I asked 21 busy professionals, business owners, consultants, and strategists for their favorite time management tips. The answers were interesting and insightful; I hope they help you.
What is Time Management?
Time Management is the process you use to structure your valuable time to ensure you allocate the right duration to tasks and prioritize important work to ensure you hit your targets and goals on time and with the right quality level. Time management requires good planning and solid organization skills.
1. Eat That Frog Time Management
I’ve been an entrepreneur for over ten years now. The single biggest factor in my success has been productivity and organization, so I feel like I have a lot to say about making Mondays more productive, which you could add to your article.
To have a productive Monday, start the day before on a Sunday night. Do a quick weekly planning session for 5-10 minutes every Sunday evening. This means that you can hit the ground running on Monday morning. You won’t end up wasting time deciding what you should be working on. You just do it.
In my early years as an entrepreneur, I used to start on a Monday morning by looking at the email that had come in overnight and working through that. This killed my productivity on a Monday as I’d inevitably end up responding to low-value emails. By implementing a quick planning session on Sunday evening, I’d know exactly what I was supposed to be working on and could just wake up on Monday morning and start working on that.
Another point on top of this is around priorities.
“Pick the hardest task of that day and complete it first before doing anything else.”
Even if you do nothing else that day, you will still make good progress and be productive this way.
It also helps avoid procrastination. Many people end up doing small or unimportant tasks just to make it feel like they are making progress when they really aren’t.
For years I would focus on the small, quick tasks first. This meant I kept putting off the more challenging tasks. These tend to be those that would impact the business the most. As soon as I switched to doing the hardest task first, my productivity skyrocketed.
Scott Watson Co-Founder of Wickfree Candles
2. Track Your Time
I’ve started to rigorously track my time, even if I’m not billing my hours or tracking them for any project.
I’m generally very efficient at work, but like in many cases, a lot of data lives in the “tail-end” of activities. Timing that is unreasonable, though, until I started using a time tracking app that was so easy, I could with a one-click switch to “miscellaneous” as I answered a few messages from friends, and then switch back to what I was doing with another click. And what I realized is that that time really adds up!
The tool is called clockify.me, and it’s free. I always have it running in a separate window, or you can use the browser extension.
It’s not only helped me realize I “lose” a lot more time in the day to inefficiencies than I realize, but it also means every time I choose to do something inefficient, I have to make a conscious decision to do so because I’m “clocking out.” It probably helps me recover a good 3-4 hours a week.
Plus, it helps to identify just how much time certain tasks take, making it a lot easier to identify candidate activities to outsource to someone like a VA.
Abir Syed. CPA and Accounting Consultant, Upcounting.com.
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3. Work in Sprints
My biggest productivity tip is to work in sprints. Not only will it help your focus, but it aligns with the ultradian rhythms that are hardwired into each one of us.
Our brains are wired to work 90-120 minutes at a time and then require a time of rest (15-20), so it can refresh. I practice this each day, where I step away from my work after one of my “sprints” of 90-120 minutes. I have found, as have others that I have helped, that I am more creative, get more done in less time and have energy throughout the day to accomplish all my tasks with better quality and results.
4. 15-Minute Meetings
Inundated with meetings, finding it difficult to get any actual work done? There is a rapid cure for this. Reduce your meeting times down to 15 minutes. This works especially well in remote team meetings or conference calls as the is no traveling between meeting rooms.
Try it out on meetings that have a single topic or a few participants; it works wonders because it forces people to get directly to the point. Also, ensure you are very clear about the specific goal or deliverable of the meeting in the invite. For example, use “Meeting to decide on exact dollar investment for new office laptops” do not use “Laptops Meeting.”
“If you’ve ever had an office job, you know how incredibly boring meetings can be. But that’s not the only problem with meetings. The eighth secret is that most meetings are inefficient, and you should only schedule them as a last resort.
In fact, a 2015 survey found that 35 percent of respondents considered weekly status meetings to be a waste of time for these two primary reasons:
First, in accordance with Parkinson’s law of triviality, meeting participants tend to waste lots of time on insignificant issues. Second, extroverts usually dominate meetings, making others less likely to participate. As a result, valuable information might not be shared during such gatherings.
Excerpt from 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management by Kevin Kruse
5. Save Time, Say No
If you have a huge workload and are being asked to do more and more, it is usually not a good career move to keep saying no and using the reason you are too overworked.
The best approach is to say yes, it is possible, but which of my current tasks will be deprioritized or delegated to others to make space for this task.
No matter how productive you are, there will always be more work to fill up the space you have managed to free up in your working day.
So, be mindful of how much work you take on. This seriously affected me to the point I had so many important deliverables that I was working 14 hour days. I adopted the approach of renegotiating my priorities to the point where I only focused on business-critical activities; everything else was delegated.
6. Use Focus Zones
Design your ideal week with focus zones. Instead of doing things as they come along in your day, batch your tasks together.
Take a sheet of paper, create ten boxes (5 days a week – morning/afternoon). Each focus zone should be dedicated to a specific type of activity: administration, prospecting, meeting clients, marketing, etc.
Each task needs to be scheduled in that focus zone. Need to create marketing content for your social media? During the marketing focus zone. Want to nurture a relationship with a prospect? During the prospecting focus zone.
Focus zones are a game-changer for anyone who wants to achieve another level of success.
7. Focus on What Matters
My simple tip is to read the book “Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day.”
Nobody ever looked at an empty calendar and said, “The best way to spend this time is by cramming it full of meetings!” or got to work in the morning and thought, Today I’ll spend hours on Facebook! Yet that’s exactly what we do. Why?
In a world where information refreshes endlessly and the workday feels like a race to react to other people’s priorities faster, frazzled and distracted has become our default position.
But what if the exhaustion of constant busyness wasn’t mandatory? What if you could step off the hamster wheel and start taking control of your time and attention? That’s what this book is about.
8. Use One Hour Focus Sessions
My favorite productivity tip is working in 1-hour focus sessions. I split up the hour into three parts to plan, execute, and recharge. The first 5 minutes are used to plan the topic/scope of work I will be working on. The next 45 minutes are used to focus only on the planned task with no distractions (cell phone on silent, no social media, etc.). The last 10 minutes are used to relax and reset, guilt-free, like browsing the internet or just taking a walk outside. This process has allowed me to increase my productivity by focusing all my energy on the present task while limiting distractions during that time.
Tino Jaimes, owner of Sunrise House Buyers TX, a real estate investment company based out of Houston, TX
9. Learn in The Blink of an Eye
Now, if you want to put your learning on supercharge and save valuable time, you could sign up for a service called Blinkist.
I have a yearly membership with Blinkist because it allows me to read or listen to an entire book in summary format in 15 mins. Not only that, but you also have unlimited access to over 3,000 summarized books.
Book summarization services only work well with non-fiction books such as self-improvement, biographies, or concepts. A fiction thriller story cannot be summarized because the whole point is the story, not the idea.
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10. Use Time Blocking
My favorite productivity tip is time blocking. When I have a project that needs to get done, I break it down into individual tasks and then assign those tasks to realistic blocks of time on my calendar for the day.
I won’t spend any extra time on any one task, but allow an extra hour or two at the end of the day to finish up any tasks that didn’t get completed in their time block.
I usually find that I start working faster, and everything gets done in its time block, and then I use the extra time at the end of the day to edit, make adjustments, etc., to make the quality of the work better.
Hayley Luckadoo, and I’m an entrepreneur and the CEO of Luckadoo Media Co.
11. Plan for the Week
Each Sunday, I take 15-20 minutes to plan out my week. I can set goals and priorities. And then each night, I plan for the next day, which takes about 10-15 minutes. I’m able to look at what I want to achieve for the week and build to that result on a daily basis.
Doing this planning each night allows me to hit the ground running the next day. And I’m able to quickly reprioritize as I get new information during the day.
In addition, I use my calendar. I block off time to get things done, including work time. If you have meetings all day, you’re guaranteed to have to take work home. Actually, schedule time on your calendar. That way, your calendar reflects your priorities, and you get those things done.
One final tip I make sure to tackle my most strategic projects during my peak productivity. Instead of checking off a bunch of things on my to-do list, I work on the most challenging tasks since I’m at my peak mentally. To figure out your peak productivity, see when you naturally hit your groove during the course of the day. Make sure to block off that time so that it’s dedicated work time.
Suzanne Brown – CEO mompowerment.com, The Mompowerment Guide to Work-life Balance book on Amazon
12. Recognize Artificial Deadlines
One of my top productivity tips is to recognize the artificial deadlines that you cannot control. Let’s say you are working on a specific task, and at some point, you’re feeling too loose and cannot get productive. Then you realize that your colleague will return from his or her meeting in 40 minutes. You use that window to finish that current task before your colleague’s return.
This has been working for me so well because you can accomplish far more when you know you have 40 minutes rather than knowing you have 3-4 hours or the whole day.
13. Use Your First Hour
“I always suggest that a person spends the first hour of each Monday looking at and planning the week ahead. If you do this all in one go, then it saves you the time of trying to pick up where you left off each morning. Plus, you may even overlook some tasks or projects in the shuffle.
The best way to do this is to regularly use organizational software like Asana, Trello or Teamwork, so that you can see all of your projects at a glance, along with due dates and any uploaded information.
You can also see which tasks other members of the team are working on, which can be especially helpful if the current project is layered and will be passed from one person to the next.”
Angela Ash – Flow SEO – Expert content writer, editor & marketer
14. Use Time Wisely
Like anyone who has to manage multiple moving parts, my time is limited and at a premium. One of the first things I did when I began here was to decide what was worth my time and what wasn’t. That led me to designate a certain portion of our marketing budget towards outsourcing work to freelancers and agencies who could help me cover more ground.
When I interviewed potential collaborators, I looked for certain traits that seemed like they would make a good fit: accountability, self-actualizing, and unafraid to ask questions.
Since most of the people on our team are remote, I had a powerful reason to select for the sort of person who is self-motivated and disciplined enough that they don’t need to have a manager looking over their shoulder like in some offices.
The beauty of finding the right people to delegate and outsource work to is that, in the end, you create a well-oiled machine that almost runs itself. Do I still hold weekly meetings with people on my team so that we can check-in and see where everyone is at? Of course! But I know that I can count on them to do their jobs with minimal input, and for anyone at C level, that’s an incredible asset to have.
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Barry D. Moore - Founder: GreatWorkLife.com
15. Toggl Your Day
My single best productivity tip is a simple one, but it has changed my life in so many ways: track your time.
I use a time-tracking app called Toggl, but there are a million different ones out there on the market. The idea is that you want to write down and track where your time is going. Doing this for a few weeks can be extraordinarily eye-opening because it allows you to see how much time you’re spending on low-value tasks. Once you have a report of how you’re spending your time, you can go through and assign dollar values to what you’re doing.
You may find yourself doing $10-per-hour work for five hours per day. Once you know this is the case, you can challenge yourself to delegate or eliminate this work and replace it with $100-per-hour work.
Tracking my time has given me more clarity and allowed me to reallocate my limited resource (time) to higher and higher-value tasks. I teach time tracking to all of my private clients. In fact, I insist that they do it, and I’ve literally never seen a case where it didn’t dramatically improve someone’s life if implemented.
16. Pomodoro with Music
When I am in production mode, such as when writing marketing content for clients or working on the book I am writing, I alternate 20 minutes of work with 10 minutes of music.
I’m a musician, so I play guitar for those 10 minutes. A non-musician could get similar benefits, though, by immersing in enjoying listening to music.
I find I am much more productive when switching “left brain-right brain” modes like that and giving my “logical output” side a rest while exercising my “pure creative expression” side.
Counter-intuitive to some, perhaps, but I actually get more done, and the quality of work is higher.
- Related Article: How to Have a Productive Day -15 Ninja Tips From Experts
17. Plan Each Day
Lay Out Each Day, but Don’t Shy Away From Pivoting
Everybody is going to have their own system, but the closest thing to a universal tip in my eyes is laying out a schedule before you start each day. While you will still be able to tap into your productivity without doing so, you are limiting yourself by not building even a rough schedule.
Unless you are consciously monitoring it, you won’t realize just how much time is wasted between tasks deciding what to move on to.
Those little moments add up over the period of a week, month, year, etc. Some people view a daily schedule as this commitment with absolutely zero flexibility. Laying out a schedule is supposed to act as a guide, and it certainly allows you to pivot away if something more urgent comes up.
Some people thrive off of being able to build a daily schedule on the most granular level possible. While commendable, it is not for everybody, especially those who have routines that are constantly changing.
Ultimately, it will boil down to a trial and error process of deciding what works best for you, but building a daily schedule is my suggested jumping-off point for those looking to be more productive with their time.
Barbara Hernandez-Taylor, Head of Product Marketing for Azuga
- Related Article: A Productive Morning Routine – 12 Ways to Start the Day
18. Use Coffee Breaks For Quick Meetings
Need a break from the intensity of your day, then go for a coffee with someone you need to meet with. You will cut one meeting out of your schedule and get a coffee break at the same time.
19. Use 1- on-1 Meetings for Super-performance
If you are effective, you become more productive; if you hold effective one-on-one meetings with your direct staff, you will have fewer meetings overall because they will make better decisions on your behalf because of that personal time with you.
Whether you are a manager, director, vice president, or CEO of a company, you cannot and should not skip your personal meetings with your direct staff. If you do, you will miss out on a wealth of information and your opportunity to develop motivated employees and the next generation of leaders.
- Related Article: One On One Meetings To Motivate & Empower [Ultimate Guide]
20. Walk While You Work
The weather is great outside, and you are stuck in back-to-back meetings the whole day. You want to feel the warm sun on your face and breath some fresh air, but there is no time.
Take your meetings outside, walk a few blocks, and discuss the topics of the day. This hack works best for one on one meetings or very small group meetings.
You will return to your desk energized and refreshed; I have been doing this for years.
21. Work from Home
Most companies allow you to work from home occasionally. Take advantage of this great perk because there are serious advantages to doing so. Not only do you save commute time and the cost of the commute, but there is a key productivity benefit also.
Working from home means fewer distractions; this allows you to deeply concentrate on those big projects and planning activities or take a step back to think about the big picture goals away from the office.
- Related Article: Work From Home/Telecommuting?[39 Golden Rules For Success]
Well, I hope you liked the thoughtful advice from our contributing CEOs, Solopreneurs, and busy professionals. I am sure there is something here you can use. If you liked the article, please leave a comment.