Time is everything. It's our most finite and irreplaceable resource.
If you want to:
Use your time more efficiently...
Escape the cycle of procrastination and time wasting...
Do the things you have to do more quickly, so you can spend more time on the things you want to do...
Then you're going to love this guide.
Here are seven time management strategies that will absolutely transform your life if you commit to using them.
1. To-Do Lists
Chances are you already make to-do lists of some sort and you're thinking, "Yeah, great advice." But hear us out.
To-do lists are only effective if you do them right. That means no scribbling random words on a piece of paper that ends up on the floor of your car or in your desk drawer at work.
Just like any time management strategy, your to-do lists should be organized according to what you need to do and when. Depending on what works best for you, this could be:
A simple task list outlining your most pressing tasks and their deadlines:
A weekly breakdown of what needs to be done:
A daily to-do list detailing your tasks for the day:
Are to-do lists right for me?
|Good for:||Bad for:|
|Individual or related tasks||Complex or disparate tasks|
|Small tasks||Long-term projects|
|Daily or weekly tasks|
2. Pomodoro Technique
Brainchild of author Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique dates back to the 1980s and has been a popular time management strategy ever since. With this technique, you break up large tasks or periods of work into smaller 25-minute time intervals called "pomodoros," with five-minute breaks in between each task. After you've done four rounds of "pomodoros," you get to reward yourself with a longer break. That longer break is designed to give your brain time to rest and the ability to absorb new information.
The original technique envisaged by Cirillo has six steps:
- Decide on the task to be done
- Set the "pomodoro timer" (traditionally 25 minutes, and you can find a digital version here)
- Work on the task
- End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper
- If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 2
- After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1
This approach is designed to help sustain focus on one task (no jumping around from one task to another or getting distracted) while still allowing you to take breaks, so you can maintain concentration over a longer period.
Is the Pomodoro Technique right for me?
|Good for:||Bad for:|
|Consistent work tasks||One-off tasks|
|Longer periods of work||Collaborative tasks|
3. Eisenhower Method
The Eisenhower Method, also known as the Eisenhower Matrix, is a time management strategy that involves prioritizing tasks based on urgency and importance. Created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, this technique coordinates and organizes tasks into four quadrants:
- Do first – Emergencies and tasks with strict deadlines.
- Schedule – Tasks that should be done in the future but don't need to happen immediately. This could include events and routine tasks such as exercise or cleaning the house.
- Delegate – Tasks that can be given to someone else to lighten your workload. This could responsibilities like cooking dinner or taking out the trash.
- Don't do – Unimportant tasks that can be dropped from the schedule altogether or completed only when all important/urgent tasks are done.
Any tasks placed in the "do first" quadrant are of highest importance and should be tackled immediately. Tasks under "schedule" are also important but can be completed at a later date – non-urgent tasks. Anything else that needs to be done but at some point but not necessarily by you can be delegated to others, and anything not urgent at all can be completely taken off your to-do list.
The Eisenhower Method is considered an effective way to organize tasks, and to dissect and organize your responsibilities into a priority matrix that helps you address what's most important first.
Is the Eisenhower Method right for me?
|Good for:||Bad for:|
|Reviewing the full spread of your responsibilities||People who don't have significant conflicting priorities, such as high school students|
|Long-term time management||People who work better living "in the moment"|
|Eliminating unnecessary tasks that are draining your time|
4. Pareto Principle (80/20 Rule)
Coined by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, the Pareto Principle is the formal name of 80/20 rule, which says that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. Pareto originally came up with the idea after noticing that 80% of a country's land was owned by just 20% of the population.
Today, the Pareto Principle is applied in a wide number of contexts, such as:
- Product sales – 80% of sales volume comes from 20% of products in a product line.
- Business revenue – 80% of a company's revenue comes from 20% of its customers.
- Production – 80% of a company's production comes from 20% of its employees.
In the realm of time management, the Pareto Principle is all about optimizing use of your time to focus on your most important tasks. In other words, you should identify the 20% of your tasks that will yield the 80% of results you're looking for. This might look something like:
- If I work overtime today (20% activity), I can clear my task list, impress my boss and take tomorrow off (80% effect)
- If I go to the gym early this morning (20% activity), I can be at work earlier, meet that looming deadline by lunchtime and work towards my weight loss goal (80% effect)
When prioritizing tasks using the 80/20 rule, consider the following:
- Are all the ‘urgent' tasks on my list actually urgent?
- Am I spending too much time on tasks that don't achieve much?
- Are all of my tasks really necessary to achieve the best outcome?
- Are there tasks that I should delegate?
Is the Pareto Principle right for me?
|Good for:||Bad for:|
|Identifying highest-value activities||Organizing abstract tasks that aren't easily quantifiable|
|Ensuring your input is giving you the best output||Introducing new tasks to your schedule|
|Culling unimportant tasks|
5. Rapid Planning Method
Created by entrepreneur and life coach Tony Robbins, the Rapid Planning Method (RPM) is designed to help people focus on what is truly important. Unlike other similar methodologies, however, RPM encourages people to hone in on their most important tasks and get to the root of why they are the most important to them.
RPM is centered on three key steps:
Results-oriented – When you want to accomplish something, work backwards. Start by thinking first about the final outcome you want to achieve. Be specific and define your goal in terms of something concrete that you can measure.
Purpose-driven – Make sure you have a reason and purpose for everything you do. Think about why achieving a certain outcome is important to you.
Massive action plan – Consider what you need to do to achieve a certain goal. Brainstorm and write down a plan of action.
While many other time management strategies put an emphasis on simply "getting stuff done," the RPM method is about prioritizing your tasks in relation to your ultimate life goals.
Is the Rapid Planning Method right for me?
|Good for:||Bad for:|
|Setting and achieving "big picture" goals||Small tasks|
|Prioritizing your time based on what's important to you||Managing mundane but necessary responsibilities|
6. Important-Urgent Matrix
The Important-Urgent Matrix was popularized by Stephen Covey in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Like the four quadrants of the Eisenhower Matrix, the Important-Urgent Matrix works on a two-by-two matrix to help people categorize their tasks more effectively. One axis is separated into urgent and non-urgent tasks and the other is separated into important and not-important tasks. The result is four quadrants:
- Tasks that are important and urgent
- Tasks that are important but not urgent
- Tasks that are not important but urgent
- Tasks that are not important and not urgent
The key difference between this strategy and the Eisenhower Method is that it focuses on managing your own time, rather than identifying areas where you delegate tasks to other people. By organizing your responsibilities in the chart, you can get a clearer sense of what's most important, where to get started and how to prioritize your tasks effectively and efficiently.
Is the Urgent-Important Matrix right for me?
|Good for:||Bad for:|
|Managing your own time more effectively||People who would benefit from delegating tasks to other people|
|Reviewing the full spread of your responsibilities||People who work better living "in the moment"|
|Prioritizing your workload|
7. GTD Technique
The GTD Technique, which stands for "getting things done," is a time management approach created by productivity consultant and author David Allen. This strategy is based on the concept that we're bombarded with "inputs" like thoughts and tasks that make it difficult to manage our time effectively. Allen believes that rather than trying to remember all these inputs, you should capture them as soon as possible in a designated place like a digital to-do list. As Allen says, "Your brain is for having ideas, not storing them." By removing the burden of remembering everything, you give yourself the opportunity to breathe and focus, which ultimately leads to higher productivity.
There are five main steps to the GTD technique:
- Capture and collect any tasks, large or small, that enter your mind by writing them down or recording them in some way
- Clarify whether each task is actionable or possible
- Organize your tasks into groups that make sense to you, for example "work", "groceries", "bills", etc.
- Review your task list regularly and make adjustments as necessary
- Execute by pulling up your task list and simply "getting things done"
According to Allen, having a trusted system of recording and completing tasks alleviates the negative consequences of trying to remember everything.
Is the GTD Technique right for me?
|Good for:||Bad for:|
|Grouping and managing similar tasks||Abstract or complex tasks|
|Freeing more mental space to focus on actually getting things done||‘Big picture' goals and long-term projects|
More Proven Time Management Techniques
Most people find that different time management strategies are effective at different stages of life or for different types of tasks. If you're not convinced that any one of the time management techniques above is ideal, a smarter approach could be to pick and choose helpful principles to develop a system that works for you.
With that in mind, here are some useful principles shared by many well-known time management strategies:
Chunking refers to the process of breaking big tasks or goals into smaller, easy-to-manage tasks. This technique is especially useful if you feel like you an impossible number of things to do and no time to do them, or if you have a big task that you need to do but you're not sure where to start.
You can start managing tasks using the chunking technique by:
- Capturing what needs to be done in any format that works for you
- Splitting up larger tasks into manageable pieces
- Prioritizing each "chunk" based on its importance and urgency
- Focusing on one "chunk" at a time
For example, let's say you need to give an in-depth presentation at work. You might start by writing down a list of everything you need to do to get the presentation finished and any specific deadlines. Then you could split up "creating a presentation" into key chunks in order of importance: research the topic, write a draft, write a final version, put together a PowerPoint doc, and practice your presentation.
Once you have a step-by-step series of "chunks" or actions in place for achieving a certain outcome, tasks that once seemed overwhelming quickly become achievable.
Research has shown that multitasking actually hinders productivity. While you might think that doing eight tasks at the same time equals getting things done quicker, the reality is that you can't focus on any one task properly, and that means more tasks end up being left unfinished or completed incorrectly. Instead of trying to do everything at once, take the time to plan ahead and focus on the task at hand before moving on to the next one in a logical, ordered manner.
Review your day & tweak your plan
Spend 5 or 10 minutes reviewing your task list before you start your day and at the end of the day. If you notice that you haven't been able to check off everything on your list, adjust your plan for tomorrow accordingly. This might mean moving some less important tasks further down the list or delegating tasks to someone else.
Focus on what's important
Whether you want to call it the 80/20 rule, prioritization or anything else, most time management strategies share a common theme: Focus on what's important. Many of us get caught up spending time on or worrying about tasks that don't achieve anything valuable. It's important to assess your day-to-day and make sure that the majority of your efforts are going towards achieving outcomes that are meaningful and align with your personal and professional goals.
Why Do You Want To Manage Your Time Better?
People rarely do things just to do them.
There's always a core motivation that drives meaningful change or action.
What's your motivation?
For many people, time management is a tool to reach an ambitious objective. They want to accomplish something more with their lives, and they know they need to manage their time better if they want to achieve that goal.
And for many people, including the thousands of students we've worked with here at Consulting.com, that goal is to start a business.
If that's you, click below to try our premium course completely free. Over 3,000 of our students have quit their jobs after building successful businesses via this course. For a limited time, we're making it free to try. Just click below to get started!