The Importance of Time Management

In today's fast-paced world and competitive business environment, there is always a lot of work to be done and not enough time to do it. This is where time management steps in.

When practiced mindfully and over a longer period of time, time management can help us stay on top of our workload stress-free and balance our personal and professional responsibilities.

In this guide, we discuss the importance of time management and give you practical advice on choosing and implementing a time management strategy to reap all the benefits of organizing your time.

The Importance of Time Management
In this guide, you’ll learn:
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What Is Time Management?

Time management is a set of strategies designed to help you plan how to divide your time between specific activities to achieve maximum productivity, efficacy, and results on a daily and weekly level, as well as long term.

Time management can help you learn how to make decisions, set goals, and budget your time skillfully. It’s a way to stay organized and learn to prioritize your activities based on their importance.

Effective time management can lead to increased productivity and efficiency. By prioritizing tasks and setting realistic deadlines, you can focus your energy on the most urgent tasks and accomplish them in a timely fashion. This, in turn, will increase your overall job satisfaction.

Good time management can also help you in your leisure life. Once you master it, you’ll have no trouble making room for activities you enjoy (e.g., hobbies, family time, and hanging out with friends). A well-balanced routine helps reduce stress and positively impacts your physical and mental health.

Why Is Time Management so Important?

A study published in the Western Journal of Nursing Research that centers on how researchers could increase their research productivity confirms that employing several time management strategies, which we’ll outline below, can unlock better productivity for any individual, especially those working in a complex environment and carrying multiple roles and responsibilities.  

Additionally, time management has been linked to stress management.

A 2014 study conducted by researchers of the University of Wuerzburg on a group of students has shown that controlling how you spend your time helps reduce perceived stress and anxiety. At the two and four-week mark of time management training, students reported a reduction in feelings of stress.

These two studies illustrate what a substantial body of research over the past few decades has concluded many times over - with proper time management, individuals can overcome the sinking feeling of being overwhelmed with work and the demands of modern-day life and learn how to lower the impact it has on them. 

But what is proper time management? We’ll deconstruct the strategies from these studies to give you a detailed breakdown of the practices that fall into time management and illustrate the benefits these practices can have on your personal and professional life.

How to Implement a Time Management Strategy from Start to Finish (And Why)

The authors of the Western Journal of Nursing Research study found that time management helped individuals direct and improve their time assessment, planning, and monitoring behaviors. In the 2014 University of Wuerzburg study, the time management training students received was broken down into strategies on how to:

  • Prioritize
  • Set goals
  • Develop strategies for managing time
  • Create daily plans
  • Monitor and review their progress

These strategies can unlock the benefits of time management for any individual. Let’s see what they look like in practice.

Getting Started

To get started with time management, you need to set goals, research different time management techniques and pick one you want to test, and decide which tools you’re going to use.

Setting Long-Term Goals

The first step in time management is making an intentional plan for the change we want to embrace, or in other words, setting goals

Long-term goals provide the framework we need to execute our chosen strategies and give us an idea of when it’s time to reflect and reassess. Short-to-medium long goals complement them: they give purpose to our weeks and months and make it easier to stay on track.  

A good way to set both types of goals is to follow the SMART matrix, which stipulates that goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

The University of California has shared an incredible resource on how to set SMART goals successfully that also includes some great examples and a template. 

Finding a Strategy that Works for You

A big part of time management is creating tasks, prioritizing, and ticking them off. In other words, maintaining a to-do list or a daily plan that doesn’t feel like just an extra thing you need to do; but rather, makes everything else easier for you. 

To set yourself up for long-term success, you’ll need to find a technique for this that works specifically for you. 

There are many popular, proven techniques that have already helped millions of people across the globe. We encourage you to read our guide on time management strategies and techniques to learn more about them, but to help you get started with your research, here’s a list of the most popular ones:

Because there are a lot of different methods to prioritize tasks, the one you choose for yourself will mostly depend on your job requirements, the nature of the work you’re doing, and ultimately your preference. 

The most important factor when deciding on what technique to go for in your daily planning is reflecting on what you personally find to be the most challenging aspect of your daily life and then picking a strategy that you think has the best chance to help you overcome that challenge. 

For example, a big challenge in managing to stay on top of everything can be maintaining your concentration and focus. In that case, your goal would be to find a way to work smarter, not harder to concentrate on the task in front of you and resist distractions. 

Timeboxing is a technique that can help you learn how. All you have to do is allocate certain periods of time to specific tasks/assignments and work on them until that period of time passes. You create a longer timebox for a complex or time-consuming task, but then you also split each timebox into smaller chunks and take breaks in between.

In essence, timeboxing relies on setting deadlines for each of your tasks to make it easier for you to maintain concentration. By “forcing” you to focus all of your attention on a single “problem” until it’s solved, the technique doesn’t let you get stuck and discourages multitasking.

Here’s how it works:

  1. List all of your tasks and other obligations
  2. Set goals; Anticipate the end result of completing your assignments; What is it you want to accomplish?
  3. If you have urgent or important tasks on your plate, allocate longer periods of time to them (Create a longer timebox, 1-2 hours in length, for example).
  4. If possible, divide more complicated tasks into smaller, more easily manageable ones. Set smaller periods of time aside for each part of the larger task (e.g. half an hour).  
  5. Start working on your first task. 
  6. Work until the allocated time for it is up.
  7. Take a break.
  8. Analyze what you’ve managed to accomplish (have you finished the entire task within the allocated time frame). If not, make adjustments accordingly (e.g. Increase the length of the said timebox, adjust the length of other timeboxes, and such).
  9. After the first task on your list is done, start working on the second one, while following the same steps, as listed above.

Not every method will work for everyone, so don’t be afraid to try out a few different ones until you find the one that is the best fit. 

Finding the Right Tools

How you choose to go about tracking your time daily and listing and ticking off to-dos is completely up to you. However, that can make the whole process seem overwhelming. So before you get into planning, we advise that you ask yourself the following questions to identify which tools will work the best for you.

Is it important for your tool of choice to:

  • Make it easy for you to convey progress to team members and delegate?
  • Sync with other tools?
  • Create backups of your to-dos and appointments?
  • Make it easy for you to stick to managing your time?

Additionally:

  • Do you want to automate what you can, or prefer a more old-school method?
  • Are you planning on tracking how you spend your time?
  • Do you want to have separate to-do lists for work-related and personal items?

Depending on how you answer these questions, you have a variety of tools at your disposal.

  • A hardcopy productivity planner for long-term goals and personal to-do lists.
  • A to-do list app or project management software if you prefer a digital tool.
  • A productivity tracker designed to monitor your behaviors and give you insights about them.
  • A digital calendar if you collaborate with a team, managers, or clients.
  • TA time tracking software if you want a really robust solution for all your time management needs.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. All these tools can be used in a variety of combinations, and they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Which one you pick will also depend on how simple or powerful you want your tool to be. 

However, we recommend that you go with a digital solution like time tracking software, as it can automate a lot of the grind of time management for you. What’s even more important is that tools like this can be your all-in-one solution for tracking, sharing, and reporting anything you need using a single interface instead of 3 different tools.   

Getting Into a Rhythm

The practice of time management is all about planning your day using your favorite method or tool, reflecting on your progress, and reassessing if needed.  

1. Create a Task List

Now that you’ve picked your tool and time management technique of choice, it’s time to create your first to-dos or daily plan. 

Important things to consider when creating to-do lists:

  • The approximate amount of time you would need to complete each individual task.
  • How important, urgent, and difficult each task is - prioritize according to your chosen technique, like:
  • Eat the Frog (complete complex tasks first)
  • Chunking (assign blocks of time to each task)
  • ABCDE (assign each task a letter grade based on importance)
  • If your tasks have deadlines, add that information as well.

2. Schedule and Start Completing! 

So, how do you anticipate how long certain challenges, tasks, or projects will take or know how to prioritize?

You learn how by doing the work.

Estimating the amount of time you’ll need for your tasks and deciding what to prioritize first is a science in itself. To succeed at the first, you’ll need to learn to overcome the planning fallacy (overestimating or underestimating how much time you need). To get better at the second, you’ll need to do some trial and error until you find the technique that works for you.

Both start with setting deadlines for yourself and working towards them according to your chosen prioritization method, even if you miss them the first few times. The more historical data you acquire regarding how much time your tasks take, the more likely it is that you’ll estimate and prioritize your tasks more accurately in the future. 

This makes it obvious how impactful time management can be in our everyday life, as all of the most popular time management techniques we’ve listed are designed to help you gradually get better at prioritizing tasks, identifying challenges, and anticipating how much time your responsibilities take so that you can meet deadlines.

Reflect on Your Progress and Reassess 

There will come a time when you’ll want to circle back to the long-term goal you set for yourself. 

Let’s say your goal is to “get better at time management.” If you followed the SMART matrix and made this goal timebound, you’d know when you need to assess your progress.

Asking yourself whether you’ve met it will be an opportunity for growth for you, as you can see whether:

  • You’ve created new habits that stick
  • You’ve identified challenges or obstacles
  • You’ve fallen off the track because of X and Y
  • You’ve picked the right tools for you or not. 

The scientific consensus is that the purpose of time management as a tool is to serve us so that we feel in control of our lives. A person’s time management practice shouldn’t feel rigid; on the contrary, it needs to evolve and adjust to the dynamic of their life. 

The practice empowers individuals to experiment with how they manage their time and encourages them to see each challenge as an opportunity for growth. 

If your reassessment shows that there is something you struggle with when you’re learning to get better at managing time, that’s a positive thing you can use to your benefit. Next, we’ll focus on giving you strategies that will help you regroup, make adjustments, and overcome your personal challenges with time management.

Learn How to Overcome the Biggest Challenges of Time Management

You’re Easily Distracted

Solution: Make eliminating distractions a long-term goal

For those who have a hard time focusing, distractions can be detrimental to their productivity. 

The goal of time management is to help you neutralize the negative impact they have on your daily life. Distractions are very individual, but there are some things most people find distracting:

  • Social media sites
  • Smartphones or tablets
  • Disruptive co-workers
  • Various phone notifications
  • Emails of less importance/significance

To eliminate them, you could:

  • Limit the amount of time you spend on your phone.
  • Turn off your phone when you start working.
  • If turning off your phone entirely is not possible, try just turning off the notifications.
  • Set aside a specific amount of time during the day to answer emails instead of constantly checking your email.
  • If your work environment is too noisy, try finding a place with less noise and setting yourself up there.
  • Learn how to say “No.” 

However, it’s important to remember that not everything is in your control. Maybe you have a persistent colleague who constantly asks questions, or you can’t influence your work environment as much as you’d like. 

While there is always room to exercise setting clear boundaries and voicing your concerns with your team or practicing better communication in general, at the end of the day, it’s good practice to start by eliminating the distractions you’re actually in control of.

You Multitask to Get Things Done

Solution: Unlearn multitasking to work smarter

Multitasking, contrary to popular belief, makes you spend more time on your tasks than you would have if you focused on one task at a time, although it doesn’t always feel that way.

However, most time management techniques are designed to help you steer away from this practice by focusing on individual tasks and tackling them one by one or in order of their importance.

If you still find yourself going off your list and multitasking, it means two things: a) you haven’t learned to prioritize b) the technique you’ve chosen might not be the one for you.

Your solution would be to stop, reassess, and tweak your process until you find a technique that feels intuitive.

You Always Procrastinate

Solution: Identify patterns in your behavior that lead you to procrastination

Procrastination usually happens when you are not focused enough and lack a clear goal (either a daily goal or a long-term one). It can be defined as avoiding the more important tasks, despite the possibility of experiencing negative ramifications. Prolonged procrastination can negatively impact productivity and increase stress levels

The practice of time management helps you identify the main reasons behind your procrastination and work on eliminating them or lowering their impact. The goal is to reduce the idleness until it becomes negligible and you feel more in control of your day. 

Each person is unique, so your reasons for procrastinating might differ from someone else's. To identify them, you need to pinpoint the exact time in which you stop being productive and reflect on what triggers that shift.

The most common reasons for procrastinating are: 

  • Task aversion
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of criticism
  • Perfectionism
  • Low self-esteem
  • A self-defeatist attitude
  • Trouble focusing
  • ADHD
  • Resisting challenges
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty defining goals
  • Lack of energy
  • Depression
  • Conformity
  • Burnout
  • Being bored
  • Not being challenged at the workplace
  • Escapism

If you identify that your trigger for procrastination is low energy or trouble focusing, you could try out the Pomodoro technique. It’s a beginner-friendly time management method in which you set up a 25-minute timer and work until it goes off. 

Every 25-minute block is followed by a short break. This break is intended to help you keep your energy levels up and give you a designated slot in which you don’t need to focus on anything. 

If you are task averse, the limited and relatively small amount of time you’ll spend continually working is a painless way to increase your discipline and teach yourself to push through adversity, one 25-minute interval at a time.

However, if you realize that you procrastinate as a consequence of a deeper and more complex psychological pattern, implementing a time management technique won’t be enough. It might be a good idea to make it a long-term goal to work on the underlying issue and seek professional help.  

You Never Seem to Get Everything on Your Plate Done

Solution: Delegate 

Delegating tasks is essential to successful time management, as it allows you to focus your energy on the most important tasks and use the strengths of your team members for the rest:

  • Identify tasks that can be delegated by evaluating your current workload. These can be routine tasks, time-consuming tasks, or tasks outside of your field of expertise.
  • Choose the right person. When delegating tasks, choosing the person best suited for the task is crucial. When making a decision, consider their skills, experience, and workload.
  • Provide clear instructions. Clearly explain the task and any additional details to the person you are delegating work to. Make sure they understand the expectations and task deadlines.
  • Provide regular feedback and support. This will help them stay on track and ensure that the task at hand is completed successfully.

Solution: Communicate

By being proactive when it comes to communicating your progress, you can avoid unnecessary distractions that can impede your productivity and efficiency. Distractions such as:

  • Getting emails asking you about your progress
  • Other team members or higher-ups interrupting you during your work to ask you about progress
  • You being unsure about your progress
  • Clients asking you about your progress

More importantly, if the reason you can’t complete your tasks is that you have too much on your plate, asking for help will reduce your anxiety around your workload and support your productivity.

Solution: Take regular breaks

Working long hours or until you can’t work anymore puts you at risk of making mistakes and being less productive, and can lead to burnout.

Here are a few signs that could indicate you need to take a break from work:

  • Restlessness  
  • Feeling hungry
  • Not being able to concentrate
  • Low energy
  • Feeling demotivated
  • Feeling stressed

 A big part of successful time management is knowing when to take a break without interrupting your workflow and overdoing it. However, most time management techniques, like Pomodoro or timeboxing, for example, are designed to help you learn to navigate this challenge, as they make taking regular breaks a part of your workflow, not a disruption. 

With a time management technique, you learn how to stop for a break to keep your productivity streak going, not to be “unproductive.” Additionally, using the technique makes it easier to communicate with your team that you need a break since it ensures you already have a list of to-dos you’ve completed behind you.

Solution: Break tasks into smaller chunks

One way to improve how you manage your time is to break large tasks into a bunch of smaller ones, making them somewhat easier to complete.

By doing this, your tasks will feel less overwhelming and will be much easier to tackle head-on. Additionally, you will be able to make steady progress instead of spending your time feeling stuck on one particularly difficult task.

Breaking tasks into smaller chunks can help you stay focused and motivated. It can also help you identify any roadblocks or problems early on and make adjustments as necessary.

Solution: Figure out when you’re most productive

Track your time to identify obstacles or “bad time-spending habits” that don’t result in productive work. They could be an indication that you might want to switch up your routine.

This also works the other way around: figure out the exact time of day when you feel your energy levels are at their highest, then schedule and complete the most difficult and important tasks during that period.

The most productive time of day varies a lot among different people. Some are most productive and efficient early in the morning, while others do their best work late at night. So, exactly when you tackle the most difficult tasks will depend on your own rhythm and the times of day you feel the most productive.

Everything Good Time Management Can Unlock for You

Increased Productivity

Good and effective time management can help you prioritize your tasks and tick them off one by one while increasing your overall productivity

Improved Confidence

Being consistent when it comes to managing your time, completing your daily to-dos, and staying on top of all your responsibilities can give you an immense sense of accomplishment and significantly boost your confidence. 

Improved Self-Discipline 

Having enough discipline to create and then stick to a specific plan or schedule is another benefit of successful time management. The greater your effort, the more rewarding the whole experience becomes as you see yourself transforming into a more organized person who simply gets things done.

Things Seem Easier 

One of the main ideas behind effective time management is categorizing your tasks and prioritizing them based on their importance, urgency, difficulty, and more. By managing your time efficiently, you can find ways to deconstruct more complicated projects into a group of easier-to-do, smaller tasks. This will make complicated things much less difficult to complete, as they’ll be divided into more “digestible” parts.

Good Work-Life Balance 

A huge part of time management focuses on learning how to balance your work-related and outside-of-work responsibilities. It teaches you the importance of allocating daily time to things you enjoy to regulate stress, recoup, and/or increase your energy levels.

Better Work Reputation/More Career Opportunities 

Effective time management can help you distinguish yourself from your colleagues as a high performer.  By mastering the way you spend your time at work, you can ensure you always send your deliverables by their due date or even earlier.

Time management is a big factor in job performance and can positively impact your or your organization's ability to generate profit.

And not only that, but it can also push other team members to work even harder, as healthy competition is one of the biggest motivators.

In a lot of cases, companies hire or promote people with a good work reputation as opposed to people who just have better qualifications or skills for a particular job. This can lead to more job opportunities, promotions, and an overall better trajectory for your professional career.

No More Missed Deadlines

When dealing with multiple tasks at once, it’s easy to lose your cool and start stressing over how much work you have ahead of you. As soon as you start to organize your work and schedule your tasks in advance, you become confident you will complete your daily/weekly/monthly goals on time.

Time Management Checklist

Set Goals

  • Set long-term goals that are S.M.A.R.T
  • Create short-to-medium long goals that complement the long-term goals
  • Link goals to defined processes 
  • Identify goals that can be measured and achieved within a predetermined time limit
  • Once in a while, review your goals and plans; reflect on your achievements and try to determine the factors that might be impeding your progress.

Plan

  • Make a to-do list with all of your tasks
  • Tick off tasks as you complete them
  • Break down more complex tasks into smaller, more manageable parts

Prioritize 

  • Determine the priority and urgency of your tasks
  • Arrange tasks according to their priority
  • Work on tasks that will help you achieve your highest priority goal/goals
  • Say “no” to everything that’s not in line with your goals
  • Learn how and why to say “no”

Schedule 

  • Schedule your work in time-blocks
  • Schedule early; far in advance of your deadlines (if possible)
  • Use a digital or electronic calendar
  • Limit the amount of time you spend on meetings and various other appointments

Collaborate With Team Members

  • If you have an opportunity, delegate work to other team members
  • Seek suggestions for improvements, or notes from your colleagues

Manage Distractions 

  • Strive for a work environment that’s free from distractions
  • Schedule work obligations in places that are sequestered from noise, interrupting colleagues, and more
  • Eliminate all visual and auditory distractions (phone notifications, emails, social media, and  such…)

Analyze Progress 

  • Analyze achievements and progress towards the end goal/goals (do this at least once per quarter)
  • Recess goals if the circumstances in your life have changed

Try out time or project management software that can streamline all this for you.