Time management at work — why it’s important and how to get started
Managing your work hours can be challenging, and it’s only gotten harder for many of the business professionals who now work remotely. Avoiding distractions, prioritizing tasks, and remaining flexible for other team members are just a few of the challenges that make time management complicated.
But time management is also a crucial skill. Team members who can manage their time well are the ones who bring the most value to the organization, and they’re often first in line for bonuses and promotions.
This post will help you improve your time management skills. We’ll discuss:
Then, we’ll share the top 17 tips to improve your time management:
- Prioritize tasks
- Use the 80/20 rule
- Identify and remove nonessential tasks
- Delegate or outsource
- Group similar tasks
- Accomplish your most important tasks in the morning
- Set time limits
- Take breaks between tasks
- Set SMART goals
- Create a daily schedule
- Get organized
- Eliminate distractions
- Do not multitask
- Learn to say No
- Discover when you work best
- Use a calendar
- Use time management tools
What is time management?
Time management is the process of planning, coordinating, and controlling the amount of time you spend on tasks and activities to maximize results. It is the art of managing your time as efficiently as possible, ultimately fostering all-around success.
Benefits of time management
Effective time management offers several benefits for people with demanding workloads and a long list of responsibilities. When it comes to improving efficiency and productivity, time management helps you perform better in the short term and scale your career in the long run.
Organizing your schedule through proper time management can help ease stress and anxiety. A strategic approach to managing your time can also help you feel empowered and in control of your workload, boosting your confidence and helping you feel in charge of your activities and your career.
Time management boosts your efficiency and your productivity by allowing you to spend less time on trivial activities and more time on high-priority items. This is because time management requires you to assess what needs to be done and schedule your tasks accordingly, so you complete the most important work in the most efficient manner.
Proper time management gives you more personal time. Once you’ve developed effective time management skills, more time can be allocated for other tasks like hobbies, visiting friends, and even extra work.
17 time management tips
There are many strategies for mastering time management. Start with one or two that seem the easiest or most natural for you. Once those become part of your regular routine, add one or two more.
1. Prioritize tasks
Prioritizing tasks is crucial to effective time management at work. Start by examining your to-do list, selecting your essential responsibilities, and then arranging them in order of importance.
The key is to organize your tasks based on their importance, not their perceived urgency. Tasks that seem urgent might be important, but they’re not always the same thing. For example, a task that another team member needs you to complete for them might seem urgent if they check in every hour, but it might not be the most important work you have to do that day.
One strategy to use is the Eisenhower Matrix for prioritizing tasks based on importance and urgency.
- Important and urgent tasks should be dealt with immediately.
- Important but not urgent tasks should be scheduled to get completed soon.
- Urgent but not important tasks should be delegated to another team member.
- Not urgent and not important tasks can be delegated or set aside for later.
2. Use the 80-20 rule
Also known as Pareto’s Principle, the 80-20 rule states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. If you have 10 tasks to complete, there are probably 2 that will drive about 80% of the productivity you want to achieve.
Applying that rule to time management entails identifying the tasks on your list that represent the most important and productive 20%. As you organize your list, consider the immediate outcome of each completed task and prioritize the ones with the biggest reach. Additionally, ask yourself which tasks directly relate to a big goal or milestone.
3. Identify and remove nonessential tasks
It’s okay to completely remove nonessential items from your task list. Eliminating tasks that don’t drive clear value will help you make more time for the work that is important.
One way to do this is to keep track of what you do every day for a few weeks. This gives you a better idea of what the real priorities are. As you’re prioritizing your list of tasks, look for those items that have been on your list for a while and have probably slipped to the bottom. Ask yourself if those really need to get done and if not, remove them.
4. Delegate or outsource
Delegating tasks is an executive function and good strategy for professionals at any level. As you prioritize your task list, look for work that another team member or a contractor could complete. Delegating tasks is not only helpful for your own time management, but it can also give other people on your team an opportunity to try something new and further their career paths.
Just make sure you’re delegating to the right person and that they have the time and skills to do the work well. Check in regularly to confirm they are completing the task appropriately — otherwise you risk having to redo the task, ultimately losing time.
5. Group similar tasks
For better time management, group similar tasks together to complete in succession. Since different types of tasks demand different types of attention, curating them into related groups will create a smoother flow from one task to the next.
For example, group administrative tasks like checking emails, chats, and phone calls in one time block. If you have a stack of similar reports to review, do them all together. If you have financial tasks to complete, set aside a block of time to do all the numbers. This can help you focus and work efficiently.
6. Accomplish your most important task (MIT) in the morning
Your MIT is your most important, most challenging, or most time-consuming task. Try to accomplish your most important task in the morning to give yourself a boost of confidence and to make the rest of your task list look easy. Keeping a big, hard task on your list for later in the day can drain the energy out of your morning, so get it done first.
7. Set time limits
Setting a time limit to complete a task helps you manage your time better and become more efficient and focused. And thinking through how much time you’ll need often helps you discover problems in advance. For instance, if you have to prepare two contracts before a meeting, setting time limits will let you know whether you’ll have both ready before the meeting or need to delegate one.
8. Take breaks between tasks
It seems counterintuitive for someone with a busy schedule, but juggling multiple tasks without breaks makes it difficult to remain focused, motivated, and committed. In fact, Robert Pozen, senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management and author of Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours, recommends a 15-minute break every 75 to 90 minutes.
Set a timer if you suspect you might get distracted, but then get a snack, drink some water, go for a short walk, call your mother — anything to give your brain a break from that period of intense focus. It will make your next 90-minute working session much more productive.
9. Set SMART goals
As you work on managing your time in general, over an entire quarter or even a year, consider what you want to achieve and set SMART goals — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
Write down those goals with each of the SMART details. This will provide a strategic structure to your calendar, helping you prioritize work in smaller increments of weeks and days.
10. Create a daily schedule
Before you leave your desk at the end of the day, write down your to-do list for tomorrow. Creating this list at the end of each workday is usually more efficient and sets you up for success the next day.
It’s often easier to prioritize tasks for tomorrow with today’s activities still fresh in your mind. Many people find it much more energizing to start the day with an established task list, rather than starting the day having to review and prioritize a task list.
Don’t forget to schedule 15-minute breaks. And limit your scheduled time to about three-quarters of your day to leave some flexibility for the inevitable surprises.
11. Get organized
Declutter your physical and digital spaces. To declutter your physical work space, get a simple, single to-do list and write down your projects and task deadlines. Set up a folder system if you have papers that need organizing, and find a container you like for pens and other tools.
To declutter your digital work space, unsubscribe from unnecessary emails, create folders on your computer, and turn off social media and other unnecessary notifications. You might need to set a reminder every few hours to close unnecessary internet tabs.
Some people also find it helpful to clean up their computer desktop. If files frequently clutter your desktop, try creating a “Cleanup” folder that you can move things into throughout the day to keep your desktop clear. Then you can go back to that folder when you have time and put digital files “away.”
12. Eliminate distractions
Distractions at work can seem endless — social media, instant messaging, web browsing, text messages, uninvited guests, and even energetic coworkers. It’s important to remain proactive in eliminating distractions.
A Statista report found that the top three distractions for remote employees are social media, smartphones, and binge-watching. If that sounds familiar, be sure to turn off social media notifications, leave your phone in the other room, and set up your remote office space in a room without a TV.
13. Do not multitask
This is another one that feels counterintuitive, but multitasking doesn’t work. That’s because you’re not actually doing multiple tasks at one time, you’re switching between tasks more frequently. That shifting to and fro erodes productivity and adds stress.
Set aside a specific chunk of time to complete one task and challenge yourself to stay focused. Often, just the decision not to multitask can help improve your concentration.
14. Learn to say No
Part of managing your time well is guarding your time well. It’s easy to feel like being a good team member means doing everything you can to help, but adding too many tasks to your schedule is the opposite of efficient productivity.
Managers and executives know how to say “no” to a request for work that is going to take up too much of their time and push off other, more important work.
15. Discover when you work best
Most people are more productive during a specific time of day. You might already know if you’re a morning person or if you get a good burst of energy after lunch, but if not, start paying attention to your workflow throughout the day. Knowing your most productive time can help you plan your days more effectively.
For example, if you are the type that works actively in the afternoon, you can complete simple tasks like checking and sending emails in the morning and schedule your bigger projects for after lunch.
16. Use a calendar
Your calendar should do more than mark holidays and schedule meetings. Calendars can help you remember due dates, manage your schedule, create time blocks, and set reminders. For example, if you have a big project that you know will require some concentration, put an event on your calendar and dedicate that time to focusing on one specific task.
17. Use time management tools
Time management tools offer a variety of features and capabilities that can help you manage your time and implement the strategies we’ve discussed. Different tools can set your estimated work time, track the time spent on each task, and more. These tools help you organize your team members’ tasks as well, making it easy to track workflow and enhance productivity. They also help you review your schedule, further optimizing productivity.
Get more done and stress less with better time management
Time management is an essential skill for maximizing your daily activities — especially if you’re career-oriented — but remember to take it slow. Try a couple of these strategies, keep what works for you, and then try a couple more.
And when you’re really ready to manage your time and get productive, Adobe Workfront can help you and your team. Connect your team from across the globe while managing your projects from start to finish. Take a product tour today to learn more.