Time management skills are what many people need in an increasingly hectic world. According to research from Atlassian and numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker spends up to two hours every day trying to recover from distractions. The same research shows that most employees will spend only three minutes on a task before moving to something else.
These numbers show we’ve become used to wasting time, even when we recognize the need to focus on the task at hand. A lack of effective time management leads to missed deadlines and poor productivity. As these problems fester, workers may experience higher stress as they rush to meet their deadlines and quarterly goals. Time management can be helpful in avoiding these situations, but when people don’t know the skills behind it, they can feel lost or left behind. There is also a general lack of understanding of the importance of time management and how it can prove beneficial.
The time has come to improve your time management, and that starts with learning the task management skills that will help you make the most of your day. Doing so will help you meet your deadlines, produce excellent work, improve your work-life balance, and feel like you’re spending your time accomplishing your purpose.
- Time management helps people organize their time in a way that creates maximum productivity and fulfillment.
- Recovering from distractions can cause you to lose two hours of time each day at work.
- Learning how to prioritize, plan, organize, set boundaries and goals, and delegate are the most effective time management skills.
- Time management strategies like the Pareto Principle (the 80/20 Rule) state that you should spend the majority of your time focusing on completing fewer tasks that drive the greatest impact.
What Are Time Management Skills?
Time management skills are skills that help an individual make the best use of their time, whether it be for an hour, a day, a week, or longer. The time management skills people can obtain require practice, effort, and determination. Some of the most common ones include the following.
- Prioritization: This skill enables you to determine which tasks are important and which can be left to another time. Urgent and important tasks will naturally take priority and eat up the bulk of your time. Prioritization ensures you tackle these important tasks first.
- Planning: Another good time management skill includes being able to plan ahead for what you need to do. A plan can include the tasks you intend to complete for a day or more. Through planning, you make sure that you won’t waste time wondering what it is you should do next. You can get problem-solving right away.
- Organization: Those who can stay organized will find their ability to manage time enhanced. Think of how much easier it is to find an object in a carefully organized room compared to one that’s cluttered. The same applies to time. The more organized you make your time, the more effective you’ll be in getting stuff done.
- Boundary-Setting: Part of time management is knowing when and where to set boundaries. If you take every task that comes across your desk, you’ll soon find yourself drowning in projects. Learning how to say “no” will help in your efforts to be more efficient with your time.
- Delegation: On the same note, delegation is a skill that helps you shift tasks to others who can take care of them better. This isn’t the same as saying “no.” Rather, it still ensures tasks get done, but it helps you spread out responsibilities so you can concentrate solely on the things you are best at, such as problem-solving.
- Goal-Setting: One of the most important time management skills involves setting goals. When you know what your goals are, you can then plan out how best to reach them. Doing so helps you make the most of your time since you won’t be working on tasks that don’t help you reach your goals.
How to Get Better at Time Management (With Examples)
It’s easy to list out time management skills—it’s another thing to improve time management. The following time management tips and time management examples can help you become more productive and achieve bigger things in your career while still maintaining healthy work-life balance.
1. Reverse Engineer Large Goals Into Daily Tasks
Everyone should have a major goal they are reaching towards. This is the destination they want to arrive at—something that pushes them to be better and perform at higher levels. Sometimes, though, looking at that goal can feel intimidating and overwhelming. How can you reach that goal when it seems so far away? One of the benefits of time management is putting those goals within reach.
The trick is to reverse engineer the goal. When you know what the goal is, you can begin breaking it down into more manageable goals and tasks. For example, if you have a goal that’s a year off, create quarterly and monthly goals to shoot for. Then break those down even further into weekly and daily important tasks.
To reverse engineer your goals:
- Pick a specific goal you can measure.
- Select a realistic completion date.
- Track your progress.
That last step is where you will determine the smaller tasks you need to complete to reach the overall goal. Tracking your progress helps you to set the right pace and keeps you accountable during the journey. As you do so, you can make any necessary adjustments to ensure you’re right where you need to be.
2. Setting Aside Time to Work on Your Schedule
Schedules don’t just pop into existence from nothing. Most people understand this, yet many seem to think that they can manage without creating one.
Set aside time each week where your sole focus is on strategizing how to reach your goals. Your schedule should reflect the plan you have for obtaining specific objectives. At the same time, take care not to overload your schedule. Make your schedule work for you, not you work for your schedule.
Tips for creating a weekly work schedule:
- Review past schedules to see when you were most productive and when you could have spent your time better.
- List out the priorities and urgent tasks you have for the week.
- Record your schedule so you can refer to it regularly.
- Don’t plan every minute of every day. Allow gaps to provide you with some flexibility.
- Think of backup plans in case your original plans fall through.
3. Spending the Most Time on High-Priority Work
You only have so many hours in a day. Have you ever taken a step back and looked at how you’re spending them? Leaders can’t spend their time on just any task. They need to spend most of their time on things only they can do to move the needle. For this reason, time management can be helpful in determining what can be eliminated from your schedule.
If you’re constantly interrupted by email, phone calls, and other distractions, they can interfere with what really matters. You need to take extra steps to protect your time effectively, possibly by hiring a virtual assistant.
Protect and prioritize your time by making sure you focus solely on what matters. The trick then becomes identifying your priorities. In her book Grit, Angela Duckworth writes about a technique she learned from Warren Buffett about how to sort out what truly matters.
The steps are as follows:
- Write down a list of 25 career goals you have.
- After careful consideration and meditation, circle only five that you believe to be the highest priority.
- Look at those you didn’t circle and avoid them and any tasks associated with them at all costs.
4. Using the 80/20 Rule to Delegate Tasks
One of the most valuable time management skills you can use is something called the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 Rule. This rule, developed by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, states that 80 percent of all outcomes come from 20 percent of input. For example, 80 percent of sales might come from 20 percent of the effort, or training the top 20 percent of workers will result in 80 percent of the company’s leadership in the future.
Another way to understand this rule is to say that only a portion of your actions will result in the vast majority of your results. So, a small number of your important tasks has a much higher value than the rest. Those few tasks that deliver more than others should be considered the highest-leverage work activities.
The important thing when it comes to time management is to identify those high-leverage activities. In Eat That Frog, business leader Brian Tracy provides examples of time management skills:
- List out all the tasks you normally do for a month and identify which ones you’re mainly responsible for.
- Think about your urgent tasks and pick one that, if you did it all day long, would add the most value.
- Identify a second task that adds significant value to your business.
- Then pick a third task that adds the next most value.
- From here, proceed to delegate or even eliminate the other tasks.
5. Developing Time Management Strategies and Systems
Time management must become a habit—something you’re continuously practicing every day in your career and life. That also means implementing time management strategies and systems at an organizational level. You may start by looking at your own strategies and see how they might fit in with what others do. Could your methods apply to the company as a whole? If so, they could end up benefiting more than just yourself. Perhaps you could start using some time management tools to get the work done as well.
Encourage others to think of their long-term goals and what they need to do to reach them. Teach them the time management skills you have developed. In addition to that, you may also choose to adopt the following strategies and systems as outlined by time management expert Chris Bailey:
- The Rule of 3: This involves taking the time at the start of the day to identify which three things you’ll want to accomplish.
- Daily Review: Again, at the start of the day, go over your upcoming tasks and your calendar.
- Weekly Review: At the start of the week, remind yourself what you intend to accomplish and schedule a time when you can focus on bigger projects.
- Accountability Partner: Work with an accountability partner, which is someone you regularly correspond with regarding productivity. Tell this person what you plan to do for the week, then follow up at the end to tell them how you did.
- Accomplishments List: Instead of just keeping a to-do list, keep a list of everything you’ve accomplished for the week. It can serve as a nice boost to see all the work you got done.
Making Time Management Skills Count
Time management skills are some of the most important skills you need to develop as a career-driven leader. From your overall general happiness to your company’s profits, there’s not a facet of your life it won’t touch. Try out some time management activities to help get you thinking about how to improve.
If you manage your time effectively, you’ll feel productive as you accomplish everything you want to accomplish. If you don’t have the ability to manage your time, you’ll feel like you aren’t getting enough done. This is how work burnout, work stress, and increased anxiety occur. If you’re suffering from these conditions, check out the articles below on how to handle them.