your work goals and even less of a chance you will achieve your personal goals.
Sure, you may be able to make some progress in goal achievement without proper time management. But you can thrive and achieve your goals quickly if you incorporate effective time management skills into your everyday life.
Time is the greatest equalizer on earth. Young or old, affluent or poor—all of us get the exact same 86,400 seconds a day. It is how we organize and utilize our time that sets us apart from one another.
A whopping 92% of people fail to achieve their long-term goals. This largely has to do with procrastinating, the inability to prioritize effectively and, well, just plain laziness. Whichever time management system works best for you, choose one and stick with it. Life is too short to waste time.
Before we jump into the actionable aspects of time management, we need to understand what the concept truly means.
What is time management?
Time management is a process that allows you to gain complete control over how you spend every second of your day at work and outside of the office.
By managing your time wisely through careful planning of every second of every day, you can control your schedule so that your time is spent efficiently and you can ultimately reach your goals.
Poor time management usually results in disorganization, missed deadlines and little free time. A lack of punctuality and prioritizing and an overarching tendency to postpone work indefinitely are the underlying causes behind poor time management.
The Benefits of Effective Time Management
There are no negatives to practicing effective time management—only benefits.
Procrastination has come to be seen as an illness of the times. Back in the 1970s, a mere 4–5% of people called themselves procrastinators. Now, the number has increased to 20–30% and most of us have consistent worries about procrastinating.
Setting a schedule you can stick to every day will provide you with the necessary paths to never stray away from the work you need to do in order to reach your goals.
Goals is the key word to keep in mind here. Once you have a defined list of things you must achieve, you will be more inclined to create a routine that helps you complete your most important tasks—the ones that directly contribute to achieving your targets.
When you’re not procrastinating, you also end up with more available time to focus on the activities that truly matter to you. Instead of worrying about missing deadlines or spending your nights on last-minute tasks you’ve been perpetually postponing, you can use your brainpower on things you actually want to do.
Since a large aspect of time management is organizing your priorities, you will always get work done before your deadline—or at least by the deadline.
Prioritizing and tracking your time for a couple of months will help you estimate how much time it takes you to perform certain tasks.. By practicing proper time management, you won’t set unrealistic deadlines you’re not able to make and fail to meet your client’s expectations.
You will also become more accountable to yourself as you will be responsible for tracking and analyzing your own time correctly. Measuring your time is an extra step you need to take in order to create accurate estimates. But seeing how you’ve spent your time and how you can improve your daily schedule is one of the main reasons for practicing time management.
Less stress and more time for relaxation
Being more efficient with your time means extra hours you get to do the things you love. When employing effective time management techniques, you will find you have endless opportunities to focus on yourself as a person and take care of your mental health—benefits that go beyond any professional growth plans.
Once you know you are able to meet your goals and reach deadlines, you will have less anxiety. Just seeing progress alone can rid you of many worries. In fact, 33% of Americans complain about extreme stress frequently affecting their lives. What if we all took some time to get our work and life patterns in check and lead a worry-free existence?
10 Time Management Tips to Help You Reach Your Goals
With all this in mind, here are a few helpful time management tips to ensure that you have all the tools you need to meet and exceed your goals.
1. Know your goals
There is definitely a right and wrong way to go about goal setting. If you don’t set your goals the right way, then you'll most likely miss something, which will force you to go back and redo things or otherwise veer off-track.
Having goals subconsciously affects our minds in a way that provides us the determination to actually work toward achieving those goals. A goal can trigger positive behavior and a positive mentality.
SMART goals help you set a criteria in order to ensure your goal is realistic and achievable. A SMART goal is any target you have that is:
Some hands-on examples of SMART goals you might want to set include:
- We want to increase the number of website users by 10% working with our content marketing team to create processes that help us gain new leads by the end of the year.
- We want to gain five new partnerships using our network and industry connections to increase our brand awareness in the next three months.
- We want to increase the amount of Facebook shares by 15% by adding images and CTAs to the posts to bring more traffic to our website in the next month.
To set yourself up for success, make sure you are actually writing your goals down. Research has shown that when we put our goals to paper, we are more likely to remember them and plan activities that help us achieve them.
2. Understand how you currently spend your time
This seems like a no-brainer. But it’s imperative to know where your time is currently being spent in order to effectively manage your time. My advice: use a tool like Toggl to track how you spend your minutes each day.
Assess how you spend your time at work for about two to three weeks. Ask yourself each of the following questions when you review the results:
- What are you doing?
- Where is the majority of your time being spent?
- What did you accomplish?
- Was any of this time wasted?
- Was your time well spent?
- Did the activities on which you spent your time help you get closer to achieving your goals?
At the end of the two to three weeks, tally up all the numbers and observe what you have accomplished thus far. This way, you will have a baseline on which to base your success as you move forward with your efforts to reach your goal. This is also a perfect time to see if you wasted any time. If you did, you should remove the activities that wasted your time from your scheduler or at least postpone them until after you’ve finished your tasks.
3. Prioritize while managing time
Something as simple as taking care of your hardest task before you check your email or do administrative work can go a long way.
A great tool to help you understand this concept and how to prioritize tasks is the quadrant time-management system (also known as a Time Management Matrix). This handy graph splits your activities into four quadrants based on urgency and importance. Things are either urgent, important, both, or neither.
- Important and urgent: These tasks have important deadlines with high urgency—complete these right away.
- Important but not urgent: These items are important but do not necessarily need immediate attention. They should involve some long-term development strategizing. For highly effective time management, spend most of your time in this quadrant.
- Urgent but not important: These tasks are urgent but not important. Minimize, delegate, or eliminate these as they do not necessarily contribute to your overall goals.
- Urgent and unimportant: These activities hold little if any value. These should be eliminated as much as possible if you want to stay on track.
The Pareto Principle can also help you decide which tasks to tackle first. Usually, this principle states that 20% of activities account for as much as 80% of results. As such, you should determine which tasks fall into the 20% bucket, complete them first, and leave the remaining 80% for later. It’s as simple as that.
4. Plan ahead
Once you have an idea of where your priorities are, another tip for managing your time is to plan ahead. The time you spend thinking ahead and planning your activities will be time well spent. Making to-do lists does take time. But it is time that helps you effectively set goals for the day.
Often, we can get caught up thinking about the jumble of activities and daunting tasks we know we have to complete. Daily goals are a great way to lay out those tasks and understand what needs to get done that particular day.
Not sure how to start? Try one of these techniques:
- The night before - At the end of the day, take a few minutes to clear your head and put together a list of your most important tasks to be done the next day. You’ll arrive in the morning with a fresh list of things to do and you won’t have to worry about organizing your to-dos.
- First thing in the morning - Start your day a few minutes earlier and assemble a prioritized list of things to do. Aim to list about five tasks you want to accomplish in a day, organize them according to their priority, and schedule them in blocks on your calendar. Avoid multitasking by only working on one activity at a time. This will be the perfect beginning to your morning so you can get a clear mindset for the rest of the day. Crossing each task off your list will also boost your confidence and give you a huge sense of accomplishment.
At TINYpulse, you can set goals and to-dos based on those goals. Make sure the goals align with the company’s general objective so you know you’re working on something that has a larger impact for your company while also working on achieving your own goals. With TINYpulse, the assigned manager has the final duty of keeping track of team progress and course-correcting timetables to make sure employees are working on the right thing at the right time.
5. Set time limits for repeating tasks
Reading and answering emails can consume your entire day if you let them. Trust me: The time it takes dealing with customer requests and other daily immediacies can add up.
Instead, set a time limit for these tasks and stick to it every day. If you assign a block of time to dedicate to these activities, rather than dealing with them on demand, you will be better able to stick to your schedule and stay organized throughout the day.
It’s okay to take breaks even when you might feel like you can put in one more hour of work. Just divide your day before you start it and make sure you take that break when you need it. There are many options for incorporating breaks:
- Take a 10-minute break after 50 minutes of work
- Work for 1 hour and take every other hour off
- Work for 3 hours, add in 1 hour for free time, put in work for another 3 hours, one more free hour, 2 more hours of work
Test these or similar alternatives to see what helps you stay productive but get necessary breaks to relax at the same time.
6. Protect your time
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: It’s okay to say no.
You’re the boss of your work. If you have a deadline, something urgent at hand, or need to prioritize your own work, it is completely fine to decline a request. Sometimes it is more important to attend to that which you absolutely need to accomplish in order to move toward your own goals than to focus on the needs of others. So focus your efforts accordingly.
If you can’t say no to a task, then delegate it. While delegating can be a hard skill to learn, it works wonders for your personal time management as it allows you to leave administrative tasks for someone else to handle while you focus on the activities you excel most at.
You’ll never learn how to effectively manage your time at work if you never learn how to say no. Doing tasks you don’t feel like doing can leave you feeling drained and keep you from using your skills on projects that will help you achieve your goals.
7. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a sinking ship
The best advice I ever received was this: Don’t become tied to a sinking ship. Basically, this means it is okay to walk away from projects or activities that you have determined are headed nowhere.
This is a particularly handy tip if you’re a freelancer, agency owner, or entrepreneur dealing with multiple projects and clients. Sometimes you just don’t have enough time and resources to manage every project. So you need to prioritize and decide which projects are not worth your time.
If a project hasn’t been profitable or isn’t turning out how you had imagined, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, realize that the time you have invested has passed, and appreciate that you learned a valuable lesson. Walk away.
8. Declutter and organize
Studies have shown that unnecessary clutter in our environments can force us to lose focus and derail us from tasks at hand. For this reason, keeping your workspace tidy is very important in order for you to make the best use of your time and stay focused.
When we lose focus, we lose time. Take a few minutes each day to tidy your space: Clear your desk, put your pens back in your drawer, throw away old post-its. You can even go as far as to establish a dedicated workspace used only for work where personal interruptions are not allowed. This is particularly helpful if you are working from home.
Keeping things organized will allow your mind to focus on the task at hand. This doesn’t mean you cannot have anything on your desk. Find what works for you. Some people prefer a minimalistic desk while others like to have notes around to remind them of urgent matters and important to-do tasks.Just make sure every element of your space serves a purpose to help you stay organized and focused on your goals.
9. Eliminate mental distractions
In addition to decluttering and organizing your physical workspace, you should also declutter your mental space.
Distractions are tricky. An activity that one person sees as a time-waster might be deemed necessary by another person. In general, bad habits, tendencies to find distractions and wandering minds are all time-wasters.
Colleagues interrupting us, meetings, social media, games—all of these things can take away the time we have allotted to hunker down and get stuff done.
My advice: Use your time wisely by eliminating (or at least decreasing) some of these distractions if you’re serious about achieving your overall goals. Put your phone away,block the websites you don’t want to check during work, and even get rid of the knick-knacks that might be stealing your attention.
People can’t work for eight straight hours everyday. In fact, people put an average of only three productive hours a day.
The importance of work-life balance cannot be overemphasized. It’s vitally important to avoid burnout in your everyday life. If you lack balance, you are more likely to feel stressed out, which leads to bad habits—which is important because bad habits will eventually derail goals.
One study suggests that you should work for 52 minutes and break for 17 minutes. If you don’t take breaks every once in a while, it’s unfortunately far more likely that you will hit your breaking point. Prioritize yourself along with your overall goals. In the long run, it will make a huge difference.
Just remember: Balance is key.
Follow these steps to manage your time effectively
Fostering effective time management skills will not only make your time seem more abundant, it will also help you hit your overall goals with greater ease. Here’s how to begin:
- Create a list of your goals
- Choose a time tracking tool to help you get started
- Track time at work for two to three weeks
- Analyze how you spent your time during that time period
Keep in mind that great time management does not happen overnight. These are the types of skills that need to be honed over time until they become second nature. If you want to manage your time effectively and turn time management into a routine, you will eventually make strides and hit your goals.
Do you have any other time management tips to share? Let us know how you or your organization is managing time and if you’ve found any handy tricks we haven’t covered here.
Here’s to reclaiming time and investing it on other high-priority tasks!