time management tips

Best Time Management Tips

Best Time Management Tips

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Time management is one of the skills that, regardless of the role you currently have or want, has become pretty essential. As the interview process continues to be revamped, a lot of hiring managers are now leading their first meetings with questions such as “How do you organize or prioritize your tasks?” Which often translates to “what’s your workstyle and could it align with ours?”

So, yeah, time management skills can also make or break a match, since it’s got such a big influence on team productivity. Even if you are not out looking for a job, but simply want to improve in your own way to be more efficient it’s good to take a look into how you manage your own time, tasks, and priorities. 

Flow or structure?

The funny thing about time management newbies is that they often fall onto one of two sides of the spectrum. It’s either “plans are restrictive and we should embrace adaptability” or “let’s map out every single thing and follow to the T”. However, once put to practice, people soon realize that neither of those extreme mindsets is the answer. 

If we spend all of our time adapting or reacting then hardly anything will get done. If things need to be on the calendar to happen, then any unforeseen challenge will act as a threat instead of an opportunity. You need a little bit of both, planning and flowing, to make the best out of your time. 

Now, depending on your role in the team, department, or even the industry you belong to, you might need a methodology or framework that leans more into structure or flow. Not to mention your own personality and skills. So, which works best for you?

5 ways to manage your time

Though there’s a sea of time management options, here are some essential tips, methodologies, and frameworks you can start with. Try selecting one of these options and carrying it out for an entire week, or even a month, to see how it can impact your productivity and focus.

Try using the Pomodoro Technique 

Speaking of focused work, this first technique is one that will help you keep your eye on the prize. We often confuse the idea of being a multitasker with doing everything at the same time. Yet, that can lead to being distracted with everything (planned and unplanned), which can result in making mistakes or leaving tasks unfinished. 

What’s so great about the Pomodoro Technique for those with short attention spans is that it’s a way to define a specific and short amount of time to work on one task at the time. The technique basically works with 20 minutes of focused work, called a pomodoro, with 5 minute breaks in between. After reaching 4 pomodoros your break time becomes 15 minutes.

Get a timer to help you keep track of those pomodoros so that you don’t have to be constantly checking your clock. Remember, the point is to have no distractions and keep your mind from wandering around. Some tasks can take up more pomodoros to finish, while short and operational tasks could take only one. But once you are done, make sure you take your break before you jump into the next one on your list.

Use time blocking as part of your week schedule 

Similar to the last technique, time blocking is about setting up a specific time for a task. Though in this case, the main focus is not your pace but rather your schedule. So if you are a big-picture kind of person then this is probably a great method for you.

Your calendar will be your best friend when time-blocking. There are also many scheduling tools that can support you as well, but more on that later. You can start by blocking permanently the first 20 to 30 minutes for your Monday or the last of your Friday to plan for the week. 

There are maybe things you’ve set up ahead of time or that are fixed tasks that will ideally stay on the same day of the week or time of the day. But, if your work is not strictly routine-based, then you should keep some open time blocks to work with as needed. For instance to schedule meetings coming your way. 

Remember your calendar is not set in stone. You can move things around as needed. Just keep in mind how much time you need to assign to each task and try to respect that moving on. Even if the original schedule or day changes.

Prioritize through the Eisenhower Matrix

When everything is urgent, nothing is.

Do you often find yourself reacting to every emerging task as the one that needs to be handled first? Sometimes we think that the time crunch of a task makes it a top priority and we spend too much time or stop processes that have more impact on long term goals. 

That is precisely one of the main challenges of time management: deciding which tasks need to take place in the immediate future and which can be moved around. The famous Eisenhower Matrix helps differentiate between tasks that are urgent and important so that we can better prioritize our time.

The key to this matrix is to analyze both surprise and expected tasks through a simple filter:

  • If the task is urgent and important, then do it right away.
  • If it’s important but not urgent, then schedule it in the near future.
  • If it’s urgent but not important, delegate it (or automate it!).
  • If it’s neither urgent nor important, delete it or put it on the backlog.

Filtering tasks this way will be of great help when applying it to your time blocking efforts, so that you don’t ever feel like you wasted a second or that your work has no impact.

Set time aside for text messages and social media

While this is not a methodology or framework on its own, you can see how it ties in with the rest of the time management tips. In fact, you can pretty much build a time strategy that encompasses all of them. When it comes to “smaller” tasks that can send us deep into the rabbit hole (like when you answer an email and end up filtering your entire inbox), task batching can be the solution for you.

What is task batching? Well, it actually comes from the time blocking technique, and it focuses on setting time aside for those smaller daily activities that are similar and operational. In this case, replying to any kind of message might be something you either dread or get carried away with. Both responses will only drain up your valuable time.

How about you program 20 minutes (or one pomodoro) every couple of hours or so to keep up with your messages? Use those 20 mins to read through, prioritize, and move on. You can come back for the next check up point to make sure you keep communication rolling.

Automate through management software 

“Science shows us that the more options we have, then the longer each decision takes. And the more decisions we have to make, the more exhausted our brain gets and the less it is capable of making good decisions”

Dr. Darria Long

A great challenge that comes with managing time is feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work and the time one has to complete it. But even if you craft an amazing time management system based on all the tips you saw above, you can really optimize your time through automation. Leverage on tools and software that will take your workflow to the next level.

Here are some we recommend:

  • Monday: This easy-to-use and aesthetically pleasing platform makes tracking productivity on small and large scales a breeze. Employers can trust Monday’s seamless overview of processes even when their teams are working remotely.
  • Clockify: If you could use a hand in finding out where all your time goes, time tracking apps such as Clockify may be what’s missing from your productivity arsenal. This way you’ll see where you are spending most of your time.
  • Calendly: With this simplified calendar tool, your teams can plan meetings, set appointments, and take control of their schedule no matter where they’re working from. It can be used across time zones and has a variety of meeting options that can help teams customize their virtual meetups.
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