What do you spend your time on?
You might have a specific answer and the time journal to back it up. You might have a vague idea, a general awareness of where your time goes. You might also have no idea. (Thinking about time gives you a headache.)
Time management tools can help you answer this question with greater accuracy and confidence.
Time management tools are the resources that help you identify what you spend time on and then maximize your Return On Time Investment (ROTI). (Yes, we just made up a new acronym!)
Return On Time Investment (ROTI) doesn’t always mean doing more in less time; depending on your goals, it might be doing more high-value tasks with the time you have.
Examining one’s time takes courage. It can be easy to turn a blind eye on productivity-draining habits because we love them. Plus, even if you think you already know where your time goes, time management tools might reveal hidden drainers or potential efficiencies.
The time management strategies, techniques, tips, and tools we’ve gathered below will help you achieve your ideal balance of productivity and pleasure.
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Do you want time to be your master or do you want to master time?
You know what you need to do. (Keep reading.)
Table of Contents
Time management strategies for work are habits, mindset shifts, and mantras you can incorporate into your time management philosophy.Shift away from tasks and thought patterns that don’t serve your ultimate goals.
The strategies we’ve listed below will help you make big-picture time management decisions. They’ll guide you as you decide what to (and what not to) spend your time on. They’ll also help you determine how to efficiently plan your days.
You like to focus on one thing at a time, seeing tasks through to completion before moving onto something else. You find multitasking chaotic. When you do it, you lose track of what you’re spending time on, what requires attention, and what tasks might even be delegated.
You regain control by prioritizing your list.
You rank every item on your to-do list. You complete #1 first, #2 second, and so on. It’s simple. It’s beautiful. It helps you get good work done.
When more work lands on your plate, you rearrange your queue using monday.com. No matter what, you always refuse to juggle. (You also never apologize.)
Your phone is buzzing, but you ignore it. You don’t have time for that right now.
When you live according to this strategy, you designate breaks throughout the day to look at your phone, your social media accounts, your emails, your favorite websites, and all that other good stuff.
You recognize your more formidable foes and you work doubly hard to resist them. You might even use a time tracking application.
You tell your friends and family about your habits. They applaud (and sometimes) envy your will power.
When you see a few unchecked tasks on your to-do list, you don’t panic. You don’t focus on what you didn’t do; you celebrate what you did.
You end your day by logging what you did using Evernote, your comprehensive note-taking hub and haven.
You see that although you didn’t finish that report, you led a successful 25-person meeting.
You know shame and guilt weigh down your mind and waste your time. Acknowledging progress, however, boosts your confidence and motivates you to dive into your work.
Pro-Tip: If this strategy works for you, you might enjoy writing “morning pages.”
You believe the best, and most elusive, time management strategy is getting into a state of flow. When this happens, you lose track of time, but you somehow seem to pack days of tasks into a single afternoon.
You’ve learned to cultivate flow by ordering your tasks to match your flow of energy throughout the day. (You’ve pinpointed your energy flow by keeping a time diary.) You work best in the morning, so you eat your frogs(challenging and/or high-stakes tasks) first thing in the morning.
You find ways to reward yourself (with a delicious healthy snack) when you complete tasks you honestly don’t want to do. You isolate tasks you chronically avoid and find ways to delegate them.
You don’t beat yourself up for taking too much time to finish developing those training materials. (That task was outside your comfort zone and your usual skillset, after all.)
You recognize that you might be able to save time on some tasks by developing or boosting the underlying skills required to complete them efficiently and effectively. You read the articles and you take the classes you need to grow your skills to work smarter.
Time management techniques are the specific, well-documented tactics you use every day to get stuff done.
The techniques below will help you deliver on the time-management strategies you’ve adopted. If your strategies are like a GPS system, then these techniques are like your hands on the steering wheel, following expert directions.
You’re all about at-a-glance takeaways.
You adore all the following visual prioritization techniques:
You know that nothing makes time more real than a timer. You own one of course, and you use it to do timed work and break sessions throughout the day. People tell you that sounds a little intense, but you tell them it actually helps you flow through work as though no time were passing at all.
Your session lengths follow the Pomodoro Technique®—you work for 25 minutes, break for 5 minutes, and then take a longer break every 4 sessions.
You love that using this technique doesn’t just help you get stuff done, but it actually helps you track what you spend your time doing. (It’s a time-management tactic and tracker in one.)
For you, creating a to-do list is more than just creating a to-do list. It’s an exercise in strategic vision and acrobatic efficiency.
You sit down at the same time each day to plan your next day, maybe even your next week, using a visual board on monday.com. You review your board before you go to sleep so you can spring into action at dawn.
You set deadlines and you meet them, because you know how to plan like you have a Six Sigma Black Belt.
You know exactly how much you can get done in a day. You mostly stick to the 1-3-5 method, adding in a few stretch goals every so often to keep yourself challenged and improving.
You’re a motivated individual, but every once in a while, you find yourself procrastinating.
You keep yourself accountable with an accountability partner. Sometimes it’s your boss; you just tell her you’re going to send her something by 3PM, even if she doesn’t need to review it.
Sometimes you ask your co-worker to set a calendar reminder to ask you if you’ve done what you said you would.
When you know people are expecting things from you, you’re amazed by how much you can finish.
Time management tips for work are the unexpected hacks, secrets, and shortcuts you find ridiculously effective.
The tips we’ve included below don’t require a complete overhaul of your habits or mindset. Start using any of these tips tomorrow, or actually, even today.
You know you don’t have time to make your own work templates and intense to-do lists, so you call for reinforcements—pre-designed tools and templates you can fill out and use within seconds.
You’ve identified little things that take up disproportionate amounts of time, and you’ve figured out how to keep them under control.
Your time-saving solutions include:
Writing shorter emails
You no longer treat your emails as if they were novel manuscripts. Grammarly helps you save time by writing emails that contain zero extra words. You make your key points, answer relevant questions, highlight next steps, and send.
You automate as much as possible
You wear the same thing every day to reduce decision fatigue
You take a cue from Steve Jobs, Dr. Dre, and other successful people who wear the same thing every day.
You get up, get dressed, and save your brain power for things you find more important than selecting clothes.
You eat the same thing every day to reduce decision fatigue
You know what you like. You have a go-to list of healthy snacks and a handful of favorite recipes.
One time, you tried to pick a new lunch spot. It took you over an hour to decide, and afterwards, you just felt done for the day. After that, you decided to stick, more or less, to your go-tos.
You refuse to eat lunch at your desk. You find getting away from it all, even for just a few minutes, leaves you feeling recharged and clear-minded. You get more done than you would have by diligently working through lunch.
You work until 6PM every day and not a minute afterwards. Your coworkers know and respect this. In fact, knowing that you have only until 6PM to get all your priority items done helps you focus.
This tip also helps you avoid becoming a victim of Parkinson’s Law, the principle that work will expand to fill allotted time. If you give yourself until 11PM to complete your work, your perfectionist streak kicks in to suck your time down the drain.
You know you have to work out and do chores, but you view these necessities not as barriers to time management but as opportunities for efficiency.
You keep a running log of ideas to brainstorm and issues to work through. You pick one to focus on while you do the laundry, run, go grocery shopping, stand in line, and more.
Because you’re not forcing ideas in these passive moments, you often generate powerful insights that fuel your on-the-clock work.
Unkind people might call this practice “talking to yourself.” You simply call it “internal dialogue.”
As tasks and work pile up, you keep yourself calm by asking yourself questions. Which of these items is the most important? Which of these items can wait? Why are these items important?
Mentally sorting your work helps you avoid productivity-draining internal chaos.
Once a week, you essentially KonMari your to-do list, eliminating tasks that are:
During this session, if you find something you can do in about 10 minutes or less, you knock it out right then and there.