Time is a finite resource, and it’s frustrating to feel like yours is constantly slipping away from you. When last-minute tasks derail your day and your to-do list won’t stop growing, you don’t get to do what you love — like spending more time with your family or practicing a beloved hobby.
Take back control by implementing time management strategies that suit your schedule and mitigate distractions.
What’s time management?
Time management involves strategically organizing your time to complete everything you want or need to. This process includes assessing your availability, tracking how much time each task takes, and blocking an appropriate amount of time for each item in order to complete everything on schedule.
Time management is important because it allows you to be thoughtful and intentional with your time, increasing your productivity and offering you a healthier work-life balance.
Effectively managing your time also means you show respect for others' time. You know how long certain activities take, like completing your portion of a project, so coworkers know you’ll deliver on time.
And for managers, time management is especially crucial since you’re in charge of others’ schedules. You need to know how to effectively manage everyone’s to-do list and workload so they have enough time to complete items and stay on schedule. Doing this effectively means your team finishes projects on time, and everyone feels motivated. productive, and able to do their best work.
10 effective time management strategies
Everyone has different motivators. You want to choose a strategy that plays to your strengths and mitigates your weaknesses. Aim to find an approach that combines what drives you with what you excel at. Try some of these 10 strategies to determine the best time management plan for you.
1. Time audits
A great strategy to start with is auditing how you spend your time. This helps you become more knowledgeable and intentional with your schedule. The information gleaned from this audit can inform any other time management strategy you implement.
To start, use a time-tracking tool to analyze every daily task over a week. Then review the results to determine your strengths and weaknesses (where you stay on track, what takes you too long, your main distractors) and create an action plan to improve your time use.
2. Time trackers
While time trackers are a tool when performing a time audit, you can also use them more generally throughout your workday to ensure you stick to ideal times for each task. If you know answering emails shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes each day, start the tracker every time and stop at 30 minutes. If you often don’t complete the task, consider implementing a different workflow — like email templates — to speed up your process.
3. The 4D framework
Use the 4D framework to waste less time debating how to handle a task or unexpected request. The four Ds are:
Drop any irrelevant or difficult tasks that don’t relate to your workflow or to-do list
Delegate important tasks that someone else can handle
Defer tasks you can do the next day or week
Do everything that remains
4. Time blocking
Time blocking involves designating tasks to certain chunks of time — and not budging on this when distractions or irrelevant requests pop up. You can do this in several ways:
Day theming is when you assign certain task types to different days, like meetings on Mondays and answering emails on Tuesdays.
Time boxing is the classic time blocking method where you allocate fixed blocks throughout your day to certain tasks, like a “Focus time” hour and a lunch break.
Task batching involves grouping task types together and completing them in batches. You might dedicate an hour every day to responding to emails and another to reviewing documents.
5. Locking out distractions
U.S. employees encounter distractions every 31 minutes, on average — and this wasted time leads to working additional hours to complete projects or missing deadlines.
To get this time back and defeat your daily distractions, note the distractions you identified during your time audit and assess how to limit them. You might turn off social media app notifications, or set browser restrictions for certain frequently visited sites.
6. Quit multitasking
Doing several things at once feels like a time-saving hack — but you spend more time in the long run than if you’d focused on one item at a time. This is because your brain naturally wants to pick a primary task, so it doesn’t focus and perform well on secondary items. But working on several things at once activates various areas of the brain, some of which are irrelevant to the tasks you most need to complete. Prioritizing individual tasks lets you truly focus on and finish each item before moving on.
If you’re a chronic multitasker, try limiting distractions in your workspace, blocking out focus time for specific task types, and setting a free-time slot each day to work on the random tasks that have piled up to satisfy your urge to jump around.
7. Eat the frog method
Some attribute Mark Twain to the quote, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning,” and that’s where this time management technique gets its name. The central idea is that you should do your most difficult or unpleasant task first thing so you don’t dread it all day. This also means you start your day feeling productive and accomplished, and that might motivate you to get more done.
8. Eisenhower matrix
This involves dividing your tasks into four quadrants:
Important and urgent
Important but not urgent
Urgent but not important
Neither urgent nor important
A task’s importance depends on how critical it is to a project or your workload. And its urgency is how time-sensitive it is, like if you must complete it today or by week’s end.
After placing your tasks in one of these four categories, you can create a task prioritization list that places important and urgent items at the top and removes neither urgent nor important tasks. You can schedule urgent but not important and important but not urgent tasks as you see fit to meet less pressing deadlines without missing crucial items.
9. SMART goals
SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Creating goals like these ensures that you’re not wasting time working toward unattainable objectives. Instead you can break up these more strategic and thoughtful goals into smaller, easily achievable tasks to better use your time and accomplish more.
10. Rapid planning method (RPM)
Created by motivational speaker Tony Robbins, the RPM involves changing the way you think about your work. For every task, ask yourself the following questions:
What do I really want?
What’s my purpose?
What do I need to do?
Your answers remind you of your overall objectives, making your work feel more purposeful. This motivates you to push past frustration and procrastination. It also helps you focus on items relevant to your overarching goals instead of wasting time on irrelevant or purposeless tasks.
Manage your time better with Notion
Improving your time management skills benefits every area of your life. Managers and team members enjoy working with a timely coworker who always meets their deadlines — and you gain confidence and skills as you accomplish more than you’d thought possible.