Integrating active time management in your day-to-day life can be tricky to start, especially if you haven’t even tried ever.
The most challenging part of time management is too basic that everyone does it in one way or another without even realizing it but still not consciously planned.
And then, when you begin to plan it, people tend to take a lot of generalized advice and start applying it to them irrespective of figuring out what they need.
Time management techniques, tips and so many strategies out there can be overwhelming.
The hardest part of time management is you don’t know how to start with it or what technique or strategy suits you the best
So whether you seek time management for your business, work, personal life, or overall work/life balance, you’ve come to the right place.
Here we help you right from the beginning so, even if you do nothing about time management, we will take you to the end step by step. So, here we go!
- What is Time Management?
- Why Time Management Is Important?
- Primary Challenges Of Time Management
- Lack Of Prioritzation/ No Priotization
- Waking Up Late In The Morning
- No Morning Routine
- Not Scheduling
- Not Taking Breaks
- Lack Of Knowledge in Time Management
- Not Planning Ahead
- Not Delegating
- Over or Under-Committment Of Time
- Poor Distraction Management
- Urgent vs Important
- Not Setting Goals
- 5 Quick Steps To Understand Your Time Management
- Time Management Skills You Need To Have
What is Time Management?
Time management is a procedure that includes planning and organizing your time to maximize your productivity and efficiency.
It is about cleverly and strategically using the available hours to do more complete tasks in a particular period that you used to do earlier.
Since there is time management related to all sorts of areas and can be focused or customized to different sections, purposes, or professions, this one we will be more focused on personal and general aspects of time management.
Why Time Management Is Important?
Time management helps you to maximize the potential of your available time for the day and to leverage strategies to boost your productivity and task management.
Understanding the fact that time is limited, it proves to be the most precious resource anyone has, as much or even more valuable than money.
In fact, it is more important than money as money you can still earn and get back over a time but passed time is impossible to retrieve.
So, time management helps you prioritize the work that is important and specifically plan how much time you will spend on which particular task of your day.
It also gives you the ability to determine which works are really important and which ones you can just either don’t do, postpone or delegate.
When you manage your time properly, it gives you benefits like :
- You will be able to complete your tasks on a given time.
- You will have more free time without any guilt
- You will become better at priortizing tasks
- You won’t miss deadlines
- You will be more organized and disciplined.
- You will have a better work-life balance
- Your decision-making will improve
- Your stress level with go down
- Your anxiety levels will go down.
- You will be able to do more in less time
Primary Challenges Of Time Management
Time management is a learned skill and it is different for everyone. It takes some time, practise and patience to inculcate the time management aspect into your daily life.
But more importantly, in your way, you will be challenged by so many obstacles or complications to really meet your time management goals.
So, before you get into the core part of the article, i.e. time management strategies, techniques, tips and tools, you need to be aware of the time management challenges you will be facing.
You need to identify these challenges and work towards them to overcome them, some might be more complicated and time-consuming than others.
Some might simply take time and practice to overcome as you do time management with your schedule.
Here is the list of the possible challenges, problems, and threats to your time management routines :
Lack Of Prioritzation/ No Priotization
Prioritizing is the foundation of time management because if you do not know what work is worth your time more than others, then chances are you will miss out on important tasks.
Also, understand that time and willpower is finite resource. You cannot do everything in a day, not in fact in your whole life.
Prioritization tells you what is important to give your maximum attention and focus towards.
Waking Up Late In The Morning
This is one of the biggest challenges of time management, especially if you’re starting from scratch, and you don’t have a specific time to wake up every morning.
Without setting up a starting point for the sprint, you cannot run towards the end point. Also, different waking times can disrupt your schedule and time blocks.
No Morning Routine
Time management isn’t just about managing your time for work but for personal growth, day-to-day life, and every activity.
If starting working right after you wake is your idea of utilizing the maximum time of the day, it doesn’t work.
Morning routines are critical for personal growth and vital for your time management.
Scheduling is the fundamentals of time management. It is the calendar work where you know the supposed tasks you need to do at which given day or a particular time.
Scheduling tells you what work needs to be done. It gives you a deadline.
For example, without scheduling, you won’t be able to prioritize because you will miss out on all the work that needs to be done in that day or week, or month.
Multi-tasking never really works, at least not for most people. A lot of people in the name of saving time or time management, do multi-tasking.
It either ruins both of the work you’re doing or it’s quality. It promotes mistakes. Also, it overwhelms you which is not good for productivity.
Perfectionism is the enemy of getting things done. It actually opposes the idea of progress and growth.
Since there is no tangible way to figure out whether you perfected things or not, there is no way you know whether it is done or not, hence you cannot put a time restraint on it.
It works against time management at best, at worst, it works against everything you trying to achieve.
Not Taking Breaks
Taking breaks might sound counterintuitive for saving time. But it is the most crucial aspect of time management.
Taking breaks in between working sprints, as short as 5 minutes boost your productivity and efficiency. It prevents you from burning out, getting overwhelmed, or getting slow.
Lack Of Knowledge in Time Management
This is the beginner’s challenge in time management. It is really a trick to do the whole time management and strategizing on your own.
Because you don’t have enough data to go in the right direction. Hence, the lack of knowledge in time management comes across as the biggest challenge.
Through study and understanding how things work on a psychological level and then how it is adapted to more practical aspects helps you really pull things off in the right way.
Not Planning Ahead
There is a quote by Benjamin Franklin “ Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”.
Planning is crucial to get things done. When you plan things ahead, you are first of all saving lot of time, so much so that planning done for 5 minutes can save you hours of trouble.
Not planning ahead and being proactive about it is the biggest mistake and challenge in time management.
One of the common mistakes or challenges of time management is they have too much into their hands and do not entertain the idea of delegating.
This is especially true for self-employed professionals, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and other similar kinds of professions.
Over or Under-Committment Of Time
Another common challenge or mistake in time management is either under-committing or overcoming time.
This happens when you don’t have any idea how much time a particular task will take practically. Also, it is poor task management right there as well.
Poor Distraction Management
Distractions are the common challenges of time management but more than that, it is bad or inefficient management to deal with distractions.
Because distractions are bound to happen, it is all about how you deal with them and what system you have in the place to manage them and keep them at bay.
Urgent vs Important
Understanding the right hierarchy of prioritization is essential for successful time management.
You need to recognize the urgent task over important and another aspect of prioritization into this scene.
Not Setting Goals
Without setting goals, you don’t know where to go, so even with the right time management strategy, you won’t be able to materialize the results.
Also, not knowing goals makes you uncertain and random about your time, so in short, there is no time management without goals to achieve in a given time.
5 Quick Steps To Understand Your Time Management
This five-step process is very helpful for anyone who is going to start their time management routines or want to manage their time for whatsoever goals.
Irrespective of the stage you currently are at, these steps will help you jumpstart with the right mindset and preparation, reducing the possibility of failure.
Evaluating Your Stand
You need to start from yourself rather than the plan or strategy itself.
It is time to observe and reflect in terms of time management, productivity, getting things done, etc, where exactly you stand.
Make sure you are completely honest with yourself. Better to write down your existing time management habits, or general habits you have regarding work.
To really move forward or grow you need to know two things, where you stand currently and where you want to go.
This is about finding your current capacity, actual results, shortcomings, and everything you know about yourself.
Figure out & write down :
- Are you able to do things that you plan or think of in a day?
- How much are you able to complete?
- What are the tasks you completed last week, month, and year, and whatnot?
- What are the reasons behind your poor time management?
- In which area do you really lack? Is it priortization, or focus, or anything else?
Write in short pointers that are easy to go through and summarize. The idea is to evaluate your current stage, challenges, problems, mistakes, strengths, etc.
Finding Out Reasons Why You Want To Manage Your Time
Once you figure out the current situation you’re in, the next obvious thing is to find out why do you want to manage your time.
This means you need to list out the reasons why you want to manage time.
Knowing what is the initial motivation behind time management, you will be focused to achieve it starting from creating your goals with the time management itself.
Example : If You Want To Strike A Work/Life Balance
For example, if you want to manage your time because you want to have a good work/life balance because you work from home, it often gets mixed up leaving you to feel overwhelmed, stressed.
You might be not getting quality time with your family, kids, or spouse, or lack of ‘me’ time. Or maybe with your work, you want to start a business, a side hustle, or a hobby.
Now, you know why you’re doing this in the first place, your time management goals will be specifically focusing on separating your working hours and personal time.
Your goals then also will be about completing the office work on a particular time-frame with higher efficiency to get more time for your personal life.
So, list out the reasons why you want to manage your time. These must be at least three to four reasons, possibly towards one primary goal at a time.
Figuring Out Your Energy Levels Throughout The Day
Willpower is a finite resource. And throughout the day, it reduces or changes depending upon person to person.
The same happens with the energy, and energy here is not just your body but also mental, so also includes your willpower.
No one is energetic throughout the day. So, for effective time management, one of goals is to organize the work according to its importance and schedule it at the time of your highest energy levels.
But to do so, to hierarchy the work as per your energy levels throughout the day on the basis of prioritization, you need to know your energy level dynamics.
To do so, make a table like the below, to observe and write down your energy levels throughout the day on the basis of hours and time quadrants.
This chart will show you the most productive hours or part of the day. When you start planning your day, you will schedule the tasks as per this.
So, it means that the most difficult or the most important work of the day needs to be done in these productive hours, preferably the earliest.
If any work is not too important but needs to be done, you can put it in your medium to low energy level zone.
However, you shouldn’t schedule any work or task for all the hours you marked as zero energy levels.
Because those hours or points of the days are best to use as a break and then some for your personal time.
Identifying Your Behavioral Patterns
So, you have figured out where you stand in time management, why you want to do it as where you want to head towards, and finally, your energy levels through the day.
Another important factor that plays a crucial role in time management is your behavioral pattern. It is in fact, a variable in this equation as it depends completely upon the person.
More you are aware of your behavioral patterns, habits, your tendencies, and other aspects of your day-to-day activities, it will help you optimize or plan your time management better.
You have to observe the specific behaviors highlighted in your personality in working hours and otherwise.
Here are specific statements you need to respond to regarding your behavioral pattern.
Also, you have answered these in two seconds as :
- How often do you do this? – rarely, sometimes, or frequent
- How important is it for you? Not at all, somewhat, very
Here is these statements to mark :
- You have established at least one goal in your career.
- You use a to-do list
- You plan your work in advance using a calendar or planner.
- You take breaks in between working sprints
- You break down tasks into more manageable sub-tasks
- You always start your day with the hardest task of the day.
- You also schedule time for unpredictable distractions
- You know when you are most productive in the day.
- You delegate responsibilities and tasks.
- You prioritize your tasks from your to-do list
- You know how to say no to distractions.
- You have a system in place to deal with distractions.
- You optimize your environment to boost productivity.
- You skip unnecessary meetings.
- You have a period of time in your day where you are deeply focused.
- You have a flow state sometimes in a day.
- You schedule time for checking & responding to emails.
- You use Pomodoro, timers, or time blocks to complete tasks
- You complete all the tasks planned for the day.
- You strive to focus on one particular task, monotasking.
- You set achievable and realistic goals.
- You ask for help when you need it.
- You read and learn about time management online
- You learn from time management through books
Actually, you can also find more questions based on how they are centric to an aspiration time management plan.
Now, mark how often you do these and how important it is for you. Be very honest and focus on the action and fact aspect, rather than aspiration.
Remember, this is to tell you the current behavior patterns, not the aspirational ones.
What Patterns To Observe More?
Apart from these, you also have to observe :
- Which type of behavior really works for you specifically even if it is in ideal time management practice?
For example: Maybe time-blocks or Pomodoro don’t work for you. Instead, you function better on just going through the limited to-do list throughout the day within your working hours.
- Which behaviors are the most self-sabotaging for your day? What really messes up your day usually? As your biggest challenge or worst habits.
For Example: Maybe you have a compulsive habit of gaming or binge-watching which is a waste of time for you, and really difficult to control.
- Which of these behaviors do you do least but you want to do more of them, and even try to?
For example, there must be some things above in the list that you often try to do or cannot but want to adapt. What are those? Maybe you can start from those while planning.
Setting Time Management Goals
The last step in your pre-time management planning is setting up the goals for your time management to fulfill.
After all, time management is a tool, a strategy used with, you do things, but for that, you need to know what are your ‘things’ to do here.
So, far you have been
- Evaluate your current situation and stand in terms of time management.
- Finding out reasons why you want to manage your time, exact reasons.
- Figuring out your energy levels through the day
- Learning about your current behavioral pattern
All of these lay a strong ground and understanding, even more personalization to plan your time management routine.
Now, as a final step, you would want to finally get into the time management of having your specific goals regarding it.
You know why you want to do time management, now you write exactly the goals you want to achieve or what you expect from yourself with it.
Write on these points :
- What are the 3 primary work-related goals you want to achieve in 5 next five years?
- What are 3 primary work-related goals you want to achieve in the next 1 year?
- What are the 3 primary work-related goals you want to achieve in the next 6 months?
- What are the 3 primary work-related goals you want to achieve in the next 3 months?
- What are the 3 primary work-related goals you want to achieve in the next month?
In this way, you can work towards a long-term goal and break it down into smaller and smaller goals, and put them into shorter deadlines.
Make sure they all are connected. Or find a connection between them and how each and every goal achieved in 1 month supports the next bigger goal of achieving in 6 months and so on.
You can change a different succession of the time as 10 year and 5 year and 1-year goals or even more minutes than above.
So now whatever you plan using your time management, it will be in service of the next goal and further.
Time Management Skills You Need To Have
Skills To Identify & Define SMART goals
One of the most important steps to get into time management is setting up your SMART goals but for that, you must have the ability to define one.
SMART goals are basically Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound goals, so to set these, you have the ability to set up SMART goals.
The goals you set must have these five attributes. When you don’t set SMART goals, you will either fail to complete the task, it can be overwhelming, confusing, not important, or just not specific to a time frame.
Here’s how you know how to define SMART goals :
- Specific – you need to be clear on what exactly what you achieve, figure out the exact what, why, where, when, how and with whom of your goal with its limitations.
- Measurable – You need to understand whether these goals are quantifiable, tangible and you can measure the progress, in a way you can say that you’ve reached the set goal.
- Attainable – Understanding whether your goals are practically achievable or not
- Relevant – You need to decide what you want to achieve in your life, goals should be relevant to your aspiration, dreams, skills, etc.
- Time-bound – Your goal must have a fixed deadline to complete.
Organizing and Planning Skills
Time management is consistent with a lot of planning, organizing, and scheduling. So, it is critical that you have the ability to plan and organize your day.
Organization and planning skills can be learned and improved through learning and practise, however, there is in-built quality in a person regarding it as well.
So you need to figure out how good you are at organizing and planning things.
It is important to plan your priorities and tasks. Planning helps you to save time and get things done.
How do you measure your ability to organize and plan?
- You need to look at your previous projects and see whether you were able to achieve it or not.
- Short-term wins count as well.
- You need to see your ability to understand prioritization.
- You also need to examine your ability to delegate tasks.
- Check how good you are in calendar and task management.
Stress Management Skills
High-stress levels are the quite opposite of what time management brings to the table, that is order, uniformity, management, and peace.
Stress evokes chaos and self-sabotage, so when you don’t have the general capability to manage stress, starting from your day-to-day stress, it hinders your time-management efforts.
Stress also hampers your mental energy and willpower. So it is critical to have some system in place for managing your stress.
Not only do you need to examine your current ability to manage stress but also how you can improve it, so you can go for better time-management plans.
- You are meditating or trying other relaxation methods to calm yourself.
- You are getting enough sleep to reduce your stress level.
- You are not skipping meals or overeating
- You know how to say ‘NO’ to people and do extra work.
- You know when to work and when to not.
Delegation & Outsourcing Skills
Delegation is an important skill to have when you get into time management or task management.
Because not all the work you need to do yourself and but then you need these works to get done on an urgent basis.
Delegation is a quality that businessmen or successful people have because they know the time-management the best. It is critical for their success.
The same goes for other self-employed professionals and many others in the world. In fact, one of the reasons that self-employed professionals couldn’t grow is they are unable to delegate.
They have trouble letting go, this also happens with new entrepreneurs. Delegation is an essential skill that helps you manage your time better and do more important work.
Here’s how you can understand delegation as a skill and go about it.
- You need to look at your skill as a delegation as – how many times have you done it? Whether it was successful or not? Or you haven’t tried it yet?
- If you haven’t tried it yet, you can start by delegating small tasks and work your way up.
- Learn to figure out how to determine whether you can delegate or not.
- Learn to trust your colleagues, team members, and professionals you hire to do the job right.
- Make sure you are able to set task expectations.
Distraction Management Skills
Distraction is the most common enemy of time management. It side-tracked you from the primary task and prevented you from completing the task at a given time.
So, it becomes critical that you know how to avoid distractions and how to manage them.
But even before you need to know how to identify and acknowledge them. Distractions are different for everyone, at least some of them.
There must be some very specific distractions that must be preventing you to do your job. It also can be different for different environments or workspaces.
So, you need to first figure out your current management and control over distractions, as in how you deal with them. So ask yourself
- What do you do when you get consistent notifications on your phone?
- What do you do about uninvited guests, people, or calls?
- How do you deal with the constant compulsion to check your phone?
- How do you fight with a constant compulsion to check your emails?
- How do you deal with the noises around you?
- What do you do if family members, friends, or colleagues disturb you?
Depending upon whether you are active enough to find solutions for these problems or at least acknowledge them and try to manage them, you would know your ability to avoid distraction.
You can learn different strategies and tips to deal with it. So it is a learned skill and you can definitely grow this skill over time and practice.
Your Ability To Do Mono-Tasking
The ability to focus on a single task to complete it in the given time is actually a skill rather than multi-tasking.
Multi-tasking is scientifically proven to be not effective, rather counterproductive. In fact, it is all about how well you are able to focus on just one task at a time.
You can assess your current ability to complete a task. You also need to see your ability to focus for an extended period of time.
Here is how you can make the most of this skill :
- Use time-blocking to complete a task
- Have a to-do list so you know how many tasks you need to do and focus on one at a time.
- Use timers or alarms to set time restrictions on the task
- Break down the task into sub-tasks and set a time period for each of them
- Take breaks in-between completing a long task with sub-tasks.
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Carol T. Mahaffey is a certified American Author And a creator of Theleaderboy. Carol is a Self-Taught Marketer with 10+ Years of Experience. She brings her decade of experience to her current role, where she is dedicated to writing books, blogs, and articles, inspiring the world on how to become a better Leader.