How to Improve Your Time Management Skills

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Does it often seem as if you have too much on your plate and too many responsibilities to juggle? If so, the answer to your problem might lie in organising your time more effectively. Doing so can help reduce stress and boost productivity.

It can take a while to develop your time management skills. However, it is undoubtedly worth the effort if you want to gain an edge, but the pace at which you progress will be different for each person.   

Later, we’ll look at how learning to say no can help you become a master at managing your time. First, though, we’ll talk about how delegating or outsourcing tasks can help you take charge of your time and get more done every day.

Let’s get into it.

Ways to master time management and increase productivity

Here are some of the most effective things you can do to manage your time well.

Delegate or outsource tasks

We often bite off more than we can chew. By taking on more tasks than we can handle, we make ourselves more susceptible to stress and burnout. If you focus too much on getting through a mammoth list of small, repetitive tasks every day, you’ll be unable to focus on your overarching goals.

When you delegate or outsource takes, you learn to manage your workload properly. Learn to delegate based on the various skills, abilities, and levels of experience possessed by the people around you. That way, you can get through more work, and everyone in your team will feel they have played a key role in the completion of that work, creating a more cohesive feel of working towards a shared goal. This may increase team and individual productivity as people will be more motivated if they can work on the things they do best. You can do the same with the time you freed up by delegating tasks to others. This will afford you the opportunity of taking on more challenging tasks so that you can develop your skills and grow. In addition, you and all your team will be able to work more effectively.

Unlock the power of scheduling

A good thing to do if you want to become better at managing your time is to list all the tasks you can think of in a planner. As you work through tasks you can tick them off, give yourself a boost, and stay motivated.  

When you have created a simple to-do list, use the Eisenhower Matrix to rank the tasks in order of importance, and focus on completing those at the top first. If you have a large task on hand, devote your whole day to it. You can tackle less complex, smaller tasks at another time.

If you want to organise your time well and become more productive in other areas of your life, consider making similar lists for your home and personal life as well.

Now it’s time to see how saying no can help you level up your time management skills.  

Learn to say no

If your ultimate goal is to become better at managing your time, it is essential to become comfortable refusing to take on more tasks if you think you already have too much on your plate. Also, be wary of saying yes to too many things that don’t contribute to your goals or add value to your life.

Remember, by saying no, you are making time for something else, whether that time is devoted to self-care, doing something with your family, or simply relaxing. Should saying no to something prove difficult, cast your mind back to the last time you said yes to something and came to regret it because you were overcommitted and lacked the resources required to do it. Saying no is easier and leaves you time to focus on important things in your life and work.

Prioritise like a pro

Before you begin work in the morning, list your most important tasks and the ones you need to attend to most urgently. Leave trivial tasks aside, as they can take up time that would be better spent elsewhere. If we do not take the step of creating a list, we have a habit of expending our energy and time on less important things because we find them easier and less stressful to deal with.

Zeroing in on your most urgent tasks is vital if you want to become more productive because once you have done so, you will know where to direct most of your energy and focus. As a result, you will be able to work through your tasks in the order that best suits your schedule and helps you stay focused.  

Person in a chair with a laptop, sitting at the centre of a clockface.
Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash

Direct your focus

Once you have figured out want you want, you must work out what you need to do in the present to progress towards your goals. Focus on the outcomes you want to achieve to organise yourself in a way that allows you to take steps to meet them. Ask what actions will move you towards your goals. This will give you some direction and you’ll be able to identify which tasks most deserve your attention and those that are less important.

Chunking can help

When you know what you want out of life and work, you can start breaking up your larger goals into smaller ones, so that you can use them as milestones you will reach on your way to achieving your bigger aims in life.

When creating to-do lists, use chunking to group all related tasks together so that they are easier to manage. Chunking is the same technique you can use to improve your memory but you can also employ it to help you focus and visualise the steps you need to take to accomplish your goal.

Don’t multitask

Multitasking may seem like an efficient way of working, but it is far more effective and productive to focus on one thing at a time. Thus, you should avoid multitasking if you want to manage your time well. Instead:

  • Use to-do lists to keep yourself on track.
  • Give yourself deadlines to make it less likely you’ll become distracted.
  • Take steps to cut down on potential distractions.
  • Dedicate yourself to finishing one task at a time.

You might be surprised by how much more you can get done. Now we’ll find out how vital it is to minimise distractions.

Cut down on distractions

Modern life is full of potential distractions that play havoc with your time management. You might not be able to do much about some of them, like being interrupted by someone asking a question but you and take steps to eliminate a few. Here’s how you can cut out some of the interruptions resulting from your phone, your email, or the internet.

  • Block social media and other websites if you can’t resist the temptation to click on that notification.
  • Switch off notifications on your mobile if you don’t want to switch it off.
  • Change your online status on messaging apps to away to discourage others from messaging you while you’re working.
  • Set a time when you are going to check your inbox, and only open your email at that time.

Don’t fall prey to distraction out of boredom or frustration. Instead, employ some of the above techniques to take control of your time and avoid procrastination.

Remember, your time is valuable. Don’t waste it.   

Give yourself deadlines

By setting a realistic deadline for yourself, writing it on a post-it note, and sticking it to your desk, you will give yourself a visual cue that will prevent you from staying off the beaten track. Do your best to set deadlines a few days in advance of when things need to be finished and reward yourself if you manage to meet your self-imposed deadlines.

Get an early start

Many successful people, including the likes of Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, Oprah Winfrey, and Michelle Obama are known to be early risers. By getting an early start, they give themselves time to think out and plan the day ahead.

If you rise early, you are likely to be calmer, more creative, and have more energy. As the day goes on, your energy levels dip and you become less productive and are more prone to being distracted. Don’t worry if you’re not a morning person, just try waking up half an hour earlier than usual. You might be thrilled to discover what you can do in that time.

If you would rather not use the extra time in the morning to work, you could use it to workout or set yourself goals for the day or week ahead, both of which could boost your productivity and save you time, because you will know what to do next once one task is finished.     

Don’t give people immediate answers

Don’t respond to peoples’ requests without giving yourself time to think about it first. One of the best ways to manage your time is to ask people for time to think about whatever it is they are asking you to do. That way, there is less chance that you’ll make commitments you’ll later come to regret.

So, take your time with this kind of decision so that you only commit to taking on tasks that reflect your values or support your goals. Why not try this for a month and see how much time you saved and whether you were able to achieve more by refusing requests that didn’t align with your goals.

Be accountable

It is not much use working to improve your time management skills if you aren’t going to hold yourself accountable. To really improve your time management, you should commit fully to your desired goal. This single-minded focus will help you reach your goal, and you will also derive a greater sense of fulfilment than you would experience if you allowed yourself to become distracted.  

Take breaks

This one may seem counterproductive, but it is wise to take a short break if you are tired or feel stressed so that your stress levels don’t negatively impact your productivity.

After your break, you will be able to return to work with renewed energy and focus. You could even schedule your breaks to beat boredom and give yourself a little more motivation.

So, what can do to cope with stress? Try out one or two of these.

  • Get some fresh air.
  • Take some exercise.
  • Meditate.
  • Call a friend.
  • Take up a hobby.
  • Listen to music.
  • Employing breathing techniques.

Soon, you’ll discover how employing these techniques to deal with stress can help you get more done and take control of your time.

Wrapping up

We’ve covered some fantastic ways you can improve your time management skills, including the power of prioritisation, the value of saying no, and how important it is to hold yourself accountable.  

All that’s left for you to do now is employ some of the tips given here and see how they can help you master the art of time management.

Let us know how you get on!

Published by Lizzie

Lizzie here. I'm a freelance copywriter and editor based in the UK. I'm also passionate about volunteering and hold an MA in History from the University of Warwick. I've written for a multitude of fantastic websites and companies, including a legal automation software company, a dog training site, and more. Check out my reviews on Fiverr and Upwork for more info!

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