20 Time Management Tips to Boost Your Productivity at Work
True fact: Your time is so valuable and precious.
Choosing how you spend every hour of your day is vital to your success and sanity. Yet, no matter how you plan it, the work just continues to pile up. One minute you’re creating a website, the next minute you’re updating your accounting books. Then, before you realize how ridiculously busy you’ve gotten, you find yourself eating lunch during a conference call. Basically, without a time management strategy, it only makes sense that you’re scared of drowning in your workload.
Learn how to manage your stress at work better, get a grip on your day, and work efficiently and productively with the following time management tips:
Plan your time in advance
Set attainable goals
Do your least favorite task first
Save mornings for the most important tasks
Create an organizational system
Group similar tasks together
Remove unnecessary items from your to-do list
Don’t get caught in the details
Track your time
Plan to finish early
Utilize waiting time
Learn to say no
Delegate your work
Find purpose in meetings
Create productive habits
Sleep a full night
01. Rise early
Mornings are a valuable time to plan the day, eat a slow breakfast, stretch and exercise, or catch up on some of your over spilled work from the previous day. Before you start getting hammered with emails and the unavoidable daily to-dos, use this precious quiet time to pursue your own initiatives and start your day with less stress and more joy.
02. Plan your time in advance
Both daily and weekly, it’s important to sit down and create to-do lists ahead of time. This is because if you don’t start out your days with a plan, someone else will be able to do that for you. So write out what you need to get done the night before or shortly after waking up in the morning.
One habit we do is plan out the following week right before heading into the weekend on Friday afternoon. This takes some of the pressure off of those tiring Monday mornings where no amount of coffee can seem to motivate anyone.
03. Set attainable goals
Having a direction is an important step in reaching a goal. This means setting small, daily, attainable goals that put you on the path towards your bigger ones. Every time you achieve a small goal, you’ll be more inspired to keep going.
To put this into perspective for yourself, keep your big goals written down somewhere visible. For example, they might be to get that promotion you’ve been dreaming of or earn 500+ Instagram followers for your SMB. Then, break them out into small daily attainable tasks such as to initiate and follow up on new project opportunities or engage with ten new prospective followers.
A realistic number of daily goals is anywhere from 3-5 big things. Try it out and see what works for you, and then increase or decrease the amount based on whether or not you’re able to manage your time and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
04. Do your least favorite task first
If there is something on your to-do list that just causes you some sort of resentment, it’s best to get rid of it right away. You’ll be more likely to work fast to get it done by starting your day out with this, and you won’t have to look at your to-do list despising it any longer. It’s one simple time management skill that will undoubtedly bring you joy once you check it off.
05. Save mornings for the most important tasks
When you set up your daily checklist of tasks, prioritize the most important things. Begin your day by checking these items off first thing in the morning (as well as your least favorite task) while you’re full of energy after a night of rest. Getting the biggest things out of the way will help you to feel accomplished early on and reduce the chances of burnout.
06. Create an organizational system
The key to productivity is reducing the clutter and chaos around you. In order to do so, make sure that you have a place for everything from your computer files to your tangible items like pens and notebooks and keys. You might consider going as far as color coordinating your calendar or creating separate lists for personal tasks and work-related tasks. It could even be worthwhile to spend half a day getting everything in order to boost your productivity in the long run.
07. Group similar tasks together
Rather than switching between multiple different tasks and wondering why you can’t focus, try batching together things which require the same level of concentration and time. For example, after lunch do your five minute check-ins on analyzing stats, reading emails, and updating other small things. This will help you stay present and productive throughout your days.
08. Remove unnecessary items from your to-do list
Make a comprehensive list of your to-dos to see what you can cross out that’s not truly significant or vital for progressing with your job or business. In a world of busyness and consumerism, we can often get wrapped up in doing things or buying things that don’t actually matter or need to be tended to at this very moment. With less things to do, you're likely to have more free time, which can help you improve your work-life balance.
09. Don’t get caught in the details
Many of us have a bit of perfectionism, which is often a huge contributor to our endlessly busy lives. Try tuning out that inner critic that has to get every detail right by focusing solely on the bigger picture. Get the most important bulk of the work done first, then come back to these small details later on if you have the time.
10. Track your time
Doing an audit of your minute by minute schedule can help you understand where your time is actually going. Here, you’ll be able to see what’s distracting you, like the 30 minutes you spent on Facebook after lunch or the kitchen small talk with one of your colleagues. Of course being social is important, but knowing that you’re doing that out of choice and not as a destructive habit is empowering.
Plan your schedule to remove those areas of distractions and better manage your time. While doing so, leave room for a buffer, such as 5-10 minutes between meetings and tasks, to keep your sanity and actually allow time for small talk and social media check-ins.
11. Eliminate distractions
Knowing how you spend your time will surely help you recognize distractions. Even so, it doesn’t make them less tempting. This includes things like checking your Instagram feed throughout the day or responding to messages on Facebook. If you find that you can’t control yourself from these distractions alone, turn to an app that can do that for you. RescueTime and Freedom are two apps that work great for blocking distracting websites and applications - and they are part of the list of time management apps we highly recommend. Listening to productivity music for working can also help you channel your focus.
12. Plan to finish early
Nothing is more stressful than consistently running late or finishing projects at the very last minute. You can trick yourself into feeling more in control of your time by setting your own personal deadlines earlier than the intended ones. This will allow for a buffer if any last-minute issues come up. It will also help you boost your confidence by staying ahead of the game.
13. Utilize waiting time
Whether you’re waiting for a doctor, a meeting, or the next bus, waiting times can be the best moments to get things done. Use them to work on quick tasks like answering emails or chat messages from coworkers. You might also want to consider using this time to focus on your personal hobbies (reading, writing, etc.) or de-stressing exercises (meditating, stretching, breathing).
14. Stop multitasking
You’ve probably heard this before, but multitasking is a highly unproductive habit. You’ll get so much more done if you’re just present with one task at a time. Try to finish one thing before you move on to the next. If you’ve tried tracking your time, you’ll surely notice how this time management tip will actually help you take control of your day better and feel more level-headed.
15. Learn to say no
Being a people pleaser and saying yes to everyone and everything is simply self-destructive. There is no better way to put it. Rather, you should be the one taking the lead on how you spend your time by choosing to work on tasks which directly align with your job and your personal goals. It’s okay to not respond immediately with a yes if you aren’t sure whether or not you want to do something. Instead, take your time deciding by responding to requests with something along the lines of “I’ll check my schedule and get back to you.”
16. Delegate your work
Be honest with yourself: do you simply have too much work in your day to even feasibly finish your tasks at hand? If so, it’s completely acceptable to pass off some of your work to others qualified to do it. Of course, don’t choose someone you’ll need to train unless the time spent doing that is valuable to you in the long run. You might even want to consider hiring a freelancer or personal assistant.
17. Find purpose in meetings
Meetings are often viewed as “wasted time.” You can do something about this though, especially if you’re the host. When scheduling a meeting, you should set clear intentions, include an agenda and action items, and read up on this guide to hosting more effective meetings.
18. Create productive habits
Habits are tasks which we do no matter what kind of mood we are in that day, such as getting up and brushing our teeth or checking our email immediately when we arrive to work each morning. Take this concept into your job more consistently. For example, if you’re a writer, make yourself write for the first hour each day before moving on to any other task. This will ensure that you make progress every day and easily avoid things like procrastination and distractions.
19. Sleep a full night
Staying up late to finish your tasks and eat into your sleep time is a recipe for disaster. You’ll be more likely to get distracted and lose focus throughout the following day due to your exhaustion. If you want to work faster and smarter, sleep is an absolute must - and a full night of rest is approximately seven to eight hours long.
20. Stay healthy
Nutritious food and exercise are proven ways to destress while you work. Without spiking your stress hormones, you’ll be able to stay grounded throughout the day and focus on your work level-headed. Omega 3 fatty acids are healthy foods known to improve mood and reduce stress, these include fish sources, walnuts, and most seeds. For exercise, brisk walks or high intensity workouts get your heart rate going to help energize you and change your mindset, allowing you to focus and manage your time better afterwards.
By Jennifer Kaplan
Small Business Expert & Writer