The Art of Time Management


How managing your time improves your work and life

Time is our greatest currency. 

Successful people understand the art of prioritization, and without time management, you can’t prioritize, period. Successful folks also understand that time is money. Managing your time will have a ripple effect on your life, making you more productive and even improving your bottom line. Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of time management because if you don’t manage your time, your time will manage you.

Why prioritize time management

Have you ever had a wild to-do list you felt you’d never get through? Knowing what to do with said to-do list is the difference between working smart and over-working. The importance of time management skills can’t be overstated, and not all hard workers grasp how to manage their time. Whether you’re busy or not, you can still benefit from time management skills.  

Firstly, if you want to be successful, you must manage your time. As the saying goes, “work smarter, not harder.” Anyone in a leadership role, including parents and entrepreneurs, needs structure. Without it, you won’t work as effectively or efficiently. Many successful people burn out because they don’t manage their time and end up working around the clock. 

Beyond conventional success, effective time management also helps us live more intentionally, making life more fulfilling (and isn’t that the whole point?). Ideally, time management improves your quality of life, as you can get things done and make space for what you want to prioritize beyond work. Perhaps you want to spend more time on family, hobbies, exercise, you name it. You’ll need to prioritize and manage your time well to make that happen.

How to manage your time better

As with any skill, time management is one we can improve with time, discipline, and trial and error. How one person manages their time may not work for someone else. Some people like techy tools and project management systems. For others, a simple, hand-written to-do list might do the job. We’re all different, and factors such as our working styles, personalities, and even mental health will play into what tools work best. At its core, time management takes discipline and prioritization. In addition, smart workers take inventory of their time and assess how it’s working for them.

Examples of effective time management tools:

  • Lists. Lists are the tried-and-true method of time management. You can make lists on paper, in your phone notes, or use fancy apps (more on those below). Having a designated “to-do” pad of paper or notebook and crossing off those to-dos may sound simple, but it’s highly effective and better than trying to keep track of things in your head. 
  • Priorities. Learn how to prioritize yourself first: when you set your schedule, before you put anything on the calendar, first put time for yourself. Perhaps it’s 1 hour on Monday mornings when you get to the office or if you work from home, maybe it’s a painting class every other week, a massage once a month, or lunch with friends. Put these things on the calendar FIRST and ritualize them. Then, stack your calendar with other things. I have 2 spots on my calendar a week that stay there, and they say “me time/gym/etc.” I can book over top of them or move them around, but they stay there on repeat and always remind me to prioritize myself and fill those spots. You can’t pour from an empty cup!
  • Make your calendar smarter. Make time blocks and define what they’re for. This will help sort through any overwhelm. For example, instead of writing “work on my XYZ business,” block time for “accounting for business,” or “creating social media graphics for business.” 
  • Review and assess. Review your plan the afternoon/night before the next day to get a head start and/or set a day of the week to work on your time management/schedule—you can also use this to plan date nights, trips, etc. 
  • Tech tools and project management systems. You might try these to get organized, help you prioritize, and stay on task. Some popular ones are Asana and Monday, but there are so many! Some people find these highly effective, while others find they become a waste of time in and of themselves. Everyone is different: trial and error is key to finding what works for you!
  • Literally, set a time limit. Use your phone or an online timer and set a timer for specific tasks. Try and do nothing else during that time. This can help people who are overwhelmed or those who tend to procrastinate (another hefty topic!) to feel a sense of urgency and focus. 
  • Get specific. Related to time blocking and the timer tool, this is great for people struggling with time management. When you make your to-do lists, put next to the items either the actual time you want to work on them (i.e. 2-3 PM Wednesday) or how long you expect them to take. As mentioned above, set a timer and only focus on that one thing during that time if you can. You’ll be amazed how, with focus and a timer, you may work faster than you thought. 
  • Do the hard thing first. This isn’t a time management tool but more a productivity hack. Do the hard thing on your to-do list FIRST. It may sound counterintuitive, but often, the thing that you’re avoiding causes stress that makes you procrastinate or have anxiety that makes you work slower.
  • DELEGATE. Know yourself and your limits. Even the smartest, fastest workers know their limitations. Not knowing your limits can also lead to burnout (link to burnout blog). Knowing what tasks to delegate is the biggest time hack of all!

In summary, time management will improve your work and quality of life. There are many ways to go about it – find what works for you, take inventory of your time periodically, and watch yourself thrive!

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Knowledge is power.